The World Title winning wave machine gets put to the test
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE #98 IN MARCH 2019
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Words: Matt Pearce
First up, this is to my mind the most complete wave kite that you can buy. By that, I mean it’s the most dependable and adaptable to a range of conditions. I don’t think it’s as immediately exciting as the Reo, but it’s so composed and wave riders of any level are going to like it. Duotone are the biggest kite brand and this is their best-selling kite, so that makes it one of the most (if not THE most) widely ridden new kite out there.
Build quality wise, you really can fault any Duotone kites (which are designed by what was the old North design team remember) and this is no exception. There is that ever-present high-end German engineered feel and everything makes sense because it’s not complicated. Even the Click bar, which is technically brilliant, is very easy to use. The detail goes right down to the little things like the hose clamps on the struts; they’re top-end, too.
Jim and I take turns as official reporters for the GKA Kite World Tour and I’ve been watching riders like Airton and Matchu on the Neo for the last three years. What always stands out to me is that they, and the other Duotone riders, always seem to be able to get so much out of the Neo in light winds. Obviously they’re the best in the business, but the Neo does have some of the best low end performance of any wave kite I’ve ridden. I rode the six metre at the bottom of what I would normally get away with on that size, but I was edging smoothly upwind and I never felt under-gunned through the turn.
The Neo shuts off when you depower it, but remains stable and doesn’t falter in lighter winds, so when I hit the lip at the bottom of the kite’s power range it didn’t stutter and fall back on itself to leave me grappling for power.
The turning is absolutely pinpoint accurate with no power spikes as it drives across the window and you can get the kite exactly where you need it to be with having to think about it. What’s interesting when you compare it to the Reo and Bandit is that if for example you loop it at the corner of the window, it doesn’t then surge across the power zone. It all feels very controlled and consistent and is as fast as most riders would want it to be.
However, it’s almost too good (or perhaps too even). Remember I’m quite heavy at 90kg, but at times I did miss that ‘whip’ back into the wave face that kites like the Reo or RRD Religion can deliver, but the power delivery is unbelievably smooth. So what the Neo lacks in edginess it makes up for in comfort and dependability. It’s also brilliant for drifting. It just does it!
Relaunch is very good (people use these kites in schools) and I’ve seen these kites get hammered by a full set, drift into the windless sections at Ponta Preta and still relaunch when other kites probably would have had a much harder time.
Also, it’s one of the best performing kites I’ve ever ridden in shoddy winds and, given that many of the world’s best wave spots get shaky offshore winds, that’s quite important I reckon. The mixture of impressive low end and stability in the sky makes you feel like you can take it anywhere and it’ll get you out of trouble, which really inspires confidence. If I was edging out at Ponta Preta on a sketchy offshore day, I’d like to take this.
Last thing: lift. It doesn’t have it so much in the smallest sizes of course, but when powered there is a nice bit of upward lift in the Neo eight metre (just look at what Airton does, and he always ride the Neo). I’d say it’s got the most lift of all the wave kites (except the Bandit when you get to nine metres and above) I’ve tested and is fun for cruisey jumping when powered up, but it’s not a skyhook so won’t leave you 200 metres downwind of your board. If you’re getting into airs in onshore conditions you’ll enjoy it and in the past we’ve all had reasonable twin-tip jumping sessions on a Neo. There’s as much float as lift – it’s not a punchy lift like more freeride performance oriented kites. Like the Bandit however, this is a good freeride cross-over kite if you’re really into waves, but looking for something that your partner might be comfortable with for general use on a twin-tip.
We’ve covered the fixtures and fittings on the Duotone kites at length before, but it’s all there. The Duotone wide inflation connector screws directly to the valve for a super efficient and fast pump up with a really reliable screw thread on the solid cap. High quality flying lines and the Click bar just does everything for you, including automatically untwisting your lines when you sheet in. The rear line depower / power-up click / twist operation has now stood the test of a few seasons and works really well, allowing for a lovely, clear area with no cleat system above the bar on your centre line. The Iron Heart quick release is again, proven over time, very safe and easy to use.
You get to choose from a selection of chicken-loop sizes with Duotone, and there’s even a small one with a metal plate on the inside of the loop, especially for use with a sliding rope harness.
Watch the product video below:
This is plug and play wave riding for all levels of rider and with no limits to its top end wave riding performance. In the bigger sizes it’s a popular beginner kite because it’s just so easy with no spikes in power. Believe it or not, that same ease and predictability makes the Neo a wave weapon that allows you to really focus on the wave and always be in the right position.
Ultra-composed, very dependable performance for wave riding in all conditions and for riders of all levels. Wave riders, beginners, cruisey freeriders, foilers…
KW WOULD CHANGE
It’s faultless but almost to a fault. You may enjoy a bit more of a turbo-injected, computer-game feel that some other kites deliver.
NEO BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9.5
Low end: 8
Top end: 8
Steering speed: 8.5
Turning circle: 3
Bar pressure: 5
Water relaunch: 9
Hang-time: 6 (Higher if you’re Airton)
Ease-of-use: 8.5 (Beginners can use it but it’s fast)
SIZES: 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3m