Airush Wave 2018 9m Review
This test first appeared in KW #96 in November 2018
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Words: Matt Pearce
For me, the Airush Wave has always ticked the key boxes for classic wave kite criteria. It’s lightning quick with pivotal turning, has a wide and very usable range and a forward flying position. There are some great wave-focused kites out there that have developed their own unique characters quite different to this, but the Wave has stayed the course as a thoroughbred, high paced performer in the surf.
This year’s kite is the eighth generation and it’s been through some changes, such as an altered wingtip shape to improve stability and two bridle options that allow the rider to fine-tune the kite to their tastes.
You can ride the standard pulley bridle, which makes for a smooth riding experience with finite control, even when the kite’s fully depowered, or you can opt for the new fixed bridal. This new pulley-free option, which we didn’t have to hand unfortunately, apparently gives an even more rapid steering response and a ‘crisper’ feel. We look forward to trying this in Cape Town in January as the Wave is no slouch, even with the pulley bridle!
Get the Wave in the air and it quickly engages you. The steering is athletic and I can’t think of any wave kite that responds more quickly to input. There’s no lag in the transfer of power between the kite and the rider, no canopy flutter and it’s all very clean and precise. The light bar pressure belies the power that the Wave can generate when flown with intent and it’s extremely efficient without being overbearing and feeling as if you’re being dragged along behind it.
A slightly more novice wave rider might find the Wave’s sheer amount of pace and reactiveness a little hot to handle, but it’s something you soon tune into and is ideal for high performance riders, particularly in onshore and cross-shore conditions. The depower is also instantaneous enough that you can take the sting out of the kite if you’re over zealous in your approach.
The turning is very pivotal, and you can shift the kite back in the window easily before letting it naturally push forward across the window when you sheet out. The power injection instantly puts a smile on your face. There’s no delay as it shifts into gear, but the power delivery isn’t abrupt and the light feel at the bar masks that to some extent, so that it feels like more of a ‘surge’ forward than a ‘jolt’.
Imagine the turbo charger on a well-engineered German diesel; it delivers the goods, but if you’ve got the basic skills to control it then it doesn’t feel too alarming.
Another thing the light bar pressure does a good job of is concealing the surprising amount of low end that this kite has. I first rode this year’s Wave in marginal nine metre winds and the way it felt on the beach had me thinking I would be under-gunned once out on the water. However, if you know how to move a kite well, the Wave develops power in a very clean, accurate manner.
The fact that I was able to ride a smaller kite than I might have expected meant I could throw the Wave around with equanimity and less risk of being hauled off my board. I felt free and that’s something that most wave riders, particularly those who like to fly a kite aggressively, will appreciate.
There’s a manageable feel as you progress through the Wave’s wind range. My girlfriend and I rode this kite back to back with a Slingshot SST which has a more ‘manly’ feel to it (which I personally liked) and she found that a little tiring on the arms as it reached its top end. She didn’t have that issue at all on the Wave though, and other lighter riders who want a bit less to deal with at the bar might also appreciate that.
Airush’s Dyneema load frame combines long Dyneema fibres and rugged reinforced taping across the canopy and remains a big feature on the Wave V8. The idea is that it makes the kite strong without the use of a weightier material across the kite and Airush claim that it’s near impossible to tear a kite with this load frame right across an entire panel, which is encouraging in surf.
The Core V4 bar is largely unchanged this year and it feels good in your hands with a narrow diameter grip and the moulded bar ends give it a nice complete feel. The Brain 3.0 Quick Release is a benchmark of ease and security and is quick to reassemble (even with numb fingers). The below-the-bar swivel is pretty smooth and easy to operate.
Airush have been using the pull-pull depower tabs for many years which work well and that system allows for a really sizeable depower throw, but you can also opt for an above-bar clam-cleat trimming option as well. The clam-cleat is a more standard system across most kites and what many kiters are already used to.
Even as a nine metre, the Wave is a lightning quick, ultra-precise ride that advanced riders will love. The combination of direct power delivery with lighter bar pressure and rapid handling make this a real performer and it does everything I’d want a wave kite to do. The smaller sizes will be electric once again!
Although classic and playful wave riding performance for many, the Wave can be truly pushed harder and harder by high performance riders.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
A more novice rider might find the Wave a bit quick for comfort at first (although that will pass). If you’re combining surfboard riding and twin-tip riding, there are more freeride crossover kites in Airush’s range that will deliver more appropriate performance for you.
WAVE BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 8.5
Low end: 8.5
Top end: 8.5
Steering speed: 8.5
Turning circle: 3.5
Bar pressure: 4
Water relaunch: 8.5
Ease-of-use: 8 (For riders used to a fast kite)
SIZES: 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m