At A Glance
The Neo has ben part of wave kiting folklore for so long now it is hard to remember a time without it. For 2021 this iconic kite sees some major updates designed to tempt even more riders into the fold. The big news is the new SLS moniker that has been added to the name. SLS stands for Strong, Light, Superior, it defines the very top end of the Duotone lineup and is seen not just on kites but on boards too.
As far as the kites are concerned, the name mainly denotes the use of a new material called Penta TX. For many years we have enjoyed multiple leaps forward in terms of materials although this was, in the past, more focused around the canopy of the kite. One of the heavier materials in kite construction has always been the Dacron used in the struts and leading edge. This can cause kites to be front heavy, leading to front stalls in light winds, think the dreaded Hindenburg and you get the idea.
Penta TX replaces all the Dacron in the new Neo SLS, and it is 25% lighter, and proven to be stronger and more durable too. The result is a lighter kite than before by some margin, but critically the weight is saved in importation places like the leading edge. In addition to the new material, the kite features new Flex Struts to help the kite steer even faster as well.
As ever the build quality is of the highest standard on these new kites. While the material is largely unproven in the marketplace, Duotone have been testing it extensively for some time, and their extensive warranty covers all the new kites. The bag has also been changed for 2021, we wouldn’t usually discuss bags, but it’s a neat duffle style designed backpack made from recycled plastic. A great touch that finishes off the package well!
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On The Water
It’s no secret we have been fans of the Neo for some time; it’s up there as one of the best wave kites on the market. As every good wave rider knows the epic days don’t come all that often, and when they do, you don’t want to be fussing about your gear. It has to work and work well; the Neo has always been a kite that has impressed us and so we were keen to check out this new material and see if the weight savings made a big difference.
On the weight, it’s worth mentioning the new Neo SLS isn’t the lightest wave kite on the market, that accolade goes elsewhere. Still, it is the lightest Neo that has ever been released, and with a 25% weight saving over the previous model, we were expecting to feel some definite benefit.
I’ve always struggled to see the benefit of saving weight in smaller kites, and we tested the 7m and 9m Neo extensively for this test. When it’s nuking, do you really want, or even need a lightweight kite? Actually, you do, we found some real advantages even in strong winds, and obviously when light wind foiling it is a no brainer to have a lighter kite.
The handling is just as you would expect, lightning-quick, I can’t overstate how good the new kite turns, those Flex Struts playing their part, but also the lower weight makes it easier to manoeuvre, regardless of the wind strength. It truly just feels like an extension of your arms and pretty soon you aren’t even thinking about where the kite is, as it always responds so well to input from the rider.
The drift on the new Neo SLS is another level that weight saving allows it to hang in the air. There are certain instances where this benefit can also save you from a dunking, think of those slightly hung up top turns where you don’t catch the kite as you should in onshore conditions and end up getting pitched forwards with slack lines. A few times I thought I’d lost it, only to pop out the white water and find the kite still in the sky.
In lighter winds, the kite flies exceptionally well and flies forward in the window with plenty of power. I’ve had some amazing foiling sessions on both the 9m and the 11m; I usually don’t fly anything larger than a 9m, but this year with the SLS material I wanted to see if the 11m could be a kite that actually worked in the waves. I can safely say it does, more power, with amazing handling seems to make those very light wind sessions on the surfboard even more fun.
The real ace up the Neo’s sleeve in my eyes though is the ability to steer when depowered. Backside riding aways sees you completely depower the kite at the apex of the top turn, yet at the same time you are redirecting, and there aren’t many kites out there that do this as well as the Neo SLS. Sure, frontside, cross off conditions are great, but cross onshore backside I don’t think I would want to fly any other kite.
I did have some initial concerns about the strength of the kite, the Penta TX material looks super tough, but the new bridle uses thinner lines, and while just as strong I did wonder if lighter also meant less durable. I’ve dropped the kite in the waves, ridden the 7m in 45 knots and had no issues so far.
Duotone has knocked it out the park with this one, while last years Neo was very good, the Neo SLS adds that little bit extra. Better handling, more responsive, vastly improved light wind capabilities and seemingly endless drift and float. It’s definitely up there with the best of the best.
This review was in Issue 84 of IKSURFMAG.For more information visit DUOTONE
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By Rou ChaterRou has been kiting since the sports inception and has been working as an editor and tester for magazines since 2004. He started IKSURFMAG with his brother in 2006 and has tested hundreds of different kites and travelled all over the world to kitesurf. He's a walking encyclopedia of all things kite and is just as passionate about the sport today as he was when he first started!