KITE TEST

AIRUSH UNION V6 10M (2021)

AIRUSH

UNION V6 10M

WORDS BY: Jim Gaunt

TESTED BY: Bully, Jim and Kyle

TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here

PUBLISHED: Issue #109 – March 2021

TEST TEAM NOTES: The Airush Union has been on a quite a journey on its way to evolving into today’s V6 model. The early versions were packed with sheeting power alongside manoeuvrability and certainly stood out as juicy jumping performers, particularly in lighter winds than you’d normally be boosting high in. Now, with the increased all-round hooked-in performance of the Airush Lithium and Session kites, the Union has been freed up to be a much more specialist new school machine. Riders who are looking for a performance kite that they can unhook on and then also use for massive jumps and throwing megaloops with when the wind picks up are quite niche in terms of numbers. However, this is a very competitive sector because it’s what the new wave of young professional riders are all wanting to do – and the Union V6 blends exactly the performance they’re looking for.

THE SET-UP: Operating on a four line fixed cascade bridle, the Union V6 utilises an industry standard Boston inflate valve and the highly praised Airush Load Frame, which delivers excellent canopy strength and support. The individual load seam construction throughout the canopy prevents big tears and also allows Airush to remove much of the reinforcement found on other kites that become unnecessary with the presence of the Load Frame. As such, all Airush kites deliver light and responsive bar pressure, but don’t lack any structural strength. The visual two tone identity of the Union V6 along with the Load Frame gives a strong and appealing look. The bag is made from recycled bottles (Airush always have an ethical touch to their products, from the planting of trees in Asia, their partnership with 1% for the Planet and the Ecoboard Project and the fact that their entire headquarters in Cape Town is powered by solar energy). The kite bag is big and easy to pack the kite into, is also hard wearing and features a side pouch for your bar and a bungy elastic on the front for your pump. BARS: Airush offer two trimming options: The ‘Progression’ bar features a pull-pull webbing strap trimming system which has more throw than the Cleat model. Kyle often rides with the cleat bar in Cape Town where as more often than not we test the Progression bars here in the UK, which offers the ability to almost completely depower the kite when fully sheeted out. While offering a large throw, the Progression trimming tabs are fitted with extended loops, making them easy to grab despite the large bar throw.

GIVE IT SOME WIND If you compared the V1 Union with the V6 you’d barely be able to believe that they are the same line of kites. Perhaps what the name ‘Union’ represents however is where cross-over freestyle kiting is at the time of the kite’s launch. Big air was making a comeback when the V1 was launched, whereas now the big air game is altogether more hardcore in terms of loops, with the extreme big air elite also wanting to throw freestyle when the conditions are right. That combination just wasn’t possible with the V1, but it is now with the V6. As such, the top end has very much increased, but that comes at the expense of the bottom end. You can’t take out this ten metre in steady 20 knot conditions and expect to get the lift and hangtime performance that was possible in the earlier versions. It’s just not set up that way anymore. The natural bar position in 18 – 22 knots is much closer to the chicken-loop with less obvious sheeting grunt; it’s ready to be ridden unhooked without any trimming, but as a result needs piloting up and down to generate board speed in lighter conditions. Kyle points out that, for him, as a kite looping freestyler, the direct steering response is ideal, thanks to the fixed bridle. He’s confident where the kite is when passing the bar, doing rotations or while steering the kite blindly when falling off during a wave ride. The downside of the fixed bridle is that the kite needs to be worked more at its bottom end. An increased diameter and further reinforcements in the leading edge and struts have made the Union V6 skeleton more rigid, so it’s now less likely to deform when ridden in the brutal gusts of places like Cape Town, however, the Union doesn’t swallow up the big gusts as comfortably as other freeride kites. It’s an altogether racier model with direct feedback for the rider wanting to feel connected to their kite at all times.

FREESTYLE The Union is incredibly stable when unhooked, thanks to the square profile of the kite and the open C shape with a fixed bridle system. Without having to trim the kite at all you can remain unhooked without the kite back-stalling, which is great if you like to add style and stay unhooked between manoeuvres. This has been one of the most notably improved characteristics of the Union in the last two years in a highly competitive field. BIG AIR AND KITE LOOPING There’s zero delay between the steering input and the kite’s movement. To get jumping height you need to go into your take-off with speed; this isn’t a sheet-and-go jumping kite. Amplitude is rewarded to riders who commit to serious riding speeds. Looping the kite with a firm pull of the bar at the apex of the jump produces a great pull and the Union is super-reliable around the window, catching you cleanly while you’re still high in the window, so if you’re top level, you may find you have time to add some rotations... This is a kite that likes to operate at speed. Sometimes when you sheet out just before a jump in strong winds you may be aware of a slight shudder from the canopy, penetrating through the fixed bridle to the bar, but as soon as you re-tension the backlines for take-off, everything goes taut and you’ll enjoy some serious power.

Image above: KW tester Kyle loving the loop

ARE YOU RACY ENOUGH? The Union V6 isn’t difficult to get on and ride. The considerable bar throw and shut-off depower also add an excellent sense of security, but to get the most out of the Union V6 it likes to be ridden hard and fast. If you’re not yet completely comfortable with sent jumping techniques, there are other kites in the Airush range that will immediately feel more rewarding. It also felt strange here in the UK to be pumping up the ten metre when everyone else was on eight metre kites, but that’s the reality of the kite’s range. We’d also therefore need a 12 metre for the 18 – 22 knots sessions to feel comfortably lit for hooked-in freeriding, instead of a pure unhooked session. While very high board speeds are possible, the Union’s natural depower throw also has less effect in really strong winds when the apparent wind speed is so high. You still need to edge hard against the kite. You can’t just sheet out like on the Airush Session for example, but this is an absolute machine for good riders. When you’re in tune with the Union and flowing on a board designed with a fast rocker profile, it’s an absolute joy. If you’re on the wrong side of that line, the reduced user-friendliness won’t punish you if you’re inexperienced, but you won’t find you’re riding with as much ease as you’d probably like.

Image above: Kyle's eye view

WAVE CROSS-OVER As a note for wave riding: the extensive depower throw and quick response of the kite make this a very capable cross-over ally for waves. Especially so as there’s not too much overhead lift in the kite in its low and bottom end range to pull you off balance while you steer the kite across the window. KYLE’S CAPE TOWN EFFECT Before joining the Kiteworld editorial team this year, Kyle was sponsored by Airush and his chosen kite was the Union, which he’s ridden heavily since 2018. He says, “An important note that will add perspective to this review, is that I ride my Unions in closed toe boots on a 140 Livewire Team freestyle board at all times. Occasionally I use my Unions for wave riding. I am riding the 8m and 10m Unions and this has been my two kite answer to the Cape Town season. I use the 8m mostly for big air but it is still possible to do some freestyle with this size and I would say the comfortable wind range is from 18 – 40 knots on the 8m, with the latter being reserved for big air. I am using my 10m mostly for freestyle and freeride and am typically able to get riding from 15 knots and take it up to 25 knots before swapping out for the 8m.” (You should note that Kyle is talking about Cape Town wind speeds – because the wind is so dense in Cape Town, a 15 knot wind feels more like the 20-22 knots in your kite elsewhere in the world, while 25 knots in Cape Town is more like 30).

“Riding hard and fast with epic board speed and the light, responsive handling. It’s a leading new school kite.”

SUMMARY: The open-C profile produces explosive power with lots of steering response thanks to the square tips. For all aspects of turning, the Union delivers; from being steered back hard and fast for a boost, for a critical kite loop, or for up and down wave riding. It’s a fantastic, all-round machine, in the right hands. If you’re primarily a twin-tip rider looking to up your new school performance, but still want some versatility for waves or even foiling, the Union V6 delivers and at times you can even swap between your boards without having to put the kite down. The Union V6 offers a good contrast in performance with the Session. Having tested both extensively, we’d recommend the Session to riders who primarily ride a surfboard / foil but like to play on a twin-tip, too. Whereas we’d push aggressive riders who spend more time on a twin-tip towards the Union. KW LIKED:

Riding hard and fast with epic board speed and the light, responsive handling. It’s a leading new school kite. KW WOULD CHANGE: We’d give the low end a bit more power, but new school riders will be happy riding a 12 metre, utilising the stability of a bigger kite frame for unhooked tricks in those winds.

UNION V6 BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9 Low end: 7 Top end: 8 Steering speed: 6.5 Turning circle: 6.5 Bar pressure: 5.5 Water relaunch: 8 Drift: DT Boost: 8.5 Hang-time: 7.5 Unhooked: 8 Crossover: 8 Ease of use: 7.5 SIZES: 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6m

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