Slingshot is one of the true innovation design houses in the kiteboarding industry with its corporate and R&D offices located in Hood River, Oregon, the heart of the North American kiteboarding scene. With an expansive range of kite, surf, windsurf and foil products, this year Slingshot has both streamlined its product line while introducing new and redesigned models to perfect the kiteboarding experience. We caught up with Brand Manager, Alex Fox, to get the details on this year’s big changes.
THERE’S BEEN A BIT OF A SHAKEUP IN THE SLINGSHOT LINE OF KITES THIS YEAR, WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF THE RAPTOR AND THE ENTIRELY NEW RALLY GT. EXPLAIN HOW THESE TWO KITES ARE INTENDED TO REPLACE THE LEGENDARY RALLY MODEL WHILE TARGETING DISTINCT STYLES OF RIDING?
Yes, there has been a huge shakeup in our line. As you can probably imagine, making the move to stop producing our best-selling kite in favor of two never before seen kites brought some internal debate. However, it’s obvious we made the right decision. The Rally was an amazing kite because it did everything well. The issue we had with a kite that did everything well was that it didn’t seem to do any specific thing particularly amazing. In this modern consumer climate, riders are looking for the best in specialized classes so that’s what we wanted to offer. We saw the Rally customer being two different classes of riders. We saw riders buying the Rally for plug and play versatility for wave riding, foiling, learning, and everything in between. Then we also had Rally riders buying that kite for jumping, quick turning and range. We wanted to split this performance span into two kites. Thus, the Rally GT and the Raptor were born. The GT has no DNA of past Rally’s. It is 100% a new kite and new platform, however, we thought it’s all-around performance really lent itself to the Rally namesake. The GT stands for ‘grand touring,’ meaning that this kite is the kite to tour all the different aspects of kiteboarding. Removing these performance requirements and pouring them into the Rally GT we were able to supercharge the new Raptor platform for the sake of boosting and hangtime. Released from the confines of making a versatile, all-around kite, Tony was unleashed to create a full and dedicated freeride boosting machine that we now call the Raptor.
THIS YEAR YOU HAVE INTRODUCED A SINGLE STRUT MODEL CALLED THE GHOST. HOW WILL THAT MODEL PLAY INTO YOUR LINEUP AND HOW DOES THE NEW CANOPY MATERIAL AND WINGTIP SEGMENTATION TRANSLATE TO PERFORMANCE IN THE NEW GHOST AND ALL THE OTHER MODELS IN YOUR LINEUP?
The Ghost is an exciting kite for us for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost being that the Ghost is an extremely playful lightweight and agile kite. These performance characteristics will benefit lots of consumers, but the market segment that it will benefit the most are the foilers. We are the biggest foil brand in this industry and we say this because more people have learned to foil with a Slingshot foil than any other brand. We know foiling and we know what the foilers are looking for. We wanted to bring a kite to market that all those people who learned to fly with us will now want to progress with. The foil is the first half of the equation to having fun with a foil, the kite is the next. The Ghost will be that foil extension for riders looking to optimize their foiling fun. It’s playful, light on the bar and direct; it’s great for kitelooping and Fred Hope style kite stunts and has an insane wind range to boot.
The one strut kite market isn’t new. There’s obviously competition in this space, so when we were looking into producing the Ghost we wanted to make sure that we were offering something significant in the marketplace. We tried everyone’s one strut kites and hated the flutter. There was nothing more frustrating for us than having a super-efficient, highly tuned foil slicing frictionlessly through the water and then having a bar vibrate violently in your hands. With the Ghost, we really focused on stability and a flutter-free ride. We used our 4×4 Canopy Tech to aid in the canopy tension and stiffness which helps to reduce flutter. This has made it without a doubt one of the smoothest, sans-flutter kites on the market. This, coupled with our segmented swept wingtip design, makes this one strut platform feel as stable and responsive as your favorite five strut kite.
THIS YEAR THE SURFBOARD LINE HAS BEEN PAIRED DOWN ALONG WITH A GROUNDBREAKING NEW CONSTRUCTION PROCESS THAT CHANGES THE FEEL OF SLINGSHOT’S CLASSIC KITESURF MODELS. HOW DO YOU DIRECT SURFERS BASED ON THEIR SKILL LEVEL AND STYLE OF RIDING?
Yes! We are very excited about our new construction. It’s essentially a hybrid bamboo-EPS construction. It’s lighter, more responsive and is able to handle the durability that kiting requires but with the feel of a traditional surfboard. Other than the construction of our boards, we really wanted to focus on each shape in our line and make sure to eliminate any redundancies which there were a few. Now, the customer’s buying decision is easier than ever. We have four models, based on conditions and riding preferences.
Our big wave board is the Tyrant. If you live in a location with true chest high waves and up and you are looking for a snappy, fast, down the line surfboard to handle those conditions, then the Tyrant is the perfect choice. Our small wave board is the Mixer. If you live in a location that has consistently small surf, chest high and smaller, then you will love the Mixer. It features a little bit more volume as well a winged rounded pin tail that is designed to hold its speed through less than ideal sections on small and mushy waves. If you are looking for an all-around shape that can handle large waves, small waves, river swell, wind swell, and no waves, the Celero FR is the board for you. And finally, new for 2020 is the Sci Fly; a dedicated freestyle shape. With a really parallel rail outline, truncated nose and winged diamond tail, this board has been optimized to getting you high in the air.
THIS YEAR’S FOIL LINEUP IS A MIX OF THE HITS FROM LAST YEAR AND SOME NEW WINGS FOR THIS YEAR. HOW DO YOU DIRECT RIDERS OF VARIOUS SKILLS AND STYLES OF FOILBOARDING THROUGH YOUR LINEUP?
We have the most robust foil lineup in the industry and the sole reason for this is to add value to the consumer. We have a large foil suite all dedicated to the Hover Glide foil platform so that the consumer can never outgrow their foil no matter their skill level or even the sport that they are foiling in. For kiteboarding specifically, we have three wings to talk about.
The Space Skate 65 is the wing included in the Hover Glide Package for the past two years. This is an incredible wing for learning to foil so if you haven’t tried foiling yet you absolutely need to get on this wing and learn this aspect of the sport so you’re not falling behind. As you progress, it’s as simple and as inexpensive as just adding another front wing to your foil and now you have updated performance. We have two new wings in our offering for 2020. One being the Apollo 60. This is the wing that we are very excited about because it is equal parts speed, lift, maneuverability and stability. It is the most versatile performance wing in the Hover Glide suite. This wing will give you more progression in foiling than anything else out there. Then we have the Infinity 65 wing. This wing for kiteboarding is going to allow you to reach new heights after you have learned to foil; it’s a slightly higher aspect wing, meaning it will become the fastest wing in the Hover Glide suite while still maintaining its strict stability. If you feel that you are progressing towards jumping with your foil, this is the wing for you.
THE TWIN TIP LINE HAS GOTTEN SOME GROUND UP UPDATES FOR THIS YEAR, STARTING WITH THE DUALLY STRAP AND PAD SYSTEM. WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CHANGES AND HOW DO YOU DIRECT RIDERS THROUGH THE LINE?
The Dually received a major overhaul this year. One of the big things we always say at Slingshot is that your connection to the products we ride is vital. The footstrap/pad is one of the few products that your body actually comes into contact with. That’s a huge deal for us and means that not only does it need to be comfortable but also functional and performance-driven. That’s what we focused on with the Dually. It has a triple density EVA footbed.
A firmer density on top means that you get the grip and traction you need, then a very soft midsole provides all the impact protection. Not only does it provide the impact cushioning, but it also allows you to compress your foot deeper underneath the footstrap for an even more locked-in feel. And then the third and final, density is underneath your heel with two interchangeable heel inserts to allow you to customize how the pad works for you: firmer for more response and support or softer for more cushioning and impact protection. We also fully retooled the whole pad’s shape for a more ergonomic fit, focusing on foot positioning and reaction between your foot and the board. We could go on and on about the Dually for awhile—it was a major focal point for the 2020 line. This is by far the most technically advanced and comfortable strap and pad system we have ever put out.
Now that you are sold on the Dually, you will need a board to put it on. Our twin tip line is very easy to decipher. If you are looking for a technically advanced, smooth-riding and high performing twin tip then chances are the all-new 2020 Misfit is the perfect board for you. It’s one of the best twin tips we have made. It doesn’t spray you in the face, it glides through chop and flies upwind. It’s a board that you most likely will never outgrow. If you do outgrow it and you are looking for more performance, then the 2020 Asylum is the perfect jump. It features more channeling, which means more grip and traction for you to hold down more kite and power. New for 2020 we added an inlaid carbon stringer for more stiffness which will provide more pop and performance. Next up is the Refraction. For 2020 we reduced the Refraction rocker line to make it faster and quicker through the water and also added a 147cm size. The 147 will be the largest non light wind dedicated twin tip in our range. It’s a great board for larger riders looking for a bit more length and power. Then we have the 2020 Karolina Pro, which is a female-dedicated twin tip providing all-around performance and comfort for all the female shredders out there.