Benson “SuperFly” Review by Al Tanner

BensonSF_003Photos by Lars Fakkeldij 

Chris Goff’s new kite has been around for about a year now but its only recently, since production was moved to Benson Kites that many people have gotten their mitts on this new wonder kite.

Specification
The Superfly is a 2.22m kite, with Icarex fail and framed with Skyshark P200, 5PT, P400 spars.  It differs from most other similarly sized/themed kites in that it uses a single standoff. Unlike the recent Benson designs, the Deep Space and the Gemini refresh, there are no rollbars but nifty new yo-yo stopper fittings which are similar to those used by Kitehouse.

Construction
In terms of build quality Benson Kites are widely considered to be the gold standard. You can tell by looking over a Benson kite that its construction has been painstakingly thought out and each kite meticulously assembled. The closer you look the more detail you notice, the ingenious snag free sail standoff assembly; the custom yo-yo stoppers; the impeccable sewing. Even the packaging in which the kites are delivered impresses, the kites sealed in polythene bags within custom made boxes.

Design Goals And Influences
I think it is worth mentioning the spirit behind the SuperFly. Chris’s kites have always been minimal and elegant, which re-emphasizes the importance of the flyer and that satisfying/complex/tricky flight is in the hands of the pilot.
The panel layout of course tips a hat to an earlier generation, including classics like the Benson Phantom, ToTL North-Shore Radical and Matheson Midi-Sandpiper. As many will know, Chris is not only paying homage to those designs but also the memories of kiting. Those memories are saluted and cherished in the SuperFly.

For more detail on the design and intent of the ‘Fly I put some questions to design Chris Goff:
  • How many iterations / prototypes did you go through ? “Never really counted them up fully, there was a long time where I was jut experimenting and playing around, finding what I was looking for in the design. I set myself the deadline of having a kite ready for me to use in the competition at Stella plage in 2011. Since then though there was at least 20 different sail cuts, not all were progress, some where flown only a handfull of times before they were discarded. Very much trial and error, you can theorise all you want but it’s only when you get in sky you start to learn.”

  • What kites/designers did you draw influence from ? “Oh so so many, I’ve been flying ever since I can remember so with all kites I design I like them to show that in some way, giving a nod to the previous generation of designs that really got the sport going. A huge influence to me  would be the obvious one Carl Robertshaw. While working for him for six years at kite related design he really mentored me, showing how kites are produced, how to sew, how to frame, his knowledge of the sport and how it’s changed was great to draw from. He’s a true genius. The legend that is Andy Preston and the stranger was a big influence, but also I used to enjoy flying (or being flown by)the level 7, it’s got so many interesting ideas in there so I tried I add a bit of that style thinking into the design. Chris Mathesons original midi sandpiper was the kite I learned how to fly on, I can see similarities there somewhere too. I tried to basically take all inspiration from an era passed, I felt that all that was happening was people were just regurgitating the same designs, so I made sure that throughout the development, I measured nothing on the kite apart from the bridle until the very end, I wanted the sail shape to be completely mine from scratch, fresh. No progression means no sport, so the SuperFly ha to be something different, bring something fresh and exciting to the market. The last thing I wanted to throw into the kite world was another nirvana variant.”

  • What are the differences between the original and Benson version ? “Not much really. I went and spent some time with Tim to hand over, we made a kite together which I then tested to distruction for like 3 months, Tim being the perfectionist he is then made about five different versions testing out different detailing and reforcements making sure every kite coming out flew exactly the same, until we were finally happy to roll it out properly. Tim having the SuperFly in his range is just a dream come true, he is by far the most acurate kite maker on the planet, his consistency levels are unbelievable, we’re talking like half a mm – anyone who’s ever tried making a kite will know how unreal that is!”

  • How is the UL version coming along ? “It’s coming along great, so pleased with it already, we’re just going through the final testing really. Happy that ive found its wind range. I’m loving it at the moment so fingers crossed it will be out there without too much of a wait, but as with any of benson kites, it’s only released when everything is perfect.”

BensonSF_004

Flight
It’s light on the lines and sensitive to the wind. The feedback it gives you about the wind is extremely detailed: ie, if you are flying in shitty wind, it will go on and on and on about it. Should you decide to fly it in too much wind, wah-pads prove quite effective at giving a little smoothness, though speed and pull remain unchanged. I rarely get to fly in on-shore beach breezes, but I can imagine the SF is qualified to tell you “this is what smooth wind feels like”. It turns and stalls like a Benson tricking kite: tightly and abruptly, with oversteer that can be dealt with. It is a light kite and so flies in pretty low winds, you can have plenty of fun from 4mph on short lines.

Tricks
The wide aspect ratio and wide bridle points make the SuperFly a very agile kite, responsive to small inputs. Old school full axels are back, and flat-spins from all sorts of angles make tricking fresh yet floaty. Best of all are the taz machines. The ‘Fly just hurls itself into them, keeping horizontal momentum and making the move, which can look labored on many kites, very dynamic.

But the real fun with this kite is combining tricks, flowing from one to another. Here the careful design/build really helps. The lines don’t snag on the nose, standoffs, leading edge fittings and you’ll find you success rate better chasing those elusive combos better on this kite than many others as a result. The yo-yo stoppers, which look a little lightweight/insubstantial when you first look at them turn out to be inspired, perfectly placed and very capable of catching the wraps. Whats more they don’t snag the bridle as others (thinking R-Sky) are prone to, which means less foul ups in the air and less time on the ground freeing the hooked bridle leg.

Is it easy to fly? My opinion is that it is, but some adaptation may be required depending on your technique/style. If you’re used to bigger kites that respond best to slight line tension during tricks then you’re going to have to remember to not touch the SF while lazying/backspinning etc. Put micro-tension on the lines and the trick is often lost.



One of the design aims was for deep turtles and the kite delivers, in spades. All sorts of lazy based moves/combos are available to play around with. Cyniques are straightforward when you get the hang of the inputs. The key is reversing the direction/momentum of the first lazy, you need a firm input there but subsequent rotations are easy enough with regular alternating pulls.

This heavy turtle comes at a cost though, snappy landings demand a careful touch, or you can end up floating in a turtle six inches above the ground. Another thing about the deep turtle is the way that the kite grips the wind in this position, rising multi-lazies and the “Goff” (rising turtle – PAW has some good videos of this trick) are there for the taking. However, until you are used to it, this can make the SF a little disconcerting should you catch a turtle wrong, especially in unpredictable wind, as it has a habit of reversing powerfully at the ground at spar-breaking angles.

That is about all I want to say about the tricks, everything I haven’t mentioned is a given. Some might find its fade a little hard to hold, but I’m not sure that matters much, this kite is all about transitions and flow and the fade is after all just an entry point to the next trick in the combo.

It’s a kite that certainly rewards, once your familiar with the ‘Fly you’ll be limited on by your skill level and imagination.

Conclusion
This kite has demoted me from “sometimes really quite up there” (not my words) to “skilled amateur” , which I’m all up for Laughing Chris and Tim say it’s a “door opener”, and I think they might be right, I wasn’t doing double-ladders (1.5 of each JL rung), copter-backspins or taz-cascades with any kind of confidence before I flew the SuperFly. As Chris’s new video shows there are some never-seen-before shapes that this kite can throw (admittedly, in Chris’s hands).

Glancing at Chris’s design record, I’d also say this is his first easily accessible kite. The Fury .85 (with Carl Robertshaw/KRD) had an attitude problem when it came to fractured-axels, couldn’t lazy nicely and was too heavy. The Element is probably best-described as a curious retro-fusion experiment. The SuperFly however is not some jazzed out record you only “get” once you’ve played it a million times. It is on Tim’s catalogue, where a kite really has to speak universal “kite-ish”, not just “Goff-ish”, to earn its place.

This really is, a very good kite, very good indeed.

-Al