First off, let me get something out of the way and confess that I am a big fan of Sky Sport Design’s kites. I’ve had the Fearless in my A bag for many years now and more recently the Transformer as well. I fly all sorts of other kites, but have kept coming back to these two when the novelty wears off.
I try to keep in touch with Lam Haoc periodically (Sky Sport Designs is a one-man operation and he’s the man) and I knew that he had been thinking about a new kite for some time, but I didn’t expect one anytime soon. His last kite has been out for a rather short amount of time (two years now) and as much as I would like new kites every year from boutique kite makers, it just doesn’t seem to happen very often.
So, I was surprised and excited when he recently told me what he’s been up to – a slightly larger kite designed for precision, tricks, and ballet. My son and I have been planning on using the Transformer next season as a team kite and to fly pairs, so Lam suggested that I try the Tekken DOA for that purpose. When I ordered mine, he didn’t describe it too thoroughly, but instead told me that I should fly it and then I would know.
Well, how did he do ? Read on for one man’s opinion.
I’m not going to belabor this too much. Lam is regarded as a top-notch builder and this kite is no different, it is built with the same techniques and style as his latest kites on the market.
It includes special tweaks such as his custom upper and lower spreader connectors and center-T which are both longer and stronger than the APA originals that they replace. Also, I was happy to see his SkyClaw (yo-yo stoppers) as well – they really do work to increase your yo-yo catching percentage without having to add roll bars. The kite also has the same tail weight mechanism as his newer kites.You generally do not adjust the amount of tail weight – you either use what the kite comes with or perhaps you do a one-time tweak to your liking, usually by adding a few grams, at least in my case.
I would like to mention a few items that do seem specific to this kite that differ a bit from his other kites on the market. For one, the nose is more angular, it is just less spread out and it gives the kite a much more pointed appearance. The more narrow nose in combination with a pulled-in upper spreader results in a nose that can get a little off-kilter during flight. This is not a big deal, I’ve had several kites from R-Sky and others that work this way, but it’s worth mentioning.
Another change concerns the standoffs which have a custom cover at the top of the standoff where it slips into the standoff connector. It’s quite a nice upgrade from the strapping tape that was used in the past and is especially welcome for a kite that is among the more expensive available.
The currently available Tekken DOA is the Light version which is framed with 3pt leading edges, a 5pt lower spreader, and a reverse turbo bridle with two settings. I have not measured the kites dimensions, but its a full sized kite, although not overly large.
Sky Sports kites visual design is always centered around a face appliqué and the Tekken DOA is no exception. It’s safe to say that you either love it, hate it, or are more indifferent and just prefer to get on with the flying ! In any case, it fits in well with the styling of the rest of the kite family and is visually unmistakable from any other makers kite.
The graphics on this kite are quite aggressive; featuring fiery eyes and what are identifiable as fighting blades. It’s perhaps not a kite for a pacifist ! In fact, DOA stands for dead or alive – a kite whose looks embody an aggressive competitive nature.
Enough already, how does the Tekken DOA fly ?
As I mentioned before, the Tekken is currently only available in the Light version which delights me as I seem to always prefer the Light/UL versions of most kites in general.
I’ve flown the kite in a variety of winds in the range of 3 to 18 mph which is probably about the range for the kite. For the most part, I’ve flown in wind that was from 7 to 12 in reasonable off-lake wind.
Upon first flight, I was immediately impressed with the kite – it has a solid, full sail feel in flight and it tricks readily in a reliable and balanced way. You know the kite is there and it provides the right amount of feedback without pulling too much even in higher winds. I felt at home with the kite right from the start – in many ways it felt to me like a bigger, more mature and refined Transformer with a smoothness during tricks that reminded me of the Fearless. It wasn’t precisely like either, but I caught glimpses of each in the DNA of the Tekken.
This kite has an impressive presence in the sky – a little bigger than what I usually fly, but still agile and enjoyable to fly. It has excellent speed control even in bumpy and variable winds, remaining well mannered and solid on the lines without yanking them out of your hands during strong gusts. It is slower moving in general flight even in higher wind which helps out with precision. I usually don’t care for slower moving kites, but the solid trick ability of the Tekken kept me interested.
Tricks can be done fast or slow, but the kite likes a medium sort of pace which helps to see what is going on. The trick speed allows you to showcase the kites movements during complex maneuvers.
One last general point, this kite likes to make noise ! You can play with the leech line if you like, but it is going to make some noise even in relatively low wind so just get used to it. Personally, I like a kite that lets you know when you are cracking on it ! :biggrin_wp:
Enough of the high level – lets get on to some key strengths and weaknesses.
The kite has a number of strengths which I’ll mention in no particular order.
First, I really cannot emphasize precision enough – the kite stands out in this area and is very impressive. Even in lower winds, I could effortlessly cut sharp corners and carve out shapes with no wobble or over-steer and very little effort on my part. My flying is mostly about doing tricks, but I literally spent the first 20 minutes just flying precision when I first flew the kite – honestly, it’s that good.
After I got bored flying precision, I next tried one of my most favorite tricks, the comete ! This kite has one of the best looking cometes that I’ve seen. Very sharp and crisp, you can clearly see all four inputs, and its just beautiful to watch. It also rotates in a small vertical space so you can hammer out as many as you like without dropping much height. The sharp transitions also make it easy to reverse them which is something that I’ve had trouble with in the past, but I seem to be getting the trick down with this kite.
As for the Taz, this kites does them very well – nice, slow, and flat which is how I like them. You can pull them from a cascade or straight-on horizontal, either way. Similarly, it does a good job of slots and 540s. The slower speed and good rotational movement just combine to make it easier than I’ve experienced on many other kites. Now, I’ve flown other kites that Taz more easily, but I’ve always ended up being frustrated with their design tradeoffs which often result in a much too finicky half-axel. To me, I like the overall balance that the Tekken has – there are no undesirable WTF moments as you put it through its paces. The nose comes up easily on the half-axel and you have a decently wide window to pop for the rotation so the timing is fairly easy to hit. It rotates slowly, so you will need to give it some slack for the rotation in anything other than light wind.
Eventually I got around to landing the kite and met another pleasant surprise ! I don’t know if its the good drive and full-sail feeling to the kite or some other design aspect, but I’ve never flown a kite that is this easy to plant in a solid tip-stab, even in lower wind. Right away, I was able to do things that I hadn’t done before such as planting four solid tip stabs in a row as I flew across the window. Easy to plant, easy to hold, easy to replicate. Two point landings were the same story.
The yo-yo is also very solid – easy one pop as well as two pop. The Tekken DOA two pops much better than most other kites that I’ve flown – its easy to two pop your way into 3-4 rollups all caught with those generous sky claws for a sweet unroll. The kite has a deep enough turtle to do a riser as well, so I was able to have fun doing tricks like a yo-yo to turtle to riser to 2 pop rollup to lazy unroll – lots of fun with excellent control.
I could go on, but the above really captures what has stood out to me so far as I’ve flown the kite. To be sure, it does everything else just fine and I’ve found no weak spots – Jacob’s Ladder, backspin cascades, an easy front-flip, endless combos, insanes, sharp half-axels, solid fades and cascades, its all there. The flic-flac is also very solid – you can stop the kite on the flare early, late, or right on time, it’s all reliable and easy pull back to the fade. I can’t speak for some of the more advanced tricks that I haven’t worked on yet such as the crazy copter, but would be eager to see how well the kite handles those tricks.
I’ll mention a few things here, but most of these items are more of a plus/minus nature rather than a full-on negative and there are certainly no deal breakers.
The first is the yo-yo. For sure, the kite yo-yos well from all variety of entry’s, but compared to my ‘go to’ kite, it is slower to roll. Like I said, its not overly slow, just not a ‘blink and you miss it‘ sort of yo-yo and perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Transformer which is a yo-yo machine gun. I asked the designer about this, since I generally simply add 5-6 grams to the tail of a kite and the problem most often just falls away with no side-affects that I’ve noticed. Lam cautioned me that throwing more tail weight on this one could have side effects and recommended against it. I haven’t completely given up on the idea, but have decided to fly the kite stock for now. Like I said, the kite does eagerly yo-yo with ease and also with a graceful and controlled look.
As I mentioned before, the Tekken does taz well, but its not a give-away trick like on some other kites that have recently hit the market, although those kites often seem to make trade-offs that haven’t worked for me concerning the half-axel. I’ve found that without a solid half-axel, other tricks also suffer including the comete, and the cascade. I love the taz, but not at the expense of those other tricks. In any case, the taz inputs for the Tekken are similar to other kites that I’ve flown, the nose comes up nicely and it easily does the rotation. I was hoping for a little more magic with the taz, combining drop-dead ease of execution with no compromise in the basics. I can’t find much fault here, however, since no other kite has yet shown me this either.
Finally, some flyers are just put off by the sail graphics, although I personally like a kite with a face. I have met folks who love the way the kite flys, but just can’t get over the general style of the graphics and will simply not entertain adding one to their bag based on that alone. These kites are a combination of technology, design, and art. Art is always subjective; its just that this type of art is much more of a statement than a combination of geometric panels and its just not for everyone. In my opinion, it’s hard to criticize the kite on this basis alone as it’s part of the makers trade-mark if you will – the appliqué uniquely defines Sky Sport Design’s kites.
Well, we’ve come to the end of this review and its time for some take-a ways.
If you currently fly one of Lam’s kites (Sea Devil, Transformer, or Fearless), then its a no-brainer – you will enjoy both flying and exploring this new kites abilities. It joins a well-regarded family and extends the line with new abilities and a style that tips its hat to those kites, but also has its own unique place in the line. If you are looking for your first Sky Sport Design kite, then this one would make an excellent choice. Its extremely capable for either the serious competitor, recreational flyer, or someone who simply appreciates well made and designed flying machines.
Overall, I think this kite will make an excellent competitive team kite due to its strong precision, slower speed, trick reliability, solid sky presence, clean looking tricks, and ground work abilities. For sure, this kite meets all my recreational and competition needs. The designer has taken some of the best elements of his previous designs, added some new abilities, and blended them into a new kite with a competitive focus that delivers world-class performance.
I can’t wait for the SUL and vented versions of this kite, but for now, I see myself spending quite a lot of quality time with the Tekken DOA in the coming months working on my Kung-Fu ! 🙂
See you on the field,