Kite: 2019 GIN Shaman 2
•Size Range: 4,6,9,12
•Target User: Beginner-Advanced
•Test/Demo Duration: 2 Months
•Location: Northern New England
•Surface: 1m Powder-Bare Lake Ice
•Tester Skill: Novice to Expert @ 135-200 lbs
About the GIN Shaman2 :
Hardwater Kiting has been selling single skin depowerable kites since they were first brought to market. An unusual design, we saw the potential and benefits for our type of kiting and they have proven to be both popular and successful. So as of the middle of the 2018-2019 snowkite season we were excited to announce that Hardwater Kiting has partnered win GIN Kiteboarding to bring the Shaman2 here to the United States.
GIN Kiteboarding introduced the Shaman series last year and and we had heard a number of good things about them. There were also detractors who claimed (due to obvious similarities) that the Shaman was little more than a clone of the Flysurfer Peak. And although there are strong similarities, GIN had managed to take what we felt was a very good design and improve upon it. The results were a kite that retained the benefits that the single skins offered but eliminated one of the biggest issues that single skins have. Depower flutter.
Gin added closed cells to the tips. Making depower flutter all but vanish. This took the single skin design to a new level and put it much closer in flight quality to traditional dual skin kites. Thus reducing rider fatigue over long sessions and making the kites just overall more enjoyable to fly. When we got word of this from customers of ours who had previously bought single skins from us but opted to try the Shaman as their next single skin addition, we were intrigued.
Fast forward to now. GIN has since made further improvements on the Shaman and released the Shaman2. For example changes in bridles to enhance turning, additional reinforcement of bridle anchor points. Theses just add to the overall quality of the kite and how it handles.
Given that other companies had adopted similar features to the Shaman, we figured GIN must be on the right track. Hardwater Kiting specializes in foil kites. So we decided maybe the Shamans would be a good fit for Hardwater Kiting and GIN agreed.
And here we are.
The GIN Shaman2 comes equipped with a 5th line safety system installed. It works by engaging an independent dedicated bridle assembly that is attached to the leading edge of the kite via small additional yellow pigtails added to specific bridle points. When the safety is activated the 5th line tethers the leading edge while the rest of the kite goes slack. The kite loses power and as you would expect, falls out of the sky.
In our tests it tended to roll over in the process and land with the "top skin" down. Even in 25kts+ the kites tended to simply lay there unless there was a substantial shift in wind direction and even then it did nothing to cause alarm.
The GIN Iced V3 bar is a direct fitment to this 5th line and installs in seconds. Much, much easier than other 5th lines we've dealt with.
If you don't want to use the 5th line safety or don't have a bar with a 5th line the 5th line bridle is easily removed and you can use any FLS (Front line safety) to flag the kite out of a single front line.
Both systems work very well and reliably.
The Shaman2, if equipped with the GIN Iced V3 bar, also comes with a stall handle attached to the outer lines. In my opinion this is an invaluable feature for adding easy to launching and landing the kite not to mention a quick means of securing it for short periods if needed. All of our bar offerings come with these and they are a simple but great tool for managing your kites on the ground without the need for activating the safety.
In a word, NIMBLE. The Shaman2 is just flat out fun to fly. The inherent stability of the kite is excellent yet the kite is still very, very maneuverable. It has very light bar pressure which considering it has single pulley toggles, was surprising. It has almost stunt kite handling traits but somehow retains stability usually only found in slower, lower aspect ratio kites. And even though the kite has an AR of 4.2 it is still higher AR than its closest competitor and higher AR than most dual skins that offer the same level of security and user friendliness that the Shaman2 possesses.
Turn rate without any advanced effort is really good. But, sheet in a bit or over-bar steer and the kite can stall turn on a dime while generating ZERO pull.
All while maintaining altitude. This is a huge benefit when flying in tight areas or riding the tree line compression. It's also a huge benefit when you simply need to dump power in a gust or at ridgeline or tree line compression.
Once you get a feel for it and find that you can put the kite anywhere you want when you want, you start to see things a little bit differently.
When looping, the power is steady and predictable. No spikes in power and power is delivered smoothly. Even when climbing in light winds when the power occasionally died off you never felt as though the kite wanted to drop you.
In fact the kite's ability to stay airborne, to "drift" when the winds drop off or if you hit a rotor is remarkable. And as long as it has some level of movement and can maintain apparent wind, it seems to be able to generate some amount of pull. This is especially nice when the winds drop off and you find yourself skating. the kite will remain in flight in almost nothing and even give you a little bit of pull to assist your skating efforts. This helps a lot if there is a sudden wind shift and you find yourself out of the wind and needing to move to where the wind is and don't want to do a "walk of shame".
Also, the power delivery in corners can be made constant. This takes some practice but when you feel it, it's amazing.
Depower on these kites is as expected and excellent. Very confidence inspiring. Turn rate is affected very little when trimmed. The most obvious affect was found on the 12m with some lag in the turn. Again, sheeting in while turning offsets much of this. Advanced riders will find that the Shaman handles well beyond it's posted wind ranges.
Unlike many other single skins there is nearly ZERO bar feedback or flutter when fully depowered. Even when fully trimmed. And you can dump amazing amounts of power just by sheeting out. Trim is almost unneeded unless you really get into some "rough and tumble" conditions.
This results in a kite that is just flat out fun to fly in every condition we fly it in. There were light wind days when the 12m out flew 15m and 18m high AR, high performance kites. Light wind kiting is generally the most expensive due to the size of the kites needed and how they are made. The 12m Shaman2 really brings light wind flying costs down.
Speaking of wind, the wind ranges are broad. For example during one demo session I had riders flying the 6m, 9m and 12m all at the same time. They were all able to match power and fly in the same conditions which weren't especially windy. The overlap in sizes is pretty substantial in my opinion and as nice as it would be to have a full quiver of Shaman2s, I honestly feel that 2 kites will cover 75% of anything you would ever want to do. At 185lbs I would be pretty well covered with a 6m and 12m. Changes in line lengths or additions of line extensions will expand the wind ranges of a given size even further.
This in addition to the light weight and ability to pack down make these kites great for travel. For example I can fit the entire size range, 4-12m and a 54cm bar, in your average 7m dual skin kite pack. It's like the kite storage equivalent to a clown car.
Historically single skins have not been especially good for jumping. As a touring kite, lift is not generally a desired trait as you want to be powered, be able to ride gusty conditions with minimal risk of being lofted accidently. This makes for a good touring kite but also for a good beginner or school kite.
However, most of these kites can be made to jump although the timing is often different. This said, the Shaman2, especially in the 9 and 12m sizes, is actually a very nice solid jumper with jumping tendencies very similar to a dual skin kite. And yet it still retains the ability to just dump all lift at will. The 12m at the top end of its wind range is really fun to jump. The Shaman2's Lift/Drag ratio is not on par with higher aspect kites but it does surprisingly well.
I've flown all sizes well beyond their recommended range and at no time did I ever feel like I was at risk of being lofted. But the lift was there if I wanted it..
Stability of the Shaman2 is excellent. In steady winds it is so stable you can hardly believe you are looking at the kite in real time. It looks like a still photo. In shifty and gusty winds, it is obviously less stable but never unpredictable and very resistant to tip collapse/curl that we see in other single skins when there are sudden wind shifts. It sits at the edge of the window quite well. At 12:00 it has a slight tendency to overfly in a gust but not drastically and it can be offset with slight bar input.
In flight while moving in conditions where the gust factor is extreme in both frequency and speed, the Shaman2 has a tendency to rush the window edge a bit. Very similar to what a race kite does, but without the violent increase in power. The kite has very good inherent gust handling but in extreme conditions, some active gust management from the pilot does help but they do really well on their own.
GIN has a reputation for good build quality and the Shaman2 is no exception. There really isn't much that we can say beyond that they are still building solid, well thought out kites and it shows with the Shaman2. Little details like the line keeper tab, the color coded bridles, placement of the logo on the center of the leading edge so you can easily find the center of the kite while packing are all simple but useful build features. Much of the bridling is very thin, much like a race kite but still durable. The Bridling is not complex and very easy to manage. Somewhat long but not unusual for a single skin kite.
There are no pulleys, but sheave less low friction rings. This saves weight and reduces the chance of a bearing failure in a pulley.
The kite is made from Porcher Skytex 38. One of the more durable yet light weight fabrics with a high resistance to fatigue or porosity over time. This has been an issue that we have seen in other single skins. Not a surprise given how the fabric that will flutter in a depowered state. Between the Skytex 38 and the reduced flutter we feel that the Shaman2 will maintain its flight quality for long term ownership.
The leading edge has stiffeners and they are double sheathed to minimize damage that can occur from getting dragged leading edge down.
Side note: The kite comes with a small repair kit as most kites do. However, unlike most of the kites I've sold the GINs come with color matched repair tape. Not just color matched fabric, but actual color matched tape. So you can patch the kite without it looking like "FrakenKite". Not that we've had to.
The GIN Shaman2 is an excellent kite for everyone from the beginner kiter to seasoned pro. In demo sessions this is the first single skin that we've had nothing but positive feedback on. Truth be told, many of our testers were surprised at how nice the kites were and the wide range of performance they offered. They can go fast (in the 70mph range) and they can fly in darn near zero wind. They deal well with gusts and have depower for days. They are by far one of the safest and confidence inspiring kites out there and I am happy with my choice to use them as our single skin school kite offering.
In a world where kites have become more and more expensive the wide wind range and comparatively low cost of the Shaman2 makes it a great choice if you are on a budget but still want modern kite performance. Again, to get similar light wind performance to the 12m Shaman2 you would have to spend almost 3X as much in another model and you still wouldn't have the wind range that the Shaman2 offers.
And they are very easily adapted and functional with other bars if you don't already have a bar. I tested them on 3 different bars, both 5th line and FLS and apart from the addition of pigtails, they are compatible.
Hardwater Kiting: You will struggle to find many reviewers with more depower foil experience anywhere. These reviews are non-brand biased and based on our first hand experiences and those of our customers. Granted these reviews are on product that we carry so there may be an assumed bias but I do my best to be impartial and to incorporate customer impressions as well.