At A Glance
In my opinion, the Orbit Pro represents a kite that has been long awaited by a small demographic of the kiteboarding industry. I believe the term 'overpowered' has been overused for many years. Advanced riders have redefined what it means to ride 'overpowered' and, aside from a few exceptions, have almost made the term redundant. The big air movement of the last few years has made riding a kite at or above the advertised top end of its wind range the norm. So, is it really 'riding overpowered' if the riders are still in total control?
More and more riders are using kite sizes at or beyond the top end of their stated intended wind range almost exclusively. What North has done with the Orbit Pro is tune the kite for those very 'top end' wind ranges that high-level riders are actually using their gear in! For safety and legal reasons, they're never going to state in their marketing that a 9m is to be used in 35+ knots, but should you choose to do so, it is more than ready. At the same time, they've ruthlessly optimised its construction details for reduced weight to create what they're calling a 'competition optimised' kite.
The features which set apart the 'Pro' from the regular Orbit are evident before you put the kite in the air and can be split into the following categories; weight saving, drag reduction and bridle tuning. The weight saving measures are no joke, and yes they may have longevity implications long term, but remember that the Orbit Pro has been produced in the pursuit of competition winning performance. Reduced weight bladders are used throughout the airframe, 4 of the 5 one pump strut isolation clips have been removed (the central one remains), there are only 2 (instead of 4) rear line pigtail bar pressure tuning options, new reduced diameter bridle lines have been used, seam protector patches have been reduced in size, and perhaps most significantly, the Orbit Pro features North's proprietary N-Max material throughout its airframe which is 13% lighter than standard 156 gsm Dacron.
Sizes: 6m, 7m, 8m, 9m, 10m, 11m
In The Air
The Orbit Pro is fast, in every sense of the word. It is fast to respond to bar input; it is fast to turn, fast through the air, fast to loop, fast to recover, and fast to put a smile on your face. With good timing, and a good take off, this speed is almost certain to translate into PB jump heights.
Given the medium/soft bar pressure, the amount of feedback that is received through the bar is second to none, and the immediacy of responses to bar inputs, even mid-jump/mid-loop, is very impressive. For experienced riders, the Orbit Pro makes it so easy to dial in your take off technique and timing because you can feel exactly where the kite is, line up your take off, and know the kite will respond instantly once you're ready to send it. Once in the air, you can still refine the kite's position as it remains so reactive. Notice my caveat at the beginning: 'For experienced riders'. I can see the responsiveness of the Orbit Pro catching out less experienced riders as its speed would make it very easy to over-send the kite, or mistime a heli-loop on the way down. It is a kite for confident pilots.
I found the loops of the Orbit Pro to be just as confidence inspiring as the regular Orbit. The loop initiates quickly without any need to develop into the turn. Because of this quick initiation of speed that continues through the turn and recovery, the kite is back up above you so fast every time.
For the advanced riders, this confidence, feedback and responsiveness on the bar will likely have you making more tweaks to the kite position whilst you're already in the air than you ever have before. It really makes it easy to micro tune the kite position in the air and I found it fast to dial into and get kite loops lower and lower with each attempt as my confidence grew. When you're really really powered up, it almost feels less intimidating once you've left the water and you're in the air, than it does when you're carving against it trying to get back upwind!
The depower of the Orbit Pro is decent, but it is worth noting that good edge control will go a long way because this kite will make you want to take it in stronger and stronger winds to jump and loop higher and higher! You can't rely solely on bar throw once you're powered to the point where you'll really experience the benefits of the Orbit Pro. It might not have as much bar throw depower as other kites, but it also doesn't do anything unpredictable, even in gusty conditions, which adds to the confidence-inspiring nature of the kite in strong winds.
It would have been easy for North to release an Orbit just with the N-Max frame and call it the Orbit Pro, but they didn't. They thought outside the box and pursued efficient engineering solutions. Want to save weight? How about simply removing as many parts as feasible possible? I like this design approach, and I like how the resulting product flies. The Orbit Pro is as lively as any kite I've flown and the loops it allowed me to do will stick in my daydreams for a little longer than usual.
This review was in Issue 103 of IKSURFMAG.For more information visit North Kiteboarding