Whether you're ripping waves apart, getting huge lofty jumps or just blasting around on flat water, the 2011 Rebel is a stylish 5-line all-terrain free-ride/wave machine that gives you an unmatched 'connected' feel and virtually limitless performance in all conditions. Famous for it's direct de-power, smooth and predictable turning - even when de-powered - and short bar stroke, this year makes no exceptions and goes further than ever to out-do the performance of previous years. Flutter-free wing-tips have helped greatly improve the smoothness and consistency of the Rebel's turning, while optimised canopy profiles, that are highly resistant to back-stalling, provide seamless power delivery that's ideal for surfing. Improved bar feel and depower in the small sizes mean even more comfort and accessible top-end drive so you can keep having fun, even when the wind gets nuclear. The loaded 5th line design provides the highest level of safety, as well as being responsible for the unique short de-power stroke and direct, lively feeling, a feeling which also owes thanks to its floating strut construction.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Over the last few years the North Rebel has established itself in the very top tier of all-round freeride kites, ticking the box of suitability for 99% of kitesurfers. What made it so good over past years, then? It had shed loads of depower on a relatively short throw, so the bar didn't run way up the line. It steered well when depowered and was quick enough for most and behaved very predictably at the same time. Safety was proven with the 5th Element bar, and both kite and bar were extremely well made and strong. Hard to improve on by the sounds of that... But improved on it they have. We've just said that we thought it was okay for their high-performance kite, the Vegas, to go without one pump so you can get its struts super-hard, but on their all-round kite, bought mainly by weekend warriors, it's nice to see that it has one pump. The Rebel 2011 is still a swept back hybrid-delta kite and beefed up with spot on build quality.
The bar system is beautifully engineered and, as it's the same system as on the Vegas, we won't repeat ourselves here, only to say that the relaunch isn't as quick and easy as on a four line kite. There's simply a technique to understand, but it's easy once you know how. The most surprising thing about the new Rebel is that it seems to have grown a bigger set of balls, with a heavier, more rugged feel at the bar. Rebels of the past, and indeed most kites in this user-friendly and popular all-round section of the market, have steering weighted towards the lighter end of the scale. In fact if you blind-folded the test team and gave them North's Vegas and Rebels to fly, on the standard setting the Vegas is in fact lighter at the bar. The Rebel has grown up into a studious but strong character The kind that's good at sports but still studies hard to go to university, while it's younger brother, the Vegas, is still trying to peer into the girl's shower room while smoking ciggies outside the window. Heavier feeling at the bar, the Rebel seems more meaty than before. If you're thinking of coming onto the Rebel after a particularly light feeling kite, you may initially feel as though you have too much power; you don't, it's just got more direct feeling and feedback at the bar. Beginners also tend to prefer 100% depower in their early stages. The Rebel retains some power which, when you get better and don't need 100% depower, becomes an asset, providing that incredibly smooth handling. There's no surging and the feeling at the bar is very predictable. You know exactly where the kite is and there's nothing sloppy, it's just very direct.
The steering is quick without being sillyfast and the kite has very respectable bottom and top-ends. There is absolutely no distortion to the canopy while in flight, moving swiftly and silently through the sky without any flapping. When you loop it it cuts through the air like a knife and the canopy looks taught, as if freshly ironed. No back stalling; just forward flight all the way. The loop isn't completely pivotal either and does have some drive through the turn. This kite isn't on-off in its power delivery and has a progressive build up of power. The depower throw on the kite is short, but there is a lot of range. You can get plenty of reaction in depower from the kite through small inputs on the bar, but that short depower length does give a very predictable hang-time, continued float and flight in jumps. Unhooked it performs adequately too. It's not going to behave exactly as a freestyle fanatic would want, but you can certainly knock out raleys, S-bends and blind landings, no problem. Plus it's definitely suited to riding in waves. The depower and smooth, quick turning mean you don't get yanked along the line and can position the kite accurately. The fact that the kite also steers very well while depowered means that when you come off your top turn you can rescue the kite quickly back up through the window as you go into your bottom turn. It's just a lot of fun.
People have always bought Rebels because they've been a no-brainer purchase. Well made, the kites do everything well. None of that has changed, but this year the Rebel is more manly and definitely geared up towards the more proactive intermediate and above bracket of riders. Yes, it's unusual for a kite of this ilk, aimed at the mass market of riders, to still operate on a five line system, but North are adamant it's the way forward, and who are we to argue against such a strong, safe, popular design?
The fact there's more under the bonnet now. The Rebel definitely wants to play with the big boys this year.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
Slightly slower relaunch than a lot of grab and pull four line systems.
SIZES: 14, 12, 11 10, 9, 8
This test is in issue #48