Switch Kiteboarding has not paid me to do this review. I was provided two kites and a bar to review, but paid for shipping and customs. My review is 100% my honest and unbiased opinion, as recommending bad products would only hurt Global Kite Spot’s reputation in the long run.
This review is based on my subjective perception of the kites’ performance and characteristics after a few sessions on each kite. I’ve ridden a big range of kites from Switch and other brands, but I’m not an expert in kite tuning so this is more of a first impressions summary.
I’ve been riding Switch kites since 2012. I was part of their team rider program back in the days, and even after the program ended I kept riding them, trying almost every model in the range. For me they have always offered best value for money with their direct-to-consumer business model. Both build quality and flying characteristics have suited me just fine.
When Switch Kiteboarding reached out to discuss how we could promote the brand on the site we quickly concluded that reviewing gear is hard to beat as a way to reach the audience. I picked the latest models Nitro 7 and Krypto to review as I’ve ridden both Nitro and Legacy in the past and I was curious to try the latest iterations first hand (Krypto is taking over from the Legacy in the line-up).
The new designs
If you’re familiar with Switch as a brand you might’ve noticed some big changes in their kite line-up. While Nitro, Element and Helium are still there, they have all been overhauled design-wise and do not any more carry the Bill Hansen signature. On the forum people speculate and investigate to find the original designs behind these new kites.
Personally I’m happy if a Nitro still takes me to the moon and drops me down gently, and I can hand my beginner girlfriend an Element without fearing it will create frustration instead of stoke. Basically, if the characteristics are still there I don’t really mind if old models have new designs.
Build quality of Switch kites
Both Nitro 7 and Krypto are built solid and to last. They’re using same materials and details that we’ve seen in the last few generations. My most recent Switch kites were Legacy 1 and Nitro 5 from 2015/16 and purely from visual examination not much seems to have changed since then. For the price you pay it’s good, solid quality.
Double rip stop, large uni-pump inflate/deflate point and reinforced sensitive areas is the standard here. Yes, I’ve fixed my Nitro 5 bladder, canopy and leading edge numerous times but I’ve also taken it around the world and used and abused it for three years and it’s still a kick-ass kite.
Why you’d name a kite after a superhero dog beats me, but naming aside the Krypto is clearly Switch’s latest freestyle kite and successor to the Legacy.
Over the years Switch have made deliberate moves towards more user-friendly freestyle kites. They started with Combat, which was a hardcore five line C-kite. It was replaced by Legacy which offered more depower and relaunch abilities, and could also be converted to a 4-line kite.
Krypto takes it one step further, coming with a bridled, 4-line set-up out of the box, but with a converter kit included should you want to go all Marc Jacobs on it and ride it with five lines. This places the Krypto in the same category as the ever-so-popular bridled C-kite category for all aspiring freestylers out there (including myself, but I think it’s time to succumb to my limitations and face reality at some point :P).
The 12m Krypto weights 5.2 kg. It’s got five struts and a set of tiny bridles. It’s not quite as high aspect as the Legacy or other full-on C-kites but you’ll definitely feel the C-kite characteristics when you fly it. I owned Legacy 1 for a while and it was a great kite but I realised that for my style riding I didn’t need a C-kite. The 5th line and harder relaunch was enough hassle to trade it for a Nitro.
But here comes the Krypto and gives me a kite that offers me a C-kite feel but with the ease of use of an SLE. I chose the 12m thinking I’d mainly use this kite in light to moderate wind practising freestyle.
On the water / In the air
Impressions collected over three sessions, 12 – 20 knots. Mainly flat water and small surf. I’m 78kg and rode a finless Tona Pop with boots and used the 55cm C4X bar.
Krypto sits somewhere between Nitro and Legacy in handling and performance. Maybe the closest comparison would be to the good old Element V2 on the ‘direct drive’ i.e. freestyle setting. A kite I still ride to this date. Krypto has more hangtime and smoother landings than the EV2 though.
Jumping is ok, but compared with the other kites in the range you come down fairly quickly. I wouldn’t call it a floaty kite. The 12m I rode was pretty slow on the fastest turning speed setting. For me 12m is the upper limit for big air given my weight and technique and if feels like Krypto is pushing that limit. Obviously that’s not really an issue since I intend to mainly use it powered, where in fact slow is good.
Relaunch is ok considering the type of kite (high aspect, short bridles) but it doesn’t come off the water immediately.
It really combines a lot of good features into a neat package but where it excels is unhooking and looping. It provides good line slack. More than enough for my needs. I spent a lot of time on this kite in 12 – 16 knots light wind, so I ended up playing a lot with loops.
And I love the way this kite loops!
It’s hard to explain. 12m isn’t the right size to review kite loops really but it felt so smooth. It just gave me more confidence thanks to how smooth, tight and controlled the loop was. It would be fun to try and loop an 8m in stronger wind.
September update, after a week of flat water bliss in Sicily’s Lo Stagnone:
The Krypto grew a lot on me during my time in Sicily. In the flat water lagoon with smooth 18 knots the kite really showed its true potential. I normally do a mix of sent and powered tricks during my sessions, but I realised that with the Krypto I was having so much more fun doing unhooked and powered tricks.
It delivers great pop, plenty of slack, and is slow and steady in the air. And is so dialled in that you can unhook and keep riding if you so wish. It doesn’t stall.
Relaunching in light wind requires some skill and patience, as should be expected from a kite with this shape. Low-end was surprisingly good though, again considering the type of kite we’re dealing with. With my 78kg I shared the water with 14m kites and could stay upwind in 11 – 13 knots with a 140 Crazyfly Bulldozer.
On the flip side, I’d say that Krypto isn’t well suited for standard sent jumps. Not much lift or float, and too slow moving. At least the 12m. As mentioned already, looping is great fun with this kite. It’s smooth and predictable.
With the Krypto I got what I ordered, with the added bonus of super smooth kite loops. If Marc Jacobs can pull his handle passes on this kite I have no doubt it’s a great freestyle performer in the upper end, but it’s a wise choice of Switch to make their freestyle model a bit more versatile and user-friendly. I’m already keen on adding an 8m to my quiver!