Throw It Down! – AIRUSH UNION v4 10m Review
This test first appeared in KW #101 in September 2019
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
We’ve ridden the Union a lot over the years and always look forward to sessions on it – particularly windy jumping days – because in a market where there seems to be quite a lot of similarity, this is something different.
Generally the Union has suited a good freeride / freestyle rider who can extract and manage all the power it has to offer, but at the same time, the juicy spikes in power are also an uncomplicated way of getting going for an intermediate to enjoy an engaging ride. After all – you’re not at the office and you should feel like you’re engaging in the elements!
All the controls are obvious. You don’t have to move the kite up and down a lot or wonder where it is. Firm, functional and feisty enough to feel alive. Of course it’s super safe, poised and well behaved with bags of depower, but if the wind’s on, the Union’s ready to deliver an exciting session. Great power, good range and it jumps really well. This year you don’t need to have perfect handling to get the best out of it and there are no stalling issues.
The Union ideally suits a rider who wants to do more than just get good WOO scores and do board-offs (though you can do that). Crossing the boundary from freeride into freestye, the Union has more explosive jumping performance than a lot of freeride kites and pushes hard into the window. Lots of forward drive also means that it’s good for throwing unhooked tricks – a domain that many freeride kites aren’t ideal for. You can unhook on most kites now to some extent, but the Union’s drive and stability mean it doesn’t wander off or just power you up too much when you’re rotating.
One of our favourite traits of the Union is its locked position. Once you have it set you feel very secure about where it is, whether you’re boosting and rotating, reaching down for a grab or board-off, or parking and powering across the ocean. However, it’s not stubbornly locked in and offers really rewarding kiteloops – the engine’s well oiled and slips into gear when you ask it to with conviction.
Once you initiate a turn the Union moves quickly. Once again you feel the locked in positivity as it turns in and drives round. As there is so much power and connection in the sheeting range, there are occasional times when you’ll need to sheet out a bit on a super aggressive loop to help the Union drive upwards, but this is a kite that can reward high level riders. The Union looks sporty and fairly high-aspect, but not Edge / Rebel / XR high-aspect and the wing-tips are a good shape for helping initiate steering input. The Union takes a wider circumference than the more wave / hybrid kites, like the Bandits of the last couple of seasons, for example. It’s not the diet / no sugar version of kite looping.
If you combine this kite with a quick board you can really crank hard as it likes to drive into the wind – it’s one of the most positive, forward driving three strut hybrids out there. We’ve highly praised the Core GTS for its boosty / loop performance, but it’s too butch at the bar for lots of unhooking. The Union will suit a lot of riders because it loops and jumps very well but is also very manageable for unhooked freestyle.
If you’ve done a couple of seasons on a big air kite and are looking to maintain boosting performance but also step your riding on to include a bit more unhooked freestyle, the Union is a really good choice. The sweet spot is a bit smaller with less lift from just sheeting in with the kite overhead, but once you’re dialled in you’ll get massive jumps with lots of stability and control. Water relaunch can sometimes require just a little more technique at the bar, but it’s no problem at all (it’s not a super delta shape that relaunches itself if you just look at it, basically).
Once again Airush’s load frame technology adds strength to the canopy cloth in a unique way. Lay the kite out and you’ll see all the criss-cross threads designed to take big impacts. As on the Ultra, the Airush bar is very clean and plenty rugged enough to last for several hard-riding seasons.
Step by step, year by year, Airush have carefully developed the Union to keep it focused on fun twin-tip riding. The Union sits in between the more high aspect pure big air kites and the more hybrid three strut all-rounders to deliver a uniquely thrilling experience. Highlights are lots of low end grunt but a quick abilty to shut all the power off, too, so you can wave ride well with it, but that’s not its best trait.
The option of easily going huge without having to put all your eggs into a pure high aspect big air basket.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
If you’re over riding preference is for wave riding slickness mixed with the odd twin-tip freeride session, there are softer experiences out there.
UNION BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 8.5
Low end: 9
Top end: 8
Steering speed: 6.5
Turning circle: 5.5
Bar pressure: 5.5
Water relaunch: 8
Crossover: 7 (All-round twin-tip joy)
Ease of use: 8
SIZES: 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6m
Watch the product video:
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