North Kiteboarding has not paid or in any way supported me in making this review.
In my quest for finding the perfect control bar I turned my attention to shorter bars. Why? Because my Cabrinha Switchblade 10m is super sensitive to input and I want to gain more confidence with my big air rotations. I’d also help my unhooked riding, which happens once in a blue moon.
The short bar theory
A short bar slows down the steering of the kite. You’re either familiar with this and can skip this section, or if not, you’ve noticed how a large kite moves and turns slower than a small kite. This is why you can’t mega loop a large kite as it won’t come around and catch you in time, and it’s also why it’s easier to practise unhooked tricks in lighter wind with a large kite – it stays stable at 45 degrees.
You normally match a small kite with a short bar (to not accidentally oversteer it) and a large kite with a long bar (to have enough leverage to steer it effectively for turns and jumps). But sometimes you want to speed up a small kite and slow down a large kite. Double kite loops are preferably done on a 6m kite on a 50 cm bar, and a 12m kite paired with a 45 cm bar works beautifully for freestyle.
Normally you ride 9m and smaller on a bar in the range of 45 cm, and 12m+ on a 55 cm bar. My go-to kite is 10m and thus you can go with either bar length based on preference. I used to ride my 10m Switch Nitro on 55 cm length, but when I switched to a Switchblade I found myself oversteering a lot and loosing control of the kite mid-rotation – not a very confidence boosting feeling! But even a 45 cm bar wasn’t short enough for me, and so I got curious what it would be like to ride the Switchblade on an even shorter bar.
What brands make short kitesurf bars?
There aren’t too many brands out there who are large enough that they can afford to produce niche controllers. And a one-size bar is out of question for me – I want two length options in one bar, everything else is ripping customers off in my opinion.
That left me with these options:
Core’s bar is very epxensive, I don’t like the Linx bar which I reviewed in the past, but luckily I found a good deal on the North Navigator.
The North Navigator control bar
- Quality product. Packaging, materials and innovative solutions all scream quality
- Adjustable bar length, 43/38 cm
- Best in class Quick Release reconnect – seatbelt style
- Easily swap chicken loops for different riding styles
- Both steering lines are green and will make setting up and especially detangling harder than it has to be.
- Bar throw is not adjustable
What caught me off guard in this otherwise premium onboarding experience was that when I was setting up the lines with a kite for the first time I noticed that the red/left and green/right pigtails were set up opposite than they should have. In others words they would’ve made me set up the bar with inverted steering which would cause a lot of confusion and potential danger for a beginner. When I got back home I swapped the order of the pigtails and then that was sorted.
On the water with the North Navigator 43 cm
I got this bar to see if a shorter bar would be more suitable for my 10m Switchblade. On previous bars I always had to ride it on 45 cm length and slow steering, and yet the kite was turning too quickly for my liking.
The North Navigator is 43/38 cm and is as short as they come. I started out on the 43cm setting and immediately felt right at home. One would be forgiven for thinking that 43 cm is too short and would make steering a 10m kite sluggish. Not the case. At least for my type of riding. It turns beautifully while still giving you plenty of margin in the air.
You do have to steer it more aggressively and be a fraction more proactive but it feels good. It’s basically what I asked for. After a few sessions on the Navigator I started to get very comfortable in the air and started throwing double rotations both left and right – some of which I’ve never done before! So this is definitely a testament to both the bar itself, but also the importance of finding a bar that you feel comfortable with.
Using the 38 cm length
The kite was even manageable on the 38 cm setting which I never would’ve thought. It wasn’t ideal but I could probably try this for a freestyle session if I want a super stable kite that I don’t have to work.
I also have an 8m Liquid Force Envy which I’ve ridden on a 45 cm bar in the past. Now I’ve used the 38 cm length on the North bar for it and it works great. I’m already doing more and higher rotations on the 8m.
Everything just works
Changing bar length on the fly was as easy as park the kite in the water, pull out the bar end inserts, spin them around and pop them back in. Super simple. Maybe with use, salt water and dirt it’ll become a bit harder but out of the box this was a breeze.
On the downside, the bungee flag line twists very quickly. Maybe it doesn’t untwist due to my DIY semi-suicide solution and won’t be an issue for anyone else. I try and spin evenly both ways and after a session I pull it out and un-spin it.
Still on the spinning topic, the front lines don’t untwist by themselves so there’s a lot of untwisting action after jumps. This is done with the help of the below the bar swivel which is easy enough to operate.
The plastic coating protecting the deposed rope from wear works great and I had none of the issues I found with the F-One Linx bar that would jam if I turned and sheeted in at the same time.
The bar throw is long and offers plenty of depower. I just wish they would offer a customisable solution for riders with shorter arms. As it is now I can just about reach the bar when it’s fully sheeted out, and I’m 175 cm tall.
Adjusting the depower works ok using the cleat and rubber end. I could however see wear on the bungee rope already after one session so I hope this won’t need to be replaced too soon.
On the water with the North Navigator and 12m Krypto
To complete this review I waited for a light wind day and slapped the Navigator onto my 12m Krypto. That’s a large slow-moving bridled C-kite.
Did it work? You bet it did!
A 45 cm bar on a 12m certainly isn’t an ideal set-up for boosters, but you’re not really going to boost with a 12m anyway. For me, my 12m is my light wind fun and freestyle kite. And for that, this 45 cm length worked great.
Overall I’m very impressed with the North Navigator control bar. It’s a tidy and well packaged product with premium feel and innovative solutions. As far as control bars go this is the best one I’ve tried so far.
A lot of the positivity in this review may be down to the eye-opening affects from riding on a really short bar. But kudos has to go out to North for making a short, adjustable length bar as we’ve seen that it’s only really a handful of brands doing it.