Ken Winner and Sky Solbach´s inside view about the new Neo
The 2014 Neo is a full-on dedicated wave kite. It's got all of the key performance characteristics we felt a wave kite really needs to have and also happens to be a really fun and playful free-ride kite.
1. Quick, "round" turning. Everyone knows quick turning is good for waves because allows you to position yourself exactly where you want to be on the wave and allows you to make small corrections in kite positioning at a moment's notice. But the real key to the Neo is not just the quickness of the turning but the WAY in which it turns. It has what we are calling "round" turning, which means that it really tracks through a turn and generates power immediately and equally all the way through the wind window. This means that when you are on a wave you can generate power whenever you need it, no matter where the kite is in the window. This opens up a lot of new possibilities and really helps to link more turns together with flow.
2. Drift. Drift is super important for surfing waves because it allows you to park your kite and focus on surfing the wave rather than constantly needing to steer your kite and follow it through every bottom and top turn. The Neo's amazing drift gives you more room for error when surfing waves and allows you to recover from those mistakes without dropping your kite. We spent a lot of time testing the Neo's tolerance to slacked lines and optimizing the weight in the wingtips to drift straight backwards and not twist and fall nose down.
3. Lots of low-end power. The low-end power of the Neo allows you to ride a kite 1 to 2 square meters smaller than you normally would. This means you have a small, more compact and faster turning kite in all conditions.
4: Quick relaunch. The compact shape of the Neo makes relaunch super easy and allows you to get your kite up quickly before getting munched by the next wave!
The Neo has evolved into a pure wave kite, so Maui is the perfect place for developing it further.
And while the image of Maui involves perfect peeling ground swell and strong, steady sideshore wind, the reality is different. Sure, there are perfect days, but there are also a lot of days days with average waves and gusty wind. And while we test Neo protos at breaks like Lanes and Ho'okipa and Outer Sprecks, we also test at Waiehu, where the waves consist head-high to triple-head-high wind swell, and the onshore wind from 10 to 30 knots.
The 2013 Neo was a great starting point, as it had many great qualities already, so we focused on building its strengths: good power, easy turning and excellent drift.
As everyone knows, one of the most important qualities of a wave kite is its ability to turn quickly and precisely. The easiest and surest way to make any kite design turn quickly is to make it small, so for 2014 we bumped up the power of the Neo. This means riders can ride smaller, faster-turning kites than they may be used to. It's not uncommon for Sky to be riding at a Maui break on a Neo two meters smaller than what other good riders are using.
Quick turning also requires a kite that doesn't luff or flutter a lot on the side that is on the outside of the turn. We kept this luffing and fluttering, which is common on three-strut kites, to a minimum through careful strut placement and profile design. The profiles in the tips are quite flat and even the first profile above the tips struts were carefully tuned to avoid the draggy luffing that can slow turning.The two leech battens on each side help with this also.
Drift is another key quality in a wave kite. This is improved through optimized weight distribution. We had great drift with the zero-strut protos we tried, but surprisingly we had even better drift with the two- and three-strut protos. Something about the lower center of gravity.
Relaunch on the Neo is almost effortless and almost instantaneous, in large part because of the tight cone and increased sweep.
"The process" Episode
EVO 2014, an insight view with Ralf Grösel
Ralf, to start simple, what´s new about the 2014 EVO?
Ralf Grösel: A lot!! The Evo 2014 is not based on the 2013 model but a completely new design coming out of two different prototype directions. This Evo is a kite I´ve been developing for the last two years, this means the first prototypes have already been built parallel to the Evo 2013. Which was kind of strange but necessary to come from a new approach.
What was the challenge about it and why did the development take so long?
Ralf Grösel: Since the introduction to the market in 2008 the Evo was very Delta-oriented. This concept direction offers a lot of positive aspects, but also a lot of limiting factors. Over the years I really pushed the kites’ overall performance to the absolute limit in-between the concept, until I really came to the point where I just could not improve the Delta-shape anymore in 2013. I already saw that coming in 2012 and therefore needed the time to work in time on the new concept and be ready after these two years for a new direction.
What do we have in our hands now?
Ralf Grösel: At the end of the day, a completely new kite, which offers some of the typical Evo genes, but also is a completely different construction and direction. The Evo is trimmed to maximum performance combined with perfect handling. Developed to fit perfectly to a 4 line bar, I found a perfect match for the geometry combining stability with flexibility of the whole kite construction. Not to mention several prototypes…
Sounds a bit like a conflict…
Ralf Grösel: On the first view, yes. But I can explain it easily:
The higher aspect ratio and the flatter radius, which are even similar to a Rebel, have been optimized on the other hand to a very very stiff and compact system through several small changes. A lot of flexibility in the tip area to achieve that great handling, stiffness in the profile for bomb proof stability. But it is indeed tricky to combine these two characteristics, which pull in opposite directions!
Any other changes?
Ralf Grösel: Several, just to mention the changed panel layout, remarkable thinner struts to reduce weight, a different tip geometry and a new bridle system with to rolls at both sides to depower efficiently.
Where in the North Kiteboarding Range is the Evo seen in your view?
Ralf Grösel: The Evo is and will stay the all-round talent inbetween the North Kiteboarding range. But, the Evo made a huge step forward regarding the overall performance. Steady is the extremely easy water relaunch and the brilliant stability.
What does that mean in detail for the pilot?
Ralf Grösel: The general speed of the kite in the wind window has increased, the upwind ability is just insane and the depower is now massive. Jumping is super easy, anybody can boost highest jumps with smooth landings with this kite. Compared to last years models flight time and height has increased a lot.
NKB: Where is the Evo´s position next to the completely new Dice?
Ralf Grösel: The Dice is nothing more or less then the jackpot. We never had a kite which started this fast and with so many good feedback from team riders and customers at the same time, never sold several thousand pieces of one kite model in the first year.
Still, the Evo is a different concept with 5 struts and all the benefits which come with it and the potential to surprise, especially Evo lovers! The Dice is a specialist´s kite for advanced freestyle/wakestyle and advanced wave riding. The Evo´s jumping ability for classic moves and classic riding are just easier and more stable. As mentioned, the Evo jumps high, wide and long!
Test one, you´ll be surprised!!
Thank you Ralf for this inside you of your perspective!
The US Episode
Roll the Dice - The Episode