Building on the exceptional performance of the 2009 Hadlow Pro, the 2011 Hadlow is the next evolution in freestyle kitesurfing. Created during an intense two year development period, the Hadlow builds on the foundation of precision performance and astounding power to create a kite that continues to redefine the boundaries of freestyle kitesurfing. Designed with Aaron's unprecedented attention to detail and exacting attitude, the 2011 Hadlow aims to offer the complete package for today's advanced kitesurfer. Originally aimed at the highly competent and advanced freestyle kitesurfer, the Hadlow continues as the very purest performance machine on the market; however with a new depowered setting, Aaron has targeted a greater span of ability with his 2011 signature model. With a new focus on the progressive rider, you might be thinking that this year's model has been scaled down. Far from it, Aaron has maintained his focus throughout the Hadlow's development to produce the peak of performance in freestyle kitesurfing.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Hadlow's main focus has always been to allow the rider to perform tricks with the kite low and super-powered, delivering an ultra-consistent and solid pull. Three or four years ago when Aaron was working on kite loop 7s, it also became important to be able to pass with a kite loop. So as well as needing a kite with a steady pull low down in the window, he also needed a fast kite that could loop at different speeds to get back to the top of the window before landing. This Hadlow is the result of more than just the few year's development; it's a piece of PKRA history, or at least where Aaron thought the PKRA should be heading. Aaron's kites have, for many years, been tailored by Flexifoil to what he needed to win the PKRA; they've evolved with his riding and the Hadlow represents a bang-up-to-date freestyle machine.
First point of note on the 2011 model is that there's really not a lot of depower ? there's literally about six inches - and the chicken-loop is huge! We've criticised Flexifoil in the past for their tiny chicken-loops. On this you can nearly get your head through it! Modern C kites could almost be described as hybrids with all the depower they have and how they can relaunch by just pulling on one line. This has much less depower and requires technique to relaunch. When riding the Hadlow, the bar sits sheeted down fairly close to the chicken-loop, but as the chicken-loop is big, the bar actually sits further away from your body than on any other kite. It means that everything is set nicely in front of you, but don't even think about being able to reach that trimming strap, unless you've been handle-passing for nearly a decade and have developed super long arms, which Aaron must have. (We must check that out next time we see him!) This all adds up to a really advanced rider's kite. You can reach the trim by pulling the front lines towards you, but that's hardly something an intermediate rider will be comfortably doing.
The feedback through the bar is super direct, the pull is extremely consistent and the kite generates a huge amount of pop. Once it pops there's a lovely moment where the lines slacken off, assisting with a handle-pass but doesn't actually distort the flight. You get a moment of clarity where the kite's power backs off and the thin leading edge seems to open up a bit, giving you that feeling of reduced pressure. It just flares slightly, but still drives forward, whereas other kites tend to drop back and blast you a bit too much. It also has medium power ? it's not a trucking beast and the turns can be fairly pivotal if you want them to ? the kite is extremely quick and, when you watch Aaron ride, he can get it to spin tightly when he needs to, but when we tried looping it it went much lower than we expected, but continued to drive up. It's quite a machine. In terms of boosting, it chucks you up there too, with technique. The flight is quick and very vertical, rather than long and floaty. You're up there for a while but you tend not to drift too far downwind, but you've jumped pretty high. The idea obviously being you get as high as possible and then conduct whatever mega loop business you need to. It's is definitely is a unique performer.
The kite comes out of the bag in five line mode, but the model we got was set up in six line mode. The difference between the two isn't much in terms of feeling, it's just whether your preference is to ride five line or six (which is really four line, but the two front lines attach to two points on the kite), which stops the issues of the kite rolling through itself so much, as on fifth line mode. The kite comes with an extra bridling kit, which supposedly offers a bit more depower, but in the short time we had the kite, we didn't get chance to try that. But it's a good excuse to get the kite back again! Incidentally, what is a really nice touch is the fact that Flexi have printed all the instructions for setting up the kite on the inside of the kite bag. So no more unravelling wet bits of paper or chasing instruction sheets down the beach when they blow away. All very easy to follow, too. Nice touch and representative of the detail on the Hadlow.
Everything that Aaron ever wanted out of a C kite tailored to what he thinks kitesurfing should be about at the moment. Low down power, but also quick enough to get round different kite loops.
If you like C kites and are really focussed on powered kite-low passes, it's wonderful. This is very much like a Formula 1 car that has been designed to fit specifically around the trick requirements to win the PKRA. No other kiters have had such an impact on competition riding as Aaron has. That's what this kite represents.
The moment of clarity after you've popped.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Bring the trimming system within a bit easier reach.
13, 11, 9, 7 and 5.5m
This test is inissue #52
Flexifoil Hadlow 11m (2011)
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