Now in its 5th year and headquartered in New Zealand, Switch has a direct consumer business model and offers their products through the internet and their global warehouse distribution network. Fully supported by their in-house customer service team, customers deal directly with the designers and owners of the brand, all who have a dedicated interest in customer satisfaction and listen to improve on every level. Switch kite designer, Bill Hansen, tells us more about what Switch has in store for 2016.
This year, Switch has four kites in its lineup. How do you breakdown your options for the various disciplines?
Our lineup is based on what we see as fundamental aspects of the sport as well as the diversity those aspects create as skills progress and conditions change.
Everyone starts as a beginner with a basic need for a user-friendly, easily relaunchable and versatile kite capable of meeting their needs as they challenge themselves to higher activities and quickly progress to intermediate status. That is the mission of our Element line. The design is therefore moderate with 3 struts, a lower aspect ratio and a simple SLE Open C configuration. The Element’s target user needs a stable, quick turning kite with predictable low end and extended range. Light to medium bar pressure ensures they will not get fatigued while still feeling the kite’s position and direction. The Element must do it all but within reason and moderation.
A new dimension of boosting becomes obvious as riders progress and become hooked on the thrill and challenge of boosting big airs. We see jumping as a major segment of the recreational kiting population and developed the Nitro line specifically for the enthusiastic riders who live to fly. The Nitro is aimed directly at boosting with a powerful and efficient high aspect open C design which delivers and performs to the highest levels of professional big air competitions.
Other riders find themselves aspiring to nail complex tricks in the realm of wakestyle and freestyle riding. To perform and progress in this discipline, the traditional and dedicated freestyle hardlined C kite has dominated the category since the early days of the sport. The new Switch Legacy kite is the culmination of nearly two decades of C kite development with a modern twist. Maximum slack after the load and pop, ultimate stability along with bow kite depower and light bar pressure place the Legacy in a unique position. Gone is the brutish and punishing behavior of early C kites now replaced with remarkable user friendliness and beginner forgiveness. We ‘broke the mold’ with the Legacy and in the process, found that the top professional freestyle rider will excel with the same attributes of stability, predictability and handling that any regular kiter enjoys.
There are two remaining segments of kiting that a complete range of kites must address — waves and light wind.
Wave riding ranges from onshore coastal beach and sandbar shore pound to clean sideshore reef and point break down-the-line lip ripping. River swells and sizable open water lake and bay chop also count to some as wave riding. To handle such a wide variety of conditions, a well-rounded wave kite must also be a great all-round kite with fast turning, easy relaunch, stability and drift. At Switch, we feel the Element satisfies the needs of the most discriminating wave rider in any condition and is our go-to kite for waves.
Enthusiastic kiters still want to kite when the wind is light. Because flying objects are bound by nature to a velocity squared rule, size matters and there is no replacement for square area. However, a proper light wind kite also needs to be efficient to stay upwind which becomes progressively more difficult as the wind drops. The Switch Helium addresses the science of light wind with a very efficient high projected area design that also embodies the basic needs of riding such as turning, relaunch and range. We only offer it in 15.5m and 18m sizes because anything less would not be a light wind kite.
We tested the Nitro at the Freeride Test last year. What kind of changes can riders expect in terms of construction and performance for 2016?
The Nitro5 has been improved in a number of subtle and notso-subtle ways. The overall outline is basically unchanged but the spanwise (tip-to-tip) foiling has been changed to reduce drag and stabilize the forces on the wingtips. This has improved the efficiency and range along with better upwind VMG (velocity made good). The most dramatic change is an entirely new short ‘Star’ bridle design which addresses several aspects of the Nitro that we believe needed improvement. The Star bridle uniquely stabilizes the central and shoulder areas of the leading edge while directly limiting flaring and outward movement of the wingtips. Beyond increased structural stability, the Star bridle allows faster, smoother turning, better depower, less rear line slack when depowered and lower bar pressure. These improvements are accompanied by significantly shorter risers which eliminate any wingtip or strut-end wrapping tangles. Experienced Nitro riders will find the Nitro5 retains all of the positives with significant handling and performance improvements.
How do you recommend riders make the decision between the Nitro and the Legacy?
The Nitro is a boosting freeride Open C with a bridle. The Legacy is a state-of-the-art freestyle hardlined C kite. If the desire is learning and perfecting freestyle handlepass tricks, the Legacy provides maximum slack and is a world-class pro-level freestyle machine. If absolute boosting is the goal, the Nitro is the call. Both jump well and the Legacy has excellent float. It really comes down to choosing the right tool for the job and boot-wearing freestylers know instantly what to ride. Recreational twin tip riders looking for a rip off the water and high jumps can’t go wrong with the Nitro.
The Helium is your light wind option in the line. How have you designed this kite to excel in the lighter conditions and is this a good match for freeride foilboarding?
The Helium was designed to address the issues of light wind aerodynamics within the constraints of recreational kiteboarding. Known attributes such as high projected area and high aspect provide efficiency while a conservative 3-strut inflatable structure enables the rider to enjoy the sport without the problems that a more complex construction might produce. Turning, relaunch and stability make the Helium a predictable and reliable light air machine. Very light bar pressure ensures the rider can kite for extended periods without fatigue. The Helium has a surprising range where many light air specialty kites become a handful. Construction is light but durable with attention to likely wear areas for a longer lifespan. The Helium is a good match for light air foiling due to its efficiency and upwind ability. The 15.5m is also a good choice for landboarding.
The Switch controller bar is in its third generation and features a number of upgrades. What are your top five favorite aspects of this bar?
The Switch Controller3 has been upgraded in a number of areas. Among the top favorable aspects are the versatility, safety and durability of the bar and its components. The Controller3 is completely user configurable and can be used with any kite and safety system. Bar throw, length to controls and width are user adjustable. Four and 5 line setups are easy to use and single line flagging comes standard. All components are designed and developed in-house in New Zealand by Switch engineers and are scientifically tested for ultimate breaking strength and durability in our Switch headquarters laboratory. We use only the highest quality lines and hardware and all components are available from our warehouse for maintenance or for custom builders for direct purchase at reasonable prices.
In the board category, you only offer freestyle kiteboards. What are the twin tip options and what kind of riders are these boards designed for?
The MJComp2 is our current twin tip model. Historically Switch twin tip boards have been developed directly with Marc Jacobs for use on the PKRA world tour. As a result, they have been perfect for general freeriding because World Cup riders need a board with excellent upwind ability, explosive pop and a smooth controlled ride in every condition. Choppy, confused water presents a challenge to the freestyle rider when loading an edge to pop. Therefore, smoothness in chop is a top requirement for our board design and the MJComp delivers. Twin tips must also be durable for every rider from the seasoned pro to the ambitious beginner likely to encounter unplanned mishaps. The new MJComp2 is built team-tough and will last years without broken inserts or a delaminated top sheet. If Marc can’t break one, no one will, and Switch would not have it any other way.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Switch provides the highest quality kiteboarding products designed, developed and tested by longstanding industry professionals who have a genuine love and concern for the sport and its riders. Known for durability and performance, and constructed with the best materials available, our kites are made in an exclusive Switch-only production facility. The economy of scale and lack of middlemen in the distribution of Switch products allows us to price them advantageously without compromising quality.