Hey guys. I´ve been riding a 14m Apollo since December, which I bought specifically for airstyle progression, so hopefully this review will help anyone who´s unsure about getting one.
Little bit of background:
133 North Jaime twintip
Rode in 8kts - 25kts
Rode in both flat water lake and beach spot with 1m-2m waves
Coming from a 12m Switchblade
So, getting started: this kite is AWESOME. I bought it because I needed more hang time to advance my airstyle tricks, such as board passes, kickflips, etc, and this kite did not disappoint. It gives me at least a couple of extra seconds in the air compared to my 12m switchy. While I was already doing board passes and kickflips on it, they felt rushed and I landed a small percentage of them. With the Apollo, there´s just so much time in the air! Above 20 kts the jumps feel like they never end, and the tricks look and feel much better! I´ve even over-rotated a lot of my aerial 720s because I underestimated how long the jump would last. I´m pretty confident I have enough hang time on it to finally land the ever-elusive king deadman, but I haven´t tried it yet.
I generally ride the 14m Apollo pretty powered up, and this kite really pulls in higher winds. It´s definitely not something I´d recommend for people who haven´t got experience holding down a lot of power, but I´ve used this kite in 25 kts in flat water, and I feel like I still haven´t quite reached the limit. The trick is, in that much wind, this kite needs to be slowed down. If you can keep you board speed down to a drag, it´s amazing how far towards the edge of the window the kite will go, and it becomes docile. The moment you give it speed, though, it generates huge amounts of power, so speeding up before a trick can make for huge jumps that last forever and looooong slide tricks (nailed my first jesus walks thanks to this kite). On the other hand, there have also been moments when gusts have taken me into "warp speed" and I´ve had to raise the kite and pass under it in order to get it back under control. This happens sometimes after jumps or tricks that involve kite loops, so that makes it even more important to make sure your downwind area is absolutely clear before doing a trick in strong winds. Toby keeps telling me I should get a smaller board. I should probably listen...
Turning this kite is a pretty smooth experience. It´s not as slow as I expected it to be for it´s size and aspect ratio, but you do need to anticipate your commands a little and hold them a little longer. For jumps, it didn´t take me long to adjust to this new timing and once you do, the kite is very predictable overhead. For kite loops, you do have to pull hard and hold on, but it makes a very steady loop that generates a longer "surge" of extra power, as opposed to a strong "tug".
The range on this kite is maybe the most impressive part. I´ve gone out in 8 kts just to practice low kite loop tricks (like a double backroll with a kiteloop transition), and I´ve even played around with it unhooked in those conditions. I´ve also held it in 25 kts and felt like it could still handle a few more knots. In the lower limits, it feels a little slower to turn, but once I get a bit of speed on it I get to be the only guy with a parked kite going upwind while everyone else is working their kites like mad and doing long walks of shame. In the higher limit, it´s definitely not a comfortable ride, I need to really use my legs to keep the kite under control, but I get huge jump heights and unbelievable hang time for my troubles. Also, I was really surprised to find that, when I need to pull the depower strap, it really doesn´t affect the performance of the kite much. I hated having to depower my Switchblade because it completely changed the flight and control characteristics. The Apollo doesn´t seem to care much, and pulling in the depower strap on it just feels like you´re riding it fully powered in less wind.
One thing that really helps keep the kite under control in the higher wind limits is getting the right bar. Cabrinha sells bars with either a cleat or a pull-pull depower system. With the cleat, the depower throw (the length that you can push away your bar) is fixed. On the pull-pull bar, there´s a spring at the end of the depower throw that keeps your bar from going out of reach, but if you need to, you can push your bar against the spring, compressing it and getting the bar to go farther away from you. The result is that the pull-pull bar offers a lot more depower than the cleat. I´ve pushed into that spring plenty of times to help me keep the kite in control, and I consider it a must for riding really powered.
I´ve had no problem relaunching this kite in the water, but I´ve also never dropped it in really low winds. If it ever happens, I´ll come back and write about it.
I´m not sure how important this is to mention, but because it has such a big wing span, finding someone to help you launch it can be a bit of a hassle. I´ve found a lot of other kiters have trouble holding it up for me, and I avoid asking novices to help me launch. It really is just a matter of being used to the size and learning how to hold the kite on it side, but since this is the only LEI kite on the market with this AR, people stumble a bit. It´s a good idea to warn them of that and to do a dry run with them before trying to launch.
To sum it up, I got this kite specifically for airstyle and I couldn´t be happier. It´s stable in the air and turns smoothly. I think it has a really nice turn speed for its size and AR. It boosts high and the hang time is ridiculous. When it´s flying with speed, it generates a huge amount of power, but if you control your speed it flies off to the edge of the window and dumps all that power, so the range can be huge if you know how to take advantage of that. I´ve had plenty of kiters come ask me about it, because when you´re flying a 14m kite that looks like an 18m in the air while everyone else is flying their 9s or smaller, boy does it attract attention! This kite has opened up a wide range of possibilities for me, and it really feels like it´s going to be a few years before I´ve fully explored what it allows me to do.
Toby, I really think you should try a 16m! My guess is that it will give you just as much hang time as your current kite, if not more, and you will probably be able to hold it in much stronger winds than the Rebel, specially with the pull-pull bar (which means even bigger jumps and MORE hang time!
Hope this little review helps. Cheers!