There are very few cases in the world of kite design where high performance and ease-of-use collide. The Switchblade is just one of those rare cases and Cabrinha tag this as the world's premier wake-style kite, (until recently) powering the likes of Andre Phillip to legendary status in his pursuit of core wake-style riding. One of the elements that make this kite so perfect for wake-style riding and all-round freestyle riding is its predictability. It has pitch perfect balance when riding unhooked and a light bar pressure when riding hooked in. The Switchblade has undergone a few strategic improvements in 2013 to enhance its efficiency and turning speed (especially in the larger sizes) without compromising the legendary 'feel' that has made the Switchblade one of the world's best selling kite models.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
To echo our sentiments about the Cabrinha Drifter last issue, the Switchblade comes with Cabrinha's stamp of functional quality, which is always very impressive. It's not overly done with stiff bits of Dacron all over the place, but gets its strength from being well constructed and strong in the key areas.
The Sprint inflation/deflation system is probably the best on the market. Fitting any pump, you remove the pointy nozzle and attached the hose of the pump directly to the valve on the kite where your nozzle would normally be. No air gaps, just a super tight connection, no messing around with a stopper ball and then you simply screw the cap back on. It's so quick and easy to pump these kites up and is a very noticeable distinction. As for the bar it's really a work of art and pretty much the top of the tree in terms of clean engineering. The spring system in the trimming toggles keeps them neat and tidy and always retracted above the bar. They're easy to reach and have new tabs on the end for easy gripping. The only slight critique of this is that it can sometimes take two pulls to depower or power up to the level you want and it's not the easiest system to see at a glance how much depower/power you have left to play with. The grip is absolutely spot on ? very comfortable but nice and grippy, just fits your hands so well and the engineering below the bar is on another level. Intermediates and above will love the spinning leash option that works as both a suicide for freestylers and also cleverly allows the kite to fully depower onto the leash when the primary chicken-loop safety is triggered. There's also a second safety on the chicken-loop to fully ditch the kite if you need to. The system definitely takes some getting used to ? you'll need the instruction book beside you when you first get the kite to make sure you understand the knack of putting the system back together, but it's so strong and works so well and you should be doing these sorts of checks anyway.
We rode the Switchblade over several sessions, in steady eight or nine metre conditions and full on gales; the type of weather that gives your skin a good exfoliation if you stand on the beach for a couple of minutes. And we found that the Switchblade has two personalities; one is pure wake-style, and the other is that it will look after you as well as you mama would hope in ballistic conditions.
It's a good idea to ride a size bigger than everyone else if you're using this Switchblade. The low end is the weakest characteristic on this kite, at least if you want to be joining your friends on their boosting sessions in normal winds. If, however, you want to ride around unhooked as if you're at the cable, this kite is an absolute gem. It's so nice and consistent every single time that you load up for a trick and there's no hint of it hoiking and jerking you around. Whenever you unhook it feels good, pulling you in just the right way.
We were also pleased to note that the bar pressure was much less draining on the arms than in seasons past, especially in lighter winds when you're working the kite. You still have a silky smooth Cabrinha-like connection, and there's also just a small delay in the bar input, which is ideal for unhooking, forgiving any accidental input. Once the kite moves the kite loop isn't a snappy turn, it takes quite a wide arc and isn't pivotal. Starting slow it then speeds up, which is ideal for freestylers. The kite loops themselves though can be super powerful; down looping can be like kite looping, but it's ever so steady in its approach and makes it round every time; just a bit wider than many people will be used to in a hybrid kite.
Turn up the wind speed to the red zone and that's when the Switchblade comes alive as a hooked-in boosting machine. We're talking about the sort of conditions that make it difficult to just stand on the beach, but get the Cabrinha in the sky and everything seems to calm down; it feels poised, smooth and in control. The Switchblade's canopy just isn't bothered by strong, gusty winds, there's no distortion at all, it just sits there, solid. Down at the bar you have no idea what the kite can possibly be doing up there to make it feel so calm in your pilot's seat.
The back stroke for jumping is very steady indeed, you can really leave the kite there behind you and you'll continue to climb. It just keeps pulling and gliding, rock steady above your head. You can redirect the Switchblade later than most; you don't need to be so spot on with your boosted handling; but if you do keep it moving in the sky then good riders will find there's a second boost in there ? like the secret weapon in a computer game.
The Switchblade provided us with one of the most satisfactory reviews we've done in a long time, as we uncovered two very distinct sides to it, in this eight metre size, anyway. In normal conditions, the Switchblade is a pure wake-style kite... a pure wake-style kite for also going out super powered on on another day. If you're replacing another seven metre model you should look at buying the eight metre Switchblade, it's so sweet, but don't buy it under the pretence of wanting an all round freeride kite. This very much sits at the freestyle end of freeride. If that sounds like you, this is spot on and a luxurious model for improving and pushing your wake-style riding. We often wondered why we would only see riders out on their eight metre Switchblades in the strong winds of Cape Town; we found out ? because that's all they need!
Truly sublime wake-style performance with the added benefit of classy, comfortable boosts when the wind gets really strong.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
In normal winds around 25 knots, this eight metre could be better at boosting because it's still well inside its unhooked territory.
SIZES: 16, 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m
KITE BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality ? 9
Full package ? 8.5
Low end ? 5
Top end ? 9
Steering speed ? 4
Turning circle ? 7.5
Bar pressure - 5
Water relaunch ? 7
Boost ? When powered: 8 / Normal range: 4
Hang-time ? When powered: 8 / Normal range: 4
Unhooked ? 9.5 (you barely need your harness!)
Easy of use ? Freestyle: 9 / Freeride: 5