BANDIT S3 7 & 10M

TESTED BY: Rob and Jim

WORDS: Jim Gaunt


TEST TEAM NOTES Since the Bandit do-it-all kite split into two separate kite models three years ago, the team have been able to tune the ‘Bandit’ model to be more suited to performance twin-tip riding, and this ‘S’ model to be more wave / foil / freeride focused. You can find our review of the current Bandit XV model that we’ve already tested here on the website. It’s a top three kite this year, no doubt.

TWEAKS ON TWEAKS Back-stalling can be a very ugly word to use in a kite review. You might read it and immediately be put off buying the kite without continuing to explore the review any further. For the last two years the Bandit S and S2 have been really popular and praised in many a magazine review – and yet there were always whispers among testers, along the lines of, “I absolutely love this kite, but have you noticed the slight back-stall in certain aggressive situations, requiring you to sheet out just a little?” It was ever so slight, but advanced foilers and wave riders might have noticed it at times but, nevertheless, they remained true to the Bandit S direction because it really did get closest to the all-round dream handling. Turning fast and instantly, but also able to drift. You could turn the S2 fast with no power high in the window, but also if you steer more gently you can get a wider, more powerful arcing turn. You could ask it to accelerate forward in the window, but then also rely on it to be comfortable deeper in the window, too. Essentially, F-One have managed to continue improving all of that yet further, while also eradicating any hint of back-stall in the S3. The stability is now absolutely incredible, in light winds and stronger conditions, too. Rob used to be able to purposely do a back-stall trick using the Bandit S2 on his foil while riding along; he’d pull on the back lines and get it to hover in a stalled position alongside him. Now, no matter how hard he pulls on the back lines, he just can’t get the S3 to do it.

The lighter steering response and speed has also improved, particularly noticeable in the ten metre, which now reacts and moves more like you might expect an eight metre to. This is perhaps why they’ve been able to add a new 11 metre size as the biggest in the range. They’ve found a new realm of fluid handling in the bigger sizes, suited to waves, foiling and freeriding. (The S3 only goes up to 11 metre size – if you want bigger, switch to the Bandit XV range as F-One believe that once kiters are riding sizes 12 metres and above, their needs in the kite, whether on a twin-tip or surfboard, are quite similar in terms of speed and efficiency). While the speed throughout the S3 range is quicker than on the S2, which makes them insane in waves, there’s still the magic ‘Bandit’ sheeting feel that also makes these kites fantastic all-round freeride kites. Unless you’re specialising in strong wind twin-tip riding and wanting to maximise your boost, we’d recommend most riders still look at the S3 range for twin-tip riding. I had my best twin-tip sessions in really strong winds in Cape Town this season on the 7m S3. There’s masses of depower when you sheet the bar out fully, which isn’t a long reach away, so you can remain very comfortable whether on a surfboard or twin-tip, but there’s beautiful access to juicy power when you sheet in. The kite moves quickly but always with feeling – every inch of the way. This is kiteboarding with an extra level of sensory game play. While the Bandit S3 may not come racing out of a loop like the Neo SLS or the Ultra Team, it’s staggeringly constant in feel and always very predictable. It didn’t take me long to dial into it for waves and, even when really overpowered and I should have been on a five or six metre in Cape Town, I could pinpoint the movement overhead, set the kite, sheet out and then drive through a turn without feeling too much pull on the rail. The key is the handling; I could bypass the fact that it was really windy by moving the kite in such a way that it didn’t really matter that I was overpowered. Quite brilliant. The feeling and behaviour allow the Bandit S3 to always drive so smoothly. This kite has made me think that perhaps now you only need 100% shut off when a kite overpowers and finds itself in the wrong part of the window.

I was amazed at how well the S3 7m jumps and the lift in the smaller sizes is a noticeable difference between the S2 and S3 models. I was blown away by the Bandit XV 7m in last issue’s test, but even this S3 ‘wave’ model has oodles of freeride performance in stronger winds. It really ‘pings’ you up nice and vertically in the jumps – far more than enough performance here for the vast majority of twin-tippers. Although I may have been on the smallest kite that I could see elsewhere on the water during my first session on it in Cape Town, I was just perfectly powered for smashing around the ocean, boosting, carving, downlooping, kite looping. Incredibly fun, riding with a smile on my face the whole time, travelling quickly with never a surge, a wallow or seemingly any holes in the wind. My wife Dan found that she was improving her jumps, transitions and forward rolls on this seven metre too, without ever losing the kite at the edge of the window as she had previously been doing. An impressive trait for a wave kite, too. The S3 is just so incredibly smooth, but with so much control at your fingertips. It’s like you’re reving the engine when you first wrap your fingers round the bar, but that said, it’s not an engine that will wheel spin if you slip the clutch too early. The gearing is sublime, suiting the S3’s faster pace with the traction control helping you never miss align a movement. New for this year, the Linx bar is clean, simple and always beautifully compact. Comfortable and delivering all the function you need, this year there’s also a new thicker covering that also encases the safety line running up through the middle of the bar.

“Twenty years on from when we started this magazine, if you’d have told us that we’d be flying a kite with this much sensation, power control and manoeuvrability, we’d think you were dreaming.”

“Twenty years on from when we started this magazine, if you’d have told us that we’d be flying a kite with this much sensation, power control and manoeuvrability, we’d think you were dreaming.”

SUMMARY: Whichever board you favour – be it surfboard, foilboard or twin-tip, the S3 offers pretty much equally good performance in all. If you’re a rider who own all three – oh, you’re in for a treat, whatever your level. Twenty years on from when we started this magazine, if you’d have told us that we’d be flying a kite with this much sensation, power control and manoeuvrability, we’d think you were dreaming. KW LIKED: Incredible mix of performance and ultra poised handling, whatever the conditions. KW WOULD CHANGE: We’re pulling teeth, but some kites with new, stiffer, light leading edges will exit a turn with more speed and perhaps have a little more positive drive at the kite’s very low end in light winds, but the Bandit S3 is so good because it’s just an impeccable design that’s been nurtured from over a thousand prototypes over the years.

BANDIT S3 BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9 Low end: 8 Top end: 8.5 Steering speed: 8 Turning circle: 3.5 – 5.5 Bar pressure: 5 Water relaunch: 9 Drift: 8 Boost: 5 Hang-time: 5 Unhooked: DT Crossover: 9 Ease of use: 8.5

SIZES: 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 & 4m

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