There is only one kite that has embodied the true spirit of kiteboarding for the last eight years for its spot-on performance in such a wide range of conditions. Cabrinha reckon the Switchblade humbly takes the title of the highest performance kite with the easiest handling. But there’s no resting on laurels. In 2014 the Switchblade gets an upgrade in handling with an all-new bridling that provides an even more direct and precise steering. The moderate arc shape with dynamic arc provide more power and more aerodynamic efficiency. There’s park and ride stability for consistent power mixed with light bar pressure and featherweight control. The changes in outline and profile ensure that the 2014 Switchblade delivers power at the low end and precise handling and control at the top end.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Cabrinha do a number of things very well. A couple of them are packaging and presentation. The investment in time and care are obvious. Even the bag has a lovely stretchy Velcro pump holder on the side and the bag itself is of higher grade material and opens nice and wide. Cabrinha also love their labels. There are labels on everything and everything is wrapped in plastic (often too much), which you’re left chasing after down the beach if you open it from new on a windy day, so do it at home.
Cabrinha utilise a very neat spring-loaded webbing trim system. While webbing systems have been around for a while, they always work predictably. Perhaps you need to pull twice on the system to get just the right level of trim, but they never stick and the spring system retracts the tabs so there’s always zero dangle, even when heavily trimmed. (It should be noted that the trim and throw are quite a distance away, and is why Cabrinha produce a Siren system for women that brings everything closer). The bar itself is lovely in the hands and the chicken-loop is superbly engineered with two options for quick release, a clever leash point that rotates around the chicken-loop allowing the freestyler and beginner to use the same leash point and benefit from the full safety depower. The anti-twist system works really well and overall this set-up deserves kudos. Perhaps the bar set up as a whole is a bit chunky for some who might prefer a slimline design, but in terms of engineering, functionality and comfort, this is right up there.
Up at the kite it’s all quality. The one pump is excellent there are no pipes left hanging and Cabrinha’s wide hose point offers a super efficient attachment and a zero air loss pumping experience. Everything looks top notch.
Up in the sky the Switchblade has a beast of an airframe. It’s safe as houses. Retaining its shape and aerodynamics whatever the gusts, it never over sheets or back stalls, neither does it surge forward. It may not depower as quickly as some kites, but it is incredibly well behaved.
The Switchblade produces a very silky smooth uptake of power. It’s all very progressive. In its natural depowered state at the top of the throw the bar is a noticeable stretch away. The Switchblade is quite a physical kite to fly in light winds though (like all kites it lightens up nicely as the wind picks up though), and it would be nice to see a bar retention system (stopper) to aid fatigue in lighter winds. It’s heavier than you might expect from a nine metre freestyle freeride kite but you can get it to turn quickly, you just have to be very forceful with it. You’ll burn more calories on the Switchblade in the bottom half of its range.
The Switchblade is excellent unhooked in the bottom half of its wind range. Beautifully balanced and with very steady pull at the bar unhooked, it doesn’t go off and turn on its own with slight bar pressure differences between your front and back hands and the kite retains it’s very stable position. This, as you might ascertain, means that at its lower end the Switchblade does have a wide turning circle. You can get it to turn more pivotally, but you really need to pull it… or you need more wind, and when there’s more wind your ability to comfortably unhook on this is reduced, but the Switchblade has other benefits…
Which brings us onto the top half of its range. Imagine you’re driving a car with a good V6 engine. There’s bags of power there and the Switchblade manages it very nicely. It doesn’t wheel spin at the drop of the clutch and it doesn’t bang into gear. It knows how to put rubber on the road with maximum traction. In terms of this kite, because the throw is long, you do need to step on your back foot on the board a bit more than some other kites but the Switchblade behaves very well when you do. You’re just aware of the torque all the time, it’s engaging… which is why we really, really like jumping on it. The take-off is smooth but the climb rate is rapid. There is bags of lift, and the Switchblade has that extra 20% at the top of the window that we look for and you have lots of time in the sky. What’s also really nice is that the Switchblade behaves itself while it’s providing that extra lift. There’s no stalling and therefore no need to sheet out and trim the kite during flight. In medium to strong winds this is a booster’s dream, well balanced and with a great, solid position in the window. You do have to like a fairly solid feel at the bar though, which is why it will largely suit riders of 80+ kilos, especially in this nine metre size. (The eight reduced that quite dramatically last year and seemed the ‘magic’ size – hopefully it’s the same this year, but we can’t really comment on that.)
So, bags of lift, miles of hangtime and steady poise in the air. You can loop it quickly at the top of the window, yet the Switchblade really has much more of a booming loop than other hybrid kites the earlier you loop because of its natural torque.
The Switchblade is for the intermediate to advanced rider looking for a high-spec package providing consummate control and incredible hang-time in strong winds mirrored by phenomenal unhooked performance at the bottom end. For lighter weight riders and girls there is the Siren edition with a shorter throw etc. specifically designed for a better fit
Incredible build quality, attention to detail, beautifully programmed torque and tremendous flight path in good winds.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
In light winds it is quite technical to relaunch, it’s rigidity almost becoming its achilles heel in terms of manoeuvring it back up. It’s fine in decent winds, though.
SWITCHBLADE BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9
Low end: 8.5
Top end: 8
Steering speed: 6.5
Turning circle: 7
Bar pressure: 8
Water relaunch: 5 lightwind / 7 regular+
Ease-of-use: 7 (8+ if you’re a big guy)
SIZES: 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4m
More info at: www.cabrinhakites.com
Here’s the official Switchblade product video from Cabrinha:
THANKS TO: Cabrinha South Africa for the loan of this 2014 Cabrinha Switchblade in Cape Town. Find them in Big Bay and at: www.cabrinha.co.za
THIS KITE WAS FEATURED IN ISSUE #69