Neo SLS rider review Patri McLaughlin

PATRI MCLAUGHLIN tests alongside Sky Solbach and Ken Winner on the entire Neo range of kites. As a big wave charger, who better to ask about the new updates to the 2023 NEO SLS.

Hear the full review

Hear the full review

Hi Patri, the Neo SLS was already such a good kite, but for this year there are some new refinements, can you tell us what you have been testing with the new model?
With the Neo SLS for 2023, the main focus was on the struts. We've been using the Flex Strut material for quite a few years now on the tip struts. I noticed in very specific situations, when the kite was really loaded up, it could almost flex too much. When you're riding waves, a lot of times you're flying your kite aggressively and whipping it through the wind window, and then sheeting out and while you're sheeted out, you want the kite to turn really quickly.

Those things I felt we could improve. The Flex Strut material definitely gave a good comfortable bar feeling, but it limited the turning speed of the kite when it was heavily loaded up. Often, especially on Maui, the Winds are side on-shore, where you actually want to whip your kite through the wind window, and at the same time, being able to sheet out, de-power, and have it pivot on a dime. With this you are able to time the section and position and place yourself in the right spot on the wave.

So this became the focus to improve on the 2023 Neo SLS. We tried and I tested with Ken and Sky a bunch of different prototypes with different orientations of material, different materials for the struts, different shapes of the struts and finally we settled on a hybrid of the Flex Strut material on the tip of the strut, and Penta TX material at the base of the strut. That way, you have that stiffer material through the first half of the strut which keeps the profile of the kite, with more shape and rigidity and having the Flex Strut on the tip still gives that comfortable bar feeling.

We also tested different variations of this hybrid strut, such as 50% Flex Strut material and 50% Penta TX and it ended up being different on different sizes of kites. On the bigger sizes there is less Flex Strut percentage, I think on some of the larger kites its around 80%, Penta TX and 20% Flex Strut at the tip and for the smaller kites it’s more of a 50% / 50% split, because smaller kites turn so quickly already and they can feel more aggressive, that we didn’t want them to feel too hard at the bar. We wanted them to be comfortable to fly, yet still feel direct.

"The turning speed under load has probably doubled in performance as has the turning speed while the kite is de-powered, so it's a whole different kite."

So you talked about the struts being the focus to really refine the new Neo SLS for 2023. Does the kites shape and feel remain the same?
It's funny with kites, if you change one little thing, there’s many other things that need to get adjusted for the kite to essentially feel similar. So just by switching to a stiffer material that added more curve into the strut, meant Ken had to adjust for that. Ken had to tune the canopy fabric so that everything fitted tight. There’s an incredible amount of stitching, panels and work that go into the making of a kite.

Our main focus was making sure the tip strut was more rigid and by doing that, Ken had to adjust the canopy so that it fit on the kite with the new profile. So that was kind of the main change for this year. In my opinion, it's a massive change and it rides way better. I'm sure most people will agree with me when they get on the kite. I believe the bridles are the same.

Most of the rest of the kite is relatively the same as it was already so good. I don't think the profile has changed that much. The turning speed now is significantly faster. The turning speed under load has probably doubled in performance as has the turning speed while the kite is de-powered, so it's a whole different kite.


Great, thanks Patri for your insights on the Neo SLS for 2023.
I hope people like it, it's cool to be a part of the development and then hear all the good things about the kite that people like. I’m sure people are gonna love the new SLS. They're phenomenal kites. I would say they're the best wave kites out there.