Airush has one of the deepest kite lines in the industry with seven distinct models that target specific riding styles and skill levels. For 2016, Airush has added the Union kite and tweaked the remainder of the line to enhance their performance. Besides overviewing the company’s 2016 kite offerings, Airush’s Marc Schmidt answers our questions about the brand’s new massively versatile control bar, boots and boards.
You have an entirely new kite in the lineup this year: The Union. How does this relate to the end of the Varial and what type of rider is this model directed at?
We are really excited to introduce the Union to our 2016 kite range. It combines aspects of the Lithium, Razor and Wave, making it a versatile, multi-discipline kite. The Union is a favorite for those who love to kite no matter what the wind and water conditions are. The kite is geared towards those who want to play around in the waves, ride a bit of wakestyle when the wind picks up and then perform board offs and kiteloops when the wind starts to max out! The number one choice of our staff and many shop employees, this kite is so much fun.
The staple of the Airush freeride quiver has long been the Lithium. What will loyal Lithium riders find new in the 2016 design?
We keep in close contact with our loyal Lithium riders and the overall feedback has been unanimous on the performance and direction of the kite. By changing the aspect ratio slightly, we were able to keep the grunt that people love about the Lithium, but also increase the top end. This allows the rider to have that low end that they love but also be able to edge the kite further towards the window for better upwind ability and more wind range in the top end. Although subtle, the change in the wingtips allows for more direct steering and smoother sheeting. This is a vast improvement over previous years and any rider familiar with the Lithium will immediately notice these changes.
What’s new for the 2016 Wave design and how is this kite going to be different from the Union?
Without compromise, the Wave has always been the range’s premium surf kite. Unlike the Union, which needs to balance performance in freeride, freestyle and surf, the Wave is designed with a lower aspect platform. A lower aspect platform creates immense drifting characteristics, optimal steering speed and pivotal turning. These traits cater to the unique requirements of kitesurfers in cross-off to onshore conditions.
You have specific designs like the Razor and Vantage. To what extent can these kites crossover into the freeride category?
The Razor was designed for freestyle/wakestyle riding while the Vantage was designed to be the best race kite on the market. Both kites were designed to provide the highest performance in their respective categories. That being said, there are characteristics from both kites that cross over to freeriding. The Razor shares a lot of classic C kite components, making it extremely direct and a kitelooping machine. The Vantage, although focused on the race component of the market, features a higher aspect design which makes it spectacular for boosting and hangtime.
The Diamond is back this year and offers a series of women’s specific tweaks to accommodate the superior gender. Should lighter weight men consider this kite too?
The Diamond was designed specifically for the more petite female frame. A lighter weight male can also use the kite but those that are slightly taller or heavier may prefer the Union, which shares similar forward flying characteristics.
You have a massive offering of bars to go with your kites, but let’s focus on the difference between the Progression and Core line of bars. What kind of rider does each bar appeal to?
Our bar offering caters to the specialized needs of each of our collections. Easily enough, we have wake, race and female-specific bars designed to be paired with their corresponding kites. The Progression bar is ideal for riders who are looking for a basic plug and play bar with minimal to no adjustments. The Core Bar suits riders who are looking for maximum customization through five different line length options and four different bar widths. It is the only bar of its kind.
For those who are just entering the sport and considering the purchase of their first board, how should they make the decision between the Vox, the Switch and the Apex models?
Our 2016 range is separated into collections that follow the timeline of a rider’s progression. This starts with the Vox, our entry level board. It is ideal for the price conscious and those looking for an easy to ride first board. The Switch is the next step up in the range – this board suits all aspects of freeriding. It is truly a fun board for everyday twin tip use, whether you are cruising, carving, boosting/looping or trying basic freestyle tricks. From here, the Apex becomes more advanced in its design with a more aggressive rocker and stiffness, making it ideal for freeriders wanting freestyle performance.
For the next level freestyle riders there’s the Apex Team, Livewire and Livewire Team. Can you highlight the technology behind and type of riding that each of these boards is intended to dominate?
The Apex Team board takes the Apex to the next level of performance. This board is made in our premium Biax Carbon construction, which allowed us to control the stiffness throughout the entire board. The Apex is the Lamborghini of freeride/freestyle boards. Drawing from the feedback of our team riders, including 2013 World Champion, Alex Pastor, the Livewire is the next level up in terms of performance. This board is ideal for wakestyle riders who want a board that can handle the abuse of riding with boots, hitting kickers and sliders and anything else you can jib. The Livewire Team board is the carbon copy of the Livewire. This board is tailored to the advanced rider who is serious about freestyle/wakestyle and wants the most pop out of any board on the market. Making it insane for any type of loading unhooked trick, this board has some serious response due to its carbon layout. This is the board that Alex Pastor won his World Championship title on and we have been further refining it each year.
The AFT strap and pad looks like it got a redesign for this year. Which boards will this dual adjuster strap come with?
The new AFT is not a complete redesign but we did make some major changes to increase the overall comfort, security and lightness. First we made the entire pad a lot larger – which means that there are now two straps: an L/XL which is featured on all boards from 135cm and up, and the M/S which is featured on all boards below 135cm. Along with the size changes, we increased the comfort of the footpad with dual density foam, making it super cushy on hard landings or when riding chop. The overall internal padding on the strap has been beefed up to keep that cushiony feeling throughout.
Are you guys doing anything in your boot design to make this mode of riding more approachable to the average freeride kiter?
This year we have three models of boots that are designed specifically for kiteboarding. This means they are reinforced in crucial regions such as the heel, base plate and cuff, and are built up for more abuse from sand and salt water. The Core boot was designed for riders who are graduating from straps and want a more secure enclosure. Although boots have always been related to the wakestyle movement, we find that, even for the freerider, there are major advantages to riding with boots including a more direct connection to the board, as well as security and comfort. The Core boot is geared more toward the freerider and is softer for a more relaxed feel. It also features three Velcro straps, making it extremely easy to enter and exit the boot while flying your kite.
In your directional class of boards you have the Slayer. Tkb staff is a huge fan of Reider Decker’s strapless freestyle, so what is it about the Slayer that makes it so great for airs, and how should we choose between the Slayer and the more surf dedicated Cypher?
The Slayer was created to fill a demand in the market and is absolutely one of a kind in the industry. Reider Decker uses this board to excel when riding strapless in flat water and light wind environments. While other boards are geared towards wave riding – the Slayer is the opposite. It was developed with a lower rocker line, wider nose and tail profile and different fin style. The results are insanely better for flat water strapless riding compared to a board like the Cypher. It gets up on a plane easier, pops better and is extremely playful. The Cypher, on the other hand, is built around strapless riding in more ankle-to-waist onshore slop conditions. This board has a narrower profile, is thicker in the rails and has more rocker overall. This makes it extremely loose and playful and offers more versatility in the waves.
Your Surf class of boards takes a 3x3x3 approach. You have three surfboard shapes, each shape is offered in three sizes and each model comes in one of three levels of construction. How should we choose between the three construction methods?
It sounds complicated but it’s actually very simple. First, you decide on your style of riding – onshore (Cypher), all-around (Compact) or down-the-line (Converse). Each has a unique shape and style to suit the conditions. Next, you look at your body type (size and weight), as each board is broken down to three sizes. We normally classify the rider as small (sub 145lb/65kg), medium (145-190lb/-65-85kg) or large/XL (190lb+/85kg+). Finally, it comes down to the construction. This is broken down to a choice of Flytech, Flex Carbon or Active Carbon. Flytech is our standard sandwich construction. It is extremely durable but adds a bit of weight – this board is perfect for first time riders or riders who are looking for a board that can handle all types of abuse in light or heavy wind conditions. Flex Carbon is our newest construction. This is a polyurethane core featuring our exclusive Biax Carbon outer layer. This construction has been designed for riders looking for that classic surfboard response and feel while riding waves. It is not going to be as robust as the Flytech for airs, but when riding the wave, you will have more of the drive and spring that surfers are accustomed to with traditional constructions. The Active Carbon utilizes our patented Carbon I Beam stringer. This construction is the best of both worlds and has the perfect blend of durability for strapless airs and a harmonious flex pattern when riding the wave. While making them as light weight as possible, these boards are built with kiting in mind.
Want it all in one place? Tkb’s 2016 Buyer’s Guide is now available for viewing on your favorite device! Our staff interviewed 20 brands this year to deliver over 164 pages of 2016 product information, all in one place with in-depth discussion and the latest photos with supplementary links to the best online resources. Download it here.