I got my chance to try Airush's new "Varial" kite at Kanaha Beach Maui. The wind was inconsistent, moving around and shifting from 10 to 26 mph, perfect conditions for putting a kite to the test.
My first thought after launching the Varial was "holy crap, this has twice the power of my 9m Generator" that I just landed. It was good to be powered again but now I wanted to switch out my surf board for a kiteboard.
What I noticed is this kite flies really smoothly. It can eat up a 15mph gust. It turns smoothly too. The bar is a standard 1:1 ratio, so it has a light and direct feel. It flies predictably. I was skeptical that it would not fly as true as a C-shaped kite because there are pulleys on the leading edge's bridle. Usually pulleys can give a heavy feel, are prone to drifting or gaining unwanted momentum, and have a mind of their own, but this wasn’t the case with the Varial.
Somehow these pulleys work and work well. I could literally loop the Varial around the point of a wing tip. I could back-loop the kite and then front-loop it in mid air and still keep the kite around 45 degrees. (Most kites would nearly hit a wing tip on the water). More importantly, during the kite loop there is a constant steady pull...it won't yank you out of some maneuver.
To generate more speed you can pump the kite up and down like you would a traditional C-kite. But to really generate speed couple sheeting in and out like you would a bow kite with the pumping up and down of a traditional kite. I was able to stay afloat in 10 mph wind using this method.
There was plenty of depower. When the wind picked up over 25 mph I could hold my 160 lbs body down no problem. I could hold a proper stance too--I didn't ride like "the thinking man." Instead, I had confidence in the kite. When the wind picked up, I was ready to jump.
Let’s talk about jumping. The Varial is a blast. It is similar to jumping a bow kite: whip the kite up to 12 o’clock as fast as you can, while letting the bar out a little. Then while you are pushing back into the wind off of your heels, pull the bar in. You are flying or really, gliding. It is very stable. You’ll be able to hang out a while with the kite over your head. While you are way up there, take your time and look around. You’ll see beach goers stop and point at you. Enjoy!
Transition jumps near shore are fun. You can boost really high, hover over the shore break, watch people fear for your safety, bring your kite back towards the ocean, land without a splash and ride away-- the kite has enough range to not sink after landing a lofty transition. Really awesome.
Jumping unhooked really threw me off. After unhooking, I would bear off wind to gain speed and the kite would fall back deeper in the wind window as if it was back-stalling. But it was still pulling and the lines did not look like they were over-sheeted. So I edged against the kite and popped. Wow, hang on. The Varial has a lot more pop than my C-kite. There was so much glide in the kite, I had enough time to make a move or two and then get the bar back into my hips for a nice landing.
Let’s face it, I crashed a few times. So how does the kite re-launch? After bailing out of a few moves, when I popped my head out of the water and turned to face the kite, it was on its wingtip waiting for me to grab the bar and fly away. In all fairness , I was using my suicide leash. I didn’t try Airush’s new safety system where the two power lines on a four line kite move together and function like a fifth line when the bar is let go of. I convert all of my personal kites and all of my kites for teaching to five lines for safety. The new system is simpler than the five line bar and I heard it works well.
My overall impression of the Varial is what a fine job. While most companies cater to the masses by putting out kites designed for a person who has been riding for less than a year, Airush has consistently produced a line of kites for kiters. Thank you for designing a kite for people who ride every day. Sure beginners could use this kite, but to really appreciate this kite you need to have ridden many years in every condition. The Varial is designed for the connoisseur. If you find yourself riding until you are late for work, or late for dinner, or until it is too dark to see, this is the kite for you. This kite does everything so well it needs a rider who can appreciate how beautifully it flies.