So I guess that I will also throw my two cents worth in on the improvements of the Union III... Just to preface, I am a local Hood River Team rider for Airush (www.airush.com
) and 2nd Wind Sports (www.2ndwind-sports.com
). I started kiting in 2000 and worked for a few years back in 2007-2009 on Maui for Naish doing mostly bar design. Pretty much have ridden the Torch and Razor as my personal kites, until recently moving to Union in 2016. At some point the old knees started complaining heavily. I mostly ride a Livewire with boots or a strapless surfboard. The attached pictures were taken on the new Apex. Recently I have picked up a foil as well.
Okay, so I believe that the proof is in the ride and am always skeptical until I get to ride it and make my own impression. If you ever get to Hood River, find me and/or Pepi at 2nd Wind Sports and we will make sure you get a go at these kites. I am going to provide my impressions in the framework as the differences between the 2017 Union and 2018 Union III... One thing that is similar is the load frame and overall build quality. Over the last seven years Airush products have been slowly evolving and build quality has been no exception. My local nickname in Hood River is "Bam Bam", and my Airush kites have definitely lived through serious punishment.
The Union III definitely has a more compact feel and look in the sky... even though the aspect ratio is actually higher. Initially I thought the new 9m was a 8m while I was pumping it up and checking it out on the beach. The slightly more square wingtips really do have an effect that I noticed when coming down from larger jumps. The Union III is significantly softer on re-entry. This softer feeling on landing was noticeable both hooked and unhooked, and my aging body really does appreciate this attribute.
Another positive difference was that over sheeting no longer results in the annoying tip folding/back stalling that was prevalent in the larger sizes of the 2017 Union. The Union III flies positively both under and over sheeted. This really makes the Union III work better in underpowered conditions where you want to unhook. The 2017 would start back sliding out of the sky in light conditions the moment you unhooked and went for a trick. The Union III also tends to fly slightly further forward towards the wind window, and this in conjunction with the higher aspect ratio and fuller wing tips also improved the kite for foiling by keeping it stable in its position in the wind window.
I really feel a solid connection to the Union III through the bar. The bar pressure does not fluctuate as much the 2017 Union, and the kite remains positive during turns/looping and allows me to be able to keep track of it in the sky. Bars are another topic I could spend a lot of time on. Just know that I really enjoy the Pastor Bar and that the new Core Cleat bar is right there as well. I made sure to ride all of the sizes that Airush brought to the Hood River Demo (7m, 9m, 10m, and 12m), and was pleasantly surprised at how similar all of the flying attributes stayed throughout the range. I connected with this kite so well that I made sure that the 7m and 10m did not leave, and are now safely tucked away in my garage.
In the weeks after getting these kites, my riding time exploded from the days I have been on the water over the last four summers. I can unequivocally link this to these new kites. Yes, they are still the Union and fly similarly to a lot of other really good three strut kites from other brands... but Airush have produced a top notch four line kite that fly's smoothly and predictably for any level kite boarder, while giving the more experienced rider access to the performance those young kids are getting out of the full bore competition five line c-kites. I am keeping these Unions III's around for sure... They make me feel more like the rider I was ten years ago...
Hmmm, so people are probably wondering if there areas for improvement... I would advise people to be aware of the long bridles. Although they are shorter than the 2017, the Union III gets its range from a relatively long bridle and it can become wrapped if the kite is crashed with excessive line slack. The Union III also prefers to be well inflated, and can buckle under high loads if under inflated. In the end I hope people get out and try the Union III's, but more importantly I hope people are getting out and finding gear that keeps them out riding happily and supporting the industry as a whole.
Thanks... and, kite on... Jon