So finally got 4 solid days of kiting on the Marabous, tracking out over 100 miles on all 5 sizes in some pretty incredible winter conditions up in the mountains. Feel like I have a pretty good sense for the kites now, and what their strengths and weaknesses might be.
I was out with a friend who spent pretty much the entire time riding Peak 4’s, while switching out to my Marabous a few times and offered some feedback. His sense was that they were solid kites with a clean feel, but that they might have a sharper surge than the peaks in strong gusts and with a little more tendency to backstall. I have not noticed the backstalling issue, although you can certainly trim the kites so that they will stall and do pinwheel turns. I tend to prefer to ride them a little more depowered so that they make a carving, powered -up loop for going up hills.
I will say that I agree with the surge and power spike being sharper on the Marabous than the Peaks/single skins, but for me – not in a dangerous way. I believe this is because the kite is cleaner than a normal single skin and moves faster through the wind window – creating a sharper power spike. You can still kill the power very quickly though by pushing the bar out and feel very much in control and not overwhelmed. This was confirmed in my on one session when I was on the 8m in pretty strong conditions (15 - ~40mph? gusts). The winds were forecasted to gust into the 50’s – I don’t think they ever got to that but my friend who was sitting in the car said it was rocking the car and he was a bit concerned. While the gusts had my attention, the kite never tried to collapse and I never felt out of control. When sheeted out, there really isn’t any lift in the kite, so you can actually bring the kite to noon to bleed off speed – something you would never attempt on a regular twin skin kite for risk of getting lofted.
Very stable kite – I don’t believe I had a single collapse the entire trip aside from what I would consider user error (messing with cameras and not paying attention to the kite, over-running the kite while going into obvious wind shadows, etc).
I do feel like the Marabou2 is a legitimate substitute for a single-skin kite for snowkiting - providing the safety and ease-of-use of a singleskin for all but the most extreme scenarios. Pros of the Marabou are that is it a little quicker and has a bit more performance than a similar single skin. Cons are that it will be a bit heavier and not pack quite as small, not have 5th line safety if you like that, and have a bit edgier power surge in gusty conditions.
In terms of upwind ability, I do believe the Marabou is better than single skin, although it is not going to be as efficient as something like a Soul or Hyperlink. There is still a sense on the 10 and 12 sizes that when you start carrying a lot of speed (say over 20kts) that the kite wants to pull you downwind, although not as bad as other single skins I’ve been on. I felt like I could carry a lot more speed on the 8m and smaller kites before I had this sensation.
The 4 and 6m are not jumping kites. However the 8, 10, and 12 have some nice lift and float. The 8m in my experience had the nicest pop feel, where the 10 and 12 will have pretty mellow pop, but glide fairly nice.
I really fell in love with the 8m size – at my 195lb weight it was just the perfect mix of speed, power, pop and lift. I found that on my uphill looping I was keeping up pretty closely with my friend who was on a 9m single skin – just because the kite was moving and looping faster. Then on the downhill descents I was able to carry quite a bit of speed - more than I would have been able to on 10 or 12m Marabou before feeling like It was trying to suck me downwind. It also still retained a nice lift/glide for gentle landings but with just a little extra pop than the larger sizes that really hit the sweet spot for me in terms on not feeling too aggressive but also fun. And it should cover a huge wind range - I think it is going to be my go-to mountain kite now for all but the really light or 30+mph forecasted days.