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Last year’s Code Zero caused a bit of a stir among the manufacturers with assumptions that it would be made of some space-age material like its namesake from the yachting world, which was a term coined on the Volvo ocean race for a secret weapon spinnaker with incredible and quite revolutionary lightwind performance. When the kite was released, in reality it was a very accomplished mono-strut kite from the Actionsports arm of North, made from fairly standard materials which we really enjoyed using for foiling and lighter wind wave riding. So we were eager to see how they had decided to update it for the upcoming season with a year plus of further development.
From a shape perspective it’s still a mid-aspect, open-canopied affair with quite reserved leading edge diameters and a fairly long central strut. The low diameter bridling has had a major overhaul with the hang points now sitting neatly at the segment joins. The primary aim here was to lower bar pressure and increase turning speed, and we can confirm it’s been a roaring success in the handling department. Wingtips and trailing edge have been reworked to minimize flutter, which is particularly noticeable in the top end of the wind range where it feels far more composed in general. The larger sizes also have battens employed along the trailing edge to help in this department. Four new sizes have been added across the range, with the 14m topping out what’s available. Weight saving has been an important factor in the design process and a minimalist approach makes a lot of sense for a mono-strut, focused on early flying per size. They’ve used Duralite reinforcements on the leading edge segmentation to address this common wear point, as well as lightweight N-Max Dacron for all inflatable airframe sections. Lighter bladders have also been employed throughout the range, which is a more significant weight saving method than you may expect.
Off the bat, the bar feeling and kite position awareness is vastly improved this year, with far more progressive feeling depower and no dead spots in the bar throw. It’s also impressive to feel it turn far more effectively with a bit of depower on, the trim generally seems much improved over the predecessor. Steering speed and reactivity are much improved, the awareness of position makes flying round your tacks on foil very simple and one-handed control feels very natural, allowing you to open up your body. When running fast across the window depowered, a good stress test for any mono-strut, the kite is far more composed and smooth, with minimal trailing edge distortion if in its wind range. The 5m and 7m on short lines was an absolute delight for freeride foiling, feeling sprightly and efficient. We reached some impressive forward speed for an LEI which you can carry around your transitions to keep foiling, and then use the nippy handling to whip yourself out.
It’s definitely worth mentioning the drift characteristics, which we tested thoroughly by hammering downwind at speed with fast high-aspect foils combined with the 7m and 9m. Maintain half-bar sheet on whilst you’re doing this, keeping the kite around 45 degrees and it’ll sit there obediently. If you do manage to bin it, relaunch is extremely simple, with the rounded low-aspect design rolling over eagerly, and that long central strut keeps the canopy from flopping in the water and causing issue.
So who’s it going to suit? We’d say the primary market is the freeride foiler. The wave crossover potential this year is definitely improved with more composure at the top of the wind range where you’d use the Code Zero with a surf board. That drift ability and increase in turning speed and agility will make it far more capable. Schools will love the early flying ability in the larger sizes and simplicity of use where you don’t necessarily want to patronize the student with a sluggish kite, which can be counterproductive, and the power delivery is so easy to feather it’ll be a winner for early sessions.
The second incarnation of the Code Zero shows improvements in every performance sector, particularly in handling, and presents a very rounded and versatile single-strut kite with much improved range and composure.