New in 2011, the Neo has become the weapon of choice for North's hardcore wave riders. A simple three-strut design, it offers blistering responsiveness, ease-of-use and a smooth power development throughout the turning arc of the kite. Having only three struts means the Neo is incredibly lightweight and also sits a little further back in the window, allowing it to drift with you as you ride the wave. This also means it performs well when depowered, steering control is maintained and the lively behaviour isn't lost when it reaches the upper limits of its wind range. The Neo also performs impeccably unhooked, on or off the wave and can also be used for freestyle. The responsive steering, smooth power development and easy water relaunch make it perfect for learning new moves.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Neo is designed for four lines but also works for those wanting the ultimate security of fifth line safety and we rode it with a five line bar. The fifth line isn't loaded, so the performance is just the same. North continue to be one of the top manufacturers in terms of quality as well as detail. The one pump system is very smooth, protected, nicely covered and is easy to get the air out of. The dump valve is also near the tip of the kite, which means you can just roll the kite up from one end to the other on your own and still get all the air out without having to roll it up in two halves, which can often be a pain, especially in strong winds. There's no faff with this kite, everything is just well made and functional. The D2 patented double coated canopy material is really strong and prevents big tears in the cloth, evidence we've seen in schools over a full season. The refinements to the trimming system work well, now with the fifth line not getting caught up in the cleat like it had a tendency to do in the past. The bar ends feature a clicker system so you can effectively adjust the width that the lines sit at on the fly, which is really clever. The chicken-loop is a good size, the Iron Heart quick release is probably the easiest and cleanest out there and all the components are nice and tough. The bar system has always been so good and little tweaks keep it just as clean and good looking. You can easily adjust the amount of throw by pulling the line through the loop above the chicken-loop, too, which is a nice feature for those who share kites and enjoy a slightly different set up.
The Neo definitely has a good freeride feel to it, sitting a little further back in the window and generating plenty of smooth power, especially at the low end. The bar sits beautifully balanced in the middle of the throw and, although the power is very progressive, there's lots of it on tap. You can pull in on the power and the kite continues to track forward, nice and taught, which was quite surprising for a kite supposedly so fine-tuned for waves. It's quite manly in its feel, but it's just so easy to use as the sweet spot at the bar travels only about four inches or so and that feel in the centre is just fantastic and there's absolutely no wishy-washy feel at all.
The Neo also holds a bit of juice through the turn ? it's not totally pivotal at all. It tracks really well throughout the loop and makes a good effort to give you a pull as it goes round, which is why it's so nice as a fun, freeride kite; it's always there with you.
As a pure wave kite we feel it has a bit too much power, in this nine metre size anyway, and perhaps we've been spoiled by the out and out wave kites that have been released, but the Neo is about much more than that. Jumping on it is a lot of fun. It's not a scorcher, but it is very smooth and very easy to control. The landings are especially easy as the kite stays with you the whole way and is then very forgiving as you bring it back down into the power. There's plenty in the tank to get you up, it's got some nice beans at the bar and it's fun in the sky.
Unhooking on the Neo is also easy and also fun. It's not scary at all but does provide a steady drive and we found we could even play around with some tricks in the most difficult conditions when it was choppy, gusty and fairly strong wind. Again, it makes things easy and uncomplicated.
The Neo does tick boxes as both a kite for waves and freestyle, but it's not an out-and-out wave kite, although for sure it will be a lot of fun in the waves as it's responsive, easy to use, can turn quickly and is very happy sat doing its thing in the window. You could probably jump on a small size early, which would then make it even better in the waves. However, what is so nice about the Neo is that super smooth incremental power delivery. The kite has feeling all over the window and makes all kinds of kitesurfing fun and easy.
The tight, connected feel that you have with the kite, incredible balance and predictability. North know how to do power delivery and kite behaviour.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
We'd take a bit of power out of the turns and make it more pivotal for waves, but then you wouldn't have such a fantastic all-round freeride kite.
SIZES: 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m
KITE BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality ? 9
Full package - 8
Low end ? 8.5
Top end ? 8.5
Steering speed ? 8.5
Turning circle ? 5
Bar pressure - 6
Water relaunch - 8
Jumping / hang-time - 7
Unhooked ? Bully 7
Easy of use ? 9