The guys over at International Kitesurf Magazine get to test more gear than most people could dream of. Here’s a detailed review on our dedicated surf and foil kite, the WAVE SST.
At A Glance
The new Wave SST from Slingshot is the first surf-orientated kite they have made, SST stands for Slingshot Surf Technology. The kite itself borrows DNA from the Rally and the RPM with a compact direct connect bridal and a Compact C canopy profile. It is, however, a totally new beast in its own right.
Slingshot have always been famous for their Surf Tough Construction and the Wave SST has been built with heavy conditions in mind. The canopy is made from a new heavy duty Rip Stop Surf Grid material and extra panels have been used in a gridded quilt pattern to provide unparalleled strength.
While it is built tough however, it is also light; three integrated SplitStruts help to reduce the overall weight. The IRS bridle that was launched on the new RPM has been tweaked specifically for the Wave SST. It’s been shortened so there is no danger of it wrapping around the tips if the kite gets rolled in the surf.
Back in 2004 Slingshot pioneered the One-Pump system, for 2016 a fast inflation valve has been added so pumping up the 8m takes no time at all. Kevlar reinforcements have been placed on the critical areas to ensure a long life and the kite is available in 4 sizes, 6m, 8m, 10m and 12m.
Kite bars are important to me as a rider, you spend your entire session interacting with them and yet they are all so different. I’m always on the look out for the perfect bar, and the 2016 Compstick from Slingshot comes pretty close… In the past I’ve never really been a massive fan of below-the-bar depower set ups, so seeing a new quick release mechanism and an above-the-bar depower tweaked my interest early on. The floats are integrated into the bar horns and the whole set up feels very polished.
The new Sentinel chicken loop release system is a push-away affair with a line twist module on the top. It works brilliantly and we can’t find fault at all here. The EVA grip on the bar is tougher than some on the market, but still very comfortable and the depower above the bar features a moveable trim block so you can lower it if you have short arms to ensure it is easy to reach.
Oh, and it’s got magnets… Yep MAGNETS! Best idea ever for keeping the depower rope tidy, where others use Velcro that inevitably snags the lines and eventually becomes less efficient Slingshot have used two magnets to ensure the depower rope stays where you want it to. The whole set up is fantastic, one of our favourite bars of 2016 so far…
In The Air
If you’ve ridden the Rally or the RPM then you might be surprised when you first fly the Wave SST, it is a totally different animal. First up the kite feels very solid in the air, even in gusty conditions it is well behaved and the IRS bridle works to smooth out the bumps in the air. The other impressive thing about the kite is the huge wind range it has.
I took the kite on a month long trip to Western Australia and the 8m was the only kite I took. We had it out in maxed conditions with full depower and also on days when riders were on 10’s and 12’s. The top end range of the kite is immense and the low end of the 8m is pretty good too. However, the kite does behave a little differently at either end of the wind range.
At the low end, we feel the kite performs at it’s best, which suits its wave credentials. When there is no depower engaged the kite is dynamic and responsive. When the kite is at the top of its range though you really need to engage a lot of positive bar input to initiate the turns and this can take some getting used to.
After a couple of days riding the Wave SST, we were dialled into it and it is very different from a lot of the wave kites we have flown. The throw on the bar is quite long, so as you hit the top turn sometimes it doesn’t depower as much as you might expect it to. These characteristics threw us off at first, but once we were in tune with the Wave SST, we began to fall in love.
Even maxed out if you put the correct amount of input into the bar you can have the kite flying around the window as you ride the wave. The steering became intuitive and the kite started to feel like an extension of our arm. Perhaps the most impressive thing though was the drifting abilities. This kite floats in the air like a balloon as the lines go slack and we had moments where we felt sure we were going to put it through the rinse cycle. Instead, it hung, as if suspended on strings, long enough for us to get the lines in order and engage the power once again.
We took the kite out on a twin tip, just to see how it behaved and discovered this is a thoroughbred machine as the name suggests. It does jump, and you can unhook with it, but it won’t set your world on fire unless you are ripping it up on a surfboard in some good swell. As the name suggests this kite is meant to be ridden in the waves and that is where it performs best.
It’s a fantastic park-and-ride wave kite, and once you are dialled into the handling it’s a very good turn and carve machine too. We think the Wave SST will suit a variety of riders, but be prepared to discover something a little different if you are switching from the Rally. The handling is quite unique.
Relaunch, as you would expect, is fantastic, we rolled it in the waves once (sorry Slingshot), but it came out smelling of roses and we didn’t get the bridle tangled at all. A bit of playing on the beach revealed there is pretty much zero chance of the bridle catching, so if you want to take this kite out of your comfort zone, you can rest assured it will have your back!
Huge top end wind range, dynamic handling at the lower end and amazing drift capabilities. One of the best bars on the marketplace right now compliments the kite to create a fantastic overall package.
Handling is a little slower at the top end of the range; this can be accounted for with more dynamic bar input though.
I was won over by the Wave SST during our few months with it, it’s a very different kite, but it does what it says on the tin exceptionally well. The drift and float down the line is very impressive for a kite that has been so well made. The bar is one of my favourites on the market at the moment, and this combined with an awesome kite makes for a compelling set-up!
India Stephensen shares her learning experience on the Hover Glide and our Foiling Flight School learning systems.
In terms of self-help we’ve reached the Golden Age. The answers to our biggest questions are just a Google search away. With almost an infinite amount of shortcuts, DIY and step-by-step instructions, there’s almost nothing that we can’t learn online. Watch all the videos you want, but up until now, even with all the tips, tricks, how-tos on foiling, the physical learning process has been brutal: take the beatings, bear the frustration and wear those stitches with pride. With no baby steps or bit-by-bit buildup, the curve has been steep; those who have taken the plunge and dealt with the difficulties know, but it’s not until you’re up and riding that you can wear that badge with honor. It’s become common knowledge that this curve is one of the most challenging aspects of our sport, until recently when Slingshot released Flight School, a newfangled approach to foilboarding…
This winter in La Ventana, I decided to give Slingshot’s Foiling Flight School a go. I’ve foiled before, so as a novice, I had a bit of a head start. However, because I’m fresh to the frustrations of foiling, I wanted to give Flight School a try to see how it really speeds up the learning curve.
A unique concept designed by Slingshot, Flight School is meant to be a do-it-yourself learning tool consisting of three separate masts of incremental lengths: 15”, 24” and 30”– (the fourth mast shown is Slingshot’s 35.5-inch mast that come stock with Slingshot’s Hover Glide foil). Like learning to kite all over again, learning to foil can be incredibly frustrating. Worded appropriately by Slingshot, “You wouldn’t learn your first kite skills with a full size kite, so why learn the basics of foiling with a full size mast?” The Flight School Program breaks it down and makes learning to foil faster and easier because you don’t have to jump straight in to a full sized mast. Slingshot’s three mast size make stage-by-stage learning as easy as 1, 2, 3.
The Taxi Stage
Start off with the 15” mast. Smaller, safer and more manageable, a few days with this mast and you’ll have mastered the basics: how to carry your foil, how to swim and body drag with your foil, how to position the foil on your feet, how to waterstart, how to get the foil moving through the water and how to start foiling up. Once you’re able to ride for short distances with your foil out of the water, you’ll be ready for mast #2.
The Touch & Go Stage
You’ll find that the Touch & Go 24” mast is the perfect size once you’ve got the basics down. With this mast, you can practice foiling up and down (touching and going) without the fear of foiling up to the explosive crash inspiring height that regular sized masts will offer. You’ll also learn to practice riding for longer distances in between foil ups and downs. This is a good mast size to get your bearings, learn control and practice your balance, all while handling the kite.
The Solo Stage
When you get to the big boy, you’ll be stoked that you’ve graduated Flight School, and although you won’t get an official diploma, the size of your mast says it for you. While many of the skills you develop on the big mast can be practiced on the smaller sizes, with the 30” mast you can get more aggressive with carving upwind, cruising downwind, maintaining balance, riding for longer and getting used to feeling higher out of the water.
Flight School is designed to work exclusively with Slingshot’s Hoverglide NF2 foil which is a durable aluminum and composite construction combined for a mast + fuselage height of 93cm (36.6″) total weight: 5.2kg (11.46 lbs.) The separate fuselage and wing components allowed for a super easy setup and breakdown, so long as you bring a tool kit that includes both screwdrivers and multiple sized allen keys.
I rode the mast and foil with Slingshot’s 2015 5’4″ Dwarf Craft. This lightweight little nub of a board is user-friendly for all sorts of foiling conditions. Constructed with an EPS core with inlaid stringers and a fiberglass wrap, the Dwarf Craft is sturdy and reliable. Its full length deck pad was grippy and cushy and its multiple footstrap inserts allowed for a customizable option. Because weight distribution is so important when learning to foil, the insert options were a major perk. It allowed me to use a single front footstrap while leaving my backfoot strapless and free to reposition accordingly, allowing me to mess around and figure out where my weight needed to be on the board. The sliding track mounting system is also an important option that provides customization for foiling in a variety of conditions and can be moved forward or backward depending on rider preferences and skill level.
While the incremental mast sizes will speed up your learning curve immensely, below are some extra tips that helped me get going:
- Don’t learn underpowered.Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, this will be your go to lightwind tool. But for now, you’ll want a medium powered kite to get you up and going with reliable pull. You’ll want to be able to focus on the board and not on keeping your kite in the air.
- Take it for a swim. Before you even put a kite in the air, take the board out into the water and just swim around with it. You’ll gain a better understanding of how the board moves in the water, how it pivots and how to maneuver it.
- Don’t use both footstraps. I learned with one front footstrap. This will help you keep the foil on and under your feet while allowing you to shift the placement of your backfoot and play around with your foot placement and weight distribution along the board.
- Keep it flat. For your entire first session, try keeping the board plastered to the surface of the water and riding it flat, and avoid trying to edge. This will add to your understanding of how the board moves and turns in the water. You’ll quickly learn that it doesn’t edge like a normal board.
- Control is key. When you start to initiate enough speed to get you foiling, take a moment to pay attention to your kite control: Are you death gripping the bar? Over-sheeting or flying the kite too aggressively? Foil boarding is like rubbing your head and your belly in opposite directions and you have to do both moderately well to stay in control.
- If anything goes wrong… get away from the foil.
While learning to foil, you’ll learn that every little movement, no matter how subtle, makes a difference. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t and have fun! While you may quickly outgrow the mast sizes, they are always going to be beneficial for someone who’s never been on a foil before. The height gained on a full sized foil can be incredibly intimidating to the beginner foiler, so starting off closer to the water is where it’s at. What’s nice about this setup is that once you’ve graduated to the 30” mast, the fun doesn’t stop; you can keep riding and progressing on this size and then regress back through the smaller sizes when you want to mess around, learn something new or teach a friends.
More info: www.slingshotsports.com
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The top freestyle kiteboarders in the world were in Leucate, France at the end of April for the second round of the 2016 Kiteboarding World Championships.
For team Slingshot fans, the event promised a highly-anticipated rematch between Carlos Mario and Yuri Zoon.
In the opening contest of the season earlier this year, the two RPM riders went head to head in the finals to claim the top two spots on the podium and set a high benchmark for the remainder of the nine-round season. Mario edged Zoon to claim first and establish himself as the rider to beat as the season progresses.
After several rounds of elimination heats in Leucate, the stage was set for a high-flying final between Mario, Zoon, Alex Pastor and Stefan Spiessberger. Mario narrowly advanced by eliminating former world champs Liam Whaley and Aaron Hadlow in an action-packed semi, while Zoon advanced after a crushing performance in his qualifier.
Unfortunately, conditions did not align for the final, and after three days of waiting for the wind to return, the final was called and the top four riders shared first place.
IKA Kiteboarding World Championships Overall standings after two rounds:
- Carlos Mario (BRA, Slingshot), 2000 pts
- Youri Zoon (NED, Slingshot), 1915 pts
- Alex Pastor (ESP, Airush), 1855 pts
- Stefan Spiessberger (AUT, North), 1615 pts
- David Tonijuan (ESP, F-One), 1510 pts
- Paul Serin (FRA, Naish), 1510 pts
The third round of the 2016 IKA Kiteboarding World Championships is scheduled to be held in Dakhla, Morocco, from 17 to 23 of June, 2016.
More information, full results and rankings can be found at www.worldkiteleague.com
For full results and heat-by-heat tricks and scores please see the complete freestyle elimination ladder athttp://www.f-ridescoremobile.com/temp/f-ladder-ika-freestyle.html
“All in all, we think that the RPM is a solid kite that does everything and does it well – there aren’t many kites on the market that cover such a broad spectrum of riders and suit each style so well.”
The crew over at www.thekitemag.com recently reviewed our 2016 RPM. We’re delighted but not surprised that the review came back “two-thumbs-up.” Check it out:
No doubt that the RPM is one of those truly iconic kites, so when a new version drops it is always pretty exciting times…
Last year’s RPM had the new IRS bridle and it has remained in for 2016. Which is unsurprising as this is a great system. Then there is an updated durable diamond leech trailing edge and a tougher Dacron DP 175 leading edge and strut material. The RPM has always been bombproof and this year it is even more so. First flight and we instantly noticed the slightly more refined feel – this has been apparent across the whole range for 2016. It feels smooth and precise and has more low end when flown against the 2015 version. Also back for the 2016 RPM is Slingshot’s One Pump Speed System, slightly upgraded, which again we’re happy about as this really is an efficient system that equals less anxious waiting time on the sidelines.
The RPM is a kite that appeals to a broad spectrum of riders – it would be comfortable in the hands of a freerider looking for a bit more diversity or a pure wakestyle rider who is looking for kite low, with bundles of pop and slack line for passing. We found that it did work in surf conditions but it gives a mighty pull off your top and bottom turning so you really need to sheet out at these moments to get the most from it.
When the RPM really comes alive is when you start to load and pop, as you get incredible pop. Whether it’s on the flats or off kickers, you really don’t need to think about where the RPM is in the window, which lets you get on and throw your tricks. We like the confidence the RPM gives you to go out and try new moves as it really is a kite that can take your riding to the next level. We also found that in stronger winds the RPM also gives you the confidence to just dig the rail in and push the kite forward in the window – it does this efficiently with no twitching around, and the robustness of this kite is obvious.
All in all, we think that the RPM is a solid kite that does everything and does it well – there aren’t many kites on the market that cover such a broad spectrum of riders and suit each style so well.
Team Slingshot came out firing this week at the opening stage of the 2016 IKA World Championships, claiming first and second place in the men’s field and first place in the women’s.
Among a stacked lineup of competitors, the final men’s heat came down to Slingshot teammates Carlos Mario and Youri Zoon. With Mario fresh off an amazing 2015 season and gunning for a world title and Zoon, former two-time world champ, recently returned to team Slingshot, the stage was set for an epic showdown … and the crowd was not disappointed. With both kiters utilizing the RPM’s freestyle capabilities, it was Mario’s amplitude and technical style that won over the judges for a first place finish.
Watch Carlos Mario and Youri Zoon go head to head in the finals:
For Mario, the win is a continuation of the fiery dominance he established late last season. For Zoon, who beat Aaron Hadlow in the semis to face Mario, the result was a solid start to his first season with Slingshot, and the RPM, since winning back-to-back world titles a few years ago.
On the women’s side, two-time champion Karolina Winkowska had a commanding performance as she blazed her way through the field to claim first place over an impressive group of female competitors, including runner-up and top threat Bruna Kajiya. Winkowska, who rides the FUEL and the Slingshot Refraction, has her sights set sharply on winning on another world title this season.
Watch Karolina Winkowska defeate Bruna Kajiya in the finals:
How did your involvement in the #SKYWALK stunt come about?
I was initially approached by the Alex Thomson Racing team. The stunt sounded so interesting and different, that I had to check it out. Of course, the fact that HUGO BOSS was involved was also a big draw. It’s great to see the more forward thinking fashion brands express an interest in kiteboarding.
In the lead up to the stunt, how did you help or support Alex? Did you share any words of wisdom with him?
I think Alex didn’t quite know what he was in for(!) but since this kind of stunt has never been done before, there wasn’t a huge amount of wisdom that I could impart. There was a sense of the unknown amongst everyone in the team, I think. Alex is a very proficient kiteboarder and of course his sailing experience was invaluable for this stunt. All I remember saying to him before he went out was, “Just keep your kite above your head and you’ll be fine!”
As a professional kite surfer, what is it about this stunt that impresses or shocks you?
For me the most impressive thing about the stunt was the teamwork between Alex and his crew. It’s hard enough to get towed up behind a boat with an engine, but doing it with a sail boat adds a whole other layer of difficulty into the mix. The crew did an excellent job with the boat, making it possible for him to kite up to the tow rope and have the exact angles on the wind to get him as high up as possible. The wind was quite gusty too, making the stunt that much more challenging. Another thing I found very impressive was the way Alex and the crew had jimmy-rigged all of his gear to increase safety.
Have you ever seen anything of this magnitude attempted before?
No, I haven’t ever seen a kiteboarder go up so high on a rope. The only thing I can think of that comes close is when Nick Jacobsen (fellow pro kite-surfer) jumped off the top of Necker Island last year. Alex’s Sky Walk had a lot more moving parts than that, though. They had to rig a bunch of gear specifically for the stunt. All in all, I think this is most likely one of the biggest stunts in kiteboarding history.
What were your thoughts when Alex landed safely back down on the water?
The crazy thing about this stunt was that Alex didn’t just do it once; he had to go up and do it over and over. So the moment of relief when we would see him touch down on the water was short lived as he would go up and do it all over again straight away. There were
definitely a few instances where we saw him go down pretty hard, but after a moment we would see him pop back on his board and go for the next run.
Alex is a keen kite surfer in his spare time – what do you think of his skills on the kite board?
Alex really impressed me with his kiteboarding skills – he’s been doing it for quite a long time but he doesn’t get to kite as much as other people who are way less proficient with a kite! In his case, his endless experience sailing the ocean is definitely a huge advantage and it was fun to see him translate his sailing skills onto the kite. He’s a natural!
Now that Alex has tried his hand at kite surfing…are you contemplating giving sailing a try?!
Well, I’ve sailed small hobie cats before but I definitely know I would never have the courage to sail around the world alone. But I did develop a little crush on the boat, and on sailing, while I was taking part in the Sky Walk filming. So I hope someday to get invited to join a little adventure!
Photo Credit John Dill
Questions & Answers with Alex Thomson
How long have you been planning the stunt for?
We completed the Mastwalk two years ago and ever since then I have been thinking about the next stunt. It all started with a bit of fun with the team and is now almost expected from Alex Thomson Racing. I am often asked ‘What next?’ after the Keelwalk and Mastwalk. We spent a long time preparing and training for the Skywalk. There were a lot of elements that had to come together to make it work, especially with the added factor of me kitesurfing rather than being on the boat for this stunt.
Why did you choose the Skywalk?
I have had the concept of the Skywalk in the back of my mind for a long time. Sailing is my full time career, kitesurfing is my hobby. Kiting is what I love to do in my free time and being able to combine both to create the next stunt was perfect.
How did you prepare?
I am fortunate to know some really great professionals from the kiting world such as Susi Mai. I had several weeks training in Alvor, Portugal. Where we developed the technic of attaching and launching. We practiced lifting behind our RIB as we worked towards completing the stunt behind the ‘HUGO BOSS’. But honestly I was less nervous about completing this stunt than I was about the Mastwalk. There were a lot more elements to coordinate in this stunt as the addition of me kitesurfing. It took a lot of planning for every possible outcome. If anything were to go wrong, we had to find a safe way out of it – and I had to overcome my fear of heights!
Who was sailing the boat during the stunt and what difficulties did they face?
Our Operations Manager Ross Daniel was helming the boat. Whilst helming Ross maintained a constant speed and ensured a steady course. This was critical for the approach to collect the line and then the racing yacht had to maintain a steady course for the ascent. Ray Kasper my kitesurfing coach was standing behind Ross and watching my every move during the stunt. Ray was communicating with Ross the whole time to ensure the yacht and I were in the perfect position to complete the Skywalk. There was also a full crew on board.
How many practice runs did it take?
Leading up to the stunt we had several days practicing behind the RIB, before practicing behind ‘HUGO BOSS’. We then set the cameras into action and over two days I completed the stunt 13 times allowing us to capture all the footage we needed from the RIB and the helicopter.
What were the risks involved?
A huge amount of time was spent preparing for the challenge; calculating the risk, the length of rope required, position of the yacht, position of me and of course the right sea state and wind conditions. The main thing that could have gone wrong was my kite collapsing causing me to fall out of the sky; this could only be managed by how I controlled the kite on the descent and was down to me.
How could you guarantee your own safety?
At all times there was a diver and medic on standby in the safety RIB which was following ‘HUGO BOSS’. The diver was ready to get into the water in case I hit the water incorrectly during the stunt. I was always in communication with the team via a radio headset, enabling me to communicate with the racing yacht and the safety RIB. This communication channel allowed me to know what the yacht was doing at all times ensuring the stunt was completed successfully.
How did you feel when you finished the challenge?
It was great fun! I just wanted to get back out there and do it again.
See some of Alex’s past stunts