CABRINHA DRIFTER 7M
TESTED & WORDS BY: Jim Gaunt
TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here
TEST TEAM NOTES: Keahi de Aboitiz is an incredible kitesurfer to watch, even more so when you realise that often when riding the bigger, more impressive waves on Oahu’s North Shore, the wind conditions can be fickle beyond belief. Light, gusty, veering in direction and patchy as hell on the inside section, I’m often as amazed by how in tune he is with his kite as I am mesmerised by his surfboard prowess.
When you see footage from his mouth cam that shows just how much he moves and works the kite for power, often looping it way before he starts his bottom turn, he then re-sets the kite in the window and uses the latent energy stored from the kiteloop throughout a hard carving bottom turn and then he still won’t move the kite again until he’s completed a succession of further top and bottom turns. Keahi needs his kite to drift with great stability, allowing him to move so dynamically in the wave, but he also often needs to generate a spike in power in an instant. I’ve watched Keahi in the flesh when I was reporting for the GKA Kite World Tour in smaller, more onshore conditions and, although the kite is operating at a different angle to the wave and with different timing detail, he still works the kite in a similar power-drift-power-drift way as he often manages to tightly link more turns into a section than anyone else. Keahi’s been the leading wave rider on the Cabrinha international team for as long as I care to remember and the Drifter-Keahi partnership has surely been one of the most successful kite-rider partnerships that the sport has seen, resulting in four World Championships and several prestigious one-off event titles. His unique style and flow have led so many of us to spend countless hours studying his images and video. Of course Keahi could rip on a wave whatever kite he was flying, but when I watch Keahi ride I’m always able to pick out the way he uses the characteristics common in every Drifter model to his advantage.
DRIFTER DYNAMICS The Drifter hasn’t changed wildly year to year. The developments are subtle and certainly in the last two or three years have been more about the implementation of lighter, stronger Nano tech canopy cloth, which is sleek to the touch and performs better under strain. In 2019 Cabrinha’s unique Dacron blend on the leading edge was already noticeably stiffer than most other brands for improved response and efficiency (without adding hundreds of $ to the retail price). Set with a beautifully taut, crisp canopy, the latest Drifter is the lightest, most responsive and efficient model yet. If you’ve read our Moto, Switchblade and Contra single strut reviews from this year you’ll know that all the Cabrinha kites we’ve tried this season have a real uniform, familiarity of feel. Light, reactive, untiring, alert yet forgiving. (A reversal of opinion of Cabrinha kites from several years ago – they’ve well and truly shaken that heavy bar pressure stigma that primarily came from the early Switchblades!) At any moment you can turn the power down on the Drifter. There’s loads of sheeting on the Trimlite bar and such a feel of cockpit quality in general. Everything is solid. And here comes the German car analogy... okay, I’ll spare you the obvious! Cabrinha are an American brand of course, but the Drifter is about handling, power, precision and holding the road through corners.
Recoil bar with the spring and trimming tabs, while the Trimlite bar features a cleat. Both bars have modular chicken-loop options
Once again the Drifter 2021 is an absolute joy stick. It must be said it’s not the quickest wave kite across the window but it is beautifully responsive to bar input. To get a super quick loop out of the kite you need to give it a good pull on the bar, but beyond that the Drifter helps reduce your handling mistakes, reacting in an increasingly rapid way to harder and harder input at the bar. If you only need little movements to re-set the drift position as you arc back and forth along a wave, just use your finger tips. It’s really intuitively programmed. As we’ve long recognised in the Drifter, it has all the benefits of a mid-aspect kite that’s super easy to fly, stable, drifts predictably and has enough forward flight so you don’t have to worry about how you have the kite sheeted. You can be as dismissive of the Drifter as you like and just react to the conditions in front of you because it’s so well behaved in the sky. If we compare the Drifter to two other long-running wave riding kite models, such as the F-One Bandit S2 and the Duotone Neo, the Drifter isn’t quite as powerful as the Neo, or as quick as the Bandit S2. It sits somewhere in between.
It creates more power around a wider arcing loop than the Bandit S2, so if you’re foiling the Drifter is better suited to riding at its lower to mid range. Downlooping it when powered up, the Drifter can bring you shooting along behind it on a foil if you don’t turn it tightly enough, but that source of smooth movement and power is incredibly useful at the kite’s lower end. The smooth arc when you downloop, aided by the kite's ability to drift, allows you to trail beautifully behind the Drifter when you're not overly powered. All things considered, the Drifter is an awesome freeride foiling kite with good sheeting control and a drifting nature that means it’s always ready to respond to bar input. The Drifter is also one of the best wave kites to cross-over into general freeride twin-tipping for inexperienced riders in its mid and upper range because it is so easy to fly, develops a smooth generation of power and offers predictable movement. Hand it to your kids or less confident partner when you’ve finished shredding and you have a fantastic family kite. So the key to the Drifter is to understand its range. Wave riders and foilers will love its lower to mid range, where smooth, constant movements, predictable response and superb stability are key. I can still remember one of my best wave sessions in Cape Town was in marginal winds but with good, clean waves and the Drifter 7m behaved like an absolute dream. Twin-tip freeriders will appreciate all the same aspects in the mid and upper range of the kite, giving them a sense of security and confidence through the smooth and inspiring power range.
“It’s super easy and if you’re looking to shred in marginal winds with good waves, it doesn’t get better than the Drifter.”
Above: Keahi, Hawaii
SUMMARY: The Drifter’s heart is in the waves and it really is as easy as a wave riding kite gets; sitting as far forward as you need for upwind tracking and for rapid onshore steering movements, but also has its sensors tuned for when you need it to step back a little and just sit there in the window. Steer it hard and fast, or set it and forget about it for a while. It’s super easy and one of the best wave kites when it comes to stability for shredding in more marginal winds with good waves. It doesn’t get better than the Drifter. To summarise the Drifter as succinctly as possible, it’s: performance mixed with a forgiving feeling of ease. KW LIKED:
Impeccable mix of turning and drifting poise.
KW WOULD CHANGE: There's never much to change in the Drifter.
DRIFTER BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9.5 Low end: 8 Top end: 7 Steering speed: 7 Turning circle: 4 Bar pressure: 5 Water relaunch: 8.5 Drift: 8.5 Boost: 6 Hang-time: 5 Unhooked: DT Crossover: 8.5 Ease of use: 9.5 SIZES: 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 & 4m