2018 Gaasta Spark 9m review

2018 Gaastra Spark review

Engaging and fast with plenty of air time potential

 

THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE #93 IN JUNE, 2018

 

2018 Gaastra Spark review

 

TEST TEAM NOTES: 

This Spark review follows on from the Gaastra Pure review last issue, a kite which you may remember scored the highest Woo jump stat for Bully this season in Cape Town, with a recorded boost height of 19.9 metres and 8 seconds of air time! An intriguing follow up, for sure…  

 

2018 Gaastra Spark review

 

A quick re-visit of the bar and build: Gaastra’s X4 bar system is extremely light and streamlined. The grip diameter is just 23mm and the rubber is a medium grip grade, so is comfortable without being slippy. The quick-release is new and conforms to all the most stringent French norms, so can be released with very little force at all angles. The trimming cleat and rope are smooth with a Velcro fastener to prevent trimming dangle when depowered. The circular trimming line system can also be adjusted to position the cleat lower down for riders with shorter arms. There is also a swivel below the bar for untwisting your lines (which we always like to see!). The Gaastra one could be easier and needs a bit of a wristy movement, but you’ll certainly get used to it.

The bar is one size and can’t adjusted at the ends, but you can alter the line length from 21 to 24 metres, depending on if you want to go shorter for a super direct feel, or longer for smooth power and maximum boosting (we used 24). Overall, this bar system is comfy, neat and minimum in fuss, making for a light weight and nicely paired down design. 

The kite itself is well fitted out with Boston inflate valve, different bar pressure / steering settings and generally the canopy and build is up to a pretty good standard without having lots of marketing messages in every corner. 

 

2018 Gaastra Spark review

 

Again we tested the Spark at both ends of what can be considered the nine metre spectrum, from the mid teens to mid 20 knots. The Spark is very different to the Pure in that there’s a much greater and more obvious delivery of low end grunt with lots of sheet-and-go power on tap. The pull generated through simple bar sheeting is solid and there’s no need to work the kite up and down a lot to get going. The light wind drive is impressive, though the Spark does become quite a handful in terms of power once you get up towards 25 knots. Where some kites can really stretch their legs and be comfortable in the higher winds (such as the Pure which likes to get forward in the window), the Spark excels more towards the lower end of the spectrum. 

The turn is however playful and although forgiving can produce a nice pull. We had loads of fun with the grunty jumps and getting a good chunk of air time on the Spark. Although the Pure has an extra 15% of elasticity at the top of a boost, it’s more technical to achieve that performance. The lower aspect shape of the Spark is super easy and although you can’t squeeze as much height out of it, more riders will be going higher more quickly on it because it’s very easy to boost on it. Also, it actually produces a more engaging loop than the Pure, even though technically the Pure is the more high performance kite. The Pure’s differing performance comes from its higher aspect nature, which provides lots of lift but not so much drive around a turn. The absolute steep jumping and rangey performance of the Spark isn’t as good as the Pure, but it’s a different specimen. 

What you see is what you get with the Spark. It doesn’t require very adept handling and the power is plentiful. We enjoyed the tuned feel and balance between turn initiation speed and the way the kite then drives through a turn. You quickly gain the confidence to throw loops on landing or around a carve because of the constant feel.

 

2018 Gaastra Spark review

 

The Spark also holds onto some power when you sheet out, so when you’re really powered up and jumping over waves and negotiating your way around other kiters, we had to adapt our riding a bit to manage that. The flip-side is when you’re riding in its comfortable wind range, that constancy that it has can really smooth out your riding as the Spark isn’t suddenly on and then suddenly off with its power. 

In 14 – 20 knots the Spark is a real joy for fast, fun freeriding performance and offers loads of boost and hang-time in relatively light winds. The nimble and responsive turns (with feeling) will suit anyone from beginner up to progressive intermediates, especially if you live in a softer wind area. 

Cape Town is brutal for highlighting a kite’s top end limits and not all riders want a kite for Cape Town. The bonus is you can get nine-metre responsiveness and performance in what are really 11 metre weather conditions, and once you’ve got your sizing right, you’ll have lots of fun. 

In its perfect low- to mid-range, the Spark has a lovely constant pressure and differs to its higher aspect sibling, the Pure, that has more spikes of power when you sheet in at the bar. The Spark has more of a flowing turn and in 15 to 20 knots therefore offers a good mix of wave and freeriding. Step down a size and get on a seven metre nice and early. If you’re into waves or a smaller rider that enjoys a small kite, that’s great. 

 

SUMMARY: 

The Spark is a playful kite with good low end performance and intuitive response for throwing shapes in average conditions. The off-set of that is that it quickly becomes powerful as a nine metre and asks a lot of a rider in 25 knots, but once again from Gaastra it’s a really good looking kite, well balanced canopy and great differentiation between the two freeride kites we tested from them in these last two issues. In essence the Spark’s low aspect shapes offers simple access to progression, there’s no stalling and it’s a lot of fun in its correct wind range.  

 

KW LIKED: 

The Spark has a good and engaging feel about it. It’s not just a bland beginner kite. There’s a lot of life in it! 

 

KW WOULD CHANGE: 

To have more range in the higher winds we’d want the Spark to move a bit further forward in the window, but then its simple handling and low end power would change.

 

SPARK BALANCE POINTS: 

Build quality: 7.5

Full package: 7.5

Low end: 9

Top end: 6

Steering speed: 6

Turning circle: 5

Bar pressure: 6 

Water relaunch: 8.5

Drift: 7

Boost: 7

Hang-time: 8 

Unhooked: NA

Crossover: 7 

Ease of use: 8

 

SIZES: 17, 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 4m

 

WATCH THE SPARK IN ACTION

 

 

 

www.ga-kiteboarding.com  

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