We review the SOUL – a foil kite with major potential on a twintip!
THIS TEST FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE #94 IN JULY, 2018
TEST TEAM NOTES:
Test words: Chris Bull
I have a strong past in flying foils and was even racing buggies 30 years ago. Believe me, the designs have come so far. I pretty much exclusively fly LEI kites now, but the Flysurfer Soul has been the foil kite that I’ve spent the most amount of time on when riding a hydrofoil because it’s perfectly set up for a progressive freeride foiler.
Immense stability is the first important factor. These kites seem to breathe with their own energy and they’re so dependable overhead. There’s not a wrinkle to be seen anywhere in the canopy and this is highly nuanced aerodynamics. The Soul is deeper in aspect than a pure blood race kite and is designed to offer lots of stability and light wind performance. Strong canopy materials haven’t affected the light weight feel and performance and there’s also an improved drainage system to let any water out.
Flysurfer are also pitching the Soul as an ideal twin-tip freeride kite, but we focused on hydrofoiling in this review. So what makes this an ideal freeride foiling kite for us? Well, it has such incredible and stable performance in light winds that it’s incomparable to an LEI. The Soul just seems to sit there and behave whatever the wind is doing. Very efficient in lulls if you lose line tension, or you bear too far downwind, it doesn’t punish you as easy as an LEI which would drop to the water much sooner. Many of us have been out living the foiling dream on a nine metre LEI and then you put in a gybe or tack and realise there is actually no wind; it was all apparent wind, and the kite then falls from the sky. The Soul has given me a much easier time when it comes to staying in the sky, especially in uber light winds. Several times the wind totally shut off but as soon as I got just a five knot breeze again I was able to reverse launch it like it wasn’t even bothered, every single time. You reach up, grab both back lines, it reverses up and then you pull one line, it spins round and that’s it. You can also relaunch it from its back. So to me it’s kind of a no brainer if you’re into foiling in light sea breezes of 14 knots and under. There isn’t a kite I know of that relaunches as efficiently.
I see a lot of guys out on high-aspect racing kites, but I’ve also seen them swimming in. With the Soul being a bit more mid-aspect I got this huge enjoyment from the fact that I could be more confident in lighter winds.
The steering input is quite heavy and firm and compared to a nine or ten metre LEI and they’re at completely opposite ends of the scale in terms of speed and pressure. So be aware of that, but the Soul is certainly user friendly and efficient with an extremely good dose of low end power and torque. On an LEI the bar trimming is basically creating a very open or very closed kite. The angle of attack changes dramatically. On the Soul it’s really smooth and much less aggressive which transfers into control because it’s stable and difficult to over-sheet, even in light wind.
However, it is constant, and this will affect your riding in two ways. Let’s start with the negative if you’re an intermediate or in your early days of hydrofoiling: this ten metre feels like it steers more like a 12 or 13 metre LEI and sweeps around the window in its turns rather than turning tightly like an LEI. So to not feel overly powered when you turn the kite, you need to bear off a bit more first. As your riding skills get better you’ll be able to load the hyrdrofoil up to create more line tension and get the kite to turn quicker. When you’re not managing your hydrofoil in such an advanced manner, the Soul creates quite a lot of pull downwind, which can feel unnerving.
Now, this isn’t all bad. In fact, once you’re used to it, it’s lovely. As the power doesn’t quickly come off and on, the Soul feels very smooth and constant. The turn isn’t whippy, but it’s very steady and you can cruise your way around a turn as you follow it. Once you adapt to this then you’ll be exiting your turns with so much more consistency and control.
Where I found the Soul helped me the most was on my tacks. Steady turning with lots of smooth lift meant that I could tack and come out of it in toe-side, with speed. I’ve really been struggling to find the balance with that, but on the Soul I almost managed it first time. Although the downwind turns take a bit of getting used to with the generous power, anything performed into wind on the Soul is an absolute dream as you have so much time and I feel like I progressed so much. So if you’re going up and downwind confidently, gybing and just about nailing your tacks, from there upwards this is going to be a phenomenal kite for you.
Finally, I love how portable, compact and super light weight the entire package is. The bag is barely bigger than a bar bag and it’s so easy to just grab this, your foil and harness and head to the beach. No pump needed and no messing about with different pump valves.
Yes, if you’ve never used a foil kite before then the first couple of sessions can be a bit intimidating sorting out the bridle lines. In theory, as long as you’re methodical when you put the kite away, you can be set up for your next session super quick. It’s also easier if you leave your lines attached to the bar which quickens the rigging process even more. BUT do be patient and if this is your first foil kite, DO go to the beach on a light wind day and just practice getting accustomed to rigging up. You’ll soon grow into the method for packing away neatly and then setting up quickly.
Chris was testing the Soul purely as a foil kite for going kite foiling. He didn’t ride it on a twintip himself but Olly Bridge and Guy Bridge have been and they’ve been going huge on it. Last month, Olly set a UK and European height record in the space on this kite and you can get a glimpse of its big-air abilities in Olly’s Red Bull King of the Air wildcard video below.
The Soul is a little technical and demanding to begin with, but if you’re particularly focused on hydrofoiling and looking to add efficiency and flow to your riding, it’s a no-brainer when it comes to switching from an LEI kite. This ten metre has an impressive wind range too; a joy between 10 and 14 knots. (We didn’t test it for twin-tip boosting, but there’s certainly lift in this wing!)
Extreme steadiness and constant, smooth power that really helps you raise the flow in your hydrofoiling game.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
The steering could be a little lighter, especially if you’re used to a nippy similarly sized SLE. But they’re not comparable.
SOUL BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9
Full package: 9
Low end: 9
Top end: 7.5
Steering speed: 3
Turning circle: 7
Bar pressure: 7
Water relaunch: 9 (in terms of light wind flat water)
Hang-time: (DT, but it’s going to be good)
SIZES: 21, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8 and 6m