Reviews - Wipika VARC AirBlast 11.8

Wipika VARC AirBlast 11.8 (Jeff Quick)




First of all, this kite is only slightly bigger than my 15.5 AR5, but with a higher AR, and 7 Battens. It is built MUCH sturdier, and has a slippery clear coating over the battens and leading edge (which are now colored, not white), and actually looks really nice. The battens/leading edge valves are BIGGER, with no stopper balls, allowing WAY easier inflation/deflation, and easy pinching of the valve to put the cap on...this made inflation faster and easier for me. The battens themselves are slightly bigger than the 15.5 AR5, but the leading edge is about the same size, though doesnt taper smaller as much as the AR5 does. There is now the reactive bridle to deal with however, and it did have a few minor tangles, which I got out in under 30 seconds, so no problems here.



Wind was about 14-18 MPH. When the kite got into the air, I was immediately impressed, and though it felt like there wasn't as much grunt, I was still getting pulled around like there was...its a totally different type of pull and hard to describe. My first run out into the water is when I realized this kite IS THE FUTURE of kiting. It felt as if there wasn't as much pull, yet I was going faster than I ever have in those conditions. If I wanted to point more upwind, I could just aim the board higher, and the kite would let me...I've never pointed so high. This new type of pull literally made me feel one or two levels above my regular ability, and I was pulling off all my regular moves with the smoothest style ever! The time came for a few jumps, and it was the smoothest glide feeling ever, and easily higher than normal...This kite really is the new style of kiteboarding. With the reactive bridling system, the kite was turning with almost no effort, which is good for such a large kite (I use a modified 28" longhorn bar). This took one run to get used to, and after this first run, I bonded with with kite instantly...WHAT A RIDE!!! This is the kite I've been waiting for!


Overall Impression:

What a breakthrough in kite design! You never would think it could get this good. I could still use my homebuilt setup bar/line combo on this kite. the kite also looks better built, looks better in the air,
and looks like a ribbon due to its higher AR. The turning is FAST for such a large kite, requiring 1/4 the turning effort of the AR5. There are a few things to add though (slightly bad points): The bottom end of riding was not any lower, and 'may' be a slightly higher (more testing is needed)... I think 14 MPH of wind or more is the call here...with my 15.5, I could still ride in a steady 12 MPH, by backing the kite up beyond stock, beyond fully sheeted in (to a point of course). I tried doing this with the Airblast, and it just didnt work (it stalled in mid air requiring quick adjustment)...the wind died to about a steady 12 and I was having a hard time staying upwind (litewave dave 157cm custom). I eventually ended up downwind when the wind dropped, lulling out around 10 MPH, with gusts to 12-13 MPH, but this is to be expected. I do think this kite has a higher upper wind range than the 15.5 the kite gets to the window very fast.

The wind did die for a brief second (towards the end of the day) to NOTHING and the kite fell out of the sky onto the water, landing directly on its leading edge...what a perfect time to try the backwards relaunch!!! I tried, but no luck...I only pulled in about 1 meter of line on one side, and I could see that the kite wanted to lift off backwards, but since my leader lines on my current bar are only about a meter or so, I was having to pull on Q line directly with my fingers... not very comfortable, especially in 58 degree water...then something wierd happened... the kite fell backwards...with the leading edge facing me, kite laying on its back. No way out of that one that I could find. I had to swim to the kite and drag it to the beach.

The wind came back up again and I reset up the kite and went for 2 more tacks, the last being a total downwinder...the wind died to about 8 MPH....but then again, thats what the 16.4 (22.3 total area) Wipika Airblast is for!!! And this new design should allow all that power with maximum upwind/jumping ability, especially after flying the 11.8!

After flying my 11.8 a few more times, I've realized, this kite really is a very high performance kite. But with this high performance, there is a trade off in convenience, atleast in this case.

My first two sessions with this kite were flawless, bringing me to a new level of kiteboarding. However, the next two, were totally frustrating.

As it turns out, this kite still needs wind to really fly effectively. Due to its higher AR, the kite doesn't fly very well in lighter 'puffy' wind, and sometimes wants to stall, or even worse, fly backwards! Personally, I need a steady 14+ MPH of wind to ride solidly, with upwind ability on my 157cm Wake N Style (Steady 12+ for my 15.5 Naish when I sheet it in beyond stock to the sweet spot). This is because the 11.8 flies farther forward into the window, and gets there much faster than any of the older style inflateables. However, the pull has a totally different feel to it, and is definitely TWICE as fun!!! Also, with the kite flying this much more forward in the window, the upwind angles achieved are damn near unbelieveable (esp. on land, maybe 45 degrees!!!)

Also, the battens need to be pumped up very hard, especially the battens closer to the tips. If not, the kite will fly fine at first, but once under load, the tips will cup (similar to a foil while braking) and performance will diminish tremendously...After I pumped them up tighter, they did not do this, and the kite flew TOTALLY different and MUCH better. Keep them inflated tight, but be careful not to blow them out.

Securing the kite on the beach is another pain. Its ineffective to put sand on top to weight it down (and could damage the kite). Instead, you have to pile sand up BEHIND the kite or put your board on the leading edge behind the kite to keep it from sliding down the beach. (My 15.5 Naish can just sit there with NOTHING on it, even in strong winds.) If the 11.8 does get unsecured, it will slide down the beach until it hits something. All of this also makes it hard to self land the wants to slide down the beach once you land it (unlike the Naish).

Also, the bridles can be a pain too. Most of the time, they DO get tangled, but its usually not an issue to get them untangled (maybe 30 seconds). However, I did experience one time where the bridle got
seriously twisted (due to the wing tip flapping during an assisted launch) and this twist steered the kite back into the ground. Luckily it didnt get enough momentum to hit hard and I had the assistant catch
it almost instantly. Getting this twist out required the removal of all lines and then an untangle session, eating up about 5 minutes.

Besides these negative points, the kite is 100X worth it! The feel is MUCH more user oriented, and instead of fighting the kite to hold your line, the kite wants to pull you where you want to go. I would say the increase in performace from the older inflateables, is equivalent to the performance increase one feels coming from older soft foils to inflateables...a night and day difference. With this kite, the jumps are loftier, a bit higher, and not as jerky. They do require getting used to the timing though. But once you get used to this, you are riding at the next level...and having twice as much fun!

This kite rocks!



Pictures from Nicolas Theopold (South Africa)