So this season I decided to sell my Best Waroo ’07 11m kite and move full-on into a Bularoo quiver of a 7m, 10m and 13m kites. My main reason behind this move was that ever since I decided to spend more time riding the waves on the northern California coast, I realized that the ’07 Waroo just didn’t have the turning speed nor the ability to stay ahead of me enough when riding down a wave at speed. In learning how to ride the Bularoos I noticed several differences between each size which takes some getting used to. I’ll start by saying that I’m generally super pleased with these kites, but do have some beefs which I’ll lay out here as well.
On the pro side, all three sized Bullies are super stable kites. You can literally let go of the bar if you need to fix something while in the water and not worry about the kite moving suddenly into a power zone and yanking you to attention. The kites move very deliberately, and can basically stay put in one position while taking your eyes off of them. In big waves, their stability has been most welcomed, especially after getting caught in an overhead break and noticing that the kite didn’t fall from the sky as is customary when getting washed up by a big wave. The other positives is the turning speed which never leaves me wanting for more power especially when carving a toe-side turn off the top of a big wave (note, I ride goofy footed) on my surfboard. Even when I start my kite turn late coming into the face of a wave, it never feels like it’s too late to complete the motion and get the kite ahead of me with good speed. The exception to this rule is with the 13m kite, which really doesn’t turn proportionately at the speed of the 10m or 7m. While it may be obvious, the difference is more significant than it should be.
The low-end grunt in these kites is also amazing. This is what gives them their range. I’ve been out comfortably on my 10m when people are riding anything from 9m up through 12m kites. In that range, I’ve never felt over or under powered, which I guess is a good thing given the spread in the quiver. When winds are light for any of these kites, moving them up and down seems to generate some serious apparent wind which for now I’m attributing to their mid-aspect nature. I’ve gotten myself out of trouble quite a few times by moving the kite when the wind was clearly low for the Bully I was riding. A very welcomed feature.
Now for the bad. Last week, on a very gusty 7m day at Crissy Field in San Francisco, I was riding far out into the channel when suddenly my kite sputtered out of the sky. First some herky-jerky motion which eventually led to the kite crashing hard. It temporarily relaunched, but it was obvious that it wasn’t going to last nor was it happy. Finally, the kite settled down in the water and had obviously lost its air. After further inspection, it turns out that the small bladder valve, despite being velcro’d down, opened up and let the air out. Because the Bularoo is a one-pump with a one way air flow from the leading edge to the ribs, the air simply flowed out of the leading edge into the bladder with the valve opened. I don’t know how long this was opened, but suffice it to say, it was a very unpleasant experience. Still trying to figure out how the valve opened. Of course this happened on a cloudy, cold, god-forsaken day, but fortunately, there was another kiter nearby who was able to drag me away from the shipping lanes until the Coast Guard came to the rescue. (Quick note here, the Coast Guard out here in the San Francisco Bay ROCK!!!)
Where it gets ugly is that after only having ridden my 10m kite 6 times within the past 3 weeks, it appears that it developed small slow leaks in two of the bladders. After an hour of riding at Stinson Beach yesterday, with no warning, this time my 10m did exactly what my 7m had done at Crissy. But for those not familiar with Stinson, the web cam we use to check the conditions there is called the “Shark Cam”…for a reason ;) Once again, I was fortunate to be riding with some good buddies who came to the rescue and dragged me to shore. The water was super cold for a drag, but far better than the alternative. Fortunately, given that I’ve had the kite for less than 3 weeks and have only ridden it six times without dropping it (except due to this bladder failure), the dealer I bought it from is getting it exchanged for me, as these two leaks constitute an obvious defect. The reason I consider this “the ugly” is because unlike the Slingshot one-pump system, where you can clip the bladders so as not to loose the leading edge if anything happens to those, the Bullies totally conk out when a bladder is affected. Both in the case of the valve opening and the slow leaking bladders, I was out of commission without a chance to get back to shore once I realized what was happening.
Having said that, I hope these incidences don’t become a standard part of my Bularoo experience, as I really love the good aspects of this kite so much, but they certainly are cause for concern. Today on my 13m kite, I was so nervous after 20 minutes of riding that I brought it down on shore to check the pressure in all of the bladders before going out again. Lest you consider me too much of a newbie, I’ve been riding for 8 years now and feel pretty proficient in most conditions.
Oh yeah, one other cool aspect of the Bullies is the land “hot” self-launch maneuver that is relatively easy to perform. Worth learning this trick, comes in super handy.
*** UPDATE 5/2/08: See my follow-up post and update titled, “Bularoo Update…“.