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The out and out boosting model seems to be an essential addition to most major brands this season and we could certainly be seeing a King of the Air and WOO effect strongly influencing design from established brands.
Slingshot join the party with the all-new Raptor model. It sits on an open C five-strut platform and has a very swept and open canopy design, meaning nearly all of it is projected in the wind and being useful. A pulley-less bridle keeps the feedback fairly sharp on the bar, but the kite is relatively docile in its turning speed; it is certainly not twitchy and intentionally so. They have incorporated some 4×4 ripstop from Teijin to stiffen up the canopy with a diamond layout in the leech. This should increase the kite’s lifespan, and of course, there are the usual generous amount of Kevlar bump stops you expect from a Slingshot product. There are plenty of trim settings available to customize the kite to your riding style.
The low end is perfectly functional and pleasant feeling as a freeride kite, maybe lagging a little with the extra weight of the two struts. Where the genius kicks in, and where the intended design focus clearly lies, is when you go out maxed and give it some welly, sending it like an eager postman at the end of his shift. That docile turning speed lends itself really well to hucking some huge airs with bundles of glide and hang time where bar input errors can be extremely hazardous. It is genuinely difficult to over send the kite, which brings some pleasant consistency and predictability to your dangling. We were clocking a consistent 12m+ on the WOO without reaching anywhere the top end of the 10m, with those five struts equating to some reassuring stability in punchy gusty conditions as we rode out a couple of winter storms in the UK.
Looping the kite was quite interesting – the initial lift is easy to access and smooth, so it is easy to time your loop just before the peak of the jump and you can vary the amount of forward pull quite accurately, making it easy to gauge the kite’s response. You can choose how deep the loop is which is great at that critical moment. On the lower end of the kite we made some lovely low backloop kite loops, with tons of power through the turning arc.
Crossing over to surfboard use, there is all that easy lift on sheeting accessible for strapless freestyle with a surfboard as it lets you down so gently. It has that magic ability to let you control your descent really accurately simply using the bar sheet. On a hydrofoil it was easy to tack and do your foot swaps with the lift on sheeting making you nice and weightless when you need to be.
The Raptor is by far and wide the most accessible lift on demand in the Slingshot range, ideal for busting out some old school foot outs, nicely controlled loops, and clocking up some hefty (and from our testing very consistent) WOO scores. It is all about being hooked in, the massive top end and boosting ability, but there’s a casual consistency about the kite that helps you trust it and progress your air skills.