Based out of the Pacific Northwest, Slingshot is one of the original innovators in the kiteboarding industry starting with control bars and growing into almost every product niche in the windsports segment. With groundbreaking inventions ranging from technical canopy design to the first single inflation system (yes, at one point you had to inflate every strut separately), Slingshot has been at the forefront of kite technology since the beginning. We caught up with Brand Manager Alex Fox to fill us in on the big changes for 2022.
From an organizational standpoint, the Slingshot team and business is growing. We have focused on bringing innovative products to the market at the right time. Part of that has been investing in product development resources and restructuring our R&D department. Additionally, we are adding talented resources to help us achieve the greatest product offering in the industry. Last year we added all terrain destroyer Brandon Scheid to our development team. He has been instrumental in testing and developing many key products in our markets. Earlier this year we welcomed home industry pioneer and kitesurfing icon Ben Wilson. Ben’s role is far more involved than simply being a team rider, he is bringing with him decades of industry knowledge and a long rolodex of resources to help us deliver better and more innovative products into our growing surf sector. Most recently we have evolved Fred Hope’s role internally for the same affect in our foil space. Foil is obviously a huge part of the business for us and will continue growing for the foreseeable future and Fred is at the pinnacle of that industry. His knowledge and expertise will be invaluable in continuing to bring industry leading gear to our customers. From a pure designer standpoint, we are fortunate to have a deep fleet of three designers for both kites and wings. We are so stoked on our team and they are constantly pushing the envelope of design as well as pushing one another. We have the legendary Tony Logosz at the helm and then have added both Julien Fillion and Adi Conrad to our design team. Armed with an extensive team of designers and athletes, our goal is simple; deliver the best products for our customers.
This Fall Slingshot has released the all new Machine and Machine LW kite products. How does this new model stack up against your existing lineup and who will be the ideal rider? Also, how will the Machine LW compare to Slingshot fans that typically rely on the legendary Turbine in lower winds?
That’s a great question. We started developing the Machine a few seasons back. We gave the Design and Supply Team at Slingshot every resource possible to create a new big air boosting machine from the ground up. They went out and found a new talented kite designer by the name of Adi Conrad to help collaborate with Tony Logosz and the test team. Adi’s addition to the team infused some new DNA and helped us take a fresh outlook on these kites. Early in the development stages of the Machine, we knew we had a very viable and special kite. We always use our inline products as a good constant to test against as well as other market leading kites. The Machine started to exceed all of our expectations. During the Alpha and Beta test phases we use all sorts of riders. At first, we use highly skilled testers that are constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible on a kite, such as Brandon Scheid, Sam Light and Jeremy Burlando. Then we quickly put it in the hands of more average weekend warrior type testers; riders that are confident but more in line with our general consumer. This helps us accurately identify the kite’s position in the market and determine if it hits the target design brief objective. The Machine has proven to be an aerial monster, helping riders push their limits higher and higher, yet it’s also incredibly forgiving, stable and easy to use. As we checked the Machine off into production, we knew we had satisfied the design objective 100%.
During development of the Machine we quickly discovered how efficient it was, especially in the 10-12m sizes. That sparked the idea that maybe this platform could really excel in lighter winds. The Machine is an incredibly lightweight kite for a 5-strut platform. Adi spoke to the team and we decided it would be worth pursuing a 3-strut version of the Machine in some larger sizes. R&D tends to be a happen like this a lot, and we sort of informally stumbled into an incredible opportunity to help redefine our light wind platform. The first big Machine prototypes performed incredibly. While the Turbine has been a mainstay in our lineup, we knew we had found a replacement the first time we put the larger Machines up in the air. They are over a half of a kilogram lighter which already just helps with pure lightwind performance but also power delivery, relaunch and upwind trajectory. In short, fans of the Turbine will be die-hard Machine LW enthusiasts.
Slingshot’s tried and true wave kite got a complete redesign with what looks like some significant changes to the airframe and material usage. What will committed SST fans find in this latest iteration of the iconic surf kite?
Committed SST fans will rejoice; simple as that. The SST has always been a fan-favorite kite in our lineup. It has a huge freeride appeal beyond its natural audience of dedicated wave riders and even foilers absolutely swear by it. The design brief for the SST V6 was to improve the kite in a couple of key areas while retaining the feel and performance attributes that made the original version so special. Early in the development process we were fortunate to have Ben Wilson provide his feedback and sign off on the new direction. When Ben verified our initial design changes and acknowledge that we were onto something really special, this gave us the confidence to see the development all the way through. We reworked the wing tip of the kite to add better turning speed and response, as well as improve the water relaunch. We also really focused on shedding weight to help improve the drift. Ben’s early feedback was that drift in a wave kite is omnipotent. It’s the single most important performance metric that defines the value of a wave kite. Tony worked diligently on canopy tensions to ensure a super stable platform and then he designed the thinnest and lightest struts on the market, a development we have aptly named the “Micro Strut.” This accounts for a huge loss of weight. We were able to shave up to 13.5% of the weight from the previous version of the SST and these changes have ushered in a new realm of drift performance for this year.
Both the UFO and the Ghost platforms got significant upgrades this year, what are the major changes to these platforms and how do you steer riders between these two kites and their intended type of riding?
The UFO is the Unlimited Foiling Object. If you are looking for complete, dedicated and unabridged kitefoiling performance, then the UFO is your choice. If you are looking for more versatility and perhaps the confidence that a single strut will add, then the Ghost is for you. Both kites have received significant upgrades in their second versions. The UFO V2, most notably, has received a full size offering. It will be available in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11m sizes. These new sizes simply help riders build the ultimate quiver and extends the wind range into the lightest of winds. The UFO V2 also features a thinner bridle line to help reduce drag as well as a new lighter leading edge Dacron material that has reduced the kite’s overall weight. These changes have resulted in a faster and lighter platform with even more drift than its predecessor. The Ghost V2 is a complete redesign. We really focused on freeride versatility and user-friendliness when developing the second version. We wanted a kite that was super intuitive and easy to use. The Ghost V2 is fast, reliable and simple to use.
Click to watch Slingshot’s Kite Product Preview from AWSIThis year the twintip line of boards got some serious upgrades with two new strap/binding systems that pair to some classic models as well as the new Supernatural Mutant. How should riders choose between the new binding systems and what are the most exciting developments in the board lineup?
We now offer two pad and strap options based on what we know our customers are looking for. If you are looking for the lightest and most minimal footstrap, then the Flystrap is for you. We removed all the bells and whistles to create a simple and extremely lightweight strap that improves the rider’s connection to the board. At the same time, the Dually returns as our most comfortable and supportive footstrap option. We wanted to give the rider the option of what to choose as the straps really determine the feel of the board beneath your feet.
The most exciting development in our twintip line is the all new Formula V2. The Formula returns as the lightest weight and highest performing twintip that we have ever built. This board has been in development for the past two years and we really challenged our design team to spare no expense in developing a board that is the pinnacle of kiteboarding performance. The Formula is the result of that challenge and it has quickly become a team and customer favorite.
When it comes to surf, the Slingshot lineup has a solid list of boards that are both purpose built but also very versatile. What are the key construction details in this year’s boards and how do you fit riders to the right model?
Last year we really audited our surf offering. We focused on when and how riders use their boards. We have the Sci Fly XR for strapless freestyle and then we have our smaller wave board , the Mixer XR. For larger waves we have the Tyrant XR, and then the Celero XR rounds out the offering as our all-around board that is good for anything and everything. As we settled in on our offering we also wanted to improve the rider experience on these surfboards. We wanted a board that had the true feel of a surfboard that could withstand the rigors of kitesurfing. After a year of development, we landed on our current XR construction. This construction is really similar to classic surfboard construction but has a few minor tweaks to make it durable yet still have that flex and feel that a true surfboard provides.
The Slingshot foiling program has been completely redesigned this year with a huge range of modular options that achieves advancements while being backwards compatible. What are the key construction features of the Phantasm range and how do you steer riders between the kite foiling oriented packages?
We have one of the largest and most robust foil ranges in the world. Part of that is due to our focus on modularity and compatibility. We wanted our foil offering to be available to everyone. This means having foils in various price points, as well as extending our new Phantasm range into the Hover Glide range with an adapter piece, while also creating lots of packages to ensure that we have a foil offering for every sport and skill level. For the first time, the Phantasm allows you to choose exactly how you want to ride by offering a product based on your foiling needs rather than the other way around. We have split the foil package into two choices; the Mast and the Lower Combination. The Lower Combination or “lower” is the combination of a front wing, fuselage and a stabilizer basically everything that sits under the water. The Phantasm allows you to custom-build your setup based on your sport, desired performance and price.
One of the most important but maybe less obvious pieces of foil technology is the mast. The mast is one of the hardest pieces of the foil suite to manufacture and manufacture well. The Phantasm line has been in development for three years to ensure that our mast options were up to our standards. This is the stiffest and highest performing mast that is available to consumers. When building a Phantasm setup, the mast is one of the most critical choices to make in terms of height and material. We have masts for every rider, no matter their ability, sport or riding style. Whether you are looking for carbon or aluminum, we are setting the standard for quality and performance.
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