30 Jan 2015

Should I get a wetsuit or drysuit for winter kitesurfing?

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ION-Fuse-getting-ready

Read on for a review of the ION Fuse 2014 drysuit. First, a comparison with wetsuits.

This post compares neoprene wetsuits with neoprene drysuits, more specifically the suits I’m using; O’neill Epic 5/3 and ION Fuse 4/3.

A drysuit might seem tempting in the cold winter months, but let’s face it – Wetsuits work fine in most countries, especially if it’s a thicker winter suit. There are a number of benefits compared with drysuits.

  • More versatile (can be used all year around)
  • More flexible and comfortable to wear
  • Lighter and less bulky to carry around
  • Cheaper

Even in a drysuit you still need separate gloves and socks, which will let water in. Having said that, your fingers and toes will still be warmer then in a wetsuit since they can ‘borrow’ heat from your body.

Your body will sweat which could cool the body down unless wearing breathable underwear on both legs and body.

Oh, and just check out the difference in weight and bulkiness!

  • O’neill Epic: 1.5 kg dry
  • ION Fuse: 3 kg dry
ION-Fuse-and-Oneill-Epic

Both suits are size M, but the difference in bulk is most noticeable when packing your bag.

 

 Why get a drysuit for kitesurfing?

Keeps you dry. Nice feeling while riding and getting changed.

Keeps you warmer = longer sessions and a safer option if something would happen.

Conclusion

A nice-to-have luxury for the coldest winter and spring months (January – April for UK), or a good choice instead of a winter wetsuit if you live around the Baltic sea etc.

Review of ION Fuse 2014

I was thinking about getting a drysuit already last year when the weather was getting colder. I did a lot of research back then but in the end I manned up and kept using my wetsuit all the way through to spring.

This winter I was on about it again after yet another wet change on a cold and windy parking lot. Actually what I really hate is not so much the cold water, but the horrific experience when you pull yourself out of a wet wetsuit and have to get changed after the session. Ideally I was looking for an Ocean Rodeo Soul, but when the cheapest I could find would set me back £500 I just couldn’t justify it. Another attractive option was ION Fuse, and by pure luck I got a brand new one on an ebay auktion for only £260.

I’ve been using my Fuse now during December and January and now by the end of January I’m really starting to see the value in having it. December isn’t really that cold, but now I’m staying out twice as long as everyone else – this thing really keeps me dry and warm!

It’s easy to get in and out of, but you do need someone around to zip and unzip your opening in the back. It can be done solo as well, but I’ve tried and it’s not easy. Well, there’s almost always someone around anyway right, so no big deal.

Once in it, it’s quite comfortable and you have good range of movement. The only thing worth mentioning is the zip on the back which makes the upper back a bit stiff, but once riding I tend to forget about this.

Underneath the suit I wear boxers and a rash vest and that’s all. The suit is a 4/3 neoprene so it keeps me warm like that. During heavy sessions I do sweat a lot in it so breathable materials are important. In February I’m getting long johns and a long sleeved tshirt made from bamboo fibre so that should help a lot, because now the sweat transfers into the suit which becomes wet and even smelly!

So once done, you have a suit that is wet on the outside and potentially also on the inside. This makes for a really heavy suit to carry home, and it takes days to dry! Other than the weight and bulkiness of it I can’t say much negative things about it. It comes with a hood for really cold days, but you still need good gloves and booties in addition.

I really like it, and I can’t wait to use it in February and March which are UK’s coldest months. Having said that, modern winter wetsuits are also great at keeping you warm and hardly lets any water in so this might be a good alternative for less money.

ION-Fuse-walk

ION-Fuse-hood

Hood (with pocket and whistle), chest pockets and pee zip. ION thought about the details.

ION-Fuse-thermometer-hero-meter

A thermometer on the sleeve tells you how hardcore you are 😉

Booking.com
09 Sep 2013

Switch Element 2 11m review

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Switch Element V2 11mElement 2 is the second generation of Switch’s all-round kite, released earlier in 2013. The Element 1 was a popular kite appreciated for its simplicity and forgiveness. Version 2 has improved it’s wind range, tuning options and freestyle abilities. You can have it in any colour you want as long as it is black and sizes available are 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15m. I’m an intermediate rider so this review reflects my experience. I can’t compare to hundreds of other kites and I can’t say how well it kite loops or drift in waves etc but for what it’s worth here’s my review of the 11m Switch Element 2.

Last year I quite often found myself slightly underpowered on my Element 9m and overpowered on my Element 13m, so for this upgrade I thought the 11m would hit the sweet spot and become my new go-to kite, especially with its increased wind range. So far I think I made the right call.

Test conditions

3 hours default settings, wind up and down between appr. 12 – 20 knots. Chop to flat (tide dependant). 3 hours freestyle settings, appr. 18 – 24 knots. Flat water. TT with boots. My weight: 78kg.

Build

Have a look at the photos. Switch is getting a reputation for making good quality kites and this one is no exception. Good materials, eye for detail, double stitching, seems sown and glued, extra padding where needed. It’s built to last. Comes with a bag that is of equal quality and a repair kit should you need it.

Tuning

You have 2 settings each for both line attachments, giving you 4 different settings in total, but in practice you’re more likely to choose from 3 options: freeride / somewhere in-between / freestyle. Back lines sets bar pressure and turning speed. Front lines sets depower and “direct drive”. The kite’s factory setting is the freeride one with less bar pressure and more depower. For a more freestyle-oriented kite change both attachment points, and use the provided “direct drive” pigtails for the front lines.

Performance

First I rode the kite on its factory settings, being more turning speed and more depower. The bar pressure was on the lighter side but more than V1 and enough to always know where the kite was. The kite felt very responsive and moved quickly and smoothly through the air. I could leave it parked at zenith while getting into my boots and I could create smooth power strokes with direct responsiveness.It has a small turning radius which encourage me to try my first kite loops in the near future. Although the wind was up and down I could use the depower to stay on my 11m all the time, starting with 0% and when the wind picked up went up to 80 – 90%. Other kiters were out on everything between 8 and 13m as the wind changed in strength. Going upwind was a breeze as you would expect, and relaunch was just as easy as it is with the V1 Element. Sheet out quickly though as the kite powers up very fast as soon as it leaves the water. With the freestyle setting I couldn’t notice any major difference in general performance. It felt like the kite had a less constant pull when changing direction, so that I had to power up the kite quicker or it would loose its power when traveling past zenith. I’m not sure if this was pure imagination or if it actually was due to the different setting.

Jumping

I really enjoyed jumping with the Element. The V1 didn’t have huge hang time and I could feel that this has been improved. Sent jumps took me high up in the air and steering the kite to and fro between zenith gave me good hang time and floaty soft landings. For being an all-rounder this kite definitely gives me enough pleasure in the big jumps department. For unhooked performance there was a noticeable difference compared to V1 in the line slack, especially with the freestyle setting. I don’t do handle passes but I could still appreciate the slack when hooking back in as I didn’t have to sheet out the bar with one hand and grab the chicken loop with the other. Most of the time I could keep both hands on the bar and hook in straight away.

To summarise: I’ve only been out on two sessions, but what I’ve felt so far is a great kite that caters to the kind of riding I enjoy – no fuss freeride/freestyle with a kite I feel safe with and in control over. PM me for a demo if you’re in the London, UK area or get your own at Switch’s website.

Switch Element V2 11m

The shape is similar to Element V1.

Switch Element V2 11m

Square wingtips as seen on most freestyle/all-round hybrids nowadays.

Element from behind

Element V1 as well as V2 is a 3-strut kite.

No pulleys on V2

No pulleys on V2.

kite inflation nozzle

The inflation/deflation nozzle is huge and screw on. I.e. you pump up the kite in seconds and it won’t pop open during your session.

Strut unipump inflation

All Switch kites have a unipump system. Inflation and deflation have never been easier.

Element line tuning

Adjust your line attachment to your preference. Turning speed and bar pressure.

Switch Element tuning

Bridle attachment tuning. Depower and turning. Use the provided extra pigtails here.

Switch watch dog

With Switch watch dog you register your kite online so people know it’s yours.

Switch Element kite bag

Plenty of room and sturdily built. You can even get 2 kites + bar in there.

extras for element

Repair kite, stickers and extensions for tuning the bridles.