Benoît Tremblay was in France for 10 days last week and I could finally try a firefly 4m that he brought with him in good conditions with a surfboard. Wind was 20-30 knots (according to the website with wind observations). Waves were good (buoy gave 1.2m and 2m max) but a bit disorganized and wind was on-shore with a little better angle on the starboard tack. There was a good shorebreak and some white water to get through while getting upwind, so a good test as I was on a strapless surfboard (Sweet potato 5'2) and not on hydrofoil (I only use surfboards). Before flying the FF 4m I was with a Wave 6.5 which was quite pulling and I had therefore a reference point for the test of the FF 4m.
The Firefly that I tested is not a prototype, it is the final design that Benoît is selling on his website.
... ok then .... how dit it work? ... I start by the end to make a long story short ... I came back after the test and I said to Ben "it works, nothing to add!" ... I called a good friend and said: "The CA Wave, you do not think when you go upwind, you just point upwind and you're back at the peak. When you surf, you pilot the kite to make it drift while surfing. The FF, you pilot it to get upwind by "charging/de-charging it" and in the surf, you don't care, you surf".
In more details : The wind is quite on and I have to get through the shore break and first white water waves to go surfing on the outside. That"s a very good test to understand how the kite works, in particular with a surfboard (I was doubtful about its ability to go upwind on a surfboard). The kite has a kind of a "threshold", one charges it, it goes upwind, one takes on speed and then one has to work on the balance between speed, power and the moment/threshold at which it will loose some efficacy by backstalling slightly. At this moment, one has to pull out a little the bar, the kite goes forward again and there you go. Nothing complicated, and it is actually fun to pilot ... a bit like an acrobatic kite (see e.g. stef66 on the 2.5 for instance viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4605&start=10). One therefore has to pilot the kite to get its best and there was no pb to get upwind through the white water: going upwind is fine, one gets back to the peak quickly. There were some gusts during the test, the kite vibrates a little bit, one can feel it in the bar but we are not there to do a triangle between three buoys , I just want get back to the peak easily and it's perfectly fine with the FF.
Surfing now ... in onshore conditions, surfing means going downwind and then ... nothing .. that is nearly without having a kite in the air. That was destabilizing at first because I had difficulty finding my balance. With the Wave, there is not much in the harness and I use my hand on the bar for my balance, I turn somehow around my arm. On the Firefly, there is not much both in the back lines and in the harness, the kite was just following me. This is nearly like surfing (no need to buy a wingfoil at all ).
Relaunch, didn't try, it was a no issue on the FF 6m and other riders that are using hydrofoils with FF are saying the same. It relaunches by itself. Interestingly, one rider that I know is landing the 2.5m and the 4m by pulling directly on the front lines while the kite is over his head at the zenith ... vow! I have tor try that ('even Ben didn't know that it was possible).
To sum it up: Yes one can use the FF on a strapless surfboard in waver, at least for my weight with my preferred surfboard I can!
Then how to choose between wave and FF?
I think the decision has to be taken around 3 criteria:
1. The wave, as I said above, one uses one harm to get his.er balance in the surf (I am talking really surfing not going downwind in the swell) and somehow turn around + there is some work to do with the kite to play with its drifting limits (which are already well above any wave kite that I know). The firefly, the drift is so huge that there is nearly nothing to do with the kite while surfing.
2. Upwind, it is completely without thinking with the CA Wave. With the FF there is some piloting to do to play around the backstall dynamic threshold.
3. Wind range: Wave 15 knts +++ and Firefly 10 knot + .. as Ben is saying: when you're out of the upper wind range with the FF, you know it. Too much vibrations, too much flapping.
To conclude, in my opinion for strapless surfing (I am not talking about hydrofoiling I don't do that), where you kite would help making a choice. During my session, that was really cool (even if I could not use its full potential for surfing as I was still in discovery mode). When the wind is really gusty however with a large wind range, I would say that the wave because of its huge wind range is more comfortable. For instance, a spot that I kited a few times that I could think about which would maybe not be so great for a firefly is Guincho. Some places in Brazil that I know, a FF would be perfectly fine.
I am now going to test the 6m more extensively. The FF 4m was not mine and Ben took it back with him.
For more more info (in French):
Firefly 2.5 > http://www.lesfoilz.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4605
Firefly 4 > http://www.lesfoilz.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4553
Firefly 6 > http://www.lesfoilz.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4603
Fireflies 2.5 / 4 / 6 are now final. Ben has done also a couple of 1.5 that are nearly final and he told me that the 8m should be ready very soon.