2020 Cabrinha Switchblade 9m Review
This test first appeared in KW #102 in November 2019
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Hands down this is always one of our favourite twin-tip freeride kites to review because over the course of 15 years, the Switchblade has been tweaked, but never messed around with. Each iteration takes a step forward, never back, or even sideways. You can’t fault the build quality either and this year the addition of the Nano ripstop material makes for the most beautifully taut looking canopy in the sky as well. Very clean shaven and always well-presented. Just solid… and draws comments from the beach.
The Switchblade is also every bit as polished as the class leading kites in terms of what it delivers to you as a rider when it comes to out-of-the-bag plug and play freeride / freestyle performance. It talks to you in a very smooth and predictable manner that’s very easy to understand. There’s no waffle, no excess. It’s clear and precise.
The Switchblade has always been built to maintain shape and dependability, whatever the conditions. At times, over the years, it has felt very manly and meaty in its power delivery; two days later you may still have had an imprint in your back from your harness and have grown quads like the hulk after a windy session. Having said that, the Switchblade has always represented the pinnacle of freeride twin-tip riding for that year and Cabrinha sold thousands upon thousands. It may have been powerful, but if you’ve ever got into a luxury car, shut the door and appreciated the reassuringly clean thud as the door closed, it’s that sort of class that you get with the Switchblade.
Over the years and through development the Switchblade has become more usable and less physical for a great many more riders, but has never lost its key characteristics, which are: good low end performance and very easy access to lots of torque and power at the bar. You can pull on the bar and the power delivery is always very consistent.
In average nine metre weather this is a very approachable and user-friendly kite for anyone, but once you start getting to the point where the wind blows strongly and you move into the top 40% of the kite’s wind range, then the power and rock solid stability of the five strut Switchblade starts to show itself again. The reason that riders are able to go so high and so far on a Switchblade is that, even though this is a more powerful kite than most at its top end, the way it manages and delivers the power is always so smooth. If you’re able to hold a lot of power through your board’s rail, then because the Switchblade doesn’t buffet back and forth in gusts as much, you’re able to approach your take-offs smoothly and consistently… and when you send the kite and sheet in, you go to the moon.
However, Bully’s 15 year-old son Ethan (70 kilos) has had several sessions on it and he told us that he really enjoys the Switchblade because every time he sent a jump he got exactly the same reaction from it and the same experience because of the steady way it moves through the window. Not super fast, but not slow, either. He said every time he sent the kite up he always got the same feel and that it was really difficult to make a mistake.
At a better rider’s level, what the Switchblade offers the advancing freerider is that same formidable consistency. Once you start going for multiple spins, the Switchblade is often a much more successful platform than other kites because it’s not overly reactive which therefore makes it difficult to oversteer. There’s more bar pressure needed to start a turn on the Switchblade than on the Bandit, for example, so whenever you’re up in the air and / or spinning, you can benefit from this very constant experience the whole way through.
Breaking it down further, the Switchblade has one steering speed. It doesn’t start slowly and then whip quickly through its turn like a lot of three strut hybrids. You’ll find the same personality whatever you’re doing. For example, in stronger wind the kite doesn’t become faster and more technical, it just becomes stronger and more powerful, but at the same time is still silky and isn’t snatchy because it doesn’t luff forwards or stall backwards in the gusts.
So whether you’re an intermediate or an advanced booster, you’ll benefit from the clean and consistent handling. The Switchblade isn’t for wave riding, and although the kite loops can be epic, this isn’t the easiest of kites to send for fast and drivey kite loops when you’re just getting into them in strong winds. Looping the Switchblade in lighter winds is fun, so don’t be put off, but the Switchblade doesn’t compete with those three-strut hybrids that offer fast turns for wave riding and lots of range for jumping and spinning kite loops. The moment you step on to a kite like that though, with faster turn initiation and tighter turns, you lose out on the hangtime and overhead stability that the Switchblade offers.
In this freeride / jumping category, the Switchblade is one of the top contenders. Perhaps what stops it being absolute top dog is that at its very very top end, you still need to be physically strong yourself to deal with it.
However, what you’re looking at with the Switchblade is a comfortable and reasonable top end that mixes with a very rewarding bottom end. Most riders don’t want to push their kites to their extremes. Ridden in its low to mid range (as most riders do) the Switchblade is exceptionally easy to learn to jump on because the lift zone overhead is large. Combine that with the speed that the kite carries through the window and it rarely flies out of the window where it would drop power. If you’re still not sending the kite with perfect technique for jumping, the Switchblade doesn’t punish you, so in terms of consistent delivery, this is one of the best.
For high level riders, don’t worry, this isn’t a Switchblade ‘light’. When you start pushing it in 70% of wind range and over, you’re rewarded with the tremendous oozing of Switchblade power. In normal winds it’s fantastic, but to ride this nine metre in 30 knots plus you need to be 85 kilos and above. As you’ll read in the FX review, the Nano tech canopy cloth and new Overdrive Modular bar are highly prized items this year.
Essentially this is a very similar Switchblade to last year, but with the continued adaptation of materials and quality attention to detail tweaks. In general the Switchblade can make confident boosters look like the best and most stylish riders on the beach, such is the predictability of its behaviour. In regular winds this is still a favoured unhooked freestyle kite for much of the Cabrinha team, so hence the name, the Switchblade can still be an adaptable weapon in different conditions.
KW LIKED:In a world of constant change, it’s good to know that the Switchblade is still around, helping riders shred on a twin-tip with smooth and predictable performance that leads to really clean riding styles and lots of fun sessions.
KW WOULD CHANGE: If you’re purely looking for twin-tip performance, the Switchblade is hard to beat, but if you’re looking for a more cross-over experience, look at the Moto.
Watch the product video:
SWITCHBLADE BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9
Low end: 9
Top end: 7
Steering speed: 4.5
Turning circle: 6
Bar pressure: 5.5
Water relaunch: 8.5
Ease of use: 8.5 (In normal winds)
SIZES: 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4m
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