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The 2019 Bandit was a product range divided by discipline, with the smaller sizes (up to 9m) being very wave-oriented, and then the ten meter plus aimed at freestyle and freeride. This year F-ONE have separated these smaller sized wave kites from the 2020 Bandit, and given them their own designation as Bandit S (for surf edition). What this has enabled F-ONE to do from a design perspective, is to go all out for a wave-specific kite with no compromises, and they’ve done an excellent job. Raphaël Salles openly admits there’s no set budget on the R&D process and this is very evident in the new kite’s performance.
So, from a build perspective, how does the Bandit S differ from the 2020? First of all, it’s got less hang points, allowing the whole kite to twist more enabling more pivotal steering. The leading edge has a lower diameter overall, which is particularly visible in the wingtips enabling more forward flying in the window and tip twist. Whilst the graphics and colors cross over, it’s a completely different profile and shape to the Bandit 2020. For the sailcloth enthusiasts out there, a new intermediate 130g cloth has been used to bridge the gap in material weights between the standard Dacron and ripstop, promoting less wear on the material joints and an overall weight saving. The same SUP valve from last year is carried over and makes inflation exceptionally efficient. The well-established Lynx bar receives a higher line quality with less stretch and some minor tweaks to enhance its simplicity and remains a comfortable and elegant system. The smaller Bandits were some of our favorites from last year, so we were intrigued to see how the ‘S’ compared.
In the air the kite feels similarly snappy in the turn, light on the bar and well-trimmed with regards to its bar geometry. The wind range on the Bandit S has been heavily extended, and when clawing in depower on the cleat, the bar pressure and overall handling of the kite remain very uniform and consistent, and even when at maximum depower there’s zero flutter. You can feel this element of the Bandit S has been perfected in gusty European conditions in Montpellier. Without doubt, a design focus has targeted low end as well, with the perky handling allowing you to work the kite efficiently using the smallest sail possible. From a strapless freestyle perspective, the load and pop is simple to initiate, and following that the power dump is immediate and smooth. As ever, with a well put together wave kite, hydrofoil use is an obvious crossover, and the Bandit S fulfils all the requirements, with the breeze picking up the slack in the larger sizes. The Bandit S allows you be very opportunistic with your wave riding, and put in a turn or maneuver – which you might think twice about on a more park-and-ride-style wave kite – with extreme confidence. The level of depower available on the bar stroke, and innate stability, allow you to sit deep in the pocket of the wave undisturbed. The bar feeling is wonderfully light and subtle which nods its head to a product with a lot of personality and heritage.
In a sentence: The Bandit S is a unique and soulful product with a profound heritage, and its roots lie somewhere between Cape Verde and Montpellier…