Ralf Grösel behind the design of the Evo SLS

Duotone Kiteboarding Ralf Grösel Designer Interview Evo SLS

Welcome to behind the design, today we are speaking with RALF GRÖSEL about the new EVO SLS.

Hear the full interview

Duotone Kiteboarding Ralf Grösel Designer Interview Evo SLS

Hear the full interview

Duotone Kiteboarding Ralf Grösel Designer Interview Evo SLS

Hi Ralf, the Evo sits in the range as the allrounder kite, please take us through how Penta TX and the SLS concept have transformed the new Evo SLS.

I would use the analogy to describe the Evo SLS a sportive version of an already well-established good car. Let’s for example take the Golf from Volkswagen, the Evo is absolutely like the Golf, it's the crowdpleaser, it's the car that you jump in and you feel at home and the Evo is exactly the same. It's very intuitive and very straightforward, it's one of our most sold kites in the range and has been very nicely established over the last 10 years already. The Evo SLS is the sportive version of this, like the Golf GTi. It is the same idea behind it, you still feel familiar with the kite, but on the other hand it’s a more performance orientated kite. 

Tell us a little bit about the feel of the kite, has it changed?

Does it still have a familiar feeling to the Evo? It still feels like an Evo, but due to the Penta TX material and the fact everything is a little bit stiffer, the frame is stiffer, it’s more of a direct feeling and connection to the kite. It is not identical, the shape of the kite is very similar as well as the radius, but in the end the material makes a huge difference for all flight characteristics and in terms of the overall performance. As an Evo rider you will feel similarities, but you will also immediately feel that you can abstract something more out of the concept.

Duotone Kiteboarding Ralf Grösel Designer Interview Evo SLS Aaron Hadlow

How much of a challenge was it to work with these new materials and for everything to blend harmoniously together?

It was a huge effort, it was definitely a project which took me quite some time. I think I have never done such a huge amount of prototypes before in my career on a single product. We ended up having over 60 prototypes in the end, which is a massive amount and definitely not the standard. The reason we did so many prototypes, is that I really wanted to get the best out of it. You can't simply order a new set of materials on the existing shape, it doesn't work like that. The material is so different that you have to start to understand, how it behaves and that is the reason it took us so long. We had the feeling we can push more and more to have something truly outstanding and I think all of this testing reflects in the end product. The upwind performance of the kite for example is completely different, the angle you are able to go against the wind is much bigger. The lightness of the material and the overall lightweight construction allows you to get going in such light wind conditions that you will have never experienced anything like it before, all packaged into such a well rounded product. Development was challenging to really understand the material at first and then we spent time to abstract the best out of these materials.

With Dacron being the material for so long, from a designers’ perspective it must be an exciting time to explore the possibilities with these new materials.

It is fascinating. On one hand it's fascinating and on the other hand it's been a huge challenge. It’s a new era of kite concepts. It's not only the Penta TX that is responsible for all the changes, it is down to several variables that we have changed. The new lightweight construction details, such as the thinner bridles, have changed every little construction detail on the kite to make the kites as light as possible. We introduced these lightweight construction details last year with the Juice kite, making the Juice 15% lighter than its predecessor. Now we have the Evo SLS with all these refinements and combined with the Penta TX. It has been a great challenge in the development process, but we have reached an incredible point and everything we have learnt in this process we can carry forward into future kite models, so all the work has been totally worth it and the future looks very exciting.

You also design paragliders, is there much of a crossover in design concepts that can be carried over into your kite designs?

I would say paragliding development has been a big influence to me and my kite designs over the years. I designed my first paraglider when I was 14 years old, which is 27 years ago now. Over the past few years there has been an increasing demand in hike and fly paragliders, which means you take your entire equipment and hike up the mountain. For this purpose, the glider and all of the equipment has to be as light as possible. There have been materials around for many years that are extremely light, which are too light for use in kiting. In paragliding there is the constant pursuit of designing the lightest equipment, while still maintaining a structurally stable performance wing and this has absolutely influenced the path when designing my kites. The work we have done with Penta TX and some of the new construction details mirror ideas I have developed within the paragliding world. For example, small details such as the new pigtails that are featured or the connection loops on the new kites. 

Duotone Kiteboarding Designer Interview Evo SLS

Who were the riders involved in the testing phase of the Evo SLS?

I’m working mainly with Aaron Hadlow and Marian Hund, I would say this is the core group of testers. When we have the final stages of a product, then we introduce a wider range of riders to gain extra feedback. We keep it to a small group up until that stage, so we are able to keep focus, with so many prototypes you really have to plan and it is key to have a really good structure and organization, so you are able to properly validate the kites you develop. This material in combination with the flex struts has a lot of variables, so going through the right steps is critical and if you change the team it will be difficult to reach the desired result.

With the usable wind range increasing in both the high and low end of the Evo SLS, do you think people will start to rethink the size choices in their quiver?

I think people should reconsider the quiver with the range of wind the Evo SLS allows. My personal favorite combination of kites is the 15 meter Juice, 11 Evo SLS and the 8 meter Evo SLS. I think this is something that covers the wind range from 6 knots to 42-43 knots, that’s a huge range for three kites! The Evo really shines in the high winds, for example the classical Cape Town conditions where it is blasting 40+ knots and then are on the other hand the 11 meter Evo SLS performs awesome in just 8 knots of wind on the foil.

Duotone Kiteboarding Designer Interview Evo SLS

I can only recommend you experience this for yourself, it’s a totally new sensation, generating apparent wind and riding at angles upwind that you've never experienced before. It's a huge benefit on both the high and low end performance, it’s not so much that you can hold down the kite in much stronger conditions but it's just that the kite has a larger sweet spot when it’s reaching the limits. The standard Evo eight meter can also ride in 40 knots of wind, it's just it will be at the edge of its structural stability. The Evo SLS in the same situation will feel more composed, the way it talks to you is just a little bit different, it feels like a competitive and performance oriented kite.

Duotone Kiteboarding Designer Interview Evo SLS Aaron Hadlow

You mention high-performance, for intermediate or novice riders is there an entry level of rider skill to be able to fly the Evo?

First of all, I should mention the Evo SLS was not developed to be a school kite, we already have the Evo and Neo that has captured that market. The Evo SLS is different mainly due to the positioning of the kite in the wind window, the kite flies further towards the edge of the window which helps a good rider to change the angle of attack and to go upwind at a higher angle. It's really easy to create apparent wind on a foil or twintip with the Evo SLS and you really feel the faster you go, the better the performance is.

The kite is not creating drag through the air as a standard Evo might, this slower drag feeling from the standard kite is actually something novice riders will appreciate, as they just want a slow and steady pull in one direction so they can work to adjust their body and board position. So, you definitely should be proficient at going up wind, I think you should be able to do little jumps, because otherwise you won't be able to abstract the best out of the kite. The Evo SLS is still an Evo and still an all-rounder, but like the Golf GTi it has the abilities to push harder and using that same analogy, the harder you push a sports car the better it becomes and this is also true of the Evo SLS. If you know how to ride and you know that under certain circumstances you should gain speed and let the kite fly, if you understand this then the Evo SLS is absolutely the right kite for you and it won’t be a problem to jump on the Evo SLS and have a great session!

You talked about the incredible power generation it creates and the added performance in the high and low end, how does it feel in the jumps, loops and when wave riding?  

Let's start with the wave abilities, the kite is very light and drifts very well, it's extremely easy to follow the kite down the line even without tension on the bridles, it’s also very reactive so as soon as you initiate a turn the kite will follow. This is something we have seen on the Neo SLS and the Evo SLS follows along this path. In terms of jumping, it jumps different. I always recommend if you want to experience how a kite jumps, then test it by performing a transition jump.

Duotone Kiteboarding Ralf Grösel Designer Interview Evo SLS

With the Evo SLS when you swing the kite up and let it flow and sheet in the bar, you will realise the lift the kite creates is very stationary, so you are not getting pulled downwind with the wind, you are hovering at one point. The kite has a huge tendency to fly against the wind and in some cases, you can even soar with the kite. If you are on a dune and jumped, you would begin to fly almost like a paraglider. So, when you go for a high jump, you have to adjust your jumping technique in a way that you should let the kite shoot up a bit further over your head, to create the lift that it wants to create. This might sound a little complicated, but you just have to remember the kite wants to fly up and against the wind and this makes jumping different. With the right technique the jumps are insane! With this in strong winds, you go super vertical and in combination with the hang time you have extremely high and long floating jumps. If you use the kite for mega-loops, the turning speed and the way the kite hooks you up as it’s completing its loop, it's really nice and intuitive. I would also say it is punchy, it creates a lot of horizontal pop, but it also catches you really nice. When I listen to the feedback from Lasse or Aaron, I would say it's their preferred kite of the moment together with the Dice when it comes to mega loops. It's worth to keep in mind that the Evo SLS may require some different technique and you may require a few hours to adjust, but the benefits are quite incredible!

Great, thanks for taking the time to take us through everything Ralf, I believe you’re off to Cape Town now for more testing! It's very much, yes, I can't wait to get to Cape Town and jump on the Evo SLS and the other models soon and give them a spin!