For the 2017 Freeride Gear Test, TKB trucked over 60 kites (30 models) and 40 boards (33 models) to La Ventana, Mexico, one of the best locations for reliable wind in North America during the winter months.

Our test team was hand selected from a large number of applicants and were chosen to represent the average kiteboarding demographic. Each tester is handed a booklet, a pen, and the responsibility of reviewing the industry’s best products to create one expansive online database of free product reviews.
TKB-DRONE-LOGO_FREERIDE-123024143

RHONDA REYNA

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5499 ”I grew up in Santa Cruz, California spending my childhood playing in the ocean, enjoying an outdoor lifestyle. My adult life consisted of careers in Biotechnology, Forensics, Equestrian Sports and Motherhood. A friend recently described me as being comfortable with dangerous situations, never being indecisive in following my inner compass on how to be safe. I’m known for my addictive smile and for making people’s days brighter even when I myself feel depleted by the challenges of life. I love kiteboarding and the genuinely kind people I have met in this sport.”

Weight: 120 lbs

Riding for How Long: 8 months into my first season

Typical Local Conditions: All around rider spending weekdays in the San Francisco Bay at 3rd Ave and weekends alternating between Sherman Island and Waddell Creek.

Current Quiver: Kites; 2016 North Evos in 7meter and 9 meter, 2016 Naish Alana in 9 meter and 12 meter, Boards; 2016 Nobile Women’s NHP, 2016 North X-ride, 2017 North Soleil. What can I say? I like good equipment and options.

Personal Kite Hero: Jessica Winkler is the most impressive kiter and Jannicke Stav is the most influential kiter.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? That tuning the kite to your riding style and conditions is worthwhile as adjusting the settings on the kite can have a big impact on getting the most out of the kite you have.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: I would purchase the 2017 RRD Vision because it is a great kite to fly for my level. I felt confident riding it as it handled wind gusts smoothly, was easy to fly and I felt like it really took care of me. This kite was a lot of fun. Importantly, the 2017 graphics and purple/pink color combination are very attractive so I will really enjoy looking at it and coordinating my accessories.

Board: Nobile NHP. I like how it glides through chop and helps me go upwind.

ALEJANDRO STRAUSS

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5584 ”From the first moment I saw a kitesurfer, I dreamed to became one. I was able to achieve my dream 6 years ago at 49 years old and its now my favorite sport. I love to travel with my family and organize my trips around kitesurfing. And I’m very lucky to share my passion with my 27 year old son.”

Weight: 175 lbs

Riding for How Long: 6 years

Typical Local Conditions: In Buenos Aires, Argentina (home), not many windy days, but when it blows it is beautiful with 14 – 20 knots, steady wind but choppy. In my summer vacation spot (Punta del Este, Uruguay), waves (with twin tip) and choppy.

Style of Riding/Level: All around rider with focus on freestyle

Current Quiver: Kites: Slingshot Rally 2015, Boards: Slingshot Vision 2015 & Nobile NHP Split for traveling.

Personal Kite Hero: Know nothing about professional kitesurfing, so I can’t answer this question!!!!!

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? That for my type of riding, most of the equipment we tested worked well for me, as well as my own equipment. I wasn’t able to find something extraordinary, or maybe my level of kitesurfing is not enough to appreciate the small details that differentiate one piece of equipment from the others. But on the other hand, there were a few equipment that I really didn’t like!!!

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: Core XR4 (I tested the GTS4 , I loved it but I think the XR4 is better for my type of riding)

Board: Core Fusion 2 (same as with the kite, I tested the Choice 2, I loved it but I think the Fusion 2 is better for my type of riding)

TIBERIU ANGHEL

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5568”I’ll be the first to admit that I have a strong case of addiction to kiteboarding which modern medicine, fortunately, cannot cure. Often first on the water and last one out, I am hoping that my body will keep up through my old age and will continue to allow me to travel to various Kiteboarder Anonymous meetings throughout the world.”

Weight: 165 lbs

Riding for How Long: 3 years

Typical Local Conditions: North-East Coast, mostly around Montreal, typically 15-20 knots with mild to moderate chop with occasional waist to chest high waves.

Style of Riding/Level: Freeride

Current Quiver: Airush Lithium 2015 & 2016, Naish Monarch 2016, Cabrinha Skillit 2014, Krazyboard 2016 (custom strapless twintip for light wind)

Personal Kite Hero: The truth is that every single pro rider is inspirational in one way or another when they are riding, but nothing beats the ear to ear grin of a new rider doing his first tacks and being stoked out of his mind.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? Once past the beginner stage, there is no perfect kite or bar out there which will please every possible rider and style. It is only by experimentation as well as time on the water with a given piece of gear that one can make an idea for himself of what attributes and flying characteristics make a kite stand out for them and worthy of a position in their quiver.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: This a tough call since there were quite a few kites which were a blast to ride so I’ll make my life easy and pick two kites.

The Airush Union provided massive power, boosting and hang time if properly harnessed, yet without feeling overwhelming. Then there was the North Dice which stood out by its quick turning speed, smooth power delivery even through kiteloops, effortless boosting and the perfect grip of the Quad Control bar.

Board: Both the North Select and the Axis Division stood out from the rest of the pack thanks to their great pop, butter smooth chop slicing and ridiculously comfortable bindings.

JOHN “MAX” MACKENDRICK

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5525”Outdoor lover, particularly the oceans — I’ve kited Califorina, both north and south, Louisiana, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Europe/ Mediterranean. I see the world’s oceans as a still under-appreciated and under-explored beauty of the planet, and I want to learn more!”

Weight: 200 lbs

Riding for How Long: 7-8 years

Typical Local Conditions: Recently: Gulf of Mexico, mostly choppy wind conditions with one spot, a lagoon, that is very flat. / Past: mostly in CA, Malibu, Nicholas Canyon (aka Zeros, a popular surf-spot), always has waves and pretty choppy.

Style of Riding/Level: All around rider, focus on freestyle

Current Quiver: Kites: Naish Parks- 9m (2014), 12m (2013), & 14m (2012) / Boards: Naish Motion 142cm x 41cm, Nash Orbit 155cm x 55cm, Nobile (twin tip) 140cm x 40cm

Personal Kite Hero: Really, I don’t have any, I just think that all lovers of this sport have a respect and veneration for Mother Nature.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? While all kites have individual subtleties, to a beginner they may seem alike. One pro whom I do admire, is Alexis of the TKB team. Some of the things he would say bear such common sense to the experienced kiter. One example was his attitude toward foiling, “I don’t want to go fast! I like to foil slowly and work the spot I’m in.” It helped me to confirm the idea that once you find a niche in the sport that you dig, focus on that, and try and master what brings you pleasure. Kiting can be a competitive sport for some, but it can also be gymnastics, or ballet.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: Nobile or more Naish kites == what I look for in a kite is a well designed system; a maneuverable kite that works well with it’s lines and bar. That’s kind of why I think of myself as a Free-styler.

Board: I’m definitely looking into one of those Axis light twin tips.

JUSTIN LORD

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5556”I’m a Bostonian living on the Left Coast taking advantage of the diverse kiting conditions and outdoor activities California has to offer. I spend my working hours as a digital marketing Account Executive at Google in San Francisco.”

Weight: 125 lbs

Riding for How Long: 6 years

Typical Local Conditions: 18 mph & steady, flat water

Style of Riding/Level: Freestyle

Current Quiver: 2014 Cabrinha Switchblade, 2016 Cabrinha FX, 2014 North Neo, 2014 CrazyFly Raptor Pro, 2010 Wainman Blunt

Personal Kite Hero: Ruben Lenten for his mega loops, tenacity and ability to endure adversity.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? I was surprised how refined many of the kites have become — lightweight, stable and durable. It seems like the the kites that stood out the most were the ones that have failed to keep up with the pack in terms of kite performance and product advancement.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: North Evo for it’s stability, predictability, quick loops and huge lofty airs.

Board: Crazy Fly Raptor LTD for its lightweight carbon construction and double concave shape which gives it a super smooth ride.

JONATHAN DIXON

TKB-FREERIDE-2017-TEAM-5616”Love the water. Want to keep surfing and kiting into my 70’s if I am lucky.”

Weight: 180 lbs

Riding for How Long: 7 years

Typical Local Conditions: We get it all in the SF Bay area! At Waddell 22-40mph waves – at Sherman Island 20-27 flat!

Style of Riding/Level: Split between twin tips and directional in waves, mostly waves these days.

Current Quiver: Still riding my 2012 Bandits on North bars / North Xride.

Personal Kite Hero: Kinsley ThomasWong, Ruben Lenten, anyone who keeps showing up through really hard circumstances.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? It’s still getting better. Last year I thought development had peaked but there was amazing gear this year.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: Airush Union stole my show this year.

Board: I’d have to go with the F-One Mitu.

JABE HARPOLE

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5534 “I’m an easy going guy who likes to spend as much time in the water as possible. I love to travel and I’m always planning my next adventure.”

Weight: 185 lbs

Riding for How Long: 2 years

Typical Local Conditions: Flat water and waves.

Style of Riding/Level: Freeride and surf.

Current Quiver: 2016 Core Riot XR4, 2015 LF Envy, 2015 LF NRG, 2014 LF Envy, 2015 Core Fusion 2, 2016 CrazyFly Raptor LTD 

Personal Kite Hero: Jesse Richman. He’s a fearless kiter that charges massive waves and has awesome style when it comes to all aspects of kiting.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? There are a lot people out there who are just as obsessed with kiteboarding as me!

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: Probably a big race kite like the 19m Ozone Edge so I can boost big at my homespot. The Edge’s stability and upwind performance are just added bonuses because this kite boosts huge and provides an all-around good time, no matter what your style is.

Board: I want a Slingshot Celeritas to ride waves. This board was stable yet agile. The edge was locked in but easily released to slash a turn. I especially liked the added volume of the 5’11” which will be great in the light wind I usually ride in.

DRAY MURRAY

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5596”Grew up sailing and surfing, and then started kiting; merged the sports in the mid 2000s. Working in the industry for the last 15 years as a retailer and distributor at Murrays.com, love the sport and stoked to be a part of it.”

Weight: 170 lbs

Riding for How Long: 12+ years

Typical Local Conditions: Side on 15-25mph in knee to head high surf, or foiling in 10-15mph.

Style of Riding/Level: Strapless surf when there is wind and waves and foiling on the light wind days.

Current Quiver: Kites: BWS Aeneemas / Boards: Loyd 5’8″ Flying Pig, BWS White Noise 5’7″, HDP 5’5″ Quad, 2015 Slingshot Alien Air with MHL foil

Personal Kite Hero: I love what’s going on in the strapless world right now. Between Reider Decker’s skate style tricks to the power and finesse of the Mauritius crew and guys going huge in the Gorge, there are more wave specific kites and all new surfboard shapes coming from the brands. It’s an fun time to be in the sport.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? I’m loving how stable manufacturers are able to make high aspect kites these days, and the turning speed is getting faster as well. For an intermediate freerider, I think high aspect race kites give you the best blend of characteristics. Amazing upwind performance, huge wind range, great vertical boost and hangtime for days. And you don’t even need good timing or pop, just send the kite and hang on, they will take you for a ride!

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: I’m really happy with my BWS Aeneemas for waves, but if I were to dabble in twin-tipery I would want a race kite like the Ozone Edge for wind range, vertical boost and hangtime.

Board: Hands down, Tkb Publisher’s pink 5’6″ Loyd Pig-Sting, I love that board! It’s just magic. If I cant have that then of the twin tips I most enjoyed the 137 LF Carbon Drive for easy performance, easy upwind drive, solid pop and soft landings.

CHRIS BORODIC

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5696 ”I’m a young professional who uses kiting as the number one reason to get out of the city. I also enjoy downhill mountain biking skiing and bouldering. I travel 2-3 times a year primarily to places I can kite. I love kiting in crazy weather.”

Weight: 138 lbs

Riding for How Long: 2 years

Typical Local Conditions: 20 mph light chop. Optional mushy waves or flats. Generally no huge swell.

Style of Riding/Level: Intermediate-advanced freeride and beginning freestyle.

Current Quiver: Kites: Liquid Force Envy (2013), Cabrinha Switchblade (2014), Cabrinha Drifter (2014), Core GTS4 (2017) / Boards: LF Overdrive and CrazyFly Raptor

Personal Kite Hero: The kite instructor in Puerto Rico that threw a 25 ft double backroll with a prosthetic leg.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? There are very few pieces of bad gear. Almost everything has its purpose.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: I would go with the 8m GTS4 to round out the 11m I purchased, based on my testing. I chose the GTS4 because it’s a bit different than all the other kites in my quiver and excels in areas like kite loops, downwind drift stability, and freestyle popping, all of which are things I’m starting to integrate into my riding. I’m trying to move away from the boost and forget 5-strut like the SB and Evo which a lot of people I know ride on to something with a little more style. I’m also interested in exploring what wave riding there is in New England when it’s available and the GTS4 does OK in that department as well.

Board: Core Choice 2. Although it’s $$$, I think as I progress that board would let me try everything and do it really well. When I was looking for a board I really wanted a one board solution as I travel quite a bit and don’t have the most space to store my gear. I’m past the phase where I’m looking for beginner features so I was looking for a product that would get me to the advanced to expert level without leaving me thirsting for more performance. I’m also not worried about losing it at this point as I’ve made it through my fair share of misadventures so a premium board felt like the right decision.

BRENT BORODIC

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5691 ”My wife and I live up in Bangor, Maine and can count on one hand the amount of kiters we see up in our area. With questionable wind and few launches you really have to be a fanatic to make it work, but if you do the views are spectacular and the locals will come out to cheer you on even if you are just mowing the lawn!”

Weight: 130 lbs

Riding for How Long: 4 years

Typical Local Conditions: I travel around New England to kite depending on the wind, but gusty conditions are typical and I kite everything from the flats to waves.

Style of Riding/Level: Surf, freeride

Current Quiver: Kites: Cabrinha Switchblades, Liquid Force Envy / Boards: Liquid Force Contact 2011, Liquid Force Overdrive 2014, Tomo Vader

Personal Kite Hero: My personal kite heroes are the retirees that are getting out there and learning the sport. Regularly seeing people over the age of 70 out on the water gives me hope that we have more than golf and casinos to look forward to in our old age.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? I was surprised to see that there was such a variety of gear preferences amongst our group. It really shows that buying equipment just because someone on the beach says they think their gear is the best/newest/most innovative can be a mistake….you really have to see for yourself and develop your own opinions.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: I still love my Cabrinha Switchblades for their great wind range, gust stability, and huge boosting. I hope they will continue to tweak and lighten them up in the future.

Board: I purchased the CrazyFly Raptor after the test week because it was super light and I just couldn’t load and pop any other board quite like I could the Raptor……very happy with the purchase.

MARKO BARTSCHERER

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5505 ”I love watersports of any kind, and all aspects of kiteboarding. A day on the water beats a day sitting on the beach complaining about the conditions for sure. By daylight I am a product developer which gives me a unique perspective when reviewing gear.”

Weight: 220 lbs

Riding for How Long: Since before the internet was invented/

Typical Local Conditions: 8-12 knots, flat water in the bay, surf on the beach, must love San Diego!

Style of Riding/Level: Foiling, Surf, Freeride

Current Quiver: BRM Clouds, F-One 6′ kitesurf board, Slingshot Tyrant, Greg Drexler’s Paipo with Jim Stringfellow’s foil, and Spotz 2 race foil.

Personal Kite Hero: Edgar Talampas, and Kinsley ThomasWong. The two most stoked people I ever met. RIP in heaven my friends.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? Just because two kites are different doesn’t means one is better than the other, they just cater to different riders and styles.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: The F-One Furtive 10 meter was so much fun, fast and easy to control!

Board: Airush Slayer since my current light wind board is falling apart and it is hard
to find anything in my size.

ROB SHEA

tkb-freeride-2017-team-5517”I love the stoke of kiting and the people who kite… enjoy life and stay happy!”

Weight: 175 lbs

Riding for How Long: 6 years

Typical Local Conditions: Choppy in the SF Bay, waves at the beach.

Style of Riding/Level: Surf and freeride, foil riding and race.

Current Quiver: F-One Bandit and Diablo foil kites.

Personal Kite Hero: I think Mitu is the most influential kiter I know. The guys that ride foils at Crissy are an inspiration as well.

What was the main thing you learned about kiteboarding gear during the test? How lucky we are to have such great companies making awesome kite gear.

What kite and board would you want to purchase for yourself?

Kite: Ozone Reo. I was really impressed with what I learned at their presentation and the thought they put into all their products.

Board: I’d go with the Mitu Pro surfboard because it is just an awesome board for carving and riding waves.

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