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I'm a beginner and considering the LF Solo single strut kite. It's touted as being very novice-friendly for a number of reasons, relaunch, where it sits in the window, etc.
Anyone have experience with this kite and what do you think?
I'm not familiar with this kite but I am a big fan of 'fly before you buy'. Even though you're new, you'll get a sense of how a kite flies by, well, flying it.
Try as many kites as possible before you purchase your own gear. Even if you just demo them on land somewhere, you'll get a sense of the stability, turning speed, safety system, bar setup, etc.
There's more to a kitesurfing kite than just the kite. There are several kites I would fly, but I really don't prefer the bar and/or safety system. As you get more advanced you can mix and match the kite and bar, but I don't recommend that as a beginner. Point is, check the whole package, not just the kite alone.
My .2 cents...
My 1 cent instead:
When you learn, you will invariably drop the kite and be really brutal with it. I chose to buy 2x kites when i started out first season, a 12 Screamer and a 15 LF Envy for lighter days. Together they cost me $800 bucks, with bar and lines. Considering how much beating the 12 took, I'm shocked i was able to sell them at the end of the season for same $800 bucks on eBay. Then I demo-ed a 2014 Switchblade and I was damn sold and I bought it. But you will learn to "feel" the kite once you fly a couple as windmuch said. I preferred the slow turning kites, yeah they're "fat" but you will be thankful it's not bouncing from left to right of the wind window all day making a mess of you. I really really loved the 15 Envy, nice stable slow and took me really slow in light winds so I can get my pointers aligned in my head. It's not a super solidly built kite, more of a mid of the line. But as a beginner it was amazingly forgiving to me.
Analogy: when you learn to drive, you don't wanna go out buy a Benz or BMW. Also stay out of latest model year kites. They do cost an arm and a leg and lose value after first season. Ideally get a 2-3 year old kite. Don't go way old, the kites improved every year, dramatically. Also stick to known brands that you see all day at the beach :D
Go on kiteboarder magazine, they do a lot of reviews on all gear. Rank them by bar pressure, upwind ability etc. http://www.sbckiteboard.com/2014-kite-reviews
+ 1 Advise above about demoing and buying used gear.
To your specific question - while I have not flown the no-strut or one-strut kites, from what I've read in reviews - the fewer struts make these kites harder to relaunch. This would probably be the best reason *not* to get one as a beginner, because as a beginner you are going to 1) be a bit intimidated by high-wind days so might prefer the lighter/threshold-wind days, and 2) want to go all-the-time so will attempt to go out on the days when there isn't really enough wind.
As a beginner you will be likely getting your kite wet/relaunching most sessions, which in enough wind is relatively easy. However, in lighter conditions, the kite might backstall, and then start to lay flat back on the water, or just sorta taco on the edge of the window, or something else ... which are all annoying! The best way to maintain the structure of the kite on the water seems to be structure in the form of struts, so less struts = more surface area sticking to the water.
There have been *huge* advances in strutless designs (BRM Cloud!), but in general you will probably spend less time on the beach sorting out your lines if you have a more conventional 3+ strut kite.
BRM Cloud is an amazing kite. I am never going back. But it is not a good beginner kite. The turning speed alone would make it dangerous for a beginner.
I definitely agree with the advice to buy a used 3+ strut kite from the last 2 - 3 years. I would also suggest getting a do it all kind of kite. As a beginner you will be hard on your kites, so used makes more sense. By the time they wear out, you will have a much better idea about which aspects of the sport excite you the most, which will guide your next kite purchase.
I've flown the new Solo and it's not a bad kite, but I'll just quote the LF representative to make my point...
"Some long term LF riders said while a good kite, they wouldn't trade their ENVY's for it, which was good to hear, as it was not designed to replace or displace the ENVY."
The Solo is a "travel" specific kite. It comes in a small, lightweight stuffsack with a drawstring, not a backpack like all of their other kites (and most other brands). It also does not come with a control bar or a pump (both are sold separately). The reason is this kite is made to be light and packable (and to be sold that way), but still offer good all-around performance. It also makes a good light wind kite due to the reduced weight of the kite having only one strut. Some are saying it's good for the surf too.
http://liquidforcekites.com/2014_LIQUID ... _STORY.pdf
http://www.thekiteboarder.com/2014/03/l ... echnology/
I can say from experience that the kite you should be looking at from Liquid Force is the Envy. I've been flying the Envy for two seasons now and it is such a fun kite to fly. It's a a simple 3-strut design that's designed as a "do-it-all" kite. I love it for surfing and strapless riding, but jumping/freestyle is just as awesome. The Envy is used by professional and advanced riders, but the kite is also used for schooling beginners due to it's easy handling and relaunch. It's a kite that you can almost not grow out of if you like to do different disciplines in kiting (i.e. surf, freestyle, freeride, wake). If you find yourself wanting to focus on a specific type of kiting (or for traveling), then that will be the time to think about getting a kite tailored to that application. For now you'll want an all-around type kite that will allow you the widest range of use and allow you to best discover what type of kiting you'll want to focus on as you get better.
I agree with the other's that demo'ing is a good thing, but as a beginner you don't have a "point of reference" established yet to what you like or expect from your kite to really give you the benefit from demo'ing. You're better off just getting something to start with and then build up your skills. Once your more proficient, that will be the time when demo'ing can really pay off.
All of the kite brands supported within the Bay area are all top-notch. Almost all brands have a kite that's in the same class as LF's Envy, so it may serve you well to look around, but Liquid Force has come a long way over the years and imo their current kites are some of their best yet, so you can't go wrong with LF.
I'm currently flying LF, North, and Airush kites. Love them all!
What did you learn on? Still taking lessons? Where do you kite? What do you want to do when you grow up?
Benicia Kite and Paddle Sports
4562 East 2nd Street, Unit J & K
Benicia, CA 94510
Thanks for the thoughtful replies .
I'll look for a kite with at least three struts and a year or two old. As a windsurfer I'm prone to oversheeting a kite, any kites out there that are less sensitive to this?
One kite that has also somehow caught my eye is the Caution Spitefire. I guess I like the short more tangle-free bridal lines and reported bomber toughness. They say it's good for beginners too but I'd like to hear from independent sources. Or, maybe a good used RPM?
My goal is to be comfortable and competent, happy to simply stay upwind and mow the lawn. If I get there I'll think about expanding, but for now that's my mission.
Lots of good kites out there. Caution Spitfire would suit you nicely. Like all Caution kites it is a front line flier, so hard to oversheet. Bar pressure is just right. I liked it better than the RPM.
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