Before I begin, I think some rider background is good for reference:
I have been kiting for 3.5 years mostly in San Diego but also travel quite a bit to Hawaii, Caribbean and Mexico. I usually ride a full quiver of Gaastra Vision kites 8, 10, 12, 14 including the great light up-wind Phoenix II kites 18, 22, 26. I am 6' 1" weigh 215 lbs and ride Jimmy Lewis custom boards exclusively. I am a solid jumper, wave rider and safety is important to me.
As a new O.R. team rider, I have been lucky enough to have received one of the first 16 bow kites in so cal. My initial impression is that the 16 is stable fast and fun to ride. We normally have fairly light wind most of the year but recently I had the chance to ride this kite and make some interesting comparisons. In general the kite is keeping me upwind on a 161 board in light to med conditions when every one else is riding 16-20 meter "C" kites.
My first day on the kite, the wind was averaging 14 mph. After a short time riding the 16 O.R kite, I switched over to the Gaastra 18 Phoenix 2. The power was equal to the 18 Gaastra but the O.R kite had superior turning speed. I normally love the 18 Phoenix and it seemed very sluggish to me now compared to the 16 Bow. The Gaastra rider agreed.
I also switched over to a Cabrinna 16 Crossbow in the same conditions, the power seemed slightly less than the O.R bow kite and the turning was stiff and rough with heavier bar pressure compare to the 16 O.R Bow. This may account for the feeling that the Crossbow had less power.
On a second day I was riding in in steady evening winds of 13-15. I was well powered, riding my 147 Jimmy Lewis and could do anything I wanted with the kite, the jumps are lofty and easy to gain height by pulling in on the bar as you send it. Spinning the bar after back loops is a bit tricky and you have to be careful not to let the bar go up against the stopper to hard or you might engage the de-power mechanism of the kite. You could set the screw harder but then you loose the safety factor. I should mention that my bar is an early release without the lower stopper/upper stopper connection. Adding the connection kit should alleviate this issue.
On a third day I was riding in gusty storm conditions 15-25, the kite was smooth and very easy to control. I could easily ride waves comfortably dropping in from behind without the rapid acceleration you get from a traditional "C" kite. I experimented with rigging the front lines on different knots and found it's probably best to set up on the last or second to last knot and just sheet in the strap as much as you need to keep the bar pressure light and comfortably ride the gusts. There is a nice Velcro piece on the end of the strap that keeps it out of the way when you need to strap in a lot.
Overall the kite is amazing; it has great range on the upper end, not as much on the low end, (at least not at my weight and size). The kite looks incredible and is well made. I am excited to get on the 12 and 9 on my next trip to Namotu.
I will report more then.
La Jolla CA
Photo of John available here