Sat. I had about 2 hrs on the 16 X3.
Wind description: Other folks my size were mostly on 16s, one guy on a 19.5 Gaastra. I was slightly underpowered at times but I'd say that for 90 minutes out of the 120 I was powered ok. I was on an Airush 136 board (pretty much the smallest board on the beach). I'm 180lbs. Henri was on a 12m X2, 136 Airush and had to walk a few times but could generally stay upwind (he's about 170 lbs.).
Range: The first thing I noticed was the range. When I was in the power loop, the kite became super-powerful where I actually had to get out and push the bar to keep an edge. But when the bar was all the way forward, the kite was very under-powered. This is pretty amazing because I think it will allow using this kite in lower winds than the X2 16 yet have a more "comfortable" gust control because when the bar is forward, the kite is at 30% power. Very nice. Overall, the bottom-end is improved from the 16 X2. Top-end is hard to say because it didn't really get there.
Steering: A bit less back-line tension than the 16 X2 (I'd like to see it even lighter). Steering was certainly easier and a bit faster. Overall, the steering was very similar to that of the 14 X2. A noticeable improvement.
Jumping: Pop is incredible. I felt (and was confirmed by some folks later) that I jumped significantly higher than everyone else. Even the 19.5 guy (who was using a larger board as well - probably a 150-160). I was very impressed by the hangtime as well. The kite seems very disciplined in the air and kinda waits for you when you're in the air. Landings are very smooth with very little spray. I managed to pull my first no-footer (both feet) yesterday. Landed one out of 30 attempts
But the point is that the X3 made it very comfortable to try anything in the air. There was another guy on a 15.7 Mach One who was doing one-footers but was getting 6ft at most. The 16X3 was taking me to 15ft easily.
Upwind: when I launched the kite, the kite went to zenith and then above and then BEHIND my head. At first I freaked. But then realized that it just sits there and wait for me like it's hung in the sky. Maybe it was a 20-second gust. But it felt like it simply sits higher in the window. Almost like an F-ARC. Needless to say, upwind was a breeze on it. It rides very high in the window when the bar is away from you. Bringing the bar in pushed the kite and stabilizes it at about 5 degrees lower in the window with more static power (proved great in the tiny waves we had). By the way, the kite is very resistant to backing up and folding in. Never happened, even when the wind got lighter.
Overall stability: The kite felt very comfortable from the get-go, so I tried a bunch of new tricks yesterday. Needless to say, I made more flying mistakes than I could count. Yet, the kite never even showed signs of Hindenbergin' on me. In fact, several times I was sure it will and when my head popped out of the water the kite was solidly above the water with surprising tension in the lines. I did several trans. jumps which required to bring the kite back to the power via the bottom portion of the window (fake-kite-loop type of thing) and the kite turned very quickly and smoothly without the fluttering noise which sometimes occurs on the X2 when I turn it very sharply.
Finish and quality: I found the kite to be very stiff on the beach (which is why I believe there is an incredible top-end potential with it). Stiffer than anything else I've seen. The proprietary (actually, 2003 North kites have this as well, but most bars on the market still use 4 loops) pig-tail deal has its safety advantages for the typical dumb-ass who occasionally connects a center line to the rear connection points (I hate to admit it but I've had my moments of dumb-ass startdome) - I hope people will use it and not convert. Although it seemed as if conversion takes less than 30 seconds using the existing pigtail. The pump-leash is a great touch and the new pumps with the larger diameter spout (?) make inflation much easier. The leading edge bladder and struts are very thin. Feels like the size on the 12 X2 (not confirmed). The bag looks great in the shop, but is too much like last-years bag (to be fair to Naish, '02 bag has 1 strap, 03 bag has two straps, a zipper pocket, and a larger diameter) but I still don't really like it. A long zipper throughout the entire length og the "condom: would have been much better. The kite, though, having thinner struts allows for easier entry into the bag without having to deflate the center strut (at least this was addressed along with the zippered pocket for my darn keys).
Conclusion: Well, I love the kite and find it to be a definite improvement over last year. With it's improved pop, longer hangtime, and much greater range and stability, I find upgrading my quiver a go. No negatives really (well, the graphics could be better
. Henri used the kite for about 20 minutes - maybe he will add to this.
We are hoping to get more winds today, so I'll try to write more details about the top-end, and put more focus on wave-riding if we get anything above 5 ft (highly doubt it).
Let me know if there are any questions to stuff I didn't cover.
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