“HUGO” Review by Krijn

hugo_std_tempelhof_kiteOne Kite To Rule Them All

I think it is hightime to write about the HUGO! Frazer asked me several times and I always replied positive, but every time ending with “I’ll do that before Christmas” or something like that (already happened twice, to be honest…).

HUGO is a kite designed by Mathias Haack and Thorsten Mikus from Germany. Before this collaboration Mathias worked together with Heiko Eikenberg as Alphakites (NRG, TNT) and Thorsten designed the Black Pearl for Level One.

Mathias and Thorsten decided to design a kite with the motto: “You only need one kite, here it is!”. And that is not only in terms of all-round-ness, but also a matter of wind range. My personal opinion is that they managed to do it ! Maybe that’s why I’ve owned six types of HUGO to date …

I bought my first HUGO in January 2012. I immediately loved it. Shortly afterwards I ordered also BILL (the UL-version) and then KING (a vented version) also came to me as soon it was finished. The range was later extended by HUGO Freistil (freestyle) and HUGO Leichtstil (SUL-freestyle) but more about all these versions later.

For the past four years I’ve been flying HUGO in both Tricks Party and freestyle competition almost exclusively. I believe I once used BILL and there were some occasions with too much wind (even for KING). HUGO is an excellent kite for this. Very reliable, without surprises. And how did I do ? Well HUGO and I did win sometimes, and did very good on most occasions 

Materials and Build Quality
First, let’s talk about the build quality. It is very good. The stitching is very neat and the used materials are the best one can get (Icarex, Bisonyl, Dacron, …). Everything is hot-cut so there is no fraying. The enforcement for the upper spreader was cut a little too small on the first edition, leading to wear after sometime but this was quickly discovered by Mathias and corrected by Thorsten who made a larger  patch (which is now diamond-shaped).

The framing is very high-end and expensive (seven times €30):

  • Lower Spreaders: Aerostuff Gold Sport
  • Upper Leading Edge: Aerostuff Gold Sport S
  • Lower Leading Edge: Aerostuff Gold Sport S
  • Spine: Aerostuff Gold Sport S
  • Upper spreader: Skyshark P1X

The frame sits in the sail using APA’s en Jaco’s. The only thing I changed at the kite is the leech line. As standard it runs from tip to tip and it is fixed and adjusted by wrapping it around the split nock at the tip. I don’t like it that way so I knotted the leech line to the tip and made an adjustable bungee around the centre T. Very easy to adjust the leech line in a matter of seconds now (besides the 2 x 40 meters walk).

The bridle isn’t adjustable anywhere, but why would you ? More about this later. No leaders on HUGO, I installed them myself (always on my kites, not on the lines).

For a better idea as to the attention to detail in the construction of these kites, watch this wonderful video of Thorsten building a HUGO Freistil.

I’ve flown my HUGO quite a lot right now. Let’s talk about how it looks right now. Actually, it is looking very good. I already told you the kite is built with the best materials available. After a few years, there still no fraying, nose holds good, the bridle never broke (but that will not take much longer) and standoff-area looks just fine too.

The Aerostuff spars are very stiff, in a HUGO I have not broken one thus far (I did break some at other kites, and also a friend of mine broke a spreader of my HUGO once). So my HUGO remains in great condition after all these years.

How good or bad a kite looks is always a matter of taste. Personally, I like the design of the HUGO. The designers fixed the black and grey panels (you may choose between light or dark dark grey), but the color can be anything you want.

For KING you only can choose some colors, because the colored panels are made from Spinnaker. Only red, green or blue available. The same goes for HUGO Freistil. Also only red, green, blue and white. But in Freistil the grey panels are asymmetrical. I normally don’t like asymmetrical kites, but here is it very subtle. HUGO Leichtstil (the light version of Freistil) is also a-symmetrical.

This may be a problem for some people… HUGO is a specialized design with very expensive framing, a new one will be around €400-450 = $450-500. That is also the case for the other versions. And yes, that is a lot of money. But worth it ? Yes, absolutely, in my opinion.

Have you ever flown a straight line with a kite ? Yes ? Really ? Try again with the HUGO ! Now THAT is a straight line. You’ll also notice that the kite is tracking very well. Hugo’s speed is slow-ish, and constant across the entire wind window the same. Very useful for ballet routines. Flying curves feels very solid. In very tight curves you can generate some oversteer to stop the kite, but also, it is easy to fly straight out of a tiny loop whenever you want.

HUGO makes noise, a lot of noise. My leech-line is always loose, but even with tension on it, there is a loud RRRRR. This starts at low winds already. The vibrating trailing edge helps to slow the kite down and increases the controllability. For some people this may be a minus, but when flying HUGO, the sound is very nice. Flying squares you can hear: “RRR-tak, RRR-tak, RRR-tak, RRR”.

This will give you an idea of the kite’s precision capability:

This is what it is really all about, isn’t it ? tricking a kite. HUGO is a very solid tricker. The frame is very stiff and that helps a lot in backspins or backspin cascades for example. Also, right after a trick, the kite is immediately ready to fly off again, the frame is ready for that. Feels nice, looks good.

The Taz machine has a slightly different timing from other kites. And almost every time they will go better with a step to the kite. The fade is stable and reliable. I like the slot machines a lot and also quite easy to make a few in a row to a multi-slot.
Cometes go very well. You can perform them slowly, but also very fast. You can speed up the rhythm to super speed (but there are faster cometing kites).

HUGO’s backflip is not very deep but you keep it there without problems, and you can get it out of it. Lazies and multilazies are very nice. HUGO rotates around one point in the sky. Cyniques are doable, but because of the expensive spreaders, I’m reluctant to hit them often.

The yoyo is nice, not fast, but certainly not slow. A step forward is required in STD-winds. Once wrapped, the kite is very steerable. Jacobs ladders are a treat, especially in the lower wind range. You can combine this trick with backspins, flic-flacs and/or multilazies without much effort. Another trick HUGO excels at is the two-point landing. Because of the slowish and reliable speed you can time the landing perfectly. And it goes with a bang when you time it right: RRRR-bam! Always a good way to get some bystander’s attention !

The rolling cascade is a very reliable trick in both low and high winds and its easy to  Also easy inverse the rotations for an inverse cascade. In the movies at the end of the review you can see Mathias Haack do some very nice yofades with HUGO, but I’m always struggling with that trick with Hugo. Don’t know why, maybe I am too lazy ?

It is remarkable how easy HUGO tricks in light winds. Just very good. High wind tricks, like comete and rolling cascade are straightforward in a breeze without the need to walk backwards to generate sail pressure. In higher winds you have to walk forward in most tricks but more about the wind range below.

Wind Range
The wind range is truly unbelievable. I can fly this kite in a steady 5 km/h. And know: that is really low. Walking backwards when flying up and walking forwards when there is pressure and I can fly and trick HUGO without losing terrain. The kite itself is not very light, but the stiffness of the framing helps a lot here. A friend of mine is even considering buying a HUGO as his UL-competition kite.

I love the wind around the 10-15km/h. There is plenty feedback on the lines and after a corner or trick there will be forward speed immediately. Again, the super-stiff framing helps here. Precision is very good and all the tricks are accessible without much foot movement (and I am a lazy man).

HUGO can withstand wind till about 35 km/h. It is not overpowered, you can still do tricks if you want. Inputs need to be very firm and powerful. Once you’ve got the kite out of the wind, it is trickable. Most tricks are still there, a Comete is easy, like the Rolling Cascade. But most tricks can now only be done at the far left or right, or really high.

So if you put a 30m 40 DaN and a 40m 70 DaN lineset in your car and a HUGO, there will be almost no occasion you are not able to fly your kite. One kite to rule them all. In all the described situations above the bridle setting is just standard. I never touched it, or even felt the urge to touch it. It is just okay in low winds or strong winds. Do not touch it.

In low winds you can call it feedback on the lines (as I did earlier), but from 15 km/h, there is really pull. The pull will get a bit too much for some people in those winds or stronger winds. I don’t dislike it personally, but them I’m a strong and heavy man.

But use 55 DaN-lines most of the time, and I never broke one flying HUGO. Maybe it feels just a bit more powerful compared to other kites because there is always firm pressure on the lines. But to be honest, this will be the main minus of HUGO, in STD-winds the pull may be just too much for some people to fly relaxed.

There is a wind-brake available for HUGO. It also fits on King. There are many types of brakes for trick kites, but I believe most in this design. It is a large triangle from inner standoff to upper spreader patch on both sides. At the top there is a bungee cord, so the brake can reduce gusts in the wind. The brake does not affect tricking the kite, it only slows the kite down and reduces the amount of pull.

The Good And The Bad
Let’s start with the bad. First of all, there is the pull. This may be too much for some people and there is nothing you can do about this… When I flew HUGO for the first few times I really had to adjust my timing for the Taz machine. It is just different from most kites. Not a bad thing, you can get used to it quite fast.

Another minus is the flare to fade. When you let the flare go a bit too far, you will lose the kite. Personally I never encounter this problem, but when friends are flying my HUGO, this will turn up occasionally.

A last thing some people “complain” about is that HUGO is too much of an all rounder/polyvalent kite, lacking in character – no weak points, no particular strong points just a bit boring. I can understand a bit, HUGO has not got any obvious weaknesses. But call it boring? Hell no! In my opinion HUGO is full of character. But of course, HUGO is expensive.

Good points now. Everything is already said, just to sum up: excellent precision, no weak points, very solid, very manageable in the tricks, enormous wind range. I looks like a small list I know, but take my word HUGO is a truly impressive kite !

Other Versions
One kite to rule them all. Yeah, right. But there are four more versions of HUGO available. First there is a full range of HUGO’s, there is an UL, named BILL, and a high wind version, named KING. The names are based on characters from Tarantino movies. Also, there are the HUGO Freistil and HUGO Leichtstil, these are more trick-oriented versions of HUGO and BILL.

BILL was developed as HUGO UL. I very much like the fact that Thorsten and Mathias completely  redesigned the kite and not just put some lighter sticks in the sail. The sail dimensions are a bit different and the bridle is re-designed. The framing is all Aerostuff Blue (lighter version, same eye-watering price). The white sail material is Air-X, your only color option is something for the wingtip accents. .

BILL is a very good UL, I always call it a (S)UL or even a SUL. I’ve had some sessions in SUL-wind with a friend of mine, and flying next to the TNT Zero, Veyron SUL, NSE WW and Essence SUL, we both found BILL is a really SUL and even flew better than some of the kites mentioned.

Flying BILL is a bit different than HUGO, the precision is again excellent, but some tricks need a bit of an adjustment. For example the comete has to be performed very gently. Taz machines are very nice. The kite has a very solid fade and backflip. And very important for a light kite: the backflip is easily recoverable. BILL can handle some dirty winds with ease. Very useful as a competition kite in low wind inland contests.

The sail of KING is the same as HUGO’s, except for the piece of venting and the use of Spinnaker in the sail (the grey and the colored panels). The venting piece is well made, reinforced around the edges, looks very durable. KING is equipped with a turbo bridle. It comes with an extra weight of 5 grams for those really windy days.

The framing is again almost all Aerostuff, this time Aerostuff Zen for the spreaders. The spine is a Glasspar – “That one will never break”, they told me. Well, KING can handle some ballistic winds. However the vents are not that big, so the kite develops some powerful pull as the wind speed increases. It flies pretty faithfully to the HUGO. Strangely the yoyo is a bit faster, and the Taz is more easy. I like to fly KING in standard winds, it is very tricky and the vents help smooth out bumpy inland winds.

Oh, and about the unbreakable spine: at the freestyle Masters in Portiragnes 2015 the winds were incredible, about 50km/h (at least!). At the very last seconds of my ballet – trying a reversed cointoss – the bridle was caught behind the tail and the spine broke at the centrecross…

HUGO Freistil
“Freistil” is the German word for “freestyle”. Thorsten and Mathias really made a more tricky HUGO with this one. The sail and dimensions are different, price is a bit lower (yeah!) and there is again a lot of Aerostuff, but this time the softer variant. The colored panels are Spinnaker, to silence the kite and increase the flow. In the sail there is a batten. Thorsten had this to say about them: “Call them noise reduce sticks. Or something like that. They are for reducing and control vibration at the trailing edge. Don’t think of them. Just fly!”

Freistil is indeed much more silent than HUGO. And it is a trick monster. It has got a so nice feeling in the tricks. I especially like the more easy Tazmachine and the overall trickiness. Freistil makes the transitions between the tricks very good.

There is a downside of all this: the very good precision is somewhat lost. But just see it as a different kite. The wind range starts a little higher than the HUGO but offers little more at the top end too.

HUGO Leichtstil
The Last kite from Thorsten Mikus and Mathias Haack is the ultralight version of the Freistil (German “leicht” mean “light”). This is really a SUL. It is framed in Avia Skinny SUL and Aerostuff Blue S. The layout is asymmetric again, with your choice of white and light grey or light grey and dark grey. The color can be anything you want (Icarex).

Leichtstil is a very floaty kite, much more than BILL. When you fly it, you have to be careful that you never give slack: always guide the kite through the tricks. It is a special feeling. The low wind performance is excellent. Solid flying, good tricks. The frame does not feel weak or fragile and you can bash out cometets and cyniques with confidence.

Well, there are some rumors about a vented HUGO Freistil. Maybe HUGO Stormstil or something like that. Let’s just wait and see.

There are many video’s featuring HUGO or an other version. Here are some. Almost all movies of Busterike (Thorsten Mikus) are incredible, to see more, just check Vimeo. I also put some video’s of myself in this list (there are more). Also the Lepidoptera-series are filmographic fantastic, just one in the list below.

  • Busterike Building: https://vimeo.com/161640124
  • KH VF29: https://vimeo.com/96126025
  • KH BILL: https://vimeo.com/69650566
  • KH Leichtstil: https://vimeo.com/132972107
  • Lepidoptera: https://vimeo.com/91136826
  • Busterike Freistil: https://vimeo.com/102259235
  • Busterike Leichtstil: https://vimeo.com/123818181
  • Busterike BILL: https://vimeo.com/78624566
  • Busterike KING: https://vimeo.com/71572101
  • Busterike HUGO: https://vimeo.com/40474449
  • Busterike HUGO (Yofade to Ladole!): https://vimeo.com/38774149

And as I said, there are many more