TEST TEAM NOTESStarkites are starting to become a player in the kitesurfing market that deserve more attention. We’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the kitesurfing experience Starkites are producing over the last few years. Although the company has been around for many years, the recent few years have seen a new team take over and as such the riding experience has improved considerably. The build quality is already above average and there’s everything you’d expect to see on a modern kite, with one pump, a mid-sized inflation system with the valve that untwists for wide deflation (though the securing line makes undoing it a bit of a fiddle until you get the knack), a cleat trim on the bar and a good, if standard set up, chicken-loop / safety design.
The Taïna flies with a lot of tension on the front lines which keeps the kite flying forward very positively without overflying itself too far forward. There’s also no flutter in the canopy, which is impressive and also notable is the Taïna’s impeccable behaviour with a good, solid stance in the sky.
The power delivery is very solid and there’s plenty of it as the gives the rider a good spike of power when sheeting in at the bar. It’s obvious that the kite has power when you launch it on the beach, but it’s not intimidating when you’re on the beach either – you can just tell at the bar. The throw isn’t as long as it could be and when fully sheeted out there’s still some power left in the kite, though you can trim it heavily to reduce that if you’d prefer. As you get better this retained power in the kite is a lovely quality in terms of handling for things like floaty transitions as well as for freestyle riders who can handle digging their edge in for control. We felt that it would have been nice in the challenging water conditions and strong winds to have a bit more of a shut off of power available at the bar though for when approaching white water and needing to ditch power for example – it’s what we’re used to with freeride kites and what many intermediates will demand. If you’re a heavier rider, you’ll appreciate the power and won’t need the complete shut-off.
The power that the Taïna obviously has translates into good jumping prowess when you sheet in with the kite directly overhead. Good height is followed by a fairly quick but smooth decsent but what was really surprising was how pivotally the kite turned. Although there is no flapping at all in the wingtips as the Taïna is very solid in the sky, there is very little power through the turns and the loops. Big jumps are very easy to achieve as you can send the kite hard without it hauling you off your edge until you sheet in with the kite overhead. You can get really good height, but looping it generates very little power. Of course that’s great if you’re just starting to get to grips with kite loops, but the reality is that you often think you have too much power to dare loop it as the kite feels as if it’s going to be very powerful through the loop. Once you’ve got used to that feeling, you’ll be spinning it regularly out of your jumps and transitions.
For waves these are great characteristics – you can get good power through sheeting in at the bar (and get on a smaller kite) and then throw the kite around without too much power through the turns. The forward flight makes for average drifting, but the Taïna sits in a lovely, responsive area of the window where it is quick to steer. Wave riders would often want more of a shut off of power though once the kite gets to the mid and upper part of its wind range and some prefer more progressive power generated through turns.
Although we unhooked on the Taïna during our sessions, we didn’t manage a fully-focused unhooked session on it, but it is definitely manageable and behaves well out of the loop. Another point to note is that Starkites have an immense team of freestyle riders where they are based in Cabarete. And if we look at the kite’s character it’s easy to see why they would get on with the Taïna. It gets going early, has good power at the top of the window for boosts and, although doesn’t produce a hard yank in a kite loop, it can be thrown around aggressively. What that also means is that when you come out of a handle-pass holding the end of the bar it’s less of an issue and easy to control as the kite will pivot manageably.
SUMMARYThe Taïna does a good job of providing you plenty of fun. Good power on tap, plenty of manoeuvrability, good height in your jumps alongside a great relaunch all add up to a fun kite. Very pivotal loops are unintimidating for the intermediate rider, but we felt that the Taïna would be a more suitable kite for better riders because of the power it retains when sheeted out, if only it had a bit more power through its loop.
KW LIKEDThe good low end and involving spike of power available at the bar.
KW WOULD CHANGEThe Taïna would benefit from a better balance between the power it has in a straight line and its power through the turns for a more consistent overall feel for progressive freeriders looking to do everything.
SIZES17, 14, 12, 10, 9, 7 and 5.5m
TAÏNA BALANCE POINTSBuild quality: 6.5
Full package: 7
Low end: 8
Top end: 7
Steering speed: 7
Turning circle: 3
Power through turn: 3
Bar pressure: 5.5
Water relaunch: 7
Cross-over: 7 (All round freeride / some waves)
More info at: www.starkites.com
Here’s the official Taïna test drive video from Star Kites