TESTED: Flysurfer SOUL

The SOUL is the latest (and probably most advanced) in the current trend of super easy to use performance foils on the market. With the increased popularity in hydrofoils over recent years, more freeriders realize the limits in the low end of LEI kites, and start looking at foils for those sub 10 knot days which can be pretty daunting with a LEI kite. Which is where the SOUL comes in. From a practical perspective, foil kite bridling doesn’t get a great deal simpler on the SOUL than on a more high performance foil kite, so you need to read the manual (and check out some YouTube clips). But once you have unpacking and packing dialed then it is actually much quicker to get on the water than with a LEI kite. A quick check over for any seaweed and bridle tangling before you launch, a bit of a pre-inflate, and off it goes. It takes a little while to fill compared to other foil kites on the market, but this means it’s also extremely hard for the air to escape if you bin it in the drink. We tested this theory on a mistimed jibe and think you would be hard pressed to sink it. The kite holds its shape extremely well for a foil, and reverse launched like an absolute charm. From a build point of view, the Flysurfer SOUL is a beautiful work of engineering and – with all of those cells – you can only begin to imagine how many man hours go into each one. So in terms of materials and R&D: you can see where the hefty price tag comes from.

On the water and the low end of the SOUL, as you would expect, is extremely good. For one session we tested with a relatively large surface area hydrofoil in six knots, and the SOUL provided smooth, reassuring power delivery and an unbelievable stability even at this minimal wind strength. The canopy is so light that, if the wind does drop below what was foilable, the kite still flies overhead patiently and it was very easy to limp home. The power delivery with the SOUL is so smooth it’s much like being towed around by a friendly cloud. Turning speed on a 15m foil kite is never going to be comparable to a LEI, but the SOUL does an admirable job of shifting that huge canopy around. We tested it on 20m lines, Flysurfer suggest coming down to shorter lines for a quicker response with foiling. On a twintip in a little more wind, the SOUL provides a ridiculous amount of power and float. A feeling we can only describe as kitesurfing in slow motion. We’ve also witnessed its crossover potential on snow, where the low wind ability is staggering with the correct piloting. The SOUL is really going to suit the low wind hydrofoil use, it’s as easy as foil kites currently get and it’s super easy to make the transition from a LEI.

In a sentence: It’s pretty simple, if you’ve got a foil then you need a foil kite for low wind days, and for us the SOUL is the clear stand out right now.

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TESTED: Naish Gecko S25

Naish have created various blunt nosed boards for strapless freestyle over the years and were early on board with the compact board concept for enhancing aerial characteristics. The Gecko is available in two constructions, a standard bamboo version and a high-end carbon and S-Glass variant with vector net strengthened rails. Being a dedicated strapless board, foot strap inserts are not present on either, and correctly so. Two sizes are available in 5’1 and 5’4 with a respective 22l and 24l of volume.

The Gecko sits alongside the long-established Skater in the current surfboard range, but focuses its efforts on more mediocre flat water and chop conditions than properly formed waves and covers the full spectrum of real-world conditions. A relatively parallel rail outline immediately tracks very well in a straight line, and builds speed with ease, smoothing a mushy surface well. The noticeably grippy quad fin setup is uncomplicated to load up and release against, even with minimal kicker options available. Something sometimes overlooked in a kite surf board is the quality of the standard fins, but Naish haven’t cut corners with the Gecko as it’s obviously a critical part of the mechanics, and have provided a super stiff quad fin set with a little extra cant in the rear pair.

Width in both the nose and tail mean that once the board is in the air it has a predictable anti-gravity characteristic under your feet; wind doesn’t seem to catch the top of the board and flip it off your feet like a more traditional surfboard. The corduroy EVA pad feels positive and grippy without being overly aggressive, and divides itself evenly into three distinct sections over the front of the board, aiding foot placement for both take offs and landings without having to glance down. In the standard double bamboo construction that we tested, weight is definitely minimized but it seems adequately built for the big impacts. A simple light concave runs the entire length of the board, and disperses the landings graciously whilst running downwind. Re-engaging the fins and rails presents no surprises or squirrelly behavior. The relatively high volume retained means it takes fast powered landings in its stride.

Although it’s certainly not the primary design focus, we found the Gecko handled smaller wave conditions admirably and perhaps undersells itself in this department. The grippy quad fin setup made for some face slicing, fast drawn out turns. Don’t underestimate the Gecko: it is super fun on onshore conditions and can make a convincing top turn if required.

So if you’re intent on extending your trick regime and aren’t blessed with ideal kicker conditions close to hand, the Gecko could definitely be for you. Its ability to load energy into the intelligently designed rail and fin combination and release in flatwater is remarkable and the inherently forgiving shape enables the Gecko to gobble up sometimes irritating short chop for breakfast, much like its reptilian namesake devours mosquitoes.

4. Naish Gecko S25 54 800x140 - Naish Gecko S25

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