I’m having a love affair- with my kite!
I love Kitesurfing, but these days I want to go out for a session just so I can get on the Soul. I’ve been flying my Flysurfer Soul 12m since February 2019, getting lots of sessions on it and I have to say, I’m in love. Previous kites were always a nice piece of kit to get me on the water, I never really thought much about them once I was out there having fun and maybe that’s a good thing too. But when I’m out on the Soul I find myself looking up at it and saying “I love this kite “ or “ I f—-king love this kite” usually with a very big grin on my face. You get the picture! I love the Soul so much that I sold my Leading Edge Inflatable (or LEI).
This review isn’t one of those technical accounts about flying characteristics etc, but rather an emotional one, anecdotal. It’s also aimed more at those who are curious about foil kites (I know most of you EK guys and gals are already dedicated foil kite flyers, so preaching to the choir...much), are thinking about buying a foil or are considering swapping over from a LEI to a foil.
I landboard as well as Kitesurf and started flying the Speed 3s on land a few years ago, first one borrowed from a friend, then I bought my own used Speed 3 12m deluxe (awesome kite by the way). And as I work late and don’t get home till the sun is low, I started using my Speed to get those very quick sessions on the water when I had maybe a half hour, 45 minutes before dusk. The beauty about the using the Speed 3 was that that time of the day the wind often dies down, becoming light to the point that with my 11m Pivot I would probably say it’s not worth the 10 to 15 minutes to set it up just to have a mediocre 20 minutes out. But with the Speed 12m my attitude was ‘it only takes 5 minutes to be in the water so why not’, and often it was the right choice, had a great session and popped a few jumps to boot.
Now the Soul has come into my life this is more so the case. The amount of sessions I get in that I would otherwise not have had on an 11, 12 or even 15 tube kite is ridiculous. It’s not just the convenience of quick setup but it’s knowing that the session is probably going to be worth it. I’m often the only one on the water at my local beach, or like today I’ll see the other kites go up for a while then give up because there’s not enough wind and I’m still out there having a blast.
Another example- I’m at Shearwater on the Gold Coast and like a bunch of other kiters, I'm waiting for the weather to make up its mind. Then the wind eventually picks up enough for me and a guy on a 15m to put our kites up and go out, ( I’m first on the water of course, he has to blow up this enormous kite and lay out his lines etc). I’m jumping, staying up wind, practicing my back rolls (of which I’m still crap, but only started to feel confident to even try them because of the Soul, but that’s another story- I digress!),
meanwhile the 15m is just about holding ground. A little while later there’s enough wind for the foil boarders to come out on their tubes kites, it was me on the Soul and the foilers way up wind. When the wind died off and the tubes started falling out of the sky I just came in from a satisfying session.
Which brings me to the subject of relaunching a Flysurfer kite from the water. Now I know that I’ve been using LEI’s on the water a lot longer than foils so the odds are not fair, but I’ve never had any issues getting my Speed 3 and especially the Soul off the water.
On the other hand, I have had many a time when my tube kite would not relaunch because it had deflated, inverted or just got twisted up and if the wind drops off it can be a no go. The Soul just wants to go up, to the point I usually don’t need to do much, which is what happened a few days ago. The kite went down after a messed up a back roll (again), quite near the shore line and waves so I was a little concerned. But by the time I got my bearings the kite was already flying back into the air, I hadn’t done anything.
One session at Sherawater, I was messing around doing my back rolls, F--ked it up (yet again), dropped the kite into the water. Once upon a time I use to get nervous when this would happen when I first started to use the Speed on the water, but I have come to trust my Flysurfers to relaunch to the point that this particular time I just calmly lay back in the water and waited. I wasn’t in any hurry, I was just wanted to see if it would sort itself out. Well this time it wasn’t going to, it was on it’s leading edge and ‘fortune cookied’ (the wingtips where facing into the middle of the kite) so I thought I should probably do something. A few wiggles of the lines to straighten it out, pull on the back lines to back stall it into the air, let go of one line to flip it round and up it goes, no problem. The wind was getting light so I went in. On shore one of the other kiter says ‘you where (the Kite) in the water for quite a while’ (hinting at me being in trouble) to which I replied ‘I wasn’t’t worried, I was just waiting to see if it would ‘do it’s thing’. I guess most LEI kiters still believe foils kite are not as good as LEI’s to relaunch- I disagree, they are way better. Maybe one day I’ll get caught out and have to eat my words. I haven’t done a self rescue with a foil either so that’ll be interesting to see how that goes.
One thing I particularly love about the Soul is how easy it is to fly and especially the jumps. Once you get use to the timing, it is a real pleasure. The feed back through the bar is great, which makes redirecting great big floaty jumps to those soft landings really easy- good for my arthritic knees. With the extra time you have in the air, that slowed down time gives me the confidence to try and learn back rolls, something I’ve never really felt I could do successfully before. Am still crap at them but am getting better.
Another great reason I bought the Soul was because I wanted a one kite quiver that I could take traveling with me. I was heading to the UK and hoped to get some time on the water but also for future kiting holidays. It really held up for that purpose. The wind range on this kite is insane. The low end is like using a 15m or even 17m and I’ve been out in 25 knots and just starting to feel over powered but still having a good time. So the UK trip was a great testing ground and I got to experience calm low wind days when 12m LEI’s were coming in and me and a foil boarder on an 11m were the only ones out, to stormy gusty conditions where popping of waves and getting insane lift with the guys riding 9m LEIs was on the menu.
I packed a 110 litre wheelie bag, which had my kite, harness, 5mm booties, 3:2 boiler wetsuit, my GoPro and line mount, and all my other personal stuff like clothes, electricals, wash bag etc. With a separate twin tip board bag it made 19kg booked in luggage and my small cabin back pack.
So what are the down sides.
- Well landing can be tricky. The backstall works fine to get it to the ground, but from there if it’s really powered up it can be a mission to keep it down. I had a session at Wellington, 25 knots plus and no one to catch it and land it for me. But it was all good. I just steered it to the edge of the window, steered it low and in front of me and pulled the chicken loop so it flagged out. Once I got to the kite via the safety line I had a little bit of sorting the bridle out but packed it away all ready to kite next time with no issues. So you do find ways to land it safely by your self. One thing I often use is a big yellow plastic tent peg I bought from Bunnings and keep in my kite bag. I backstall the kite, push the tent peg into hard packed sand, angled away from the kite for extra staying power, and loop the steering lines around the hook of the peg. Then it’s a quick run to the kite in case it rips the peg out, which if that does ever happen I just grab the nearest line and pull it in. This works pretty good most of the time.
- I didn’t like the light bag it came with, and ended up buying a Speed bag from the Flysurfer website. Flysurfer are now including the Universal Kite Bag with the Soul. I would like to see something in between the Light bag and the old Speed bag, as the none catch zip is really good and the simplicity of the bag is also good. But the lack of a shoulder strap or some sort of storage makes it a real pain when transporting your kit from the car to the beach. I did a mod on my Light bag by using the webbing strap and shoulder pad off an old cool box. I picked open a little of the seams of the bag top and bottom and stitched the webbing in to make a shoulder strap. Works a charm as a light weight travel bag to put in with my luggage. But also when you’re walking to the beach with you kite board, harness, a bottle of water, the last thing you need to carry as well should be your kite. So Flysurfer take note, PUT A STRAP ON YOU LIGHT BAG and maybe a large pocket for other stuff like your keys, water bottle, rash vest etc.
- People freak out about the bridles of foils, so I’ve heard at least. Yes they can get tangled, yes they get caught on stuff like twigs and plants, and yes it’s a pain. But that’s part of owning a foil and it does get less scary once you’ve get use to them. I found when the kite is new and the bridle and lines are stiff they get looped into themselves a lot more than when they have been used a while and get more floppy. When I’m setting up now usually all I have to do once the kite is laid out is lift the line and give them a bit of a shake to sort the bridles. If you can set up and land your kite away from debris it’ll make life easier too.
- Most complaints about foils are the slower turning speeds. I like to freeride and for this the kite works great. Remember you are are effectively flying a kite with the power of a 15m LEI, which would also not turn as quick as a 12m/11m LEI. But if you need a fast nibble kite for say, waves then maybe get a Pivot or similar. The play off between fun, quick set up, speed, up wind ability, light wind use, massive wind range, huge hang time with soft landings against a quicker turning kite to me is a no brainer.
I really can’t think of anything else that bothers me about this Kite and I can’t recommend it enough. One other huge advantage about it that I almost forgot to mention is the lack of bladders. I spent a load of money on repairs the previous couple of years before I switched to foils full time. Leaks and canopy repairs coasting hundreds of dollars. You may spend $3000 for a Soul but it’ll last years without the issue of deteriorating bladders and valves, will hold it’s resale value better than a LEI and probably won’t need any expensive repairs unless you are unlucky, because the canopy isn’t under the same kind of stresses that a rigid tube kite is under.
(Amendment here: I recently got out on my 9m Naish Ride . I liked throwing it around, a quick little kite. But I realised why I love riding the Soul. I found the feeling of how the Naish flew very, for want of a better word, lumpy, were with the Soul it’s just so smooth. It was a bit of a gusty day but not that bad. The kite felt really rough through the bar, jerky, pulling all the time, just horrible. The thing is, I used to enjoy flying it before, never had and issue with how it flew but I’ve grown accustomed to that lovely ‘luxury’ characteristic of the Soul, like driving a Rolls Royce then getting into an old Ford. Another thing that kept annoying me was staying up wind. When I switched direction I kept expecting to just go up wind, but i had to work at it. Then I did a successful back roll and was so stoked I tried another one and ballsed it up yet again, doh, crashed the kite. When I launched it back up into the air the canopy ripped from leading edge to trailing edge. That’s it; I’m done with tube kites!)
For me the Soul is a superior kite to anything I’ve every owned before and there’s no going back unless the designers of LEI’s come up with miraculous updates like self inflation, light as a feather, perfect bar pressure, materials and build that last, insane lift and float and the feeling of joy every time I ride it… Oh I love my Soul!