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Liquidforce 2016 WOW Kitesurf test and review

So managed to finally get some breeze in the right direction and strength to get out and have a ride on the new Liquid Force 2016 WOW kite.
The WOW 2016 has been heavily marketed towards the ever growing wave-riding segment of the kitesurf industry. That’s not a problem for us at BBR as James is well into his wave riding and is a font of knowledge on available surfing kite gear!
So onto the kitesurf test and review of the 2016 WOW:
We used the 2016 WOW 8m kite straight from the bag, and the same for the new 2016 LiquidForce Response Bar, with a much better and improved chicken loop system for 2016. The Response Bar we left completely standard, and had it set on the widest setting.
Immediately starting to ride the WOW is slightly different to other wave kites, it is much softer in its low end power, but then quicker to deliver it once board speed increases. It feel like its using apparent wind much more than others tried, and requires less maneuvering than expected to generate power. The shape in the sky is not as deep as expected, nor as “globe like” as one would expect for a faster turning kitesurf kite. It sits right at the front of the wind-window, it’s also possible to oversheet, and didn’t appear to drift as quick as we were expecting.
So, doesn’t sound like a particularly good kite for dead onshore conditions that most of us typically ride in the UK does it?
On returning to the shop, slightly glum after testing, we went and read the usual marketing fluff, it was interesting to note that LF don’t actually point towards a dedicated wave kite. Indeed, their first line is “Born from our mission to engineer a top-performing wave-riding kite that also excels at all-around freeriding”.
Now a free-riding kite is great for waveriding, but only in cross-off , or completely offshore winds. The reason for this is that free-ride kites are built for upwind performance, so they accelerate to the front of the wind window very quickly (more so with the WOW because of its thin leading edge), and they also provide their power based more from apparent wind than projected area, this means they like to “get going” and need board speed before they will perform, they like to be ridden faster through the air as that what “apparent wind” is derived from, rather than giving low end power as soon as you move the kite. Notice all the pics of liquidforce riders on the WOW show an offshore wind – you can see the tops of the waves being blown off backwards. Now for wave riding in onshore or cross onshore conditions, you don’t want a kite that requires apparent wind as you will be kiting towards it a great deal, and as the kite is at the front of the wind, it won’t drift downwind of you, the lines become slack and you loose maneuverability. Ideally you need something with a deep canopy, but still with impeccable manners!
At BBR we know that what the majority of brands identify as a “wave kite” might not necessarily be a suitable wave kite for kitesurfing in the typical conditions we have in the UK, hence why we talk in-depth with our customers when advising on which model to go for.
Back to the WOW. We were slightly disappointed that it didn’t deliver what we were expecting out of the bag. Its a nice kite, the build quality is very nice, the bar is great, but we wanted it to be a wave kite, just like the pictures showed! Then we noticed some extra knots on the leading edge and that the kite lines had extensions in. There was hope yet!
We moved the front bridle attachments down to the lowest knot setting on leading edge, allowing the kite to lean back, and open up more, hopefully keeping it further back in the wind window and increasing the drift, whilst removing the 2m line extensions to really speed up the response of the kite and allow a much shorter, but quicker, power stroke to avoid those untimely pauses in power that were experienced the first time round.
We hit the beach again, full of anticipation and expectation. As expected the kite performed much better for our onshore/cross-shore conditions, having a faster and more pivotal turn. It still liked to remain upwind and so required a little more encouragement and forward planning/timing to be placed where needed when doing fast cutbacks to keep the power at a constant to allow the kite to continue to perform. We found the kite preferred a much tighter gybing radius as the kite was often already across the wind window before we had got the board all the way round behind it, such is the speed that it can move across the window due to that skinny leading edge. The upwind didn’t appear to be affected, still giving a better angle than other kites we were riding with.
So to surmise – In addition to those kitesurf kites that are very specific in their use, there are many kites on the market that bridge across genres of kitesurfing, however we have yet to ride a kite, apart from the North Rebel, that targets wave and freeride so equally. If you are currently riding a twintip and like the freeride kites that allow floaty jumps and great upwind performance, but are considering, or already have a surfboard that you are moving across to, then the WOW will provide all you need.

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