Deciding on which kitesurf kite to buy can be a daunting task since in general, you don’t know exactly how a kite rides until you use it for a while. Sure you may get opportunities to test drive some kites, but so can only test so many and typically for a short session.
The other thing is, your level constantly improves and your personal style evolves, so what works for you today may not be the best for you moving forward.
General speaking, the things I look for in a kite is durability, stability in strong/gusty wind, re-launch capability, turning speed, and of course, price.
My recommendation for first kite: Cabrinha Switchblade
Before going further, by “first kite” I don’t mean “learning kite”! You should always try to do your initial learning a school kite since you’re going to be trashing that kite.
Even after completing your initial instructor-guided training, you should practice on your own on a rented kite or used kite – since you’re still going to crash it quite a bit.
You should ideally buy your first kite(s) only after completing the self-teaching process that follows your guided instruction – see the post can I teach myself kitesurfing? At that point, you should now be able to consistently ride upwind in moderate wind, or downwind by carving turns.
My first kites have been Cabrinha Switchblades which are the most sold kites in the world and are rightly considered among the most durable and reliable kites out there. I bought a 7m2 and a 9m2 to start, covering a pretty broad wind range except for really light wind (< 15 knots).
This is what I like the most about the Switchblade :
- It’s extremely robust and durable. I’ve owned both for over 6 years and they’re still in awesome shape, aside from a small rip in my 7m canopy this summer which I easily patched up. The fabric, the struts, bladder, briddles, and leading edge are super strong.I use my 9m2 way more often than my 7m2, on average perhaps 15-20 sessions per year. My 7m2 takes a lot more abuse, though, since I use it even in winds over 25 knots (I don’t have anything smaller).
- These are very stable kites. The Switchblade is designed for wakestyle riding and is known for remaining very stable in its position while you jump, flip and spin. This is a great asset while you’re learning to jump.
- The Switchblade has a lot of pull, I can use my 9m2 even in lighter winds around 14-15 knots when everyone else uses a 11 or 12m2. The flip side is that I get overpowered sooner as the wind grows stronger – I typically switch to my 7m2 when the wind starts to peak above 22 knots.
- Very good depower. The amount of depower kites have vary a lot. Trimming on the Switchblade really has a strong effect. This is what allows me to ride my 7m2 in 28-30 m2 gusts – not the most comfortable ride but a safe one.
- Reliable relaunch : my switchblades relaunch on their own with minimum wind, when other kitesurfers are pulling on their lines and praying their kite will take off again.
- Quality control bar and lines, easy to use and reset quick release system. My Cabrinha bar and lines are still good as new after 6 years even though I use a single bar for both kites – I thoroughly rinse it after each session though.
As a result of all this, you typically feel very safe riding a Cabrinha Switchblade, which is probably the most important thing when you’re still new-ish to the sport.
With a Switchblade, I know I have a much lower probability of equipment failure. I know my kite will relaunch in a breeze (literally!) I know if the wind suddenly picks up, I can trim all the way and safely keep riding.
I always have the confidence to try new tricks because I know my kite will stay where I want it to be without stalling (lose power and drop) or unexpectedly flying into the power zone.
The Switchblade’s reliability is a result of Cabrinha ‘s manufacturing and material quality, and of the kite’s hybrid shape – hybrid kites are in between C-kites (less stable, less depower, less relaunch) and bow kites (stability, depower, relaunch, but less power for turns).
Cons of my Switchblades? To be honest, the Switchblade is quite slow turning (even the 7m2). The control bar for the Switchblade has significant pressure and requires energetic maneuvering to get your kite moving – something trick riders appreciate. That’s part of the kite’s stability feature: when you do jumps, it can be easy to unwantedly pull the bar and send the kite into the power zone. Therefore, a harder bar is better for tricks.
The slow turning hasn’t been a problem for me during at least my first 2 years of riding, as my main goal back then was riding upwind and downwind and doing high jumps in all sorts of winds.
For pricing check out the Cabrihna Switchable on Green Hat.
More recently, however, I started getting into wave riding, which requires a very responsive kite to allow for sharp turns in the wave.
Recommended kite for more advanced riding: Duotone Neo
While my Switchblades have provided tremendous support for building my core kitesurfing skills and confidence, I eventually started looking for something more responsive for wave riding and fast maneuvers in flat water.
I tried a bunch of kites, including some Best, F-one, Ozone, RRD and North Kites (now Duotone) models, as well as other Cabrinha models (such as the Drifter). I must say my best experience so far has been with the Duotone Neo (see the 2021 model here), a lightweight, fast-turning, responsive 3-strut kite (the Switchblade has 5 struts).
I found the Neo to be extremely versatile, great for wave riding but also for all-around kitesurfing and quick tricks. Just like the Switchblade, the Neo is a hybrid-shaped kite with leading edge bridles, a triangular shape, and a 4-line control system – you can also set it up with 5 lines but I personally hate it as the lines get tangled very easily when you crash your kite.
The Neo is not as stable as the Switchblade, particularly when underpowered. It also gives me much less hang time (the amount of time you stay in the air when you jump). On the other hand, it really turns on a dime!
I’m quickly getting used to that super reactive and soft feel in the control bar, with the kite turning on a mere touch with one hand.
The Neo has decent relaunch capability, although relaunching in lighter wind requires a bit more skills and effort than with the Switchblade. It also has decent depower, being a hybrid kite as well, but again not as dramatic as the SB.
The Neo is also a well-built kite, although talking to other kitesurfers, it seems to be somewhat less resistant than a Cabrinha. However, this may be due to the fact that the Neo is often used in the surf, which makes damaging a kite more likely vs flat water.
Overall, the Neo is very different from the Switchblade. The former is designed primarily for freestyle tricks, stability, and hang time, and is very reliable in unstable and gusty wind. The Neo is a lightweight, reactive kite for fast turning in waves and quick low flying tricks.
A Neo also has MUCH less pull than a Switchblade. You may need 2 or 3 more knots for the Neo than the SB assuming similar wind conditions. A lot of pull helps for jumps but can get in the way for waves as the kite pulls you out of the wave and delays your next turn.
Of course, I’ve still ridden lots of waves with my Switchblade, it just takes a bit more skills and practice, requires you to steer much earlier, and is harder on your hands.
See pricing for the Duotone Neo on Green Hat Kiteboarding.
If you want a long-lasting kite you can always count on for re-launching, riding worry-free in strongly fluctuating wind, and learning to do big jumps and tricks on, go for the Cabrinha Switchblade. If you’re more into wave riding, freeriding, and sophisticated, fast-moving flying tricks, the quick and nimble Duotone Neo is a good choice – it’s the one I made.