Hi Dan,Dan-at-North wrote:All three are solid brands, and I don't think you'd go wrong with any of them, but they are fairly different from each other in their offerings, so I'd recommend you try them all if possible. I believe F-One has only one kite in its lineup, the delta shaped Bandit. Cabrinha does not make a delta kite like F-One, nor do they make a direct-connection (non-bridled) kite like North. They are focused on bow-shape (or similarly flat) type bridled designs. They also have a 3-strut hybrid kite akin to North's Neo. North has a delta shaped kite called the Evo (similar to the Bandit). We also have a bridled flat kite (which would be our most similar to most of Cabrinha's designs) called the Fuse. We also offer a direct-connection 5-line freeride kite called the Rebel, which is our best seller. Finally, North is the only one of those three brands with a direct connection "C" kite, the Vegas, but that is more for freestyle than freeride.
Quick answer for what you should try from North for all-around freeride: Rebel. It does everything that most freeriders want amazingly well, but more importantly it has the direct connection feeling, the positive bar feedback, that you cannot get with a bridled kite. It works great for beginners, is very forgiving for progressing intermediates, and has all the performance necessary to be a competition wave kite.
Longer answer: for straight-up freeride and waves I'd recommend the Rebel or Fuse. If you are doing some freeride and some unhooked and some waves, you may want to try the Evo or the Neo. The Vegas would be the best for unhooked freestyle and would work fairly well for freeride, but would not be the best choice for the waves. I'm not familiar enough with the other brands to recommend specific models.
I'm sure this over-simplification of the three brands has major holes, especially in the other brands' lineups. Please don't get angry if you love one of the other brands and I said something wrong. I just can't handle anger this morning. Simply correct or expand on what I've said.
Hope this helps somewhat, and remember, nothing anyone says on this forum will help as much as demoing the gear.
Are you going to have a Long Island, NY dealer soon?