Cabrinha 2012 Drifter Kite Review – Lose the Straps

Lonny's Blog

Published on November 9th, 2011 | by Lonny


Cabrinha 2012 Drifter Kite Review

Generally when the new season starts, which for us in South FL is around October, it is also right around the same time the new Cabrinha kites are released. The last 3 seasons I have been very happy with Switchblades, as I find them to be the best all-around kites in the Cabrinha line. They are just the go everywhere, do everything kite. This season before I selected my new quiver I was very intrigued by the specs for the Drifter, which is a new kite in the Cabrinha 2012 lineup. When it comes to choosing a kite, I never let someone else speak for the kite, and that includes technical write ups and other kiters. In fact I generally do not like anyone to tell me much of anything about a kite I am testing. I like to go into it without a preconceived notion of what the kite is about or how it rides, etc. The simple fact of the matter is the only way to know if a kite works for you is to test it, and test it I did. Here are my honest findings…

Fortunately, for us we have had an amazing beginning to our season. In October alone there were about 17 days over 15 knots, and I think I rode 16 of them. Not too shabby. In Miami the sweet spot kite is usually around a 9 or 10 so I picked up a 9 Drifter to see what it was all about. As I mentioned, I have probably logged about 17 days of riding, or about 40 hours of water time in the last 4-5 weeks in conditions ranging from 13 to up to 28 knots. Almost all of the days were spent on the 9, and one day on the 7 Drifter. I only rode in wave conditions ranging from side-shore to on-shore in knee to overhead surf.

The first thing I immediately noticed about the Drifter is that it is extremely responsive to rider input, and turns effortlessly and smoothly. I had gotten used to the Switchblade in that when you are in waves you generally have to think in advance about what you are going to do with the kite on a wave and anticipate a bit. For example, when you are going off the lip with a SB you have to send the kite before you do your turn to time things out. The Drifter is amazingly responsive. When you see it happening you can control the Drifter almost instantly, send it where you want it to go, and it goes. It is a wonderful feeling. It flies extremely well even if you are just controlling it with one hand.

I have flown many kites that are fast, but this kite has a fast yet also very smooth power arc. It pulls very predictably and evenly throughout the powerband. For instance when I down-looped the Drifter the power was predictable, and very even – not more in the beginning and less in the end. It also steered extremely well with the bar sheeted out, which was a very pleasant surprise. The Drifter also had excellent feedback through the bar. It has a respectable amount of bar pressure – I felt the power in the bar, but not anywhere near the point where it was uncomfortable. I personally like a kite with feedback in the bar, and like to know where the kite is by feel. Frankly, I would call the bar pressure and feel absolutely perfect.

It is called the Drifter right? Yeah, and they named it aptly. All I can say is get in the pocket of a wave, park the Drifter and surf. It does not stall or pull you. You can actually pull in and legitimately almost completely forget about this kite. I was so amazed by how well it flew above my head that I would actually try to stall it to see how it would react. I would intentionally fly the Drifter poorly, sending it over my back shoulder just to see what it would do; it was hard for me to force it to stall. It wants to stay in the air, be stable, move with you, and not pull you out. It begs you to use the power of the wave and just surf. I have never had a kite let me go front side on a wave and not pull me to some extent. The Drifter will not only let you, it almost insists you do it!

So is the Drifter the perfect kite? Well, it does have a few minor weaknesses. I found that the range on the Drifter was a bit of a drawback, especially when compared to something like a Switchblade. The low end was not very good, to the point that when I was underpowered it felt gutless. I would sometimes dive the kite and it felt like there was no power. I also found that it had a narrower sweet spot. In other words, the range of wind you feel comfortable in is tighter than other kites I have ridden like the Switchblade. It tended to feel a bit more overpowered more quickly than a comparably sized Switchblade would in the same conditions. However, I must say that it really was not a problem. I do not think it would be fair to compare the range of this kite to a Switchblade or Crossbow. And frankly, I only mention it because some people will want to know how the range compares to other similarly sized kites especially in the Cabrinha range. I also found that the upwind performance of the Drifter was a bit lacking, but that is to be expected side effect since it was designed to sit naturally further back in the window to stay aloft with you. It does require that you are more conscious and focus on being efficient getting back upwind to surf. Mind you it was not terrible, but worth mentioning.

I have spent time riding every kite Cabrinha has ever produced. From the first Black Tip all the way to the 2012 range. This is the most perfect kite that they have ever produced for my style of riding which is only strapless with a skimmer, surfboard, or a wakeskate. Overall I can say without hesitation that if you like to ride strapless this is hands down the best kite Cabrinha has ever produced. The delivery of power is so smooth and the kite is so effortless to fly that it make strapless riding better. Even though the kite has some drawbacks when it comes to range and upwind performance the benefits of effortless power, easy control, smooth delivery, and stability far outweigh any minor shortcomings. When they designed this kite they clearly had a focus and a vision. They nailed it – period! I do not stand on the rooftops and shout about a kite very often, and I am pretty low key when it comes to endorsing a product. Frankly everybody makes a decent kite nowadays, and I know you might be reading this saying, “yeah another Cabrinha whipping boy pimping a kite.” However, I have always given my honest opinion. I can honestly say the Drifter is a great kite, and absolutely the kite to choose from Cabrinha if you like to ride strapless. Give the Drifter a spin you might be pleasantly surprised, but don’t take my word for it….

Key Features:
• Excellent slack line/drift stability
• Responsive direct turning even when steering with one hand or a sheeted out bar
• Smooth power arc and delivery
• Three strut lightweight canopy

Have thoughts, questions or opinions. Please feel free to share them…


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Founder and Admin of Lose the Straps, the original site dedicated exclusively to the progression and evolution of strapless kitesurfing, Lose The Straps.

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