Sorry, but this is a little long. I wanted to wait to get several sessions on my Cloud 17 before spouting off and posting this review. I know all of the arguments about why it’s not worth it to kite in light wind. Generally I agree, but I live in an area that has several months out of the year during which if you are not geared for light wind, you don’t get to ride. Over the years I have had so many big kites, both inflatable and foil, and I currently own the Cloud 17 and a Speed 3 21 meter, which has been my big gun until now. I’ll compare the Cloud to the Speed.
First of all let me say something about the awesome service from Greg of Boardriding Maui. He is very communicative and responsive to emails, and stayed in touch through the whole process. The kite was at my doorstep within 10 days of placing the order. And it had to come from Hong Kong! Very impressive. He is also just a really great guy, and pleasant to do business with. we need more people like him in the industry.
The Speed 3 21 probably has a slight edge over the Cloud 17 in just pure, raw, low end power, but the Cloud has now replaced it completely as my light wind go to kite because it is just a more fun and usable kite. It has a very light feel, and you can throw it around. It turns like a 12 or 13 meter depending upon which brand of kite you now use. The Speed 3 21 is more like driving a tractor trailer.
The Cloud is super easy to launch, and you can launch and land it anywhere you would launch any other inflatable. The Speed needs a big clean beach area, and becomes a complete nightmare if there are a lot of twigs or coarse brush in the launch.
I weigh 210 lbs (95 kg) and ride a Mako King (165 cm). Out on the water I find that on the Cloud 17 that I can get moving and hold my line at 10 mph and above. At 12 mph I can easily go upwind. And by 14 mph I am fairly powered. With the Speed 3, it’s about the same except that I can maybe get going at 8 or 9 mph, but at that low of a wind speed I am always fearful that a good lull might cause me to drop the kite into the water. Swimming that kite in could be your worst kitemare ever. Swimming in the Cloud is like swimming in any inflatable. Not fun... but not really a big deal. A much less stressful situation.
I have read others talking about a short throw on the bar, but I did not find that to be the case at all. This is a bit different kite, and you may need to experiment with your line settings a bit. If you don’t really understand the role played by altering the length difference between the front and back lines, maybe get a friend to help you out. That being said, finding the sweet spot is not really that hard. Once you do, it flies like any other kite.
Others have also mentioned the luffing or flapping of the leading part of the canopy when sheeted out. It is kind of like the sail on a boat in that respect. I find it very useful. I sheet out slowly until the canopy just starts to luff a little, and then sheet in slightly, and I know that I am trimmed optimally for going upwind. It works really well!
If you are trying to get out to some small surf during light winds, the Cloud is also your choice. The Speed 3 21 is sadly very awkward in the surf, but with the Cloud’s light weight and great turning ability you can keep it moving down the line. But I frankly don’t recommend chasing any really big surf in very light winds. It will get you eventually.
I have also had several other large inflatables (two 17’s and two 20’s). The Cloud’s combination of a large surface area unbroken by struts, wide tips, and super light weight make this the right combination for those of us who are trying to maximize the number of days out on the water.
So that you don’t have to ask, I have no affiliation with Boardriding Maui in any way. About Flysurfer, let me say this. They make amazing products, and those who dismiss then out of hand, are really missing the point. Look at the new Kronix. The Speed 3 21 has been unsurpassed for a long time, but frankly it is a kite that requires a special kind of aggressive, dominant, yet gentle finesse to fly well. It takes a while to develop those kind of skill levels. The Cloud 17 actually comes very close to matching it for raw power, yet still is a fun kite that anybody with basic skills can use to enjoy more time on the water. It probably will add 50 kiting days to my annual kiting calendar.
Oh yeah, the Clouds pack down to a very small, light package. For those of you who are tired of repairing valves, this kite has only one. I am saving my lunch money now for a full quiver for a travel kit.