My personal impressions of the Maui Cloud C2 17m and 12m kites:
I recently bought a Maui Cloud C2 17m. After trying it out the first day, I bought a 12 m also. The short version of this subjective review is: "The Maui Clouds are as described on the Boardriding Maui website." The long version follows (forewarning, I am verbose):
I weigh 190 pounds (86 kg). I use 3 different boards, a Mako King twin tip, a 5'7" x 19" thruster strapped surfboard and a 6'1" Cabrinha S-Quad strapless. I have only been kiting for 4 years and other kites I have or have used plenty include Naish Helixes 9 and 12, Naish Cult 13, RRD Visions 10.5 and 13.5, and Cabrinha Switchblade 16m. I like all those kites. I am no expert. I don't do tricks (though not long ago I thought going upwind and coming back to the same spot on the beach were tricks). My focus is primarily waves.
I lived with the 13.5 RRD vision as my "low wind kite" having been influenced by those who said that the fun factor in kiting really diminishes as wind drops and the need for bigger kites develops. But we have droughts of "good" wind and I have been kiting 50 days when I wish I were kiting 150 days a year. The 13.5 is what I used 90% of the time.
Re: the Cloud 17. I have flown it in what I thought was ridiculously low wind ranges. 7 to 10 mph with lulls to 5 and gusts to 11 or 12 mph. I never felt as though the kite would fall. At the lower wind levels I would walk toward the kite and the canopy stayed filled, the kite drifted back and the lines didn't slack as I would have expected with my other kites. With an average wind speed of 10mph (as listed by the web reading and by a friend with a meter on the beach) I was able to shoot upwind on a borrowed Spleen Door and hold ground on the Mako King. When the wind averaged 11 to 12mph I was able to easily go upwind on the King. The Cloud 17 can turn much more quickly than my 13.5 RRD vision at the same wind speed. The Cloud must weigh half as much and as such it feels very lively. I know that kites have flying sweet spots and it took me a while to learn that fact and remember it. But with a sailing background it was easy to find on the Cloud. The bar movement needed is much less than my other kites. From a sheeted in position with the canopy perfected filled, I sheet out until the canopy just begins to show a slight waviness in the luff (the area right behind the leading edge). I know my other kites all do this between the struts, but with dark colors and the presences of struts it is harder to see...but easy on the Cloud. Then I sheet in until that just goes away. That is the sweet spot for cruising and moving upwind. Really upwind beautifully. It is just an aerodynamically elegant position. It just feels right. If I recall, the bar must be out somewhere around 6 or 8 inches. But I go by looking at and feeling the kite. I never actually got the trailing edge (or any part of the canopy) to flutter. I rarely sheet all the way in but did find it useful in two situations: In the initial (only) downstroke when waterstarting in very low wind and when I wanted the kite to turn super fast on a transition or turn. Then it turns faster than any of my other kites. Even at these low wind speeds, when I purposely steered the board down a wave into the wind, it drifted and drifted without slack lines.
I had read everything about the Cloud I could before buying and imagined a bit of a learning curve, being described as different from others. Ironically, it turned out to be the opposite, the easiest I have flown. Relatively speaking the other kites feel like tanks. The Cloud is lively and maneuvers quickly...but it is not twitchy...and it holds it position well.
My amateur analysis is this: A key factor is inertia. With very low weight it has very low inertia. As such, it takes much less input and time for it to go from standstill to turning, to moving forward, to drifting and then to stopping...it doesn't overshoot the mark.....you stop the input....it stops the intended movement much faster. It is like a superlight carbon fiber mountain bike compared to a fat tire steel beach cruiser with kickstand and fenders. To get this light weight...everything on the kite seems to be there to relate to flying...not to dragging the kite on asphalt (no dense plastic bumpers. The leading edge material seems to be what is needed to hold shape (along with the amazing bridle) and to hold inflation pressure....not to hold it down in the beach and drag it across concrete. Obviously, eliminating the struts (and all the associated paraphernalia and potential failure points) removed the most weight. Ironically, beyond the weight loss, this is a great advantage to me. I can see the whole canopy well and trim the kite more accurately and more immediately. And it drifts like no other kite I have flown...so for waves this is perfect. High or low wind the canopy stays perfectly aerodynamically filled. Perhaps struts are also an aerodynamic negative making turbulent flow by creating irregular, non-smooth surfaces under and even on the top of the canopy? I don't know.
I have been waiting for the wind to drop to fly the 12m. I couldn’t wait. It was 18 to 20 mph with plenty of high winds at 25 to 26 mph. The 12 meter Cloud is pretty equivalent to my 13.5 RRD Vision. I never needed to use the trim strap to “depower”. The 18 inches or so range of motion of the bar is more than enough to very de-power the kite. The trim strap system has been rendered redundant. Wind at 25mph and bar out...then I could create a little flutter, like a sail, and ride out the squall.
My impression is that the Clouds like to be flown with finesse. They can dance in the any wind, low, medium or high. They dance to input, not on their own. They move smoothly like silk over a woman’s thigh. Fortunately, they fly in such a quickly responsive manner to input, that it takes no time to learn to finesse the kite.
For me, having a 17 meter kite that I like flying more than my 13.5 or 10.5 kites means now more than doubling my kiting days. We have so many 10 to 15 mph days, it is now my "go to" and most used kite. That has really been the first major change in this sport for me since I started. I know I need a better, but fun, light wind board so I am awaiting the Boardriding Maui Paipo board to be back in stock to see if I can add significantly more fun days. Some of this review is objective and no doubt a lot of it subjective, but it is because I am giddy and doing a lot more kiting and a having lot more fun kiting.