Behind the design of the Evo SLS

Welcome to behind the design on the Evo SLS. Today we speak with designer Ralf Grösel to get the inside scoop on what’s new for the second edition of the Evo SLS.

Hear the Full Interview

Hear the Full Interview

Welcome Ralf, tell us about the feedback you received from the previous Evo SLS model and what were the design aspirations for the new model?

The feedback from the first version of the Evo SLS was amazing. I think it was really a game-changer for us and everyone in the industry introducing this new material, Penta TX and along with it a new kite.We all have been surprised at the demand for the kite, even with the pandemic and material shortages, the demand and people wanting to get their hands on this kite was insane! Based on the feedback we got we did some modifications to get everything a little more in line for the next Evo SLS.

The Evo SLS with the Penta TX material was the first kite using that material I was working on and even that it made a huge impact and that it was a huge game-changer for even me as a designer with new design features I was able to put into the kite and the flight properties I was able to change, there is always room for improvement once you are in process of putting everything together.There is always a sequence of building the kites, we had the Evo SLS then the Dice SLS and now back to the Evo SLS. Throughout this entire range, progression and learning curve we have been able to find a few bits and pieces here and there which we were able to improve which were mainly the sheeting feedback of the kite, the response and connection between you and the kite in the bigger sizes and the way the kite communicated with you has been improved.

Can you give us some technical insight into what you did to achieve these changes?
We have been able to work on all aspects of the kite including the material itself. The new Evo SLS features a slightly different version of Penta TX, it’s very small changes and it’s too technical to go into detail on this. In the end, if you change a small variable you are then in the position to change the entire picture. What I have done on this new model is to widen the arc, I closed the cone in a way that the response is just better. The connection between you and the trailing edge of the kite is more responsive, so opening up the kite in the front and closing the kite in the rear gives a bit more of a direct and compact feeling. It sounds easy to do but it was a process, we had to do a few prototypes to see exactly how much of a cone change was necessary, but it was a good logic that 100% came from the Dice SLS development, that’s what we figured out with the Dice SLS and then carried it over to the Evo SLS.

That’s interesting as that was the exact feedback we received from the riders during the recent photoshoot to Greece and Ireland.
Once you step back from a project by being involved in something else, it gives you the chance to start from another level of development. The Evo has been leading us to the Dice SLS, I think the Dice SLS is a great kite and it has been receiving great feedback from our team riders with regards to the competition side of going big and doing kiteloops. It’s taken the Dice into another league and been very positive for us. Using the synergies from one model to the next we have been able to abstract a bit more out of the Evo SLS. It’s not huge I would say, but it definitely makes a noticeable difference to the rider because the first thing you are connected to is the feedback from the bar with everything else is also related to that feedback. If you don’t know how to steer the kite because you don’t know the position of the kite in the wind window, for example, you will never really be able to edge the kite in the way that it shoots you as high as possible. It’s always about having the right connection and this is something we improved on the Evo SLS by quite a margin.

For people who have yet to try the Evo SLS, could you break down the characteristics of the kite and who it would be best suited to in your opinion?

The Evo in general is our all-around kite, this will never change. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert, the Evo in general will always be a kite that performs in every single aspect. The Evo SLS is the sportive version of the Evo and is really been designed and developed for riders with experience, with say 2-3 years of kite experience, riders who are doing jumps and jump transitions. It is absolutely possible as a beginner to buy an Evo SLS, it will not harm your progression and it’s not complicated to ride, it’s up to you, it’s up to the rider as to what model you are looking for.

For example, if you are purchasing your first car, it’s like you would buy a Porsche, if you want and you are totally into cars, then maybe you do. I personally have experienced and have seen people all over the world during our R&D trips riding the Evo SLS and been absolutely stoked with it, due to the fact the kite is not a limiting factor for them. They jump on it and learn to understand that the kite is better than their skill level and people are stoked about this aspect that they are into a new learning curve. The jumps are a bit higher and they are different, you can really jump against the wind, it's a kind of different movement. I think it's good for you as a person in reconnecting to the sport and discover things that haven’t been there before. It’s been super positive feedback from the people who have tried it.

Going over the development phase of the Evo SLS, what were the challenges for this year and what knowledge did you bring from the development of other models in the range that added to the Evo SLS?

As mentioned before, it’s all about the learning curve. To understand everything into the complexity which we have currently of the sport, with different materials being able to extract everything. For example the Flex Strut we are also featuring on the Evo SLS. I have modified the Flex Strut a little to make it even more precise, I’m super into precision. I really like to ensure everything is 100% perfect to the point where I can close my eyes, I can jump and I will always feel the kite and where it stands in the wind window.

This is basically asking about what we have done, everything is a learning curve, the Dice SLS was one of the biggest influencers for the Evo SLS I think you can definitely feel that. For example, the Dice SLS has one of the hardest steering and sheeting pressures within our range, it’s super precise. It’s maybe not so commercia,l but it helps you to get to the point where you can have the timing right when boosting off a wave or boosting big. We tried to implement these aspects into the Evo SLS, the sheeting and steering forces have increased a little bit, I would say the sheeting has increased by around 15-20% and the steering by 5%.

But this helps you, this is already enough, it’s not that you have to crazy, this is redefining the design to make it more responsive and more intuitive, which I think is one of the most important aspects, as not everyone is a pro athlete like Aaron Hadlow, so when you jump on a new kite it has to be intuitive and I think this is what we have achieved.

There are also two additional sizes for this year. They are also getting into the same sizes as some of our light wind kites such as the Juice, how have they been tuned, how do these compare and what was the purpose of extending the range into these sizes?
We have on the one hand the ultimate light wind kite, the Juice D/LAB, there is no way that an SLS kite will outperform a D/LAB. The Juice D/LAB is and will always be the benchmark in light wind kites. The reason for adding bigger sizes to the range was for heavier riders, say 110 kg. You want to have a range of kites within the range, so it made sense due to the demand we have been getting. Just imagine we had imagined SLS would be 30% of the kites sold and it turned out we are over 60%! We will increase the range for all the SLS kites. It makes sense to have more sizes so kiters can choose the perfect sizes for their quiver. A 14 meter Evo SLS works great, but it’s a different kind of kite to the Juice D/LAB which has one purpose, to bring you to the water in the least amount of wind, the Evo SLS is more of an overall kite, not to that extreme. It’s a kite I like a lot because it’s a fantastic kite for old school tricks for floaty, lifty jumps. It’s easy to use with a very good sheet and go, responsive turning, it’s a great kite but something different to the Juice D/LAB, also on the price point, a Juice D/LAB is over 3000 Euro due to the cost of the material and the complexity of the production so it makes sense to increase the line-up.

Could you give us a run-through of the setting options available and recommendations on things such as air pressures?
Yes, as always, please use the Duotone pump with the pressure gauge, for next season the pump goes from 1-10 psi. All the kites I’m doing, please pump at exactly 7psi, you can even. If you ride with reduced pressure and the wind is gusty then the kite can start to jellyfish and deform. This is not how the kites have been designed or tested. When we test we pump to 7psi and then one more pump which is around 7.3 PSI as when you detach the valve a little air can escape and then you are left with 7PSI. I sometimes do change to the back pigtails for the harder settings for jumping, but I mostly fly the kite in the middle factory setting. You should always fly the kite in the factory setting to get a feel but feel free to play around with the options available. If you are lighter and are on a surfboard then maybe try the softer setting as it makes the kite even more responsive, but if you are a heavier rider and looking to jump then I recommend trying the harder setting. Even though it's a 1 cm difference between the points, it makes a huge difference.

What about bar sizes and line lengths?

My recommendation, if you have purchased 2-3 sizes of kites for your quiver please consider purchasing two sizes of the click bar. For 11 meter kites and bigger please use the large bar with 24-meter lines and for 10 meters and below the narrower click bar on 22-meter lines. This is the way we trim the kites and this is the way they are optimized to fly. Of course, you can always fly a 24-meter line, a wide bar on an 8 meter, but the kite is not meant to be flown like this, it won’t act and respond how we have designed it, it will be too quick and won’t be in the right position in the wind window, you definitely won’t be able to jump as high, so definitely consider this. If you aren’t at the highest technical level, two bars will help you to get the best performance out of your kites.