A password will be e-mailed to you.
The 2013 TKB Freeride Test Team.

The 2013 TKB Freeride Test Team.

For the 2013 Freeride Gear Test TKB trucked 28 kite models and 12 board models to La Ventana, Mexico, one of the best locations for reliable wind in North America during the winter months. To read the product reviews check our 2013 Gear Review Page.

Our test team was hand selected from a large number of applicants and were chosen to represent the average kiteboarding demographic. Meet the testers below and see what 2013 kiteboarding products they chose as their favorites.

Walid Jomaa

walid“Retired electrical engineer. I coach college soccer and teach salsa dancing.”

Age: 56
Hometown: Live in Victorville, CA, but originally from Beirut, Lebanon
Weight: 140 lbs.
Riding for How Long: Since February 2012
Typical Local Conditions: Flat water
Style of Riding/Level: Starting first jumps and learning to ride toe side.
Current Quiver: Kites: 2011 Liquid Force Envy, 2012 Liquid Force NRG, 2013 Liquid Force NRG (purchased after the test). Boards: 2011 Ocean Rodeo Mako and 2012 Cabrinha Chopstik.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
All the gear is safe and very good. Even for a beginner like me, all the gear was enjoyable to ride.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: The Liquid Force NRG was my favorite. It was fast to pump and relaunched very easily. It is a true park and ride kite; it stayed wherever I put it and I was able to ride while steering it one handed for a long time. It had a direct feel on the bar. Without looking at it, you knew where the kite was. Felt like it had cruise control. If I wanted more power I just pulled on the bar and vroom I went faster. It also had amazing upwind ability. I am just starting to jump and this kite will lift you up effortlessly with decent float and hang time. I did not want to stop testing the kite. It handled the gusts very well and I also like how it looks.

Board: The F-one TX. This board and the foot straps were very comfortable to ride for a long time, the board handled the chop and swells very well, it had good pop, and landed fairly soft. It was also easy to edge and go upwind.

Marko Bartscherer

marko“I live near San Diego, so I don’t mind riding big kites in light winds.”

Age: 43
Hometown: Chula Vista
Weight: Before or after the trip? About 216 lbs. after a lot of tacos.
Riding for How Long: Twelve years
Typical Local Conditions: Light wind, flat water or surf
Style of Riding/Level: Free riding, jumping, racing, and riding in the surf
Current Quiver: Kites: 2012 Epic Infinity V2, 2011 Ozone Edge, 2009 Best kahoona, 2009 Best Waroo, 2011 F-One Volt. Boards: 2011 Aguera CR69, 2012 Slingshot Knee Swacker, 2012 Litewave DV8, 179cm Litewave twin tip (no idea how old it is but I ran it over with my truck and it still works), 2009 Underground FLX.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
Almost all the boards and kites we tested work well, it is mainly a question of conditions and style for what you are looking for.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: I would for sure get an Ozone Edge. I liked how comfortable it felt and how well it worked for everything I was trying to with it. Also, since I started racing last year buying one the most popular race kites makes a lot of sense.

Board: I liked the Axis Vanguard the most. I like having a slightly bigger board with a lot of low end and range so i can ride even if I don’t have the perfect kite for the conditions with me.

Kirstyn O’Brien

kirstyn“Live everyday like it’s you last! Ride hard.”

Age: 26
Hometown: Ocean City, NJ
Weight: 173 lbs.
Riding for How Long: Five years
Typical Local Conditions: Ocean
Style of Riding/Level: Freestyle, some wave riding
Current Quiver: 2007 Best Bullaroo, 2008 Best Nemesis

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
It seems like everything is streamlined for simplicity for the consumer. Most kites can be pumped up with the same pump/attachment and most bars can be swapped between brands, models, and sizes.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: I cannot choose between the Liquid Force NRG and the North Evo. I had great sessions on both. The NRG jumps higher and has more hang time but the Evo was very comparable. At home we go out when a session starts at eight knots and could be 20 knots by the end. It means a lot if a kite can perform throughout the range.

Board: I would have to say hands down the take home board for me would be the CrazyFly Shox Custom. It had super soft pads, comfortable straps, handles chop well, and pops nicely off the water. This is a board I could ride for hours day after day.

Joe Bharat

joe“I’ll show you my spot if you show me yours.”

Age: 43
Hometown: Southern California but live in South Korea and also spend time in La Ventana
Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding for How Long: On the snow since 2006, on the water since 2008
Typical Local Conditions: Korea: Light wind sea breezes on the lake, gusty wind when weather systems pass through. La Ventana: Strong winter winds with chop.
Style of Riding/Level: Twin tip freerider, strapped and unstrapped surfboard, race board
Current Quiver: Kites: RRD Obsessions, Ozone Catalyst. Boards: Takoon Source, RRD Placebo, Jimmy Lewis 6’1″, Aviso Cole 5’10”, RRD K-65

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
It seems like freeride kites can be divided into two main categories with distinct characteristics: Pivoters and Sweepers. Pivoters usually have delta shape and make quick tight turns. They fly fast and can be pumped to generate power. I like these kites because they usually have a wide wind range and amazing pop. Sweepers seem to ride well in a parked position so make sure you are flying a big enough kite for the conditions. These kites sweep broadly around the wind window and deliver a consistent pull.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: I was impressed with the Core kites. The XR2 has a clean delta shape and is predictable, easy to control, and smooth. I had one of my best sessions ever on this kite. I found looping the Core GTS2 to be smooth and faster than some of the other hybrid C-kites. The Core depower cleat is easy to use and I like that no matter how much I looped the kite and spun the bar the front lines never twisted.

Board: My favorite boards were the RRD Poison and North Jaime. The Poision had nice pop and smooth landings and the Jaime was a lightweight board that felt good riding toe side.

Pat O’Connor

pat“I enjoy trying new things and staying active to keep myself feeling young!”

Age: 44
Hometown: Stockbridge, WI
Weight: 170 lbs
Riding for How Long: Two and a half years
Typical Local Conditions: Choppy inland lakes or Lake Michigan with big four to five-foot rollers
Style of Riding/Level: Just starting to do serious jumps, otherwise working on carving turns and just cruising and jumping waves.
Current Quiver: Kites: 2011 Naish Bolt, 2009 Naish Helix, 2012 Naish Bolt, 2012 Liquid Force Envy. Board: Liquid Force Edge 136.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
I learned so much about the wide variety of gear and configurations available across the diverse array of kites, bars, and boards we tested.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: The North Evo. This kite made me feel like a much better kiter. Jumping was effortless and cruising was a cinch. Of all the kites I tested, this one had the best combination of maneuverability and control. Relaunch was a piece of cake. I had heard good things about North and I was not disappointed. For bars, the Wainman Carrot Bar was my favorite.

Board: The Crazyfly Shox Custom. It had comfortable bindings, was easy to ride upwind, and felt like it had the perfect level of stiffness for both jumping and cruising. I even liked the orange color scheme!

Davey Beard

davey“If I only had more time to kite…”

Age: 34
Hometown: Santa Barbara
Weight: 190 lbs.
Riding for How Long: Twelve years
Typical Local Conditions: 6-18 mph with mild swell
Style of Riding/Level: Freeriding; jumps, rotations, loops, transitions, race, and some waves.
Current Quiver: Naish 2011 Bolts, 2011 North Dyno

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
I learned how small performance differences can have a huge effect on a rider’s confidence/comfort and ability to charge.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: I liked the Ocean Rodeo Prodigy the best because of its great boosting ability and very steady pull. The Ocean Rodeo bar wasn’t my favorite though. For racing I’d go with the Ozone Edge.

Board: My favorite board was the CrazyFly Shox Custom. It had enough width for me and it had good pop and a steady ride through chop and confused swell.

Dray Murray

dray“I’ve been working in the kite industry for a long time with Murrays.com and took my 1st lesson in 2000, but I only really started getting serious about my own kiting in the past few years.”

Age: 33
Hometown: Carpinteria, CA
Weight: 175
Riding for How Long: Five plus years
Typical Local Conditions: 15-25mph summer thermals with knee to head high surf and 25 to 35mph winter storms with chest to overhead surf
Style of Riding/Level: Mainly strapless surf, occasionally venture into freeride and racing
Current Quiver: Kites: 2012 F-One Bandit, 2011 Cabrinha Convert, 2012 Liquid Force Envy, 2012 Airush X-Race. Boards: 2012 5’8″ Slingshot Celaritas, 2012 6’1″ Slingshot Tyrant, 2011 Airush Sector 60, and a 2009 Slingshot Misfit 136.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
I learned a lot about the different characteristics of kites and how they affect the performance and the pros and cons to each. Mainly riding in the surf I’m usually happy with good entry level kites with their low aspect, pivotal turning, and great stability. It was really interesting to get to try all of these kites back to back and then hear totally different reactions form the testing team on each one but there were some commonalities. Hang time seemed to be one of the most desired attributes among testers, and a comfortable bar grip goes a long way when we are riding hard and constantly picking up different bars out of the sand. It was also interesting to see how hype or expectations can weigh in a review, whether you think it lives up to the hype or not. I think that may have hurt some of the long-standing kite models with high expectations compared to some of the lesser-known models.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: It was really hard to come up with a favorite kite and I had several favorites for different styles of riding. I think the kite that surprised me the most was the CrazyFly Sculp. I really liked how quickly the kite responded to turn initiation and I never felt at a loss for power even when most people were riding larger kites.

Board: I don’t ride twin tips much, so I was really looking for the most comfortable pads and straps as my deciding factor. I spent most of the time riding the Cabrinha Spectrum 140 as I really liked the Cabrinha Hydra straps and pads.

Andy Sologub

andriy“I believe I can fly.”

Hometown: Toronto
Weight: 155 lbs.
Riding for How Long: Eight years
Typical Local Conditions: 10-15knots
Style of Riding/Level: Freestyle, waves, unhooked, jumps.
Current Quiver: Kites: 2012 F-One Bandit V, 2012 Best Waroo, 2013 Bandit 6. Boards: 2013 F-One Acid, Balance 135 Pro, Blade Sanchez 138.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test?
It just keeps getting better and better with each year!

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?
Kite: I would get the F-One Bandit Six because I feel it has an unmatched combination of low end performance, stability, safety, turning speed, and amazing wind range. I tested many kites during test week that were excellent in different areas but I feel the Bandit Six kite was the only one that was very good at everything.

Board: I would get the F-One TX. This was actually the first time I’ve tested that board. It had good upwind performance, good pop, was excellent in the chop, and comfortable pads and straps.

TKB Staff

Members of the TKB Staff also participated in testing gear. Paul Lang, Gary Martin, Eunice Martin, and Alexis Rovira all contributed their input on the products TKB tested in La Ventana.