AIRUSH ULTRA 9M V4
ULTRA 9M V4
TESTED & WORDS BY: Jim Gaunt
TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here
TEST TEAM NOTES: This isn’t a new Airush Ultra, it’s been on the market since autumn 2020 but finally, after being a season-long personal kite of choice for foiling, it’s probably about time I summarised why I like it so much.
TECHNICAL EASE When I think back over all my sessions with the Ultra (and not just this year, but over the years), as one of the first single strut models to be released, it has always been a kite that is initially easy to fly, but also manages to reward you the more technically able you become. For foiling, the Ultra V4 likes to get forward in the window and can be a reliable ally for both a fast little 600cm² foil, or a slower 1200 first timer’s shape. Although it may seem to drive further forward than you’re used to if you’re coming off a powerful sheet-and-go low aspect kite, it never surges to that area of the window where the lines suddenly seem to lose steering effect. One of the advantages of having just one strut is that kites naturally seem to have this buffer where the wind pushes them back into their steering zone once you lose board speed, but when it comes to upwind efficiency in the single strut field of play, the Ultra V4 leads the march and therefore is excellent for foiling because it will keep up with you as you build up apparent speed. As you get better and more confident you’ll also really enjoy the fact that the Ultra can be looped back into the central power zone from more or less anywhere, even if you’ve turned in towards the kite and slackened the lines a bit. The loop can also be tailored to a more drawn out arc to lead you through a smooth, wide gybe, or faster for some forward punch if you’re trying to squeeze a jolt of extra power out of a situation. Overhead it’s always obvious where the Ultra is. There’s a sense of directness from the kite even though it has three pulleys in each side of the front bridle to help smoothly effect the kite’s ability to react and move back and forth. There’s also superb range of sheeting control. For tacks the Ultra loves to get far overhead and into wind because it has such a big sheeting range, you’re effectively killing all power in the kite when you sheet right out, while equally you have this finite sense of being able to generate lift and power when you sheet in. You don’t need to coax the Ultra overhead, it drives there beautifully itself and then if you need to lighten your foot pressure on the board when changing your feet, just sheet in a bit more. You never need to worry about oversheeting the kite and therefore having it stall and hitting that dead spot of power. You can be rough with it, but the better kite handler you become and the more nuanced your feel for the kite’s position and its performance becomes, the more useful you’ll realise its power access and positioning performance are.
The Ultra also needs a definite bar input, especially on the more forward, firmer bar pressure rear line attachment that I’ve mostly used this season. In waves I usually like a kite that delivers a quicker response to a smaller bar input, but the Ultra’s firmer steering requirement means that the kite doesn’t wander around. I find with foiling that I need the kite to remain stable and steadily situated more than I need it to whip energetically back and forth across the window in an instant at the first hint of bar input. If I was riding the Ultra in waves, I’d move the rear bridle line to the back setting on the kite. It’s very interesting having tested the Slingshot UFO (a strutless kite) this month, too. I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on that kite and, while the Ultra and UFO both offer incredible foil performance, they’re very different. The Ultra drives harder through the window, pulls further upwind, delivers a bigger and longer power stroke and has more lift. The UFO moves super quickly but tends to bounce back into the middle of the window however hard you try to slam it around the outskirts of the power zone. It has less lift overhead, so for tacks the UFO can demand more from your foil skills and is tuned for a super carving style of foiling – happiest on the move, whereas the Ultra is probably more familiar in its feel to most riders. For freeriding, the Ultra is excellent because the Load Frame canopy design remains well supported, from very light winds through to mid 20 knots on this nine metre. I’ve not had to reach for a bigger kite all summer and, from 12/13 knots on a very regular 800 or 1000cm² foil, the Ultra gets me off and running and remains comfortable beyond 20 knots. Of course there’s canopy flutter when the kite is turned hard in stronger winds, but that’s the nature of all kites that have large sections of cloth that are unsupported from a strut. What’s so good about the Ultra though, and the reason it can be used by twin-tip freeriders and wave riders as well as a very broad range of foiling abilities, are the fundamentals that it does very well:
1. It flies very efficiently into wind but never goes so far that it becomes dead at the edge of the window. If you’re carrying good board speed – then happy days, it’ll keep up with you, but if you’re not going very fast, or struggling for some reason, it also won’t out run you. 2. It has a large, workable sheeting range – offering pretty much 100% depower in an instant and lots of sheeting power without oversheeting. You will barely need to touch the trim. 3. It flies with beautiful stability in light winds and generates a good dose of smooth power through a combination of movement and sheeting. 4. The steering and sheeting have a good relationship with each other. 5. Bar feedback is excellent. 6. Relaunch is dependable.
There are kites out there that may feel smoother / softer / more immediately responsive at times, but if you’re looking for a kite that’s easy to use and manages to cross the boundary from light wind performance into decent stronger wind management, without becoming unruly, the Ultra is a really useful tool.
FIXTURES AND FITTINGS The Ultra is relatively simple with just a single knot option for the front bridle and then two positions on the rear bridle attachment on the kite; further forward for more bar pressure and further back for less pressure. I’ve ridden the Ultra V4 mostly on the more pressure setting this season. There are three knot options on the bridle itself for you to attach your rear kite line to. I’ve had mine on the recommended factory setting but you can adjust your line closer to the kite or further away for more / less power respectively should you need to, but read the manufacturer’s handbook for more information on the changes that will make to fully understand those settings.
CLEAT BAR I used the Cleat bar (adjustable 50 / 60cm) this season but Airush actually have several bars in their range, including two new ‘Ride’ bars that vary slightly between their features, so you really can tailor the level of detail (and perhaps your spend) and this attention to options for rider tuning is a familiar Airush trait. I had the Cleat bar from new and found the first session quite abrasive on my hands, but by the second and third session, once well wetted and worn in from the previous session, the grip became more comfortable and very assured. I always enjoy the thin diameter of an Airush bar which further enhances the sensory feel I think. Another notable addition this year is the bigger plastic module above the chicken-loop to untwist your lines. As before, Airush's IQR click-in quick release is excellent, conforming to the latest safe ISO industry standards and the two centre lines are nicely covered in plastic to ensure a smooth texture against your fingers, particularly nice if you’re steering the kite one handed with your fingers either side of the centre line. The safety line runs free alongside the two power lines to ensure it won’t snag on anything, should you need to trigger the quick-release. I rode the bar set-up with the full 23 metre line length, but the front and rear lines are made up in sections, allowing you to shorten your line length if you wish. They come configured like this: Front: 9 + 10 + 4m Rear: 19 + 4m Essentially, like the Ultra V4, the Cleat bar is a very functional, clean system that’s also very robustly made and, as we’ve experience with Airush bars over many seasons, is certainly built to last.
“Fast, adept handling that can also be slow and more subtle if you need it to be. Also the instant depower IS A HIGHLIGHT.”
SUMMARY: The Ultra is a go-to tool for foiling that can also create enough drive and lift to be a fun freeride kite. The relationship between stability, turning speed and huge depower sheeting range means the Ultra will stay reliably in the air, letting you set and forget it if you want a light wind wave session. It’s been my go-to tool for foiling this season because it offers the type of kite handling and feel that I’m used to in 18 – 25 knots, but in much lower wind speeds. I have to think much less with the Ultra, I’m less aware that I’m kiting in often technical, lighter wind conditions and that’s why I really enjoy it. KW LIKED:
Fast, adept handling that can also be slow and more subtle if you need it to be. Also the instant depower.
KW WOULD CHANGE: Not much, the Ultra V4 is a very solid workhorse for a wide scope of freeriding.
ULTRA V4 BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9 Low end: 8.5 Top end: 7 Steering speed: 6.5 Turning circle: 4 Bar pressure: 5.5 Water relaunch: 8 Drift: DT – but will be above average as stable and light Boost: 6.5 Hang-time: 6.5 Unhooked: 6 (We didn’t unhook, but British Championship 2021 runner-up Mark Spencer was throwing down on it light winds at the Kitesurfing Armada!) Crossover: 8 Ease of use: 9 SIZES: 17, 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4m