This test was featured in Issue #67 - SUBSCRIBE TO KITEWORLD MAG HERE
AIRUSH VARIAL X 10M
The biggest change in the Airush kite range is the new Varial X which has been fully redesigned into a three strut SL-C kite and is their highest-performing kite in terms of all-round use. Combining the low end power and stability of the Wave and premium performance of the Razor Team, it's designed to provide the best combination of freeride, wave riding and wakestyle in a four line set-up with flatter wing-tips for more of a C-kite feel, response and direct steering. The Varial X is aimed at the all-round rider looking for a more performance oriented product for unhooked manoeuvres, aggressive flying in waves and it also has the biggest boost in the range.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Let's start with a recap on the ten metre from last year, which had incredible jumping performance, we really enjoyed using it, but it was quite heavy in the steering and was more suited to guys with big biceps and hairy chests; you wouldn't have put your 50 kilo girlfriend on it (not the ten metre anyway - we also tested the six metre - a totally different ride and much better for smaller/lighter riders, but that's another story). The power delivery was strong and exciting, it jumped into gear and delivered explosive big air performance, but you needed long arms to sheet out to a comfortable distance when the wind was up. The design changes this year have been considerable, most notably moving from five to three struts, so this isn't just a re-tweak and we were interested to see how the cake came out.
The Airush Smart bar has been tweaked here and there, but has essentially been on the market for a couple of seasons and is as simple and clean, yet effective as they come. Simple webbing straps are kept tidy and out of the way by red and blue extender tabs and work almost as easily as a cleat. The bar has good levels of grip but won't chew up your hands and is extendable by clicking in special extender sections so you can use the same bar with big and small kites. The chicken-loop presents itself beautifully, is a decent size, swivels and has a super smooth release and re-build mechanism. Job done.
So, the big question: how does it feel? The answer is: very different, but the good news for existing Varial-X fans out there is that it hasn't totally lost the inherent performance. It's just been moved around a bit and cleaned up. The big guys may now need to buy a size bigger for the same levels of power, but for everyone else this Varial-X is generally more exciting to fly because it's more manageable. The power delivery at the bar is softer, everything is easier and smoother, it's more graceful and the power is less on/off. The three-strut Varial-X is also very keen and eager to fly forwards and has a lot of personality. Rather than overly smoothing and squeezing much of the raw emotion away like some three strut kites, the Varial-X can still turn you on like the wild woman in your life.
What Airush have managed to do is tame last year's performance characteristics and deliver them in a more usable package. It's like getting in a new car, revving the engine and listening to the exhaust, thinking: 'this is going to be fun'. They've remodelled it very well and it feels excellently tuned.
There's no doubt that the low end on the 2014 model isn't as good as the 2013, but the top end is insane and on a windy day it will still get you to that special place, providing that extra 10% that we all want. The attitude it has at the top of the window when juiced up, and the way that it delivers that power is so much more smooth and constant. Immediately it feels more agile and boom! - takes you up there. Out of respect for public health we can't possibly state the silly winds we tried it out in, but in October, the UK was a very windy place. So from an advisory point of view, if you're a heavier guy, you need to go up a size compared to what others are using. If you're 70 kilos or below and an intermediate rider or better, the ten metre is perfect as a fast performance kite and can put you in dream world.
The ten metre has definitely had its steering speed tuned up too, making it too quick as a first jumping kite really; the inherent stability of a deep delta kite is going to be easier because it's slower and provides more boost for less movement. But if you've got some experience, then the speed and nimble nature of the Varial-X is incredible fun, allowing you to experiment with turning normal jumps into kite loops. Speed it up or slow it down nicely - the Varial-X delivers reltively satisfying kite loops.
Flying high into the wind off the front lines and driving forward, try as we might, it wouldn't stall. It goes where you want - qualities that benefit the good intermediate and advanced rider. Unhooking is a lot of fun and it allows you to be more careless with your trimming before you unhook, but don't expect to boost huge and then throw your best unhooked trick right after. There aren't many kites that can do this without fiddling around with your trimming. But you'll get there, or you simply have to ride in a style that suits the conditions - unhooked freestyle, big air boosting or shredding waves. This kite will let you do that.
The Varial-X will appeal to a wider audience now, but can still satisfy the old guard if they choose bigger sizes for their quiver. Good stability and excellent performance, there's nothing wishy-washy about it - if you're new to the Varial-X, then wow, what a great option, but it does reward a higher skill set. If you're lower intermediate definitely head towards the Lithium. If you're looking for performance, this is more satisfying, more atheletic, much less physical than last year and it just loves the abuse.
As the wind picks up the Varial-X just gets more and more fun, transforming into a super agile big air machine.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Bigger riders should be aware that the low end isn't as strong as last year.
KITE BALANCE POINTS X/10:
Build quality: 8
Full package: 8
Low end: 7
Top end: 9.5
Steering speed: 7.5
Turning circle: 7
Bar pressure: 6
Water relaunch: 7
SIZES: 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6m