Cabrinha 2021 Contra Vs Moto Extended 3 Session Back-to-Back Review

Cabrinha Contra 2021

CABRINHA 01 FIRST TEST OF THE CONTRA AND MOTO 21 KITES

WORDS: Jim Gaunt (Kiteworld editor)

The Cabrinha 01 range was launched online mid February. It just so happened that it was windy all week when we soon after took receipt of the new 2021 9m Switchblade, 10m Moto and 9m Contra kites.

The full reviews of all these Cabrinha Contra is now live in our new free online issue #109, full of multimedia entertainment and varied insights. Enter the magazine here!

We’ve been dealing with a wet weather front the last couple of days, forecasting 20 – 30 knots, but in reality we only had between 12 and 18 knots over the first two days and today the wind was a bit more, but very up and down, up to 25 knots but down for long periods to just 15.  

Having only 9 and 10 metre kite options might not be ideal if I had my heart set on twin-tip riding, particularly for the first two days. However, with a selection of surfboards, twin tips and hydrofoils on hand, there aren’t many conditions that you can’t make 9 & 10 metre kite sizes work, so I focused on the two all rounders – the new 2021 one strut Contra 9 metre and the Moto 10 metre.

SPOILER ALERT:
This will quickly become a story about how the Contra 9m is an absolute session saver!

FIRST TEST DAY – 12-18 KNOTS

The wind was dropping when I started to unpack the van and the few riders out were coming in to change up to 14 metre kites. I thought, ‘Okay, this will be a perfect time to see just how good the light wind range is on the Cabrinha Contra 9m.’ So I rigged up and took the twin-tip and hydrofoil to the water’s edge.

Cabrinha Contra 2021 test

CONTRA 9M – INSTANT IMPRESSIONS

What I noticed immediately is the Cabrinha Contra 9m looks like a little round ball in the sky overhead. There’s quite a deep cord width at the strut and there’s a generous arc to the leading edge (much more so than the more traditional, bigger Contras you may be familiar with, which look wider and thinner / more high aspect). What we usually expect from a more compact shape, such as this new single strut version, is that the mid-aspect canopy depth provides easy power and good stability in the window, while the curved leading edge delivers more reactive steering.

That’s all well and good when a kite has enough wind, so the big question was how good the Contra is at generating power in light winds. 

Cabrinha Contra 2021

Cabrinha’s James Boulding hydrofoiling with the Contra 9m in Kenya

We have the privilege to test so many kites each year that through experience we can often draw a lot from our first impressions when the kite first goes up. All four lines feel immediately engaged. When I sheeted fully out there was still tension in the back lines. 

I looked up and thought, ‘Do I need to add depower?’, but the Contra just sat there. I pulled the bar down and the wing tips flared. I felt a smooth lift sensation in my harness and when I abruptly sheeted the bar out again the Contra didn’t surge overhead. It stayed pretty much where it was; driving power and then backing it off smoothly.

It was like pressing the accelerator pedal to rev the engine. I was keen to open things up on the water.

Fully expecting a couple of runs and a walk back upwind I made it back to my start position quite easily. One more run; the same. By then the other two riders on their 14s had come in, uninspired.

I swapped boards and grabbed the foil (pausing just long enough to take on a comment on the beach from someone saying they were sure it wasn’t even enough for their 11… I’m going to start calling this ‘the classic Contra query’…!).

The waves were pretty decent (for here), shoulder high at times and big enough to make foiling challenging. I could not have asked for more from the Contra. I didn’t have to think about it once, I could spin it, dive it, turn it, sheet it really hard and when I got thrown towards the kite when falling in waves it just sat there. When I resurfaced it just hadn’t moved. 

I kept trying to put it in awkward situations and I honestly couldn’t really find any. I was riding a foil set-up, a combination of two different manufacturers and an untried front wing. It was taking some getting used to, particularly in the really rolling waters, but I was happy to stick with it as I wasn’t worried about the kite at all. The Contra was always giving me just what I needed to control my ride.

A NOTE ON THE CABRINHA 2X OVERDRIVE BAR WITH RECOIL

I was using Cabrinha’s 2020 1X Overdrive with Recoil control bar that features a spring mechanism alongside the trimming tabs, allowing you to physically push the bar beyond where it rests against the stopper for a sudden extra amount of depower.

It’s really useful when heading out over waves on a foil. You might recognise this sensation: you get a pick up of speed and find yourself heading towards a wave and what you really need is to turn the power and reduce your speed so you can focus on calmly clearing the white water – the Contra gave me that instant moment of silence to remain in control. Once over the wave, release the pressure on your arms and the spring then pushes the bar back down, all the while the Contra seems to have automatically adjusted the gearing.

CONTRA – ALWAYS IN THE SWEET SPOT

What’s really apparent when flying the new Contra single strut is its very constant position in the window. Sheet in hard, sheet out hard, slacken your lines, re-tension them; the Contra just seems to hover in position, so you’re never shunted around. There’s no surprising jerk.

DAMO’S VIDEO

On the second day I rode both the Moto and Contra with a surfboard, (detailed further below) and as I sat down to write my notes I saw an email that Damien Leroy had released a new Contra review video, bang on time for Cabrinha’s new range launch. Sneaky. You can hear that all the riders he interviews at the end of the video are describing a certain sense of control. What they all experienced is the Contra’s light impulse handling, smooth, automatic drive and super constant position in the window that allows you to make mistakes with your board but still feel like you’re riding cleanly and with relative ease.

 

(I was dubious about their enthusiasm in the video for twin-tip jumping … but I tried that out for myself on day three… below).

DAY 2 – SURFBOARD – MOTO 10M VERSUS CONTRA 9M

Similar story – the wind was much lighter than predicted, dropping from 20 knots when i first went out to between 13 and 18 knots.

I rigged the three strut Moto 10 metre first and headed out on a twin-tip. Immediately noticeable is that the Moto 2021 wants to drive further forward and it travels through the window quicker, too. More concentration and movement is needed to generate power in lighter winds than the Contra. There is however also more shut-off power when you sheet out. That range of movement offered by the Moto is not only an indication that it’s more suited to higher wind riding, but that it’s a more potent tool for jumping and looping.

The Moto is also a little sterner in its bar feel – but not much, let me assure you of that; this is still a medium pressure and very spritely feeling kite. There’s much more power available in the turn compared to the Contra. As well as providing less drive (power) through sheeting at the bar, the Moto is also a very different experience when it comes to steering. It’s like a front wheel drive car and loves to corner more like a race car with slick tyres. It grips through the turn.

The Contra turns more like it has steering on all four wheels – you can pretty much spin it on the spot if you want to – and it’ll do everything it can to stay in a stable part of the window.

The wind was not quite onshore, there was still some angle in it from the right, but it was definitely challenging in the lighter wind with some chest high waves and plenty of white water trying its best to trip me up and push me to the beach. Again, I made it back to my start point on the twin-tip, but more through my skill of kite movement and efficient board riding rather than the automatic piloting that I felt previously in the Contra.

RIDING THE CABRINHA MOTO ON A SURFBOARD

After a few more runs on the twin tip I switched to the surfboard. The combination of reactive handling and driving turns got me going and I was able to move the kite aggressively across the window while sheeting out as I made a big arc onto a wave face. In onshore conditions where you need to regularly move the kite right across the window in order to stay on a wave, the Moto’s quick response and very decent shut-off of power felt very well connected in performance.

The best kite models on the market are very joined up in their feel. The depower connects with the turning, which connects back round again with the powering up and sheeting. They don’t feel disjointed. You don’t have to sheet in on the industry’s leading kites in order to get a reaction from the kite. You’re able to depower the kite mid-turn but still complete that turn with finite control. It’s about micro adjustments and then, as you get better, these kites allow you to flying on instinct. 

The Moto has that in spades and is a delight to throw around the sky. As fun to chase on a surfboard as it is when sending it overhead for jumps and kite loops. Our chief tester Chris Bull absolutely raved about it in strong winds on a twin-tip and as a cross-over kite last year. You can read that outstanding Moto 10m review here.

 

BURSTING WITH ENERGY: THE CONTRA

I was managing, but having to work the Moto pretty hard to hold my ground, especially as I was catching a few wave rides and then paying for them when it came to working back upwind. I was bringing my back foot very far forward on the surfboard, trying to eek out as much efficient trimming underfoot as I could.

In previous years I’d never have thought to use a Cabrinha Contra on a surfboard (especially as the smallest model in the range used to be a 13 metre). Cabrinha have clearly taken the ease of use for light wind riding and re-imagined the Contra as a single strut kite, capable of delivering light wind performance in smaller, more manoeuvrable sizes.

This year the Cabrinha 01 Contra range has been broadened with a series of single strut smaller sizes: 11, 9, 7, 5, 4 and 3m. The three strut 17, 15 and 13 models remain, but these energised new single strut smaller sizes are capable of generating really useful amounts of power and super agile handling, which is exactly what freeride hydrofoilers are looking for. The primary focus in Cabrinha’s marketing package is centred around foiling. 

Given what I’d felt in terms of power and poise the previous day, it was worth a shot to round out this session and give the Moto 10m a run for its light wind money.

RIDING THE CABRINHA CONTRA ON A SURFBOARD?

After launching the Contra as I ran back to the water I could already feel that the bar was more loaded with energy. I dived the kite, steered it in a forward direction, sheeted in and found a lot more drive. I was planing and managing my speed far more easily by just sheeting the bar. I can’t stipulate enough how much more alive my board speed felt.

My summary of this is that this isn’t a fair test of the 10 metre Moto – we should have been comparing it with a 12 metre for power generation, but then a three strut 12 metre certainly won’t be able to compete in manoeuvrability in waves. 

TURNING DIFFERENCES

The Contra wins hands down on low end power generation (and remember it’s one metre smaller than the Moto), so let’s look at the difference in turning. 

Where the Contra differs to the Moto is in the power it delivers through a turn. Both kites are brilliantly responsive. They’re as quick as you want, but can also be steered steadily too. I could slowly steer both around a wider arc, using the turn to reposition the kite, rather than simply to create power. This is really why they’re such good cross-over kites. 

There’s no doubting that the Moto delivers more power as it turns; the Contra has very little.

The Contra creates power in a straight line and then drops power when it turns. Even when you feel quite powered you can steer it very hard without concern. As a small kite for foiling, this has many advantages, and can make the difference between scoring a wave session or not when the wind’s light. Essentially the Contra makes you feel as if you always have good, usable power with control. 

You can use the Contra’s pivotal turning style and positive back line tension to dramatically reposition the kite in the window very quickly. For example in waves you can loop it as you bottom turn to bring the kite back in the window so it’s better positioned to drift with you as you inevitably slacken your lines a bit when you carve. On a foil there are countless times when you’re riding on a more aggressive downwind angle than you would on any other board where you need to loop a kite to reposition it. 

Both the Contra and Moto are very capable at re-positioning, but the lighter weight and better drift of the Contra will make life easier for more riders in lighter winds. 

In really onshore conditions when the waves and white water are always trying to push you towards your kite, it’s easy to suffer from slack lines. The Contra drifts brilliantly in this position and then can still be sheeted in to give you some more power so as not to drop off the back of the wave.

The Moto has more power shut-off when you sheet out and behaves more like you might be used to a kite for waves to; driving further forward. The Contra always holds some power in the canopy, which is why it maintains such a steady slightly set back position in the window. In lighter winds this is where that magic handling comes from and is why you don’t need to watch the kite as much because it never surges overhead or to the edge of the window where you lose feeling in the lines. 

You can read on below for my day three test notes riding the Cabrinha Contra one strut in stronger winds. Apart from during difficult moments in waves using the hydrofoil on day one, other than that I never needed to push the bar beyond the stopper to use the Recoil spring for extra depower in two days of riding. I would on day three, and I would appreciate it! 

Summing up my day two session, which was under an hour, but was enough to feel that the Contra definitely delivers more driving power at the bar with less need for technical kite movement to ride comfortably in light winds.

This kite might not be ideally suited to the way you usually steer a kite when riding waves, but because you’re able to carry more board speed into your carves, there’s less need for the kite to generate power through its turns. The kite simply behaves, stay connected with you and seems repelled by the idea of getting too close to the water! 

I have to say the Contra made light wind waves not just workable, but fun. I still had questions about whether this driving power generation at the bar would become a bit much when the wind was steadily above 20 knots in waves on a surfboard, though. 

DAY THREE CABRINHA TEST – 15 – 24 KNOTS 

Once again the forecasted wind strength didn’t come through as predicted. Still blowing at an angle that wasn’t quite fully onshore, conditions were at least stronger than the previous two days. 

Again I took the Moto 10 metre out first. Other riders were on a mix of 9s, 10s and 11s on their twin-tips, so I was plum in the middle. I’d say by then the wind was 18 – 24 knots. Plenty for the kite to feel alive and more powered than the previous two days, but certainly nowhere near having think about trimming the kite. 

Standout features on the Moto for me are the light weight handling, rapid response, smooth grip and gearing when you engage the kite to turn and the positive forward drive.

Even on the sessions I was underpowered, I was always able to get back to my start position with the Moto. Sure I had to work the kite, but the steering certainly isn’t fatiguing. I also know the Moto had an impressive top end last year, and the further adjustments to make the kite even more efficient this year, in terms of its leading edge coning and more rigid air frame and canopy will only further add to that quality. 

If this week I had taken both these kites out for a single 20 knot session, I’d be ordering a set of Motos. I like to ride a twin-tip powered up for boosting, I like to ride a surfboard and a foil. I’m fairly light weight at just 70 kilos and I like a rapid, responsive kite. I want one kite that I can do everything on. The Moto is a great kite for that. 

HOWEVER, THE KITE I’VE ENDED UP RIDING THE MOST IN THE GIVEN SET OF CONDITIONS WAS THE SMALLER CONTRA 

The wind had dropped again to 15 knots. Riders were heading in. Only two riders remained on the water – both were on 11s. I could have stayed out on the Moto 10m as I was enjoying riding the twin-tip, but I certainly wasn’t ‘lit’ and I knew there was a bit of unfinished business with the Contra. I hadn’t given it much of a go on a twin-tip and I was hoping that, third time lucky, the wind would fill in again by a decent margin above 20 knots. 

Once again when sizing down and rigging up the nine metre in dropping winds I was approached, “You’re dropping to a nine?”. I shared my enthusiasm for the Contra and headed back to the water, once again, amazed at the extra juice I was feeling at the bar. 

One swoop, an easy sheet in at the bar and I was up to optimum planing speed on my twin-tip. Board speed is pretty much everything in kiteboarding. If you’ve got it, you can rip; your board reacts properly and manoeuvres seem to flow more easily. If you don’t have board speed and are regularly having to move the kite to create it, you can’t settle into a rhythm and your balanced body position moves around, away from the control of your core. 

JUMPING ON THE CONTRA

While the Contra isn’t that classic three-strut hybrid performance kite for dudes to throw kite loops on, the elastic sort of drive and power that you feel at the bar when riding along translates to a fun jumping performance when you send the kite overhead and sheet in, particularly if you can find a kicker. 

The lift and hangtime both happen quickly. You’re not going to be hanging around in the sky and looking around to see if your mates are checking you out. You’re up and your down, but it’s all so smooth and easy. The jumps feel balanced and you can land softly with forward speed because there’s no surge when you steer the kite forwards in the window; effectively you gain confidence quicker so you learn to steer the kite with more meaning. 

While out the wind had picked up again to a decent breeze of 22 knots (when I later checked the weather station on my phone). I grabbed the surfboard. 

My kiteboarding life would benefit from having a Contra in the quiver. In these winds, surely I could have been using a seven metre single strut but the Contra remained smooth as can be. Not a single shudder in the canopy, which is unusual for a one strut in over 20 knots. (The only shuddering in the canopy was when looping the kite aggressively during a transition on a twin-tip, but that was it). 

RECOIL BENEFITS 

I used the spring loaded Recoil function a lot on the surfboard this session. It basically allows you to enjoy all the benefits of perfectly stability because the Contra always holds some power in the canopy, however, pushing the bar that little bit into the spring allows you a moment to instantly ditch power. That brief moment can make all the difference at a key moment when you need to keep your rail engaged on a wave, or when you’re fighting with too much lift from your foil. 

In these onshore conditions I was riding out with the small waves coming at me from the right. When ready I could steer the kite really hard back across the window and, just before the forward power kicked in, I pushed the bar that extra few inches away into the Recoil spring as I committed to a full 180 degree carve, fully able to engage the rail. As I was carrying good board speed into the turn, I was able to continue that turn beyond 180, so I was then going back up the wave in the new direction on my toeside. Pushing the board all the way up into the crumbling foam I let it push me back down. I hadn’t looked at the kite but I could feel where it was. I’d let the pressure go in my arms, the Recoil had pushed the bar back down and the kite was nicely full of breeze and just drifting with me towards the beach. It’s absolutely brilliant. 

This sort of cross-onshore, hacking style where you need to make the most of any sort of ‘wave’ face you can find, is a common requirement for a lot of kiteboarding fanatics who like to ride surfboards, regardless of the conditions. 

The Overdrive bar itself is very comfortable, well featured with a smooth plastic centre line cover so you don’t suffer abrasion of your fingers against any rope and there’s a super smooth line unspinner above the chicken-loop. When you come to wrapping your lines away, with the floats folded down, there’s a nice little ledge section at the end of the bar to conveniently wrap those awkward last 30 centimetres or so of line around; the bits you always get left with at the end.  

A rope cleat trimming Cabrinha bar is also available, which naturally has a little more throw – called Trimlite. Find all the bars and modular chicken-loop options here

WIND RANGE COMPARISON: CONTRA VERSUS MOTO

The Contra’s light wind performance is hands down better, especially considering that it’s a metre smaller than the Moto too – 9m versus 10m. I was also impressed by its stability and the way it retained smooth handling in over 20 knots. 

Eventually the Contra will hit its upper limit. At that point the Moto with its three strut stability will come more and more into its own, generally flying faster through the window to aid your control, arcing beautifully through a turn and, if it’s like last year, will have a great relationship between lift and hangtime.

MOTO FOR UNHOOKING

I should have been testing a 12 metre Moto against the Contra, but for the type of riding I do, if I can ride a nine rather than a 12, I’d choose that all day long. Riders who would opt for the 12 metre Moto are riders who like to mix a lot of unhooked riding into their sessions. The Moto is the weapon of choice between these two for that. There’s far too much back line tension in the Contra for any sort of decent unhooking. 

CONTRA OR MOTO?

These are Cabrinha’s two most all-round kites in the range. The Drifter (wave kite) has always been user-friendly for general freeriding because of its soft nature and excellent stability in the window, but really if you’re mixing up your riding with foils, surfboards and twin-tips too, the Contra and the Moto are likely to be the picks of the bunch – one for the lower end of the wind spectrum and one for the top end.

The Contra’s awesome stability and stunning steering connection at all times makes for excellent light wind performance. My mouth waters at the prospect of flying a smaller size in stronger wind on a foil / surfboard, though… 

The Contra is going to bring about an interesting question for riders looking at Cabrinha products: “Could I be making more of the opportunities in lighter winds – be it on a foil or surfboard (or even twin-tip) by switching away from a trusted three strut set-up?” 

If you’re a dedicated performance twin-tip rider, your solutions are easy – Switchblade or Moto; the Moto being the more all-round and sportier handling option. The Switchblade has always offered dependable stability, lift and, when it comes to hangtime and strong wind stability, it’s more or less unmatched. The Moto loves to be thrown around more.

If you’re a foiler and you have a surfboard for the windier / wavier days, then you really need to question how often the conditions that you ride in are more than 25 knots, because I’d bet the smaller sizes of Contra are going to perform really well for you.

Arrrgggh, there’s too much good gear!

CABRINHA QUIVER BUILDING

I think if I was building a quiver for my local conditions and the boards I ride in winds between 12 and 35 knots, I’d go:

11 or 9m Contra (foiling and the general lighter wind twin-tip / surfboard days)
8m Moto (for waves / foiling and strong wind twin-tip boosting)
6m Drifter for the dedicated wave days and stronger wind foiling sessions. 

Find the full new Cabrinha range at: www.cabrinha.com

 

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