We review Ocean Rodeo’s freeride/wave hybrid and the Stick Shift control system
This test first appeared in issue #86 in March, 2017
TEST TEAM NOTES:
The Roam is all-new from Ocean Rodeo and is paired up with OR’s other new release, the Stick Shift bar which, along with North’s Click bar, are the only bars on the market with an internal depower system. (The Ocean Rodeo system has an open track underneath the bar to allow for sand etc. to be easily washed out.) The advantages of moving the depower controls to the end of the bar are two fold: firstly, the end of the bar is always in reach of everyone, and secondly it cleans up the areas where there has always been a bit of rope or a strap dangling in front of your eyes (or around your waist if you had a below-the-bar trimming system). Notably, Ocean Rodeo have developed a sublime stopper too for all that throw.
The Stick Shift is very simple to operate. To power the kite up you twist the knob, which is actually a slightly easier movement than the North twisting motion, and to depower you nudge the knob away from you with the outside of your hand. (This isn’t quite as clinical as North’s push button click, which requires very little force, but don’t mistake the Ocean Rodeo to be difficult. It’s absolutely not.) Like many things, all this comes down to personal preference at the end of the day and how much you’re open to change. While we don’t have experience of how robust this system actually is, what we can tell you is that it certainly feels strong and rugged, and Ocean Rodeo have generally built their bars and products to last in the past.
Everything else you’d expect to find on a modern kite is present – wide inflation, single-point inflation, robust build quality, a good bag and overall the colours and presentation are excellent. Ocean Rodeo are on their game.
The Canada-based team have tagged the Roam as their wave-focused kite. Firstly, the leading edge, on the 9.5 metre in particular, is one of the thickest we’ve seen in a while. No doubt helping add stiffness to the very rounded, low aspect shape and there’s no doubting the relaunch rate of this kite either, that’s also helped by that shape.
The overall feel of the Roam is very easy and cruisy. Matt and Jim first took it out on surfboards in quite underpowered conditions and for high performance wave riding would have liked a more direct, quicker steering input to help move the kite around the sky to generate power. Unlike the more pure blood wave kites the Roam has a softer feel to the steering, but that quickened up as the wind picked up.
The Roam doesn’t have the lightning quick steering impulse of other wave kites, but equally, for a freeride / early wave crossover kite, it’s also not fatiguing and tiring to keep pace with at all. What wave riders will enjoy is the very generous bar throw that depowers to nothing, and the way the kite sits back in the power and drifts along very nicely. There’s plenty of sheet and go and power-ditching performance here.
For people in their early stages of riding waves, a kite like this can be much easier to handle than a pure blood wave kite. Unlike pure wave kites there’s still a bit of lift to be had at the top of the window. It’s also why when we took it out on twin-tips we had a lot of fun on it and there was no hesitation when it came to looping it during a boost. The encouraging, safe and smooth feel of the Roam saw Bully in particular throwing loops within his first few minutes in good winds of 20 – 25 knots. Wave kites are usually much more pivotal and very forward flying whereas the Roam however has much more of a freeride – wave cross-over feel and that bit of extra lift helps you in your early stages of riding a surfboard. When you lose your balance and wobble a bit, during a tack or gybe for example, pull down on the bar and there’s a dose of lift to help you stabilise through the manoeuvre.
Where the Roam differs to an aggressive wave-freeride crossover performer, like the Bandit, is that the Bandit has a harder bite in its power delivery. The Bandit is more anxious to fly forward, but the flip side to that is that it takes more management. The Roam sits in a category of kite a bit more in line with the Liquid Force Wow, which crosses over wave performance with boosting performance. Sure, Ocean Rodeo haven’t put as much lift into this as their freeride / freestyle kites, but there’s more here than most wave kites. Vitally, the power band is very steady with no spikes in what you feel at the bar, though.
The Roam isn’t technical to fly. One strike up and down and then just park the kite and it powers you along nicely, offering a good angle upwind without flying itself too far to the edge of the window. In other words it’s always in its workable range – not so far forward that it becomes high maintenance, but not too far back in the window that it feels heavy and makes upwind progress difficult. Think of it like a car: you’re much better off using the engine in the best part of its range. It may not have as many gears as some other kites, but there’s no wastage in its gearing and the vast majority of riders will progress further and quicker on a kite they’re comfortable on.
The Roam offers a lovely, smooth, consistent and untechnical ride feel, even in very harsh conditions. If you’re a die-hard wave rider you’ll probably look for something quicker and more pokey, but the Roam is a beautifully smooth kite that we think sits well in the wave end of the progressing freeride spectrum. Smooth in its power delivery, it’s quick enough for good riders, can entertain boosters with a nice, lofty flight path and those wanting to throw a few loops, but is also forgiving and very easy to use for intermediate riders. The relaunch is excellent and the Roam will look after you, wherever you choose to use it.
Super steady power band with no spikes in delivery at all.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Wave riders looking for top end performance will want more speed.
ROAM BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 8
Full package: 9
Ease of use: 8.5
SIZES: 12, 9.5, 8 and 7m