I wrote this huge review of the wainman kite (smoke 9) just now and it took so long that it logged me out and I lost everything. SO i am going to rewrite but not too much. DOH!
About me: i am 27, riding for 5 years. Weigh 165 and am 5'11". I ride Rogue wave boards exclusively (surfboards, unstrapped, skim, twin tips). I have been riding only NAISH kites and have been on Raven II, III, Torch IV lately. I am a dedicated C rider, but have a 13.5 cult as well.
I am not a team rider or a shop owner and paid for the kites full price and direct from wainman hawaii. Not sure what pimping is (its when you have some stake in the company i think). I know that this is a glowing review, but i am trying to tell you how it is and I am not the kind of person who wants others to make the same mistakes he makes.
The kite is small. It feels like an 8 but pulls like a 9 - 11 m C. I do not like bow kite jumps. I like to be launched out of the water with a C feel. The smoke jumps like a C and not like a bow so that I did not have to adjust my timing. Kite loops are committed and powerful.
Winds were 14 knots day 1 and 18-25 on day 2 and 3. I was riding upwind with guys on 16s. The kite is very grunty so that I am not sure if i would want to take the smoke in more than 28 knots (that is the gypsy). I do not believe in 1 kite quivers.
I would say that the smoke is like a fat little friend who is always up for the next move or just as happy cruising. The kite is very grunty and super snappy. I feel totally connected when i am on it and know where it is.
My style of riding tries to be smooth and fun. I ride hooked in 90% of the time and am now able to do surface passes and raleys and unhooked fronts and backs.
the kite is built bomber and the detail is evident from the strut ends to the small tabs that are placed on the struts that you can fit the plastic bits that deflate the struts so that they are out of the way. the graphics are stunning, and the balls in the valves work great.
Launch: everybody wants to launch my kite for me. But i did a lot of self launches today. the kite rolls over right away so that you just pull it into the wind and then it launches. Landing: i tried to pull the top front line with the kite on the side of the window and the kite landed very obediently. Will that work in really high winds? I don't know. Then i would probably attache it to a post and walk up one line like a bow.
the first thing is that this kite feels tiny. It turns fast but it is not jumpy or twitchy. When you sheet out the kite flies to the edge of the window and settles onto the water when you sheet in you speed up and feel that this kite is GRUNTY. So that is why you can't rely on 1 kite for every condition. You can pull the trigger and snap a big floaty jump and it hovers and lets you down really slow. You do not have to be afraid of looping the kite because those can be as gentle or as hard as you want. I downloop the kite a lot when i ride. So the kite is forgiving but also unforgiving when you want that. You can carve really nice powered turns and transitions because the kite carries power through the turn not like a bow.
So ... its a very connected feel that feels very "full". I use the chicken loop with the donkey dick because i do not like to get unhooked after a big jump which the other loop has a tendency to do that. Hooking back in is a bit different than with my Naish smart loop. You have to guide the loop back in. That is becoming second nature soon, but it was jarring when i first went out with the non-dick loop and was unhooking constantly.
So i have a lot of fun with this kite as soon as i go. When i pop with the kite horizontal off a wave i have more time in the air than on my torch. There is "violence" in the loops but at the same time its a good violence, its not raw. Just push out and it goes from Bugs Bunny to Roger rabbit: ultra smooth. A beginner would be fine on this kite, except that there need to be better instructions (more on that later).
Sheeting this kite is key. It will fly backwards if you over sheet. While that is a nice surpise sometimes for me (when i am on a wave and am not watching) but you just have to trim it right.
Bottom line: this kite is a LOT of fun and makes me smile because i like small kites that turn fast and let me ride how i want. Land toeside, heelside blind, the kite is right there waiting for the next move telling you: "I am still here....let's go for the next trick". Its a very playful kite, that's grownup when you want it to be.
The bar is a great design. I like the use of balls everywhere on it. There is no adjustable stopper ball. I am not sure if this is necessary (you can adjust on the beach with alan key). I would say that i could see the stopper being 3 - 5 cm from the clam cleat. I can unspin the bar all the way at the cleat without losing control of the kite (although you get full depower depending on how you have sheeted the kite). I already talked about hooking in and out.
The depower line is covered in plastic which makes the sheeting action super smooth and easy on your hands. You do not get knuckle burn and there are no hard parts like on the Naish smart loop. I have to get used to the fact that the Chicken loop is not auto orienting
The release is ultra simple (it looks like one from flexifoil in some of the mags). I ride with mini 5th because i am just used to having extra spectra for a leash coming from the SHIFT system.
An adjustable stopper would be great...i am sure it will come in time. With a stopper, you need the mini 5th.
Throw is 1/2 of the cult. and a bit more than my torch. Bar pressure is less than my torch but my arms do not get tired. They do get tired on the Cult 13.5 when it gets windier and I am on it.
i have dealt exclusively with wainman hawaii. Sharon in billing and shipping, mark with product support (they are sending me a stopper ball), and Shawn for feedback. All are super professional and available. I get a lot of advice from Shawn and i really like how much heart he is putting into all this. Dealing with a small company has its perks. I have bought the boss and gypsy (they arrived today) so i am now fully committed.
forums get full of negative vibes (see the kevin thread). Is it useful? No.
These kites are about riding how you want and not forgetting that you are on the water to enjoy it, help your friends.
I own up to it...I get inspired by the way Lou rides and what he stands for. You are out there to express yourself and not to ride like everyone else.
I don't know him but i can see that he has been at the forefront of kiting and has stitched his own kites. I am not sure who designs the kites but you see a lot of intution, time and effort in the product. I just get a thrill from the way this kite performs. Is it marketing? maybe. But when you try the kite, you wonder....maybe its really like that. These guys know what they want from a kite and have spent the time testing and experimenting. The kite is totally customizable and thats what i like. Sure its pricey (but they are just starting up and have a small production run it seems). Its going to be hard to break into the market. But I think we have to support small start ups.
In many ways i also use the same rationale when i buy custom boards from Lee Brittain. I like to support people that are close to the product, that have craftsmanship and experience.
an online forum on wainman for owners (throw in a password with the kites so we can talk about what works and what does not). (i.e. what about a 5th line for when you ride alone in very high winds)
a better manual (especially for beginners) and a few schematics on set up so and what to do for which effect.
an adjustable stopper ball.
an auto orienting QR with swinging donkey dick (i am getting used to the way it is but you have to give me time since i have been on Naish for so long).
Thanks for reading this....I am not expecting you to buy a Wainman but everyone needs to try this kite for themselves and shops have to take a chance on demo models so that their clients can see it in action.
See you on the water!