2021’s Best Kiteboarding Kites for Catching the Wind and Waves

Updated on
The Rundown
  • Best All-Around: North Reach
    Durable, versatile, and easy-to-use, this high-performance kite is perfect.
  • Runner-Up Best All-Around: Cabrinha Switchblade
    May be an old-timer, but still one of the smoothest and most durable all-around kites in the market.
  • Best Freeride: Naish Pivot
    This two-time King of the Air champion kite hits the mark in more ways than one, allowing you to fly through the air and glide between the waters.
  • Best Freestyle: Cabrinha FX
    Potent steering, ultra-durable, and made for tacking the seas, this is the kite that places you at the helm.
  • Best for Big Air: North Orbit
    Orbit is the ultra-responsive kite with minimal lag, gravity-defying potential, and smooth handling.
  • Best Wave Riding: Slingshot SST V5
    One of the strongest kites on the market with instant response to keep you in control between the waves.
  • Best for Entry Level: Core Nexus 2
    A buttery-smooth, playful kite that embraces diversity in riding styles and abilities.

The thrill of the wind catching your kite—and that rush as it lifts you up over the breakers—is one you’ll never forget!

Riding the swells with a good headwind and knowing you’re safely harnessed-in can give you such a buzz, as you practice your jumps and turns. Sound familiar? If you’re also a wind junkie, you know that the gear’s performance makes all the difference in this sport.

Keep reading for a review covering the best kitesurfing kites on the market, looking at how they fare against the competition. Whether you’re a fan of all-around kites or want a specialty model for niche moves, we break down the features of each to help you decide which one might work best for you. 

North Reach Yellow
Durable, versatile, and easy-to-use, this high-performance kite is perfect.
What we like
  • Incredibly easy to maneuver and use
  • Stable and won’t toss you around the water
  • Easy on the elbows and knees
What we don’t like
  • A bit pricey
  • Not necessarily the best choice for a first-time user

The North Reach Performance Freeride is the best freeride kite available on the market. With an abundance of features and superbly-smooth handling, this kite seamlessly does what you want and goes where you take it. We love the Performance Freeride’s solid-yet-lightweight construction, which doubles its response time and effectiveness while it increases its value.

The webbing on this kite’s three struts boosts the kite’s strength, but the pads and reinforcements on the seams don’t weigh the kite down. Additionally, the Performance Freeride’s bridle has medium-to-light bar pressure, which is easier on the arms and lets you enjoy a longer ride.

The North Reach Performance Freeride kite is fun, playful, and reacts beautifully to your touch. One of the kite’s best features is its stability, which is due to the shape of its edges and swept-back wingtip. It helps you establish a firm connection to your kite.

High-Performance, Smooth Ride

Dubbed the best desert-island kite, you’ll never need another kite when you have the Performance Freeride. It is the King of Kitesurfing Kites and deserves the title of “Best All-Around” because it is the ultimate performer in any wind condition.

The kite has impeccable reaction time and maneuvering options. It is a breeze to get out of the water and relaunch, and you can easily steer and maneuver it as it rises with the wind.

The North Reach Performance Freeride is the kite that works for all kiteboarders and lets you fine-tune your method. It comes in yellow, red, and blue, and sizes range from 0.3m to 17m. Powerful, efficient, and accommodating, this kite is sure to please even the most discerning of kiteboarders. It gives you that extra boost, whether you’re into big loops or freestyle tricks.

Cabrinha Switchblade Orange
May be an old-timer, but still one of the smoothest and most durable all-around kites in the market.
What we like
  • User-friendly no matter what your experience is
  • Stable, durable, and versatile
  • Reliable for years, a trusted brand
What we don’t like
  • Not the fastest kite out there
  • Not as responsive to rider input, making it better for beginners than pros

The Cabrinha name is synonymous with quality and performance, and the Switchblade is among its best-known models. While The Switchblade is certainly not a newcomer, its consistent upgrades and spectacular performance makes it feel like a new kite with every launch. The Switchblade is such a high-performer that, frankly, not much needs improvement. This brand was once the benchmark standard for all-around kites.  

The kite combines performance with ease-of-use and balance. You can rely on the Switchblade when unexpected weather hits and when you need a strong kite to weather the elements. The kite’s balance is next-to-none in the industry and provides on-demand power delivery. If you’re a big air and loop enthusiast, the Switchblade offers an impressive boost and great hangtime while letting you stay in control.

Fun and Functional

The nano ripstop technology ensures that your kite weathers the strong ocean winds and keeps up with your pace and technique. And as the years go by, the Cabrinha Switchblade keeps getting progressively lighter and more durable. This kite helps you create remarkable loops, transitions, back loops, and down loops. The 2019 upgrades incorporated strut enhancement, and the bar offers medium pressure and wide range.

The Cabrinha Switchblade grows with you and evolves with your style. It has some of the industry’s most massive wind ranges, sitting far-forward with a strong and steady upwind drive. Less aggressive than other kites, you can still get the pops and progressions you seek without needing to maneuver it excessively.

This kite is your friend on the seas and the perfect kite to grow with you. We’re sure that you’ll love how versatile, smooth, and durable it is.

Naish Pivot Blue
This two-time King of the Air champion kite hits the mark in more ways than one, allowing you to fly through the air and glide between the waters.
What we like
  • Professional capabilities and design
  • Fantastic pull and an overall light feel
  • Beautiful maneuverability, always where you expect it to be
What we don’t like
  • Stays bulky after deflation, and its bag could feel too tight-fitting

The Naish Pivot is the best kite for freestyling, allowing you to bring out your creativity and unique style with its versatility and strength. The larger wingtip charges your turns with power, allowing for better looping, higher stability, and meeting heavy gusts of wind head-on.

The Naish Pivot is a kite for the performers at heart and the ones who go for the gold. If you want to test how far you can go and the boundaries of your endurance, this is the kite that lets you do so without hassle. With the Naish Pivot, you get to perform jaw-dropping loops, jumps, and turns to your heart’s content.

This kite works for professional-grade championships and handles wind speeds of up to 40 mph with grace. Its unique shape creates a powerful downwind pull and helps with drift. The tighter pinch also increases its stability, and the frame is stable and durable.

High-Intensity Performance

The Naish Pivot won’t stay down, so it allows you to perform an easy relaunch. This model is the perfect kite for loops and jumps, with powerful reinforcements that keep it firm and steady.

Its newer models finally got rid of the octopus inflation system. It now has an easier-to-manage external sherlock system that makes it simple to perform repairs. Easy to inflate and deflate, this kite has a 10.5 psi, which is more than most models in the industry.

The kite keeps its shape, and it is easy to get back up going for the relaunch. Its steering capabilities are top-notch. The kite’s design disperses the air throughout the kite, which creates that smooth and steady glide. The kite is excellent for performing old-school tricks, but it yields some of the most impressive loops and tricks when it’s in the hands of experienced riders.

Cabrinha FX
Potent steering, ultra-durable, and made for tacking the seas, this is the kite that places you at the helm.
What we like
  • Acts as an extension to your body
  • Very receptive to your movements
  • Allows to reach show-stopping heights and perform complex techniques and tricks
What we don’t like
  • Could improve with a smoother jump experience
  • Is not the best kite model for drifting and foil

The Cabrinha FX is one of the more well-known kites in crossover freestyle. Made for high-powered performance and rough handling, this kite keeps you in control when your adrenaline levels go on overdrive. The FX doesn’t compromise on stability but encourages you to work with its features and controls. The kite is best for an aggressive rider and offers mind-boggling turn speeds and jumps that require skill, experience, and precision.

This kite features a ripstop canopy that provides excellent protection against high winds and rough waters. Durable and stable, the latest model release offers two times the strength of previous models but maintains the same weight and size.

Giving Experiences Even to the Experienced

Although the FX has dominated the crossover category, it’s not suitable for beginners. Newer or less-experienced users will need more time to learn how to control the kite due to its smaller wind range. If you don’t plan on performing aggressive jumps, loops, or turns, another kite would be a better option.

If you are not at the appropriate skill level, you may find it challenging to ride upwind with the Cabrinha FX kite. Its responsiveness best accommodates kiters who want to be more involved in their ride. In other words, this kite doesn’t have the “auto-pilot” feel but instead attunes to the rider.

The FX is ideal for catching big air and loops, and its bridle settings bring pop and slap ability. For surfing and soil boarding, the FX is not the best, but if you’re more into jumps and extreme moves, this is the kite that will accommodate that energy.

North Orbit Ocean Blue
Orbit is the ultra-responsive kite with minimal lag, gravity-defying potential, and smooth handling.
What we like
  • Responsive and attuned to the movements of the rider
What we don’t like
  • Can be overly-aggressive on the turns if not maneuvered well

The Orbit was the winning kite in the 2020 Red Bull King of the Air championship. With its signature design, this kite is easily one of kiteboarding’s most popular and recognizable models. The Orbit has smooth navigation and airflow control and offers remarkable stability during high winds. It allows you to make strong turns, provides a high jump, and handles well.

Why is it called the Orbit? This kite catches big air and elevates you to dazzling heights, shooting you straight to orbit. Not for the faint of heart, this kite that grows with you will thrill you with both how well you can take control of your jumps and maneuvers and the boundaries that you can push.

Lets You Take Control

A distinguishing feature about the Orbit is how receptive it is to the kiter and how responsive it is to feedback. It turns when you want it to and makes an easy relaunch, with minimal lag, after being down. You can expect impressive hangtime and spectacular jumps with this kite.

The Orbit has a static bridle with medium bar pressure, so you don’t need a lot of elbow grease while maneuvering. The loops are consistent with zero lag, and the kite is, overall, a comfortable ride. With the Orbit, you’ll push the limits of your style and upgrade your tricks and technique.

Key features include its strength-to-weight ratio and its structure, which allows the kite to maintain its shape despite the elements. The kite is also easy to hook up so you can inflate it, and it works with most pumps. It has excellent reinforcements while managing to keep the weight down.

Perfect for foiling, and with a medium grip, you won’t have difficulty making the kite move the way you want. The Orbit handles wind beautifully and is one of the best kites on the market. Once you choose this kite and have the technique and experience to use it to its full capacity, you’ll find it challenging to switch to another kite model.

Slingshot SST V5
One of the strongest kites on the market with instant response to keep you in control between the waves.
What we like
  • Hard-to-beat build, tech, and durability
  • Compact bridle eases the gust pull
  • Bar absorbs shock
What we don’t like
  • The SST is not the best for turbulent conditions
  • Lack of upwind rideability

Most suitable for surfers and foilers, the Slingshot SST V5 is a design marvel in style and longevity. It has some of the best downwind drifting in the kiteboarding world. The Slingshot also has instant relaunch, which comes in handy with choppy waves and turbulent weather conditions.

If you’re always on the water and want a kite that helps you work with the waves, the Slingshot SST V5 has a cult following for its manageability.

One of the Slingshot’s more impressive features is the way it allows you to control and maneuver the kite even when depowered. The kite features a swept wingtip design that’s excellent for depowering and helping you position yourself on the wave.

The bungee replaces a pulley and provides all the benefits of a pulley but adds durability. The Slingshot SST V5’s unique design prevents blowouts, and you won’t have to worry after it when it hits heavy surf. Its structural features give the kite and the rider better stability and create a seamless glide through the air and water.

High Performance, High Value

The Slingshot SST V5 is one of the most durable kites in the market. It will help you get out of unique or unexpected situations. The kite is ultra-responsive, so if you need a fast-reacting kite to work with you and allow you to steer without power, this is the model for you.

Although it is a performer in the wind, you can fare better with a different model when experiencing turbulent conditions.

Another distinguishing feature of this kite is that it stays out in front of you so that you will not outrun the kite. This feature makes it the ideal surfing and foiling kite for intermediate and expert-level riders,  but it does need some experience to maneuver appropriately.

Core Nexus 2 Black
A buttery-smooth, playful kite that embraces diversity in riding styles and abilities.
What we like
  • Evolves with the rider and stays relevant even after the rider advances in skills
What we don’t like
  • Not the best kite model for unhooked riding

The Core Nexus 2 is the best beginner kiteboarding kite on the market. Although it’s user-friendly and playful, don’t think it’s only for kiters who lack experience. With this kite, you can start as a beginner and continue using it as you sharpen your skills and improve your technique.

One of the reasons why we love this kite is because it acts as an all-inclusive ride. You get to go surfing, foiling, and catch big air with the same kite. The Core Nexus 2 will take whatever you throw at it, all while handling well and maintaining its distinctive shape.

The more you sheet in with the Core Nexus 2, the better steering you get—and the more responsive the kite becomes. One of the best aspects of this kite is that it accommodates virtually any board. Whether you want to go old-school freestyle or use the kite to catch big air, it works well for any technique you adopt.

Why It’s Good For Beginners

This kite knows what to do with little input from the kiter, but it will accommodate preferences with the right maneuvering techniques. It’s not a kite that will yank you everywhere—instead, it offers a buttery-smooth ride. Due to its remarkable stability, the Nexus fits the bill for you, no matter where you are in the experience spectrum.

The newer model of the Core Nexus is manufactured from a lighter material that changes the kite’s feel and balance. The wingtip is also fuller, making it ideal for loops and propelling your turns while creating beautifully-arched curves. When kite surfing, the Core Nexus 2 is quick and responsive but not overly aggressive.

For an all-in-one kite that grows with you, the Core Nexus 2 is hard to beat in value and functionality and will even work as a specialty kite later on.

Final Verdict

Although all the kites in this review have breathtaking capabilities, our top pick overall is the North Reach Performance Freeride. Not only does it have an outstanding balance—and won’t let you down even in the lowest wind—but it also picks up the pace, as you do, to keep you in the air and boost your lift.

If you’re just getting started with kiteboarding, you might consider the Cabrinha Switchblade instead. The Switchblade is our runner-up for the top spot. It’s less aggressive than the Performance Freeride, very user friendly, and will continue to work well for you even after your skills advance.

For those on a budget or looking for an excellent freestyle kiteboard, the Naish Pivot is a good fit. It comes in on the lower side of the price scale but still offers impressive performance.

The Ultimate Kiteboarding Kite Buying Guide

Man holding North Orbit kite on beach
Image credit: North Kiteboarding

Now that you’re familiar with the best kiteboarding kites in the market, it’s time to narrow down your options and choose the one that’s right for you. If you’re a beginner, it helps to know what kind of kite you can start with and which one will grow well with you as your skill level increases.

Choosing the right kite isn’t just about what you want it to do but how the kite fits you and what boards work with the kites. If kiteboarding is your new favorite sport, we recommend wearing the right protective gear to minimize bodily harm.

Take Kiteboarding Lessons

We cannot overemphasize the importance of taking lessons and the difference that lessons can make to enhance your kiteboarding experience. Although it may look simple to the untrained eye, kiteboarding requires skill, practice, and endurance. Adolescents and even seniors can indeed kiteboard, but there are differences in everyone’s technique and what they want to get out of the experience.

Kiteboarding may cause injuries—in rare cases, this sport results in fatalities. If you don’t have the right training and equipment to tackle the wind and waves, you may harm yourself while pursuing this exciting sport.

Know Your Kite

Once you have the training and feel that you’re ready to buy your first kite, the time has come to determine the type that works best for your technique and method. Kites come in four varieties – bow kites, C-kites, hybrids, and deltas.

C-Kites

Compact and versatile, C-Kites are the oldest kite type. They don’t have a bridle and have a C-shape with long, flat square wingtips. They offer great control, powerful pop, and excellent performance. However, they also have a short wind range and can be difficult water relaunch.

C-Type kites are best for riders with experience who enjoy freestyling thanks to their sheer power and stability when unhooked. They aren’t recommended for beginners and can even be dangerous for inexperienced users.

Bow Kites

Introduced around 2005, bow kites a little newer to the scene. They have a flat profile with bridles in the leading edge and a concave trailing edge. These kites have excellent wind range and upwind performance.

They are easy to use and suitable for multiple techniques and proficiency levels. Launching and relaunching is particularly easy. One downside to these kites is that they aren’t suitable for unhooked use.  Additionally, they reduce the speed and power of your turns. 

Hybrids

Hybrid models combine the best of C-Kite and Bow features with their unique half-moon shape and bridled connection. The flatter shape generates more power than non-hybrid models and is easier to relaunch when down.

They can offer slightly slower response time than C-Kites, but that also makes them safer for less experienced riders. Hybrids are an excellent choice if you’re at an intermediate level and want some of the power of a bow kite in an easier-to-operate package.

Deltas

A hybrid variant with a broad, D-shaped profile and short wingtips, Deltas are similar to hybrids in that they offer wider wind range and easier launches. They also have the same downside in that they have a slower response time, but they are arguably the most forgiving of the kite types, making them an excellent choice for beginners.

Choosing the Right Board

Your board is a tool that you use to achieve your kiteboarding goals, making it just as important as your kite. When choosing a board, your first consideration should be the size. Boards are typically measured in cm and range from 134-165 cm.

Riders who weigh under 150 pounds should look for boards between 134-148 cm. Riders 150-180 pounds need a 140-160 cm board, and those over 180 pounds will fare best with a board between 142-165 cm.

To narrow that range further, consider the type of riding you want to do. The larger the board, the more resistance you’ll get. Longer boards are best for beginners and free riders. For tricks, you want to aim for a shorter board.

There are also three board shapes: square, tapered, and round. Square boards travel upwind easier and provide better pop to jumps. Tapered boards make it effortless to carve and are more forgiving in choppy water. Rounded boards provide the smoothest ride and a great option if you’re looking to take it easy on your knees and joints.

Learn About Your Kite’s Control System

Although kite control systems are customizable, we recommend sticking to the ones that come with your kite. The control system helps you increase and decrease your kite’s power and includes a unique safety system in each model.

FAQs

How much does it cost to get started with kiteboarding?

The kites in our review range between around $800-$1,500, which is typical for a good kite. You can expect to pay $500-$1,000 for a board and another $100-$200 for a harness and jacket. Everything included, you’ll likely spend between $1,500-2,500.

That may seem like a lot, but kiteboarding gear has excellent longevity. Kites often last 7-10 years, boards 10+ years, and harnesses jackets 4-8 years if you take good care of everything.

How do I care for my kite?

All your kiteboarding gear, including the kite, needs to be dry and clean before being packed away. Make sure to shake off any sand and allow it to dry completely. It’s also a good idea to check for damage after each use. Small tears can be repaired using ripstop repair tape.

Keep everything out of the sun and protected from the elements, and you’re good to go. Kiteboards kites don’t really require special care.

Can I buy a kiteboarding kite used?

You can—but we don’t recommend it. The problem with buying a used kite is there’s always a chance the seller will misrepresent or won’t know its age or condition. A kite that’s older or has been left in the sun a lot will be more prone to rips and tears, which could present a safety hazard. You’re better off with a new kite as you’ll know its history and can take advantage of the manufacturer’s warranty.

How long are kiteboard kite warranties?

Most kiteboard kites come with a one to three-year warranty. Keep in mind that warranties usually won’t cover everyday wear and tear or misuse. They apply to damage related to manufacturing defects (so situations where the kite shouldn’t have been damaged under typical conditions).