There is no perfect kite; every kite has its strength and weaknesses depending on your needs and kiting conditions. My Kitetechs 9m and 12m, however, have been just was I was looking for and more. Let me explain. I wanted to do a thorough review as many have not heard of Kitechs, or perhaps are suspicious of foil kites. I know I was. I also waited to post a complete review so I would have several months of using the kites in various conditions. (9 months for me). I had a chance to demo a 9m Kitech Fly4! last winter, and was so impressed I purchased a 9m and 12m for myself. I initially was interested in a kite for foiling, but I’ve come to like the kites for much more. These were my first foil kites to purchase after several years of riding and owning tube kites of practically every style (from no struts to seven). I live and ride mostly on inland Dallas lakes, I have no financial ties to Kitetech, and I pay for my kites like most of you!
NOT ALL FOIL KITES ARE THE SAME When people think of foil kites, they tend to think of foil kites designed for racing. These kites are long, thin, high aspect kites designed for racing. The Kitetech is not one of these kites. Per their website, the aspect ratio of the Fly4! 9m and 12m are 4.8. The kite turns and feels much like a tube kite, though it does turn slower than most freestyle or wave kites. I included a picture so you can see a side by side comparison of the Kitetech Fly4 12m and F-one Diablo v1 11m kite. Compared to race kite, the Kitetech doesn’t have the upwind angle, pure speed, or massive lift. These kites however turn much quicker (which assists jumping and downloops), are way better for re-launch, inflate much easier on launching, and with the thicker bridles tangle less than more performance oriented kites. My Kitechs also appear to be more durable than many racing kites. Tip tucking is not an issue with the Kitetechs; the kites fills up with air instantly after a quick tug of the outside lines. The feel and control of these kites is familiar to many tube kites.
FOILING WITH THE KITECHS IS A DREAM With tube kites, when foiling, you have a dilemma. One the one hand, you want a high aspect kite (like a Ozone Edge kite) for the range, speed, and jumping if inclined. On the other hand, you also want a kite that drifts well, stays higher in the wind window, turns smoothly and re-launches in light winds (like a surf kite or strutless Cloud kite). For tube kites, and I have ridden many types while foiling, you end up compromising one advantage for another depending on the kite. This is where foil kites shine, you get great RANGE while maintaining excellent DRIFT. When you then have a foil kite that still turns relatively quickly yet is very stable, you have the Kitechs, which are great for foiling. The first time I foiled with my Kitetech , I couldn’t believe instantly how smooth it was. It is difficult to explain, but kite flows with you as you glide above the water. The kite wants to be in the correct position and stays there allowing you to focus on the foil. Much less sheeting in/out or repositioning of the kite is required. Jumping is effortless and very high, with landings that are a lot softer and easier. The additional lift assists with gybing and foot switches, while the stability of the kite aids in tricks such as sit-downs and supermans. Down-loops provide a more constant pull, which helps you maintain on foil while coming out of transitions. If you find yourself plateauing with your foiling progression, I would strongly advise you try one of these kites.
EXCELLENT RE-LAUNCH, RANGE, LIGHT WIND KITING The Kitetechs are the best re-launching kites I have ever had, especially in light winds. I have had some many friends debate this notion, only to be proven wrong. In light winds, it is not even close. I can re-launch the kite in winds that most tube kites can’t even ride in. I will grant there is a greater chance of tangling with foil kites, especially in waves, which can prevent re-launch. There are many techniques to re-launching these kites that I wont get into at the moment, though I typically either hot-launch or reverse launch the kite. Sometimes, if the lulls are terrible, I actually allow to kite to fall in hot-launch position. Once I feel a gust (yes, about 7-8+ mph will do), pull the center front lines and boom, kite is back in the air. The secret is the large air cells of the kite, they are like pillows on top of the water. It can take a long time for the kite to fill up with water. I would say you have at least 20-30 minutes before these kites takes up too much water to re-launch. This is much different than race oriented foil kites that tend to bow-tie and take on water much quicker. The Kitetechs have excellent wind range. In light winds, my 12m can hang in the air comfortably at around 5 mph, maybe even less? I included a picture of the 12m unhooked on land in very light winds. I can foil with the 12m and large foil wing in winds in about 7 mph? I will say and admit that these figures are only estimates. There are many factors including water current, waves, wind consistency, wind gradient, and air temperature. With a twintip, I have ridden the 12m to about 20 mph, and the 9m to about 25 mph, though I could probably push it more if I chose. I weight 175 lbs.
NON-FOILING RIDING What has surprised me the most with the Kitechs is how fun there are with a twin-tip. These kites are a blast. Jumps are lofty and smooth, and rotations are very easy with the stability and increased hang-time of the kites (compared to my other tube kites). On larger jumps, downloop or kiteloops landings are performed with no issue. I was able to perform my repertoire of tricks including darkslides, front-rolls, and I have even unhooked with the kite. Now I still prefer a pure freestyle (like my FX kite) for aggressive kiteloops and my feeble attempts at wakestyle, but for more old-school tricks and jumps, the Kitetechs works great. Actually, the ease of jumping has allowed me to improve my technique toward me weak side. It’s a good feeling to use the same kite with both a foil and twin tip. No need to change kites with changes in wind (as I used to do with my foiling specific tube kites). I imagine the kites would work well in the surf given its excellent drift, though I don’t think it will match a surf specific kite (unless the wind is very light).
DOWNSIDES As this was my first foil kite, it has come with a learning curve in regard to pack-up, landing, and launching. In launching in grassy locations, tangles can be an issue. I appreciate the thicker and brightly colored bridles, which assist in dealing in tangles, though I am still working on better ways to pack down. The Kitetechs do behave very similarly to tube kites, but still retain some foil kite characteristics, which I am learning. For instance, there can be a slight delay of the kite before return to zenith at the end of the loop. I noticed this on tricks such as a dark slide, and it is why I haven’t performed powered, higher kiteloops as I suspect the catch could also be delayed. You also don’t get near the same pop as you would from a more c-kite shaped freestyle kite. The bar and lines included with each kite is simple, easy to use, and includes a below the bar swivel that works. I have found the loop can come undone from harness hook if I am not careful with hooking in when using a dynabar and seat-harness. Not sure, but this could be the chicken loop is a bit stiff, or perhaps related to the dynabar and lower positioning of a seat harness. When this happened (and its been a while ago), I was able to get to the bar and re-launch with no issue on the water. I am now more careful regarding hooking in with the chicken loop and stick, and I have not any more issues. If your looking to race, you are not going to find the same upwind angle or speed compared to a race-oriented kite. It is not what the kite is for. Finally, I do recommend becoming familiar with launching and landing foil kites in lighter winds before progressing to higher winds. Having a partner to assist is suggested until one is more comfortable with how these kites behave. Yes, the safety does work just like a tube kite, just be prepared for potential tangles.
LATEST KITECH, THE FREE RS KITE Since I purchased my Kitech Fly4!, the company has come out with a new kite, the Free RS kite (FRS). I have ridden the 12m, but haven’t purchased one for myself yet. My impressions is that is very similar to the Fly4!, but more refined. It has one closed Velcro air vent versus two. The profile is leaner, with thinner edges/tips. I suspect the kite is higher aspect, with a slightly more race kite built into it. The kite maintained its stability and turning in flight, but it appears a bit faster with more range and performance. Re-launch is still excellent. I believe it has more jumping potential, but I will have to ride it more to accurately compare. Overall, the Free RS kite felt slightly more aggressive and advanced, but overall very similar to the Fly4! kite. I see it as the next generation kite, so this review should give you an idea of what the new kites will be like. The new FRS kites are still being rolled out, and I have not seen official specs from the manufacture, so these are just my initial impressions. I included a picture of a 12m Free RS kite next to a 9m Fly4! for visual comparison.
SUMMARY The Kitetech Fly4! is a great kite if you foil, or are looking for a kite to twintip with excellent range, jumping, and hang-time. It is an extremely stabile and easy to use kite, and I highly recommend as a first foil kite. The price is much less than other foil kites; bar/lines are included, great overall value. Water re-launch is excellent; the kites excel in light winds. I have ridden the kite on land but not on snow, but I imagine it would be excellent for non-water use. Foil kites may not be for everyone, but certainly worth considering.
Please post questions any questions or comments. Thanks for reading! The FaceBook pages “Kitech Riders” and “Kite-Hydrofoil Miami” show plenty of videos of the kites in action.
- Diablo 11m versus Fly4 12m
- Fly4 12m on land in light winds
- Fly4 9m versus FRS 12m