turbine lightwind kite

The 10-Year History Of The Lightwind Kite – The Turbine

The 2020 Turbine V10 is an evolution of a revolution.

It all started in 2010 when we debuted the Turbine as our first light-wind specific kite, redefining the low-end limits of the kiteable wind range. Over the years, we have continued to optimize the Turbine, tuning each version with the latest in design and materials to be the best light-wind kite available. And now, as the iterative evolution has reached a decade, we celebrate the 2020 Turbine V10—a testament of our steadfast commitment to expanding the definition of light-wind kiting.

Of course, V10 doesn’t happen without V1, so when we sat down with our kite line brand manager, Alex Fox, to talk about the 2020 Turbine we also made sure to dive into the genesis of the 2010 Turbine and the kite’s decade-long evolution to icon status.

What was the spark that started the Turbine?

The Turbine was developed because we were obsessed with getting out there kiteboarding and we didn’t want to alienate a condition because it wasn’t optimum. That’s what Slingshot has always done—we’ve never shied away from trying to make every single condition as fun as possible.

Light-wind riding has always been an issue. Everybody always wanted to decrease the light-wind minimum. And that’s why so many people converted from windsurfing to kiteboarding in the early days—windsurfing just required way more wind. Windsurfers would see people kiting and having fun and jumping in 12 knots. While for windsurfing, to have that kind of fun, you’d need 35 knots of wind. Kiteboarding really stole a lot of participation from windsurfing and that’s due to kiteboarders being able to go in light wind.

2015 – 2017

Turbine History

2015 Turbine
2016 Turbine

How has the Turbine evolved over the years?

The first Turbine in 2010 was actually on a three-strut platform because we wanted the kite to be as light as possible. But when we started expanding the Turbine sizes, testing 15- and 13-meter Turbines a few years later, we were getting into stronger wind speeds with bigger riders. We knew that if we didn’t have those fourth and fifth struts, the kite becomes really unstable and the wingtips can kind of buckle. We knew we were going to need more structural stability. And so, we got the Turbine into that five-strut platform, adding the fourth and fifth strut down by the wing tips. And those are actually micro-struts if you compare them in size to anybody else on the market. The micro-struts are not much bigger than the hose on your pump. They’re so small, but are crucial in keeping the kite stable in a wider range of wind.

2017 Turbine

Slingshot has always been at the forefront of designing and developing kites for light-wind riding. Will you walk us through some of that history, starting at the very beginning?

Since we’re based in The Gorge and are always testing our kites in the most gutsy conditions, we’ve always had amazing kites in smaller sizes that are incredibly stable and durable. Very early on, however, we knew we wanted to build a kite specifically for light wind that also had that stability and durability we’ve become known for.

Back in the early 2000s, companies were making kites that went up to 15 or 16 meters. For an inflatable kite, that was really the biggest size that companies were making. It wasn’t until about 2004 or 2005 that companies started creating inflatable light-wind kites. Slingshot introduced the Machine in 2005 and it was our first kite designed and built specifically for light winds. It was a 17.5-meter kite and then in following years we made a 20.5 and a 25.5 Machine. These were massive, massive kites, especially by those days’ standards. Up until that date there were only a couple other brands out there besides Slingshot making kites anywhere close to that big.

2018 Turbine

And when did the first version of the Turbine arrive?

In 2010, we came out with the Rally, which was the first time that we had developed a Delta-style kite. The Turbine was developed off of the Rally chassis. We tweaked the aspect ratio and a bunch of other design optimizations to come out with the 17-meter Turbine in 2010. In the following two years, the 17-meter Turbine was our best-selling kite of a single size in our entire range. That really showed to us the importance and significance of light-wind kites.

How important is the new 4×4 Canopy Tech?

The 2020 Turbine is really optimized, and the stability and durability you get from the 4×4 Canopy Tech is crucial. It’s a stiffer, stronger material. We know that with the Turbine frame in light winds, the stiffer and more structural rigidity it has equals more consistent power. And that helps in these 15- and 17-meter kites, which traditionally are pretty easy kites to become overpowered on. But when you have a more stable air foil you’re able to have more range and you don’t get overpowered quite as easily. 4X4 Canopy Tech makes the Turbine more efficient in the sky, too, because if you have a kite that’s not stable or structurally sound there’s a lot of drag, especially in the bigger light-wind kites.

Does the Turbine still have its renowned low-end power?

Yes, definitely! The Turbine still has its Open-C Delta profile—it’s really great at power delivery because in that kind of kite shape you’re going to get stable power but you’re also getting a lot of canopy exposure. The Turbine shoots forward in the wind window as opposed to a low-aspect kite that’s not as swept as the Turbine. When you dive a lower-aspect kite, you’re getting more abrupt power but it’s not really efficient power and that kite will just kind of pull you downwind. Whereas the Turbine’s higher aspect ratio and with that Open-C Delta profile, if you dive it, it carries you more upwind. If a kite helps you stay upwind, that’s obviously the Holy Grail. So, you really want something that’s powerful, yes, but efficiently powerful.

What’s the performance range of the 2020 Turbine?

It’s a great light-wind kite, for sure—one of the best light wind kites ever produced. But what’s really good about it and probably the main reason that so many people love the Turbine is that you can feel comfortable on a 15-meter Turbine probably up to about 20-22 knots, depending on your body size. The Turbine flies extremely well when it’s over-powered.

The Turbine has become such a popular choice for free riders in light-wind places because they get so much performance out of Turbine. They’re boosting as high on their 15 Turbine as they would in five knots more on their 12-meter Rally. That kind of wide-range performance really opens up the door in terms of conditions for the Turbine.

2020 Turbine kite
2020 Turbine