Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kiteboarding Reassessment

I don't know about this kiteboarding stuff. Since I started learning in May of this year I have had more weird gear failures and awkward, on-the-water incapacitations than I ever experienced in 20 years as a windsurfer. I would say if you're reasonably happy with windsurfing, you'd be best off to ignore any "grass is greener" kind of feelings about getting into kiting. It seems to involve a lot more hassle and danger and isn't necessarily funner than windsurfing. Perhaps a good compromise would be to windsurf like usual, but to hang a ropeswing from a tree in your backyard so you can get the swooping through the air feeling of kiting.

What inspired this reassessment? Well, when I was kiting yesterday I mis-timed a jump, which created slackness in the kite lines. The kite took the opportunity to "Hindenburg" out of the sky, then turn itself inside out, such that it wouldn't relaunch off the water. Of course it happened when I was at my furthest point from shore, about a quarter mile out. I hand-over-handed up the lines to retrieve the downed kite, then attempted to do a wind-powered self-rescue by pulling the kite's wingips together and using it as a U-shaped sail. When I folded it into a U, the main bladder valve blew out and all the air hissed away. Doh! There was still air in the struts, though, so I rolled the kite up into a sausage-shaped package, tucked it under one arm, and started side-stroking for shore. It was slow going with the drag of the kite, my feet tangling in the lines, and the board bumping along beside me, but I made it before the sun set and did not get eaten by a shark or stung by a portuguese man-o-war jellyfish. My friend was watching from the beach, ready to call the coast guard, but no one else was out kiting that could have helped with the rescue.

Anyway, here's a video from a kite session I had this weekend, where, unusually, nothing went wrong. (I didn't have my camera on for the grand self-rescue yesterday).

More Kiteboarding in Fort Pierce, FL from James Douglass on Vimeo.


Sergey Menshikov said...


Magnum said...

I also tried kiteboarding two years ago. After learning I realised it was less technical, so easier than windsurfing, but potentially more dangerous. Also you needed help to launch etc. I also got tired of the always tangled lines.
A friend of mine broke one of his legs kiting, took him three years to recover. MAny others have died. So I'm windsurfing with more passion than ever.
Looks like you will soon think the same as me, I wish you abandon kiting before having some serious accident.
All the best!

Jenny said...

I'm sorry you had a hard time :( Be careful out there, I want to see you in one piece when I get back!

rod.r said...

Hey James. I was have a big range of gear, from sinker / nukin stuff to the formula / 9.8...add in the Kona and you can pretty much windsurf in anything. So what is it about kiting that you can't do windsurfing.....apart from the hang time?
Have you been on the kite and thought, "man I wish I could do THIS on my windsurfer"...or is it just different?

Johnny Douglass said...

Sell the dang thing! All that friggin' in the riggin' would drive me nuts. Just concentrate on the windsurfing thing that you do best like Tiger Woods with his golf. No...wait...bad example. Anyway think safety; you need to be around to take care of me in my old age...coming sooner than you think.

James Douglass said...

Magnum- Yeah, kiting still hasn't QUITE exhausted my patience, but I may be moving in the same direction you did; back to just windsurfing. We'll see.

Jenny- I'll see what I can do. :)

Rod- Well, it sounds kinda silly, but one of the current appeals of kiting for me is that I can fit the gear in my van without taking out my shortboard windsurf gear. I can't do that with my formula board or Kona because I don't have roof racks yet. Some of the things I like about kiting that I haven't gotten from windsurfing are: 1) Being able to jump and dangle in relatively light wind and flat water, 2) Being able to use light-wind gear in the ocean without worrying about a long fin hitting sand or a big awkward sail getting smashed in the waves, 3) Being able to get up and planing almost instantly by just diving the kite, and 4) Being able to transition quickly and easily from one tack to another while staying planing. Of course, to be fair, there are some things I like about windsurfing that I miss when I'm kiting, like: 1) Being able to go really fast and squeeze power out of the fin, 2) Being able to do dynamic rail-to-rail turns, 3) Feeling like I'm really surfing when I catch a wave or swell, 4) Being able to do a jump that really feels like a jump, and 5) Having full confidence in my gear and being able to go further and into more interesting areas to ride.

Dad- Duly noted. :)

PeconicPuffin said...

It only took two sessions to get me to quit, but obviously lots of people enjoy kiting.

I've gotten into SUP surfing as a light wind alternative (of course I need a little swell). I started because I was told it would improve my wavesailing, but now I'm into it as its own reward.

Van said...

Man, I really love your blog! Thanks for the great posts and all of the laughs.
Sorry about your van, but you're right, it could have been worse.

Van said...

Another light wind alternative to windsurfing is windskating. I'll be exploring this sport very soon with both an all-terrain and a traditional longboard shakteboard.

Can hardly wait.

James Douglass said...

Puffin- Yeah, I noticed you were getting into SUP. I've tried it a bit on my Kona One, but that board is too heavy and chunky-railed to be very sporting in the waves. If I end up living in California or some such place I might get a real SUP board.

Van- Thanks for the props on my blog. I had a land windsurfing board for a while last winter but I decided to sell it because I didn't like the crashing onto hard pavement, and if was windy enough to use on the grass or the beach, it was windy enough that I might as well just windsurf. Some people love 'em, though, so it would definitely be worth trying.