LIQUID FORCE ENVY 9M
Billed as the ultimate all-terrain kite, the fifth generation Liquid Force Envy, like all LF kites, features durable bomb-proof construction, the lightning fast Max Flow inflation and the super safe CPR control systems. New for the Envy in 2014 are the re-engineered swept wing-tips and the pulley-free low profile Cascade bridle that creates a direct feel and eliminates tangles. Still present is the smooth, predictable power delivery alongside an increased high-end range and extra rigidity for faster response, direct feel and pivotal turning. The 2014 Liquid Force Envy - a lightweight delta hybrid profile, three strut low aspect-ratio design offers outstanding stability, drift and do-it-all response.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
We have tested the Envy for a few seasons and know it well. The bag is robust, square and boxy and is easy to get the kite in and out of. Speaking packing and unpacking, we have to talk about the Max Flow system. We have to confess that we thought these wider inflation systems were a bit of a gimmick - who doesn't benefit from a good bit of pumping before a session to warm up? Well, it's like good kitchen knives, smart phones, or electric windows - until you have them you don't realise what you've been missing. Perhaps we only notice it so much because we pump up a lot of kites in the day (and we're getting old and it's hot in South Africa (sorry) ) but with less effort and in less time you really can get your kite super solid much more efficiently. The flap pops when you take the pump out, allowing zero air loss, and there's no more pinching nipples while trying to get a fiddly valve cap in. If you've forgotten your special Liquid Force pump with extra wide nozzle, a regular valve is also fitted so you can borrow any other pump on the beach.
The Envy is generally well spec'd out, featuring lots of reinforcements and heavy-duty rip-stop. The bar is nice and light in your hands with a lovely soft grip. Good looking, substantial bar ends and chunky, easy to handle chicken-loop push away release under the bar that clicks easily back together (if you don't have your chicken finger in when you release, you could end up losing the chicken loop as it detaches from the kite, but it does have a useful float on the manoeuvrable finger). Liquid Force operate a below-the-bar trimming system, which we do appreciate clears up the area of clutter above the bar, allows everyone to reach it and allows for a good long throw, but personally we find them more awkward to use in terms of leverage than above the bar systems. The Envy has a huge range at the bar though, so fortunately this isn't a kite that you constantly need to keep trimming. The LF bar has a long plastic handle on the end of the trimming line which does flap around a bit, but there is a little hole to slot it into once you have your trimming set and stays nicely out of the way.
Get the Envy in the air you're immediately aware of a couple of things: firstly, that you have access to a lot of power at the bar, but also that the Envy depowers immensely and has a lot of range. When you sheet in you can feel that the Envy is well tuned. The bar rides nicely poised halfway up the depower line you can pull in for power with plenty of sheeting room left for depower comfort. Producing lots of pull through the front lines, dive the Envy, it immediately lights up and comes alive. Easy and predictable to fly it has a really workable range of riding potential. There's a considerable bridle, so there is a softness to the handling, but this acts as a sort of power assisted steering and forgives accidental input, resulting in high class cruising. Reasonably quick, it's easy to come to terms with how the Envy delivers power at the bar; it's always in the same place, which is a great characteristic. The Envy never seems to get itself in trouble, either through a tight, pivotal turn, when sheeted really hard, or in gusts. It simply holds its taught air frame and there's not much that can knock it out of shape. Very stable and turning with purpose, the Envy drives forward with no hint of stalling. Unhooked the pull is delicious and very predictable each time. Up to the task of high level tricks as well as aiding the rookie wakestyler, the comfortable, slightly forward poise in the window delivers a very stable pull and pop without any surging backwards or fowards.
The Envy is also one of those kites that you can legitimately unhook on and then get good boost in the same session, although as is the case with pretty much any kite that has such good range, you do need to trim it a lot to be able to use the kite for such varied tricks. The good speed and generous sheeting power at the bar offer really rewarding jumps. Hit 70% of the wind range and it starts to jump really well. The slightly soft-feel in the steering means you have to be on your game to keep the kite perfectly positioned over head, but the generally accomplished jumping performance rounds out a very versatile kite. We didn't try it in waves for very long apart from a couple of quick slaps on the surfboard, but all characteristics point to a very rewarding and fun kite in the waves.
The Envy provides you the room to grow along your kitesurfing journey. We're confident that anyone can ride this kite and have a good time. A superb relaunch, coupled with predictable power delivery at the bar and a really big range will mean that a beginner would also be happy on this kite all day long. In terms of freeriding and freestyle, it's bombproof, provides a lovely stable pull out of the loop and jumps well.
Superb all-round characteristics for all levels.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
We'd make the cleat a bit easier to use when trimming the kite below the bar (or move it above the bar) and we'd cover the rope chicken loop line running through the bar so it's smoother against your fingers when butted up in the centre of the bar.
ENVY BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 7.5
Full package: 7.5
Low end: 8
Top end: 7.5
Steering speed: 7
Turning circle: 4
Bar pressure: 5
Water relaunch: 8.5
SIZES: 15, 13.5, 12, 10.5, 9, 8, 7 and 5m