Friday, June 25, 2010

Sunset for my Bladders, Moonrise for my Foil

We've had consistently mediocre wind lately in Fort Pierce, peaking around 10 knots most evenings. I've mainly been riding my early-planing directional kiteboard with 12 and 14 meters squared kites, since there's just not enough wind to get going with my biggest windsurfing gear. Choosing between the 12 and the 14 kites has been dictated less by wind strength and more by which kite is not leaking air or otherwise in need of repair at the time. Florida heat is hard on leading-edge inflatable kites, aka "lei's", which have notoriously chintzy valves and internal bladders. I got so frustrated when the main bladder on my 12 leaked the other day that I decided to go out on a limb and buy a bladder-free "foil kite".

Foil is short for parafoil. Foil kites are built like parachutes, with a double-layered, many-segmented canopy. The ones for kiteboarding have most of the segments in the canopy closed off, and one-way vents on the open segments so the kite will stay full of air enough to float and relaunch off the water, even though it's not totally rigid and airtight like a lei kite. (See video below of a "Flysurfer" brand foil kite in action.)

Flysurfer Speed2 in Soma Bay, Egypt from Flysurfer Kiteboarding on Vimeo.

Anyway, when I came home from work today the UPS guy was just dropping off the new foil kite, which is a 12 meters squared Flysurfer Speed 2 like the one in the video. The breeze was doing its usual 10 knot thing, so I headed straight to the beach to join my watersports buddies already there. My first impression when I unrolled the kite was, "Wow, this thing is complicated". Since it doesn't have a skeleton of rigid inflated bladders, it has to have lots of bridle lines to give it shape and distribute the load. The lines are like a tree, with a few main trunks coming up from the control bar and branching into ever finer and more numerous twigs as they approach the canopy. Even though it looked like a mess, everything straightened itself out when I put some tension on the lines and launched the kite. It flew similarly to my inflatable kites, but was maybe a little slower to turn and accelerate, meaning I had to build up some speed on the board before the power really kicked in. The power was definitely there, though- at least as much as on my 12 meter lei, and maybe more. The kite also went upwind and jumped really well, and because of its light weight it stayed in the sky happily even during lulls of 8 knots or so. I'll need some more experience on it to decide for sure, but I think it might allow me to get rid of both my 12 and 14 lei kites, which would be nice.

After the session I took some pictures of the sunset / moonrise. Check out the "anticrepuscular rays" in the moon picture. Woo hoo!



This is a picture of my 14 meter squared inflatable kite (in its bag) next to the new foil kite. I like how much smaller the foil kite packs.



Brandon said...

As I drove past KB park a few days ago I thought that I saw Ben out kitboarding with some other new guy. This "new guy" had a new kite which I didn't recognize and this new kite had a much larger aspect ratio than a normal sled kite...

So I thought to myself "humm, I wonder if Mark bought something exotic, maybe Linda finished her foil kite... actually wait a minute where's James at? If Ben is out there, and its windy enough for him to be way off shore, then that has to be James out there next to Ben. I'll bets James simply bought a new kite"

When you start to reason and draw conclusions based on two kites flying around in the air, that's when you realize that you maybe be part of the Wind Junkies group in the local area.

James Douglass said...

Hey Brandon! Yep, that was me. The kite is green, black, and white. Glad you didn't see me yesterday when I got cocky, dropped the kite in the water way out there, couldn't even come close to relaunching it, and had to get a ride in with the sherrif then spend an hour untangling the soggy, sandy mess on the beach. Next time I'll stay closer to shore.