AIRUSH SESSION 9M V1
TESTED BY: Jim
TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here
I’ve ridden the Session several times on a surfboard, twin-tip and foil... and can safely say this is my kind of kite. I’ve traded my surfboard for a twin-tip in the same session without having to put the kite down in 25 – 30 knots and had a blast. I’ve ridden it in 30+ knots as well as more moderate conditions and I’ve also used it foiling in winds between 14 to 18 knots. I said to my wife Dan, “I think they’ve absolutely nailed this for the 35+ age range.” “That’s not really a sexy selling point they’ll want to shout about though, is it?” she retorted. “On the contrary, my dear” I continued as the leather squeaked while I eased back into our Chesterfield. “There are a great swathe of riders out there who don’t unhook and have an eclectic mix of boards for twin-tipping, wave riding and foiling. This is a design for them!”
TWO BECOME ONE Airush have developed the Session to replace two kites – the Wave and the Diamond – the latter was a women’s freeride kite. The Wave had become such a potent wave kite; so quick and constantly forward flying that it lost a lot of its basic freeride credentials that were offered in the first model in 2014. The Wave had however gone on to become one of the Kiteworld test team’s favourite wave kites to ride each year. It was lightning quick and in onshore conditions you could literally rip it across the sky in a nano second. There were however moments, particularly in stronger winds, where it was almost a bit too quick and forceful across the window. It really was an epic machine though, but that said, I hadn’t had one in my personal quiver for a few years because its' cross-over appeal had diminished – which is important to me.
UNDER THE HOOD Although Airush have wound the design back a few dials on the intensity scale, the thin leading edge remains on the Session, so this is still a performance machine of intent. I noticed how thin the leading edge was because the Session is really quick to pump up. A few strokes from a party balloon pump and you’ll be set to go. The square tips and rounded, constant arc of the leading edge give the Session a sporty C kite look and the now proven Airush Load Frame ensures the canopy is as resistant to tears as its’ impressive webbed skeleton would have you believe. The Session feels lighter in your hands compared to many freeride kites, thanks to Airush still using a double rather than triple reinforced canopy cloth; the high modulus polyethylene yarns in the Load Frame add a lightweight web of extra strength, carrying the primary load of power, rather than the canopy cloth itself.
BACK FROM THE BRINK Yes, the Session has been wound down a bit, mainly around the edges. Where the Wave drove too radically to the edge of the window for less experienced riders, the Session now seems to have a buffer zone that you can’t force the kite beyond. The Session remains responsive wherever it is, allowing you to focus less on the kite and more on your board, and this is really where it shows brilliance. The Session never reaches the point of no return, no matter how hard you send it through a turn. It still reaches relatively far forward compared to pure freeride kites, but remains responsive and alive. The Session begs to be played with and from my first session on a surfboard in very onshore conditions, the nine metre delivered speed and response more akin to a seven metre, but now with less screaming urgency and a more even feel, from turn initiation to completion.
EXTENSIVE THROW I used the Airush ‘Progression’ bar that features a pull-pull webbing strap trimming system which has more throw than the Cleat option. I have always loved the ability that Airush give a lot of their kites with the Progression bar – particularly the Wave if you were dialled in – to be able to extend your arm more fully and completely ditch the power, without the kite luffing forward out of position and losing that connected feel. Almost complete depower combines with a lovely surge in sheeting drive and between those two points you’ll find masses of feel and control all along the throw without ever feeling heavy. I was able to turn the kite hard across the window and then sheet out while making smooth turns; carving beyond 180 degrees on a wave to face back into wind and edge along the wave on my toeside (really onshore conditions). Complete rail control in 22 - 25 knots on a nine metre; no surging power or rattling of the canopy from too much air flow across the surface; but instead just a really clean feeling from a cross-over kite whose inherent DNA is still programmed for waves.
See more about Airush’s impressive new IQR safety system on all bars in this video:
MASSIVE RANGE Even though I was still able to make clean turns on a surfboard without getting pulled forward, I could feel that there was plenty of sheeting juice at the bar as the wind moved beyond 25 knots, so on my first session I swapped to the twin-tip that was ready on the beach. The range on the nine metre Session is massive. Going from making controlled turns on a surfboard when other riders are on six, seven and eight metres kites, on another day I was boosting nicely when some people were flying 12s. The nine is a magic size and I’m super keen to try the others. On a twin-tip the Session feels like you’re flying a stunt kite. It's quick, fluid and, unlike many wave kites, has a reinforced feeling of assertion at the bar. Steering hard and fast isn’t fatiguing at all, but there’s a resonance that leaves you always knowing where the kite is. During spins and transitions it’s always easy to redirect the kite and not over send it. Should the kite ever have drifted where you didn’t want it to though, it’s so easy to quickly downloop the Session back into a preferred position and this is why I think riders with good kite handling experience, who like to ride in a range of conditions, are going to adapt and enjoy it a lot.
THROW AROUND Where it’s most fun on a twin-tip is the loops, big or small – early in your jump or late coming out of a transition. Many riders love the idea of going out there and pulling kite loops, but spend a lot more time thinking about it and trying to build up the bottle, only to realise another series of sessions have gone by without having tried any. This is the kind of kite that will give you the confidence to start pulling them. That’s not because the Session is super pivotal and just spins. Instead, the kite drives forward around the turn brilliantly, giving just enough pull to inspire you and make you feel absolutely great. Mixed with that is this superb point-and-shoot lift performance. You have to move the kite quite aggressively (more so than the Nexus 2 for example, also on test this issue), but the Session doesn’t start pulling you off your rail as soon as you start moving it back. You can charge at a kicker and be moving the kite back without feeling like you’re going to lose your edge grip too early. Lots of sheeting range at the bar means when you get your timing right with a nice kicker, the Session feels like a really good fun kite for most freeriders to jump with.
As you get more dialled in, you can leave your kite movement later and later, reacting to kickers on impulse as the Session can be driven back hard and fast in an instant. In fact it performs better this way, so will be appreciated by riders who like a lively kite. Send it, edge sharply, sheet in and pop – in strong winds you’ll enjoy loads of lift. Don’t expect masses of hangtime, but the lift is rapid and so many of the most engaging kites that we love to fly are the ones that project you skyward nice and quickly. This is one of those. It’s not a Woo record breaker and it’s not a hangtime machine. The jumps can be relatively quick up and down, but no doubt you can go high and there’s a lovely pause at the apex. I found the coming down aspect from a really big jump just as thrilling as the uplift; feeling the drop and then steering the kite into a little loop overhead just before landing, hearing the split second of canopy rattle as the kite rotates quickly overhead is so much fun. Heli-loop earlier or later... the Session feels like you can experiment without the fear of painful consequences. Although perhaps a bit quick for inexperienced riders, the Session will still feel accessible and un-intimidating to send back, delivering a nice balance of up, hang and descent. It’s all very evenly paced and only when you’re sending it aggressively and getting high do you need to worry about making heli-loops. Time and again I was really torn as to whether to take out the surfboard or twin-tip, so I often took both to the beach.
CONTROLLING THE SPEED I generally ride with my hands close to the centre line, but if you shift your back hand down towards the end of the bar you’ll find you can make a big difference to the way the kite loops; super quick or slow it down a bit more. Depending on how high you are, and whether you’re pulling a loop very early or late during a pop transition, you can give yourself an injection of speed heading in your new direction. The influence you can have on the kite’s turning speed or drift position is an excellent trait for all aspects of wave riding and foiling. You can leave the kite where it is and rely to some extent on sheeting in and out for power, or as ‘Wave’ users will appreciate, still tap into awesome turning and manoeuvrability around the window.
BRIDLE SWITCH Never afraid to offer riders the option of making adjustments, particularly to rear line knot positions, this time Airush include a completely separate bridle in the bag that features no pulleys. To switch to the pulley-less bridle, simply lay the bridle out in an arc that matches the shape of the currently attached front bridle on the kite and replace it by releasing the four pigtail points and swapping them over. It may sound complicated, but if you look at the diagram on the kite it’s quite easy. However, if you’re the slightest bit unsure, ask a local expert or your kite shop. Launching an incorrectly set-up bridle can be dangerous.
Switching to the fixed bridle certainly adds a more direct, sharper feeling with more instant bite through the kite loops. You could do all your riding on either set-up and I quickly adjusted to both and had fun. I’d say the bridle that the Session comes set-up on as new with the pulleys is smoother, and a bit softer for easier wave turns, but also delivers more swoop and lift overhead and better high wind gust management. Really though it’s a difference in feel rather than absolute performance. The kite is delicious however you prefer to taste the flavour.
“The Session is now an absolute all-round ripper, but its’ heart, thank goodness, still lies in the waves.”
SUMMARY: Several long sessions in and I’m absolutely loving this kite. Primarily, it’s for riders who certainly have a surfboard in their quiver, but also perhaps a foil. For waves, the Session isn’t as rampant across the window as the Wave was, but it’s now more inline with other wave kites and has more control at the edge of the window. The light but direct handling, instant depower and enormous range mean it’s a no brainer for foiling. For twin-tipping the Session will suit lighter to averagely weighted riders. Heavier riders will need more direct and obvious oomph to feel all the benefits described here for twin-tipping. I’m light at just 70 kilos, but really did find this nine metre incredibly adaptable in a huge range of conditions. Finally, if you think a lot about wanting to kite loop but feel a bit too intimidated by it – particularly if you’re light like me – the Session could see you propel yourself beyond your friend’s level in a couple of weekends... once you’ve dialled into the speed of it; because it is (nicely) quick! The Session is now an absolute all-round ripper, but its’ heart, thank goodness, still lies in the waves. KW LIKED:
Energising all-rounder. It’s a cross-country full suspension mountain bike that looks normal but has a battery hidden in the frame. KW WOULD CHANGE: Twin-tip riders over 80 / 85 kilos will probably need the more forceful boost and extended hangtime found in the Lift kite. This Session will feel a bit soft for them. That said, if a heavier rider’s primary focus is waves or foiling, the Session comes back in the game, no worries.
SESSION BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9 Low end: 8.5 Top end: 8.5 Steering speed: 7.5 Turning circle: 5 Bar pressure: 6 Water relaunch: 8.5 Drift: 8 Boost: 7.5 Hang-time: 6.5 Unhooked: 6.5 Crossover: 9.5 SIZES: 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4m
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