Cabrinha’s Todd Gréaux may be VP of Sales, but he also rips on the water. For 2016, Cabrinha has made a number of big changes and refinements to their existing line as well as added several new exciting products. To broaden their product line, they are offering a new control bar and multi-purpose Double Agent foilboard. Along with his team riders, Todd puts all the gear to the test and gives us some insight into Cabrinha’s lineup for 2016.
The Switchblade is back for another year. What’s in store for 2016 and what will loyal Switchblade riders find different about this latest design?
For 2016, the Switchblade underwent a full redesign from top to bottom. The Switchblade is Cabrinha’s franchise player, so the design goals were to improve what it already does, not change it. What I have found is that the Switchblade has maintained its legendary power, wind range and ease of use, while improving in a few other key areas. The performance in light wind increased and now offers smoother turns and climb from bottom to top in the power zone. This provides a firm and smooth power delivery regardless of whether the kite is parked or cycling. The upper end range of the Switchblade also got extended. It already had a big wind range, but now it’s more comfortable to ride in the upper end and with less bar pressure — now the kite flies faster through the wind. To test this, I do a quick 180 degree turn with the kite from one side of the window to the other, then I sheet out and see how effortlessly the kite flies across the window, how hard it pulls and how far forward it will go into the edge of the wind. I can feel less drag and more momentum into the window; this is good. Its jumping ability has also improved. The height of the jumps are as good as or better (this is a bit subjective), but the hangtime is far superior. I can control the position of the kite in the wind window easier using edge pressure. What this means is I can get the kite to move forward more before unhooking and I have a lighter feel for wakestyle and freestyle tricks than before. Lastly, there is a huge difference between the “A” and “B” wingtip setting for the bar pressure. For existing Switchblade users, I recommend trying the kite in “B” first (more bar pressure) before switching to “A”. Early feedback is that existing Switchblade users can’t feel the kite as well in “A” and it takes some getting used to. For non-Switchblade users, this means lighter bar pressure and you need to try one if you have been scared away in the past. I ride the kite in “B” for reference.
The redesign of the Switchblade also included the addition of Pure Profile Panels. Using the 2D flat materials that comprise the design, they better match the curved shape of the kite in flight. The wingtips were thinned out to reduce drag in a non-lifting area. This reduced area was added in the root of the kite at the center strut, an area that adds more power. Naturally, because more power was added, the profile was thinned out making a faster kite that improves unhooked riding while slightly reducing the power (only the amount that was added from the wingtips). The bridling is also all-new with a key design feature of having a traditional Switchblade feel in the “B” setting and a lighter feel in the “A” setting. Changes to the kite and bridling provide for a more consistent power delivery and less drag throughout turns. If you already ride the Switchblade, you will love the 2016 model. If you don’t ride the Switchblade, you should give it a try.
Last year was the first year for the FX line of kites. How did your core customers respond to this kite and after a year of riding, what have you learned about this type of design and the riding it inspires?
We launched the FX on March 1, 2015. It’s really an early release of 2016, so it’s been out there for about half a year. We had slowly been pushing the Chaos kite more and more towards a pure competition freestyle C kite, but the gap between this kite and the Switchblade was getting too big. We were losing the everyday freestyle rider since our options weren’t ideal for that type of riding anymore. Freestyle was evolving fast. We had the VKWC direction, then we had the Red Bull KOTA style. The KOTA style really suits the average consumer more so than the VKWC. However, we have monsters on our team like Alby, Liam, and David that were doing well on the World Cup Tour and needed the specific attributes of the Chaos, so we couldn’t alter the design to reach this other group. At the same time, we had brought Nick Jacobsen onto our team. We needed a kite with an outrageous personality like Nick’s and one that was chameleon enough to handle everything Nick could do.
We wanted a kite that would be very good unhooked, would rip you off the water when boosting, would fill you with adrenaline when you kitelooped and of course, had light bar pressure and turned fast. We knew that we couldn’t mess with the recipe of the Switchblade; we learned our lesson there a few years ago. The decision was made to design and launch an entirely new kite — the FX. The idea was to inject something simple yet really exciting into the market. We were playing both to our current Cabrinha customers that were ready to step into a freestyle kite, but we also saw an opportunity to bring other freestyle consumers in the market into the Cabrinha family. The response to the FX launch was pretty overwhelming. The FX resonated with a much larger piece of the market than I ever imagined. Nick’s video really showed off what the FX could do and was a big help to getting things started. It also allowed us to showcase a new technology in kite design called Pure Profile Panels. I would need a whole separate article to get into PPP, but let’s just say that it has a sizable impact on the efficiency of a kite. At this stage, I would say that we really accomplished what we set out to do. We gave consumers a very eclectic product that fits in between the Switchblade and the Chaos. It’s better at kiteloops and unhooking than the Switchblade, but not as one-dimensional as the Chaos. I’m really happy that we decided to make the FX because we certainly had under projected the demand for a consumer-friendly freestyle kite. As awesome as it is to do megaloops and front mobes, the reality is that most people really love the fast turning, the feeling of being yanked off of the water when boosting and the light bar pressure. These sensations can’t be underestimated.
The Radar received a redesign for 2016. What was your design team’s goals with this kite, what kind of riding is this kite best for and who will get the most out of this kite?
The Radar was designed to be the easiest-to-use kite on the market. We wanted a friendly kite that was light in the bar, turned quickly and relaunched like a dream. I feel like we got all of that and more from the Radar. For 2016, the goal was to improve the low end and wind range on the bigger sizes, but we ended up launching all new models instead. The results are really nice. We kept all the great features of last year’s model and added better low end, increased stability and overall wind range, better jumping and better unhooking. Really, the Radar is meant to do everything, but I would position it between the Drifter and the Switchblade. It turns fast without power, is light in the bar, is super responsive and relaunches just by turning the control bar. For a weekend warrior looking for a maneuverable, light kite, the Radar is it, although we definitely have better options for freestyle.
Seeing that the Switchblade, Radar and FX are all excellent choices for the freeride segment, how should one go about choosing between the three?
The Switchblade sits at the core of our kite offering. It scores high marks for any style of kiting… literally anything. Its legendary park and ride performance make it a safe choice for a variety of conditions, or the ideal choice if you want all conditions. So if you want a limitless kite, you have to take the Switchblade under consideration.The FX is geared more specifically towards freestyle. So if unhooking and kiteloops are your thing, then the FX is an excellent choice. It can be ridden parked but produces a lot of power in its turns, so a more active style of riding will benefit the user. Its light bar pressure and the feel of ripping you off the water are big pluses.
The Radar is geared slightly more towards maneuverability and a light feel. Because it has less power in its turns, it also works nicely in small surf. Because of its quick response time, it’s ideal for carving snappy maneuvers on a twin tip. It has a very predictable and stable feel that is ideal for improving your riding.
Surf dedicated kites are becoming more popular amongst the brands. What is it about the Drifter that makes it such a great option for the surf?
The Drifter is the first purpose-built surf kite that delivers slackline drift. This is what allows the kite to drift with no power while the user concentrates on surfing their face off. Without slackline drift, one has to be pretty attentive to the kite as you basically surf underneath it as it wants to fall out of the sky. So slackline drift and the Drifter prevent all the clutching and grabbing of the leader lines trying to save the kite along with being pulled off early from the wave. The Drifter has allowed us all to forget about the kite and actually surf. As much as we have tried to improve it, few changes have been made to the Drifter until now.
The one area where we found we could improve the Drifter was in offshore conditions. The Drifter tends to sit far back in the wind window which is what helps it slackline drift so well. However, in offshore surf conditions, you are literally surfing upwind. For these conditions it’s better to have the kite sitting forward in the wind window. For 2016, we have added a new bridle setting for offshore surf conditions that opens up the wingtips and allows the kite to fly forward in the window when sheeted out. So now, the Drifter is the ultimate surfing machine, no matter what nature throws at you.
It looks like the biggest change in the control bars for 2016 is the introduction of a “trim lite” tuning option. What is the story behind this new design?
We’ve had the Recoil system on the market now for several years. It’s a really simple system. Essentially, it’s a webbing trim strap with one pull to trim in, and a separate pull to trim out. The pulls are on bungee lines and contained at the end of the Recoil spring so everything is neat and tidy. The Recoil spring keeps the trim pulls close to the rider and allows easy unspinning of the bar by releasing against it. When you need full depower on demand, in arm’s length, just push the bar up the spring.
Because this system is exclusive to Cabrinha, we thought that we should add another option to our offering that would be even simpler and cater to non-Cabrinha customers. When we launched the FX, we really were catering to the everyday freestyle rider, many of whom were not already using our products. These riders want simple equipment that works well and provides a feeling of excitement. This drove us to design another trim system with a simple cleat — Trim Lite was born. With Trim Lite, we have the simplest control system (only one lines runs through the bar) and easieast quick release assembly (Quickloop) on the market. This system is attractive to a lot of customers, many who wouldn’t previously consider Cabrinha equipment. An added bonus of Trim Lite is the lower price.
Trim Lite uses a stainless steel cleat so it won’t wear out as easily as alloy cleats will. Additionally, the trim line has an integrated bungee that, even fully trimmed, reduces the tail that can flop around on a non-bungee system. When this is integrated with our 1X security system with Quickloop, it’s just a beautifully simple piece of equipment.
The exciting thing is that many of us like the Recoil, and many like Trim Lite systems — different strokes for different folks. Before we didn’t have the option, but more and more often we see consumers wanting choices; we’re listening and responding.
The Spectrum received some upgrades for 2016. How is this board better suited for all around freeriding and what type of rider will want to take this board home?
The changes we made to the Spectrum certainly helped on the performance side, but the big differences are the price and the weight. We took 15% off both the weight and the price. This was an engineering project aimed at designing the board specifically to benefit from the type of production we use. As an added benefit, 3D top shaping (we already had this on the bottom) is thrown in for 2016.
Aside from the boring engineering stuff, the lighter weight is really nice since we make this board in up to 148cm length and spinning tricks amplify the weight reduction. Great for any user, the thinner rails are sharp and very easy to control. Oddly enough, I am a perfect example of a Spectrum customer. I don’t ride twin tips that often anymore, so I want a board that isn’t super agro — something that feels familiar even if it’s been six weeks since my last twin tip session. Because of the generous flex and thin rail that’s easy to control, every time I hop on, the Spectrum feels like an old friend to me. Whether it’s boosting simple unhooked tricks like roll to revert or raley to blind, the Spectrum has enough of the good stuff to help me out. The ride is soft enough to mow the lawn and boost for hours, yet peppy enough for some light freestyle. To me, that is the true meaning of freeride and I think this is why the Spectrum appeals to such a broad audience.
The Tronic and the Spectrum both seem like great options in the freeride category, how should one choose between these two boards?
The Spectrum is a traditional shape with sharp thin rails, a moderately square outline and generous flex. If you like to ride the rail hard (like most kiters), the Spectrum will have a familiar feeling. The Tronic is very special. With its pulled in round tips and parabolic rails leading into a very rounded edge, it is a carving machine. The Tronic’s quad concave give it excellent performance in choppy waters and, since it’s nearly impossible to skip out on this board, allows the user to really load up the soft edge for absolutely monstrous airs. The Tronic also has lots of “V” in the tips, which, in combination with the rounded rails, makes for an excellent surfing twin tip. The Tronic is ridden more on the fins, which is something that needs to be learned since we’re generally taught to ride hard on an edge. Compared to the Spectrum, the Tronic won’t have the same upwind performance, but is still a blast in sloppy, choppy conditions or to ride lit when going for huge airs.
For the more performance oriented freestyle riders,there’s the XCaliber, Ace, Custom and CBL twin tip shapes. How should a rider choose between these boards and which one does Evan Netsch ride?
Compared to the XCaliber, the Ace is easier for an intermediate or advanced rider to maximize their freestyle performance. The wood and basalt laminate provide a more gentle ride quality for freeride while still providing ample pop. Most users will want to ride the Ace with footstraps, as it was designed. The tips are pulled in a bit more than the XCaliber’s, the fins are slightly more inboard (no eye spray) and the rocker is tuned more for a comfortable ride with a bigger sweet spot for landings. Most people are better suited to ride the Ace than the XCaliber, even for freestyle, and as a bonus, the Ace is an excellent freeride board. On a related note, for freestyle, women should have a close look at the XO. The XO flex is designed specifically for women, tuned for lower weights and narrower stances.
The Custom is also easier for an intermediate or advanced rider to maximize their wakestyle performance. With less rocker and stiffness than the CBL, the Custom performs well without tons of power, eats up chop like it’s nothing and provides for buttery smooth landings. Equally friendly in straps or boots, the Custom provides for massive pop and easy rotation into inverted tricks. Generally, the Custom rides smaller for its size and requires a bit more power because of its higher rocker.Both the XCaliber and CBL are aggressive designs primarily to be ridden with boots by advanced to pro level riders. Both boards are stiff, like power and the use of boots help the rider to control the board better. That’s where the similarities end. The XCaliber is a competition freestyle board. It’s super square, super stiff and has a low to moderate rocker. We use a lot of carbon fiber to stiffen the board without adding weight. The board delivers instant bursts of speed and a massive pop. This gives unparalleled upwind performance; a must during competition when you are busting all your moves in a very small judging area. However, it’s our stiffest board (think sore knees). The CBL excels on features like funboxes, kickers and rails. The sintered grind base slides easily and doesn’t get destroyed, plus the bottom shaping allows finless riding that reduces catch on features. The CBL has our highest rocker and the new shape with wider tips has better kiting performance, both really important characteristics for landing and pop. The CBL is more about style and the rocker allows you to be slightly off on the landing and still look like a stud. It is also designed for the cable park and easily makes the crossover back and forth between kiteboarding and cable. Due to the high rocker, the CBL needs kite power. On a final note, the CBL tends to ride small while the XCaliber tends to ride big.
The Secret Weapon was a hit at last year’s Freeride Test for boosting strapless airs and punting aerials in sloppy surf. However, when it comes to clean and powerful surf, how should a rider choose between the two high performance shapes in the lineup?
The options we have for high performance surf are the Proto and the Phenom. The Proto is meant for side-shore conditions where the power of the wave drives you and you really use the rail of the board for turning (think Reo Stevens getting barreled at Cloudbreak). The shape is a modern thruster surf design. The Phenom is a high volume board that is suitable in a variety of conditions and is also quite nice for freestyle (think Keahi de Aboitiz competing at Ho’okipa). The Phenom’s extra volume and width is welcome in side-onshore and real world surf. The optional quad fin setup (Phenom is 5 fin) provides a bit more natural drive versus a thruster. For those that surf off the back foot a bit more, the Phenom will feel more natural. Overall, the Phenom will feel good in everything from flat water strapless freestyle to nice head high sideshore waves. The thruster and quad options really unlock a variety of riding styles and conditions. Because of its higher volume, the Phenom lends itself to heavier surfers.
The Double Agent is the new foilboard in the lineup. What was your design goal for this board and what style of foilboarding is this design best suited for?
It’s no secret that learning to foilboard has been pretty challenging up until this point. A big driver of the Double Agent was to make foilboarding accessible to the masses. We wanted a product that would be fun to ride, easy to pack up, durable, dual purpose, easy on the wallet and simple enough for the first time user (which most of us are at this point). Here’s how we accomplished all of this: The board itself doubles as a surf skim. It comes with a quad fin surf setup so it can be ridden in small surf without the foil or even as a skim/Alaia in flat water.
The fuselage length is the same as the board width. This is really important for packing since all parts fit easily into a surfboard bag without sticking out. For traveling, you could get away with a single Double Agent to get through a wide variety of conditions from foiling to flat water to small surf.
The mast/fuselage is all one welded sealed piece, so it floats. The board is made in twin tip construction, so it also floats. The wings are made in twin tip construction, so they float too. The beauty of having all of the parts float is that the entire apparatus sits at an angle in the water, making it super easy to get into the straps and get moving. This was always a challenging aspect for any of us to learn because foilboards to date sit flat in the water; not only is it difficult to get into the straps, but the sharp wings are easy to kick sincethey are close to the body. Having the board sit at an angle allows the rider to guide the tilt so the fins are away from the body and getting into the straps is easy. The wings are made with a Paulonia wood core, volcanic basalt fiber and epoxy resin. We use a polyurethane leading edge on the wings to make them super light and durable. Traditionally, wings have been easy to damage, but our construction is really keyed in on durability, which is clutch for most users and a necessity for first timers. The board being built in twin tip construction adds a huge element of durability over a traditional surfboard type construction that is fragile in comparison.
The Double Agent is really geared towards the freeride segment. There are faster foils out there, but we think ours is the best combination of fun, durability and ease of getting started in a feature-rich package for only $1,749. We use a moderate aspect set of wings that provide a super stable ride. During testing, we focused on getting a lot of first timers on the board and the results were really amazing. Anyone can ride one of these with confidence. Lastly, the foil parts all pack up nicely into the included storage bag.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Choosing new equipment can be a daunting task. There are a lot of options out there. We always recommend that the consumer try the equipment before they buy it. Most Cabrinha retailers will have a demo fleet of equipment to make the decision easier, or maybe one of our awesome sales reps will be in town. I always try to give a new piece of gear 20-30 minutes at a minimum in decent conditions to really get used to it, otherwise the feeling of your current gear can really cloud your decisions.