Cabrinha’s Todd Gréaux is VP of Sales and an all-around waterman in kite, wind, surf and SUP. For 2017, Cabrinha has made a number of big changes and refinements to their existing line as well as added a groundbreaking new quick release system. Along with his team riders, Todd puts all the gear to the test and gives us some insight into Cabrinha’s lineup for 2017.
Fireball is a new concept from Cabrinha that reinvents the connection between kite and kiter. Rarely do you see one of the biggest players in the industry making such a bold design move. What motivated the company to introduce such a major change?
First off, I do want to point out that Cabrinha designed and marketed the first bow kite (2006 Crossbow) which totally revolutionized kitesurfing, so taking big risks on innovation is nothing new for us. The entire movement to change the connection system was spearheaded by Pete. The harness loop and spreader hook are borrowed technology from windsurfing. A hook and loop can bind, foul hook, lever the spreader upwards, and otherwise reduce the freedom of movement between the rider and the kite. Additionally, our Quickloop system, like all breakopen loop systems in the market, ties the connection and security together, which is asking a lot of a system. This always bothered Pete because he comes from a surfing background and he always told me that he wants the most possible freedom of movement so kiting in the surf becomes just like surfing. The hook and loop seems to have stuck around mostly because of unhooked riding, but 80%+ of kiters will never unhook and they’ve been stuck using borrowed technology for close to 20 years.
I remember Pete showing me a prototype of the Fireball several years ago and although it looked cool, I was skeptical. Then he kept demonstrating successive iterations annually from there until it was time to take the ball and socket very seriously. During this time, I also tried rope sliders and webbing sliders from Pete as well, but there were two downsides with these designs. The first is that we were using our QR to attach and detach, and second is that the sliding mechanisms proved to be too loose for jumping and freeriding. The Fireball really improved the connection in two ways. Firstly, the independence between connection (ball and socket) and security (QR) ensure reliable security independent of connection to the kite, and secondly, the system gives total freedom of movement while continuing to pull from a central point in one’s core, so it is an overall improvement for all styles of hooked-in riding. When we had a design that accomplished these two things, then it became mandatory to put it out to the market. Changes like this are hard, but in order to progress and make the product better, it has to happen and all of us at Cabrinha really believe in Fireball.
For 2017, how do you explain the difference between your most popular kites, the Drifter, FX and Switchblade, in terms of the performance strengths and the type of kiter that will get the most out of each model?
The Switchblade is a do everything kite. At the center of its DNA, the Switchblade is the ultimate freeride kite, but one will find that it performs strongly in surf, freestyle, wakestyle, foiling, boosting, and really anything. It’s a friendly design with high performance that has a big wind range, a big sweet spot, and a predictable and stable feel. You can control the position of the kite with edge pressure which is quite important in certain kiting disciplines. It has an arcing turn with medium power and speed. Lastly, it has a high amount of depower and excellent stability from the 5-strut design, so it’s ideal in gusty wind areas. For a kiter that likes to dabble in many disciplines, or just wants a highly refined freeride kite, the Swithblade is an excellent choice. Most customers could blindly choose the Switchblade and be extremely satisfied with its performance.
The Drifter is a dedicated surfing kite. The Drifter has two settings that are selected on the bridle. In the stock ‘side and onshore’ setting, it has precise steering, on-off power, position in the low side of the wind window (this ensures there is always power available if you want it), and what we feel is unmatched drifting ability. The drifting ability is crucial to surfing as it allows you to concentrate on surfing and forget about the kite. The Drifter will not stall in even the toughest of conditions. In the alternative ‘off and side-offshore’ settings, the kite is super light in the bar, very snappy in turns, and flies far forward in the window. In offshore surfing conditions, the rider literally kites upwind on the face of the wave, so having the kite fly further forward in the window along with the snappy turning and stability of the kite makes a huge difference in enjoying those conditions. Lastly, the Drifter has a pivoty turn with low power, perfect for repositioning the kite in the surf without being yanked off the wave face. If a customer finds himself reaching for a surfboard the majority of the time they hit the water, then they should definitely consider the Drifter.
The FX is a freestyle and freeride kite. It has a tight turn that pulls super hard, ideal for kiteloops or for producing energy in low winds. It has a great balance between unhooked ability and power. The FX responds well to edge pressure making it ideal for unhooked freestyle or even wakestyle. The bar pressure is very light and the kite is very responsive. The 3-strut design is lightning fast in the turns, but slightly less stable with less range versus a Switchblade. Many consumers that purchased the FX for freestyle also really enjoy it in the surf, although it does not have slack line drift, and pulls hard in the turns. If a customer enjoys a powerful kiteloop, a light feel in the bar and being ripped off the water when boosting, then the FX is an excellent choice.
The main differences between the FX and the Switchblade are going to be plusses to the Switchblade on wind range, ease of low end, park and ride, glide, foilboarding, and depower. Plusses go to the FX on kitelooping, unhooking, lighter bar pressure, turning the kite for power, and the feeling of being ripped off the water.
The differences between the FX and the Drifter are huge. One is designed and performs best in the surf, while the other is designed and performs best for freestyle. When comparing the Switchblade to the Drifter, the Drifter gets plusses for slack line drift, turning speed, upper end wind range, on-off power, and ability to shut off the kite on the face of the wave. The Switchblade gets plusses in low end, park and ride, upwind ability, sweet spot, boosting, and bar pressure (when compared to the stock bridle setting on the Drifter).
As a beginner starting out in the twin tip category, how should I choose between a board that may help me in the initial post-lesson struggle sessions versus a board that newcomers will enjoy a little further in the learning curve?
Many newcomers struggle with the concept of edge pressure. For this reason, either a board with a longer edge or a board with longer fins really helps to overcome the initial post-lesson struggle and achieve true independence and confidence in upwind ability. For this reason, we see a lot of boards in the 144-152cm length purchased by newcomers, although heavier riders in light wind areas often go to 165cm length. We also see boards with a soft edge in the 140-150cm length purchased with longer fins.
Newcomers have shown that it’s easier to stand up and ride the fins than to control the edge (without pushing the kite too far forward and stalling out). We actually don’t make a board for newcomers per se, but if the goal is to progress quickly, the Spectrum, Ace, and Stylus work well in the larger sizes, and the Tronic has a soft edge and long fins to work with those that like to stand more upright. Luckily, these are the same models I would recommend for a newcomer to enjoy further down the learning curve, but just in shorter lengths.
The Tronic is a little less able to get upwind using edge pressure even though it’s excellent to start, and its ideal for advanced riders that want to ride really powered up for boosting, for choppy conditions, or for carving/ waves. The Stylus is a light wind twin tip — it’s very wide. Schools also like it and some heavier newcomers select this model as well, but the width is harder to control in choppy conditions. The Ace and Tronic are just great freeride/freestyle boards. I would say they both work equally well for freeride, but the Ace is better for freestyle. The consumer that is a weekend warrior will be very happy and comfortable on the Spectrum, but someone who plans to progress to doing more technical freestyle will likely enjoy the Ace. The main differences here are that the Spectrum is made with a wood core and fiberglass without any 3D shaping while the Ace is made with a wood core and Basalt fiber (stiffer and better rebound response) and incorporates 3D bottom and deck shaping that improve freestyle performance. To recap, I would recommend a longer length board for quick progression and a regular length board (based mostly on weight) for enjoyment further down the line.
The surfboard lineup got a complete shakeup for 2017. Fill us in on Cabrinha’s three-prong approach to choosing the right tool for the wave trade. Also, now that all your boards come with the Bamboo Sandwich construction, how will this effect feel and performance?
An important feature in all of our surfboards in our 2017 lineup is strategically placed bamboo over cork to increase the impact resistance of the board. An off-the-shelf surfboard is generally not produced to have the necessary strength to handle the impacts of kitesurfing. This is why kitesurfing surfboards weigh more and cost more — there’s more ‘stuff’ in the board that tailors the design to work better under the conditions of kitesurfing. Bamboo is a fabulous natural material that is super strong and resilient, so it’s perfect for kite surfboards. Make no mistake about it, wood (including bamboo) is really stiff, so the placement of bamboo is used only in the high impact areas to protect the integrity of the board while the cork layer allows a combination of strength and flex. The result is a very strong board that doesn’t feel like a piece of concrete underfoot. Further, for 2017, all the surfboards have a step rail that allows for a flatter deck while still maintaining a surf rail. The design results in a small chine along the tops of the rails that increases the breaking strength, and a super comfy feel whether strapped or strapless.
The shapes themselves stem from a simplified look at surfing. We have great conditions that would generally be side shore or even side offshore, we have cross-onshore type of conditions, and we have mushy or flat water conditions. The S-Quad (yes – it’s back!) is designed for good conditions. It’s fast, very confident on a rail and can handle any size of surf. It has a more classic shape in that it’s not short and squatty, and it’s not wide in the tail. The quad fin design gives great speed and locked in bottom turns and the step deck is equally at home strapped or strapless.
The Spade is an all new shape that is designed to maximize most conditions. It has wider haunches that go into a wing tail and it’s slightly shorter than a classic shape. The extra width is amazing for airs and strapless freestyle. The thruster design keeps better control of the wider tail in textured conditions, and this board is excellent off the top — push as hard as you can handle. With slightly more power than one would find in a down-the-line classic shape, the Spade destroys cross-onshore and onshore surf and makes it easy to piece together less than perfect conditions.
The Squid Launcher is designed with a ton of power for mushy small surf and flat water. Its width gives it amazing boosting power whether just going for air or busting out the latest strapless moves. Its compact design maximizes the board’s power while minimizing swing weight. We feel that with the S-Quad, Spade, and Squid Launcher, we cover every condition and make the decision much easier for our customers.