SLINGSHOT UFO 7M
TESTED BY: Jim Gaunt and Rob Claisse (Progression)
WORDS BY: Jim Gaunt
TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here
TEST TEAM NOTES: We only had the UFO for a couple of weeks prior to deadline, but had two extremely memorable sessions on this rather unusual kite. Both times we rode it we’d just come off being perfectly powered on bigger ten metre (or in Rob’s case 11 and 13 metre kites) and initially we really only stepped down to the seven metre UFO just to see if it was actually possible to ride it in winds averaging 14 – 16 knots, and then a few days later in 12 – 14 knots. Turns out it is possible... and Rob was especially surprised given that he weighs 105 kilos. Damn this thing is fun...
No doubt Rob had to spend the first 20 metres or so moving the kite in all manner of different directions, working out how to generate enough power to bring him up on the board in winds around 12 – 14 knots. A similarly sized rider with less kiting experience would struggle, but once Rob was up, having worked out that the UFO loves to be sheeted out hard as it races through the power zone, using the full window at his disposal, he then rarely fell off, so was racing along with the apparent wind from the 7m UFO and Phantasm 633 combo. A lot of the joy in this kite will come if you’re wanting to ride with a small kite. You also need to be happy balancing on the foil at times while you wait for the kite to come back into power after steering it super aggressively, or having carved hard underneath it. Being so light in weight means that the UFO doesn’t drop out of the sky in that heavy Hindenberg manner that many kites do if they get stranded right at the edge of the window overhead. As long as you keep the board pointing steadily and you’ve got your weight in the right place, the kite will soon drift back into position, which it does insanely well. It’s a different type of kite foiling for sure, but feels natural if you’re progressing onto tighter and faster turns already. Some other no strut kites can take a bit of getting used to, but the UFO really flies very much like a normally bridled small inflatable kite in terms of steering, but has this added ability to almost be able to bounce back from the edge of the window. Generally, this isn’t a kite for an inexperienced kite flier. It’s too quick and doesn’t provide as much lift overhead that riders who make cumbersome foot movements on the board rely on to lift them up in the harness. For advancing intermediate foil riders and above, it produces power exactly when you need it (and just enough) and can be switched off in an instant, too. Inexperienced riders need something with a more constant pull and upwind drive.
We’ve been able to make the seven metre work in surprisingly light winds, so do bear in mind that the bigger nine metre will have more lift / power overhead in these conditions. When it comes to carving back and forth downwind, steering the kite hard across the window and then following it is a fantastic feeling. Send it, sheet out and it just sits there waiting for you to complete your turn, superbly balanced. Almost drifting like a drone. It has an automatic homing beacon to help it get back to the middle of the window, regardless of what you’re doing. Flying it is so engaging because it’s beautifully responsive to back line engagement. It’s not always driving to the front of the window; but most of the time seems to be waiting to be downlooped or turned to deliver a bit of power. It doesn’t really matter where the UFO is in the window, you can depower it, power it up, or turn it in an instant. There’s far less need to think about your kite’s position. It just doesn’t matter than much, especially if you’re confident to ride your foil without needing to lean against the power in your kite 100% of the time. We can’t be sure how it will behave when really powered up, but considering the speed we were moving the UFO around the window and the comprehensive sheeting range, the canopy wasn’t flapping as much as we thought it would through having no struts. The little flapping that there is when you really move the kite hard made me smile as that’s just the character of the kite. It’s almost laughing as it comes back into power after you’ve spent so long forgetting about it and just turning your foil this way and that as you wish. Sure, it has a few little characteristics to get used to but this is a kite that helps you more intimately appreciate the performance and characteristics of your hydrofoil because it never fights the lift, direction or power being created by your wings underwater. It’s not a kite for high speeds on a little 600 wing. It’s for flowing turns and a really dynamic style of freeriding.
SIMPLICITY FROM SET-UP There’s a strong sensation of simplicity. Pump up time takes literally ten to 20 seconds and it’s amazing how light the UFO feels in your hands. It’s certainly not short on features with a wide inflation valve and a separate dump valve to quickly deflate the kite and the bridle attachments and leading edge tips are reinforced. The leading edge itself is a rugged dacron but a lot of weight is obviously saved in having no struts, the bladder is apparently just .3mm, the canopy cloth is light and there’s minimal stitching. Don’t worry though, you’re not taking this kite out in a storm! The light weight of the kite combined with the very rounded leading edge curve means that when you lay the kite on the ground you need to ensure you put some weight on the canopy as there’s a natural gap under the middle of the leading edge, so the kite bobs about a bit in the wind while you’re setting up your lines. That curve in the LE makes for insanely quick relaunch capabilities! When I dipped it in the water while riding, the kite just rolled itself along its leading edge and popped back up again before I’d even come off the foil. I was laughing at how I’d seen Fred Hope do that in the UFO’s early promo videos, because it actually does it for a normal person too!
SENTRY BAR Alongside the minimal pump up time, Slingshot’s thicker than average flying lines always untangle really quickly. This was the first time we’d used Slingshot’s new Sentry bar and it’s as sleek as they come. Clean but superbly featured, there’s now also a little strut in the centre of the bar where the two newly covered centre lines run through to automatically untwist the lines as you sheet in. Slingshot aren’t the first to employ this, but it’s such a good feature. Beyond that, expect an inimitable sense of robust, long lasting, Slingshot build quality. There are three knot options on the front and back lines. You’d usually set up on the same knot on each as standard, but we went for the top knot on the front bridle just to give a little more power with the back lines on the middle and the kite flew without any stalling. (Unintentional stalling at least... because the UFO stalls beautifully when you want it to... if you get our drift... oh, do you see what I did there?!)
“Sure, it has a few little characteristics to get used to but this is a kite that helps you more intimately appreciate the performance and characteristics of your hydrofoil because it never fights the lift, direction or power being created by your wings underwater.”
SUMMARY: The UFO is incredibly fun to fly, allowing you to ride your foil more purely as a foil, rather than having to use it to adapt to your kite power quite as much. The UFO works around the foil you’re riding, rather than the other way around. In the lower wind speeds that we tested it in, there’s a bit of flying technique needed, but once you get that, it’s amazing how light a wind speed the UFO 7m can get you going in. It’s an incredible kite for developing a flowing, carving kite foiling style and it matches up really well with the Phantasm 633 that we also have on test this issue. We can't really say anything negative; we both really enjoyed it. We haven’t tested it in anywhere close to what feels like its top end, but in 12 – 18 knots (for both of us with a 70 – 105 kilo range in body weight) it’s been an awesome kite to session on. A seven and nine metre quiver sounds like a small gap, but we think it will provide most average weight riders with a really big wind range. Smaller riders may even want to consider a 7 and 5m pairing for 12 or 14 knot winds and upwards if they have a big hydrofoil. KW LIKED:
Super fun, carving riding style on a foil.
KW WOULD CHANGE: Nothing. We absolutely love it. You just need to appreciate that it’s very focused on a quite unique style of foil riding.
UFO BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 (Not bombproof, but beautifully constructed throughout) Full package: 9 Low end: 9 (But you have to be able to work the kite) Top end: 7 Steering speed: 9 Turning circle: 2 – 5 (Whatever you want it to be really!) Bar pressure: 4.5 Water relaunch: 9 Drift: 9 Boost: 3 Hang-time: 3 Unhooked: DT Crossover: 3 Ease of use: 9 (If you’re a relatively experienced kite flier) SIZES: 9, 7, 5 & 3m