When you purchase gear through links on our site, we may earn a small commission. Here’s why you can trust our tests and our affiliate partner.
Lightwind freeride has always been the Contra’s remit, with this accolade now spanning a 20-year run, perhaps one of the longest in the industry. For 2023 the Contra product line has been split into two distinct ranges, with the Contra Aether model introduced to cover the smaller sizes from 4m through to 11m with a lightweight single-strut design. Now sitting above the Aether, three sizes of full-fat, three-strut Contra exist in 13, 15 and a colossal 17m, with us getting our hands on the 15m for a spin in the deepest UK winter as well as at the now legendary Viva Mas product launch Cabrinha held recently in Mexico.
The technical changes across the whole Cabrinha range this year are significant, the airframe change on the Contra being the most tangible, with the HTD Lite technology making a kite which holds a lot of tube material more light, which has quite a significant impact. Ultralite bladders have also been incorporated for further weight savings and the Contra feels all the better for it, increasing its already impressive low-end ability and notably its relaunch even further than previous. It now weighs in at 3.85kg on our scales, which is admirable for a three-strut 15m, and 15% lighter than the previous model.
The trailing edge has some new anti-flap battens made from EVA sewn into strategic pockets which blend neatly into the canopy segmentation, which again has been revised for smoother airflow over the entire frame. The revised inflation system is extremely neat and tidy, with screw-on caps on all the one-pump valves, and covers for all the clips helping protect against any rubbing on the canopy. The Sprint 3.0 valve is a bayonet connection, and allows a decent airflow from the pump, which is an important factor when inflating a 15m beast, making it a less arduous task.
In the air the Contra is going to please its loyal following, with that fabled high level of on-demand grunt available instantly on the bar; what’s changed immeasurably in the Contra’s general mobility, you can definitely feel it climb the window and initiate turning in a far more assertive manner whilst still remaining smooth and predictable in its power delivery. The lift and level of support through transitions is very entertaining, you can hover and spin to your heart’s content with the kite high and lower yourself back down as required with gentle sheeting. Because of the tighter turning and faster climb, you’re going to find those lofty, highly supported jumps have a little more amplitude. An enormous range of sheet on-demand power is available, and pure tractor grunt can be tempered quickly by sheeting out where the kite is easily pushed upwind and out of the power with a little edging. Pulling on a little bit of depower, the rear lines remain tight enough to retain a decent level of control in the kite, so if you did go out and the wind picked up significantly, you can dump the power and limp back to the beach with confidence.
Is there still a place for kites this size with the advent of hydrofoiling and mono struts? We’d argue for the average rider, who likes to cruise about on a twintip with a minimum of fuss, there’s not a finer vehicle to choose than the Contra. It’s massive, powerful and predictable. The weight savings this year crisp things up a treat and extend the low end further than previous. It’s not a demanding kite to fly technically; swing it into the power to initiate the smooth torque and let it tow you along. I used to describe riding the larger sizes of Contra as almost like kiting in slow motion bullet time, but this revision brings things up to 60 frames per second. All that support from the massive canopy allows you the time to build some lazy style into your lightwind freeriding, and it lands you gently as a feather, every time.