I'm close to the WindWing store in Hood River so was able to take advantage of the $30 demo on the 12M Rapture. I'm still a bit of a newbie to the sport after a year, but have started to get the hang of it and feeling much more comfortable in the multitude of conditions that the Columbia Gorge throws at you. I was looking for a kite that had the safety side figured out and happened upon the Rapture. What I found was a kite that was far beyond my expectations in terms of advancements but at the same time could be the most simplistic kite to date... at least in terms of the bells and whistles many of the other kites come with (and many of these have nothing to do with safety). So with that in mind I had to try this kite out for myself. Of course the day I picked to test this kite out, the sandbar in Hood River turned into freakshow... the worst conditions I have ridden in by far as some even reported to me later they were gaging 0-30mph conditions.
Pulling the kite out of the bag (sweet backpack by the way!) you will notice this kite brings new meaning to the word bombproof. It really makes you take notice how cheap most of the other kites look and feel. This relieved my worries about what WindWing was all about, as the kite and technology is so new that very little has been written up on them yet, but I'm betting this will change soon. The kite takes very little time to pump up, especially with just 5 struts, and I'm amazed how quickly the LE of the kite rigidly forms into shape - as if hates being folded up in the bag.
The wind gusts were proving to be a real pain for others trying to launch and land, so I was a little anxious to put a kite up in the air, but it was no problem whatsoever...I just sheeted 60-70% of the power by pushing the bar out and the kite slid back into the window waiting for me to get to my board (132 Slingshot SX).
I set out into wind and gusts anywhere between 10 - 25+ mph with a handful of other kiters flying 9 & 10M kites for the most part (many of whom were getting teabagged under the wind conditions and heading for shore to call it a day). The kite is smooth in the window and fast for having the appearance of mid-aspect kite....I never felt 'yanked' by the kite, in good part due to the amount of depower I had available and it would seem the kites ability to absorb gusts. I rode for about an hour and half in these conditions and for the most part rode one handed! This, even when I needed to sine the kite during a few lulls and ride through some serious chop! Since I've only ridden one handed twice before, I was amazed at how easy it was with this bar...much more natural than two handed and much more fun. - if a gust hit I just sheeted it out a bit with one hand and stayed in position.
Staying upwind was far easier than other kites I have tried, including the Naish Torch, but to be objective I didn't get a chance to try out the kite in more consistant wind conditions...I can honestly say that I gained more ground upwind than I have on any other previous occasion with any other kite and it wasn't much effort.
As for relaunching, I started kiting on Cabrinha Nitros and the Recon system (a high aspect kite), where pulling an outside line would release the batte helping the kite catch wind, then taxi to the edge of the window and pull up into the air. Like the Recon, the Rapture requires a little bit of technique, although I would say a bit less than the Recon, but this was my impression after only 5 relaunch tests or so.
Because of the shape of the kite combined with the 80%+ depower through the bar, you can safely reverse launch the kite once you get the technique down...meaning you can reverse launch in high wind safely, where other kites would boost you into the cosmos. To reverse launch you pull both back lines down (as opposed to over your head) and the kite will 'hover' over the water. With a slight pull to one side of the bar or the other the kite will flip up while in the air and head skyword straight up at the neutral zone. While this is all happening you want to be sheeting the bar out to dump the boosting power. I learned this lesson the hardway by not sheeting out and my line snapped. Like the Recon system you still get the hard pull downwind and downward by the kite when it hits the water, leading edge away from you. This can cause some anxiety under serious wind conditions, especially when you have lost your board and can't put some leverage in between you and the kite...but this is also true of all kites that land this way. Anyway, from a first impression I liked the ease and simplicity of this system better, plus the 5th line system has its own set of issues - especially in surf or if the kite flips on itself. Another upside of the reverse launch (not that I've tried this), is how easy a self launch on the beach should be - but again, just remember to sheet out.
As for relaunching the traditional 4 line method, I found that if the kite came down in the edge of the window it may be easier to just let it complete its taxi and come up on it's wingtip...the couple of times I tried this it was extremely easy to do as the kite holds its shape so well it just turned up on its side automatically as it headed toward the edge of the window.
Jumping: I didn't make much of an effort to try jumping with the kite as it was a nuking and I still fear death to a some degree, so others will have to speak to this experience with a Rapture.
I would say the main trick of getting used to this kite (at least for a newbie) is ridding yourself of the tendency to hold onto the bar for dear life when you have an oh $&*#)#&*) moment...just jam the bar all the way out and you should find yourself breathing normally again. For me, the ability to depower a kite 80%+ is the main selling factor for this kite, especially here in the Gorge where a quick change in wind speed or direction can catch you off guard. I really like the relaunch system as it is so simple, it truly isn't believable until you try it. As I have no experience with this kite in the surf, it would be great to hear someone else speak to how it relaunches and handles...other than that, I have to give my compliments to WindWing for taking a different road in tackling the safety factor while not sacrificing performance or quality in the process.