KITE TEST

OCEAN RODEO A-SERIES FLITE 14.5M

OCEAN RODEO

A-SERIES FLITE 14.5M

TESTED BY: Jim Gaunt

TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here

TEST TEAM NOTES: This is the second kite we've tested in as many issues that's been constructed with Ocean Rodeo's new Aluula (A-Series) kite frame material. Read the Roam 10 metre review here. I've actually had this kite for a few months but such are the nature of the often stronger conditions in winter I didn't get much chance of breaking out the 14.5 metre until recently! A nine or ten metre with a twin-tip, or eight metre with a hydrofoil are pretty much the go-to kite sizes around here. Eventually a forecast came along for around 14 knots from the southwest...

ALUULA Aluula is Ocean Rodeo’s own composite material that is ultra light, incredibly strong, UV stable and virtually unrippable. The idea of using it for the kite’s airframe structure adds enhanced rigidity, precision and control, while also significantly reducing weight and therefore increasing performance capability. The new Aluula-specific Ridge Seam also increases seam strength by 40% over traditional sewing methods, Ocean Rodeo claim. IN FLITE ENTERTAINMENT Having not ridden a 14 metre for a while the Flite seemed enormous when I was inflating it, but the narrow Aluula leading edge didn’t take very long to reach optimum pressure. As I was pumping up, evidently the wind had backed off as the only guy that had been on the water came in with his 12 metre and hydrofoil, saying that it was getting quite light. Ideal conditions for testing the 14 metre Flite with a foil then! The Flite is a very wide and open canopy design. The central cord where the power is generated is large and flat in arc, while the shape tapers down to swept back wing tips. It has all the hallmarks of a sheet and go cruiser with pivotal steering, but it’s actually very much more than that. As previously mentioned about winter kite sessions in the UK, you can’t really bank on the conditions staying as they are for very long. I had a few runs with the wind around 12 knots and certainly had plenty of power. The Flite is effortlessly stable, launching positively in the light breeze and then remaining effortlessly stable overhead as I walked to the beach. Dropping into the power zone smoothly, the Aluula material – as it proved last issue – does a superb job of then helping the kite climb back up in the window once you’ve absorbed the kite’s smooth drive and come up on your board. Remaining light but connected at the bar, the Flite is undoubtedly intuitive to fly in light wind, but I soon found that the power that it’s capable of generating became too much on the foil as the wind had quickly picked back up to around 16 knots. On a foil it’s very difficult to edge against the forward pull of a big kite. Although the Flite is very efficient, there’s only so far forward in the window it can go and when powered on a foil I needed to be able to ditch more power. I already appreciate the effect that Aluula has had on Ocean Rodeo’s kites and one of the standout features for me is how the kites climb beautifully through the window with slack lines, which often occurs when you’re riding in light winds. Both the Roam and this Flite are responsive and manoeuvrable, so for light wind foiling, I’d probably look at one of the bigger Roams for where I live. Perhaps the 12 metre (the smallest Flite) would also be appropriate, but foiling is not the specialist aim for this kite...

TWIN-TIPPING That positive forward drive mixed with sheet-and-go handling immediately felt right on the twin-tip. Smooth, flowing power, gorgeous engagement at the bar and a super steady sense of movement overhead. The conditions were very onshore, but there had been a swell running, so we had lovely clean swell faces and the long period meant the waves were well spaced out with perfect flat water in between. Conditions not to be missed and just heaven for twin-tipping if you have enough power. The only riders who were able to get out were myself and another rider on a 15 metre Slingshot Turbine. He had a bit of trouble getting off the beach with the shorebreak, but then cranked upwind and had an equally successful session. So I can’t really say that the Flite has a better low end than the 15 metre Slingshot Turbine per se, but I can tell you that the Flite always climbs effortlessly up through the window. Also, even when the wind picked up to 20 knots or so, I never felt the need to come in and change down. The air frame feels consistent and the bar pressure remarkably similar, whether you’re operating the kite at its bottom or top end. The Flite never ever backs up in the window and seems to behave impeccably all the time. It was the same story with the Roam; the enjoyment once again comes down to excellent behaviour. The Flite has the good aspects of big kite riding – good low end and very smooth power. Due to the constant forward flight characteristics, there’s also no chugging too deeply in the window that could lead to erratic forward surges. It really is stunningly smooth. Overhead there’s great feel. From 14 / 15 knots there’s enough lift for easy, floaty jumps and transitions and as the wind picks up the extended hangtime is a feeling that a lot of riders are going to enjoy. This session transported me forward to hopefully many a sunny summer session in 15/16 knots when this kite would be ideal. Forward and back rolls are very easy to get the timing right because the steadiness of the kite’s movement feels very natural. This may be a big kite but it has very intuitive handling. The Flite steers quickly for a 14.5 metre model; quick enough to loop as you come out of transitions for a fluid injection of forward pull to plane nicely out of the manoeuvre. There’s nothing sluggish about it at all. The turns are quite pivotal, but there's a constant feel and pull, while the generous depower sheeting range helps all riders quickly gain confidence in its handling. I really had a lot of fun this session and re-discovered a lot of joy in twin-tipping with a big kite. Clean, smooth waters with plenty of power mixed with considerable top end control will provide lots of fun in summer time conditions.

BAR Ocean Rodeo are one of just two brands (Duotone being the other) to offer unique rear line trimming systems. There are two big advantages with these designs. Firstly, your trimming controls are positioned on one end of the bar, so are very easy to reach without having to lean forward. The second lovely advantage is that the centre line that runs up through the middle of your bar is very clean in front of your eye line, as there’s no cleat there with any flapping rope / webbing. Ocean Rodeo have a smooth plastic cover for the sheeting line, so there’s no chance of any abrasion against your skin as you sheet in and out. They also use an adjustable stopper which means you can set the amount of throw you want to have. I didn’t need to touch this at all; the shut-off of power on the stock setting was easily enough for all I was doing. If, however, you like to be able to immediately kill the power (some people like to do that in wave riding, or in tacking based foil manoeuvres), you could move the stopper a bit further away. On the other hand, if you’re not very tall, you can move the stopper closer so that the bar doesn’t sheet out beyond your reach if you let go of it (you won’t have as much depower if you move the stopper down, though). Overall the Shift V3 bar is similar to the V2, but is now (thankfully – it was quite chunky) thinner diameter and has a new rubber coating. Even in gloves it didn’t feel too thick, so that’s a good improvement. To power-up your kite you simply twist the knob at the end of the right hand side of the bar. To de-power the kite you just push that same knob outwards and keep clicking it until you’ve reached your desired level of depower. It takes a little bit of getting used to and learning to feel when the bar is fully powered / depowered, but it’s a good system. The gearing of the winder inside the bar is now smoother and the working parts underneath the bar are still open, which means you can easily clean sand and water out. Available in just one size, 52cm (with 22m lines) this is quite a wide feeling bar for anything below a ten metre kite size, but not overly so. For the Flite, it's ideal. It’s also not as heavy as the previous models and we enjoyed using it, especially for kite loops. On a twin-tip it was really intuitive to slide your hand down to where the bar bends slightly for good grip when you decide last minute to do a loop. Also, when foiling there are a lot of situations where you need to loop your kite, and if you want a really tight spin of the kite then the floats at the end of the bar are chunky and effectively like an extension of the bar if you want to grab those for extra purchase. All in all a great set-up. Some will say a reinvention of the wheel but, like anything, evolution causes controversy.

BAG A quick note on the new Ocean Rodeo bags which are made of a very light weight material and can themselves be condensed down to a very small size. They’re not the most robust, but there are straps on the side and back to help carry your pump / bar to the beach. It is a bit of a squeeze to get the 14 metre in, but not too bad really. This bag / kite combo are certainly all well streamlined and noticeably lighter to carry.

“Anyone could dial into the speed of movement and smooth power generation. Having a more expansive and controllable top end than most 14 metres is a huge bonus, meaning that you won’t need to come in and change down if the wind jumps up by several knots or so.”
“Anyone could dial into the speed of movement and smooth power generation. Having a more expansive and controllable top end than most 14 metres is a huge bonus, meaning that you won’t need to come in and change down if the wind jumps up by several knots or so”

SUMMARY: Although I only had one session on this kite it was an absolute classic on the twin-tip and one that I feel fortunate to have enjoyed. A smaller kite would have been fun for foiling that session, but honestly the twin-tip was the best board for the job with the stunning smooth waters between the waves and very hackable faces. The 14 metre Flite was a lot of fun with its incredibly easy and forgiving handling. Other riders with their 12 metres and twin-tips just didn’t stand a chance of getting going. The low end is very healthy but it’s the impeccable behaviour and predictability in the handling that have taken a lot of the cumbersome nature out of big kite twin-tipping here. Anyone could dial into the speed of movement and smooth power generation. Having a more expansive and controllable top end than most 14 metres is a huge bonus, meaning that you won’t need to come in and change down if the wind jumps up by several knots or so – and I experienced it all during my two hour session. Just enjoy the control at your fingertips! KW LIKED:

Very reliable and predictable behaviour, which is a huge asset for intermediate riders. KW WOULD CHANGE: Nothing to change here. It’s a sheet and go kite that absolutely does what it says on the tin and makes for very easy and fun riding sessions in 12 – 20 knots. For foiling I’d recommend looking at the 12 metre if you ride in conditions that go from 10 – 16 knots, rather than always hover more around eight knots.

FLITE BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9 Low end: 8 Top end: 9 (for a 14) Steering speed: 6 (good for a 14) Turning circle: 5 Bar pressure: 5.5 Water relaunch: DT Drift: 6.5 Boost: 7 Hang-time: 8 Unhooked: 5 Crossover: 4 Ease of use: 9 SIZES: 17, 14.5 and 12m

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