Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dumb Stuff Good Kiters Do + Weekend Videos

Windsurfing has a slow learning curve in which bravery and athletic talent alone are not enough to get you beyond the kooky beginner phase. To progress in windsurfing you must also mentally tune in to the nuances of wind and water conditions and learn the technical aspects of gear and rigging. Therefore, by the time you make it to an intermediate level in the sport of windsurfing, you are probably well rounded in terms of understanding, ability, and common sense. If that's you, give yourself a pat on the back.

Kiteboarding is a little different because it has a quicker learning curve in which either bravery/athleticism OR tuning/technique can get you going. So there are two kinds of intermediate level kiters; the ones who rely predominantly on their bravery and athleticism, whom we'll call the Brats, and the ones who take a more cautious and deliberate approach to gear tuning and technique, whom we'll call the Tutes. Generally, younger kiters and those with a surfing or wakeboarding background are more likely to be Brats, and older kiters and those with a sailing or windsurfing background are more likely to be Tutes. The best kiters have the good qualities of both Brats and Tutes.

As you might guess, I'm more of a Tute. As such, I feel it is my duty to share some unsolicited advice with all the talented Brats out there by pointing out the dumb things they do and how they could fix them to become much better kiters that I'll ever be.

Dumb Things That Good Kiters Do
by James Douglass, a bad kiter

1. Struggle with inappropriate sized kites for their weight and the wind conditions.
A Brat will usually go to the beach, see what size kites the other guys are using, and rig about that, regardless of whether he is 125 lbs or 250 lbs. Dumb. Kite size for a given wind strength is directly proportional to body weight, so a 125 lb person should use a kite half the size that the 250 lb person is using. For more specific kite size advice, check the chart I made here.

2. Ride too small a twintip or a surfboard with too much rocker.
Brats usually do well in powered or overpowered conditions that freak out Tutes, but they often have trouble in the light winds where Tutes flourish. This happens for several reasons including Brats' tendency to try to ride the same, small board all the time, or to dumbly consider a sinky little surfboard with tons of tail rocker to be a good light wind board. It doesn't matter how skilled a rider is; a small twintip (anything < 150 cm) just doesn't work very well in light wind, even when paired with a big kite. And a dinky, rockered-out surfboard will not get going and stay upwind nearly as well as a big flat twintip.

3. Oversheet (choking the kite) and over-edge (forcing the kite to the edge of the wind window).
This is another reason why Brats suffer in light wind. They aggressively sheet and sine their kites for power, while burying the rail of their board as hard as they can in the water. This often stalls or partially stalls the kite, slows them down, and prevents them from going upwind. Then they walk back up the beach and pack up, complaining that it's not windy enough and dammit when are we going to get some REAL wind. It would work better if they flattened out and finessed their boards to create less drag, more speed, and more apparent wind in the kite so they wouldn't have to sine it for power. And then they could sheet out and edge just a bit to have the kite pull them effectively upwind.

4. Don't put upwind "in the bank" on the way out or at the beginning of a session.
Just like what goes up must come down, what goes downwind must somehow come back upwind. Brats often gleefully zoom off downwind without realizing it, maybe because they didn't pay attention to the wind or current direction, and then have to struggle to make it back upwind to where they started from. It's better to go upwind as much as a possible when you first start out, to make sure you can maintain ground, and to build up some buffer space downwind in case the wind dies.

5. Launch in a ridiculous way.
Some Brats feel that to be a good kiter they need to do one of those lame, show-off starts where you slide your board down the sand of the beach, pop off an embankment, or hop into the footstraps when your board is floating in ankle deep water. It beats up your gear when you do it right, and it beats up your body AND your gear when you do it wrong, and it's tacky. Just wade or body drag out away from shore and launch like a normal person.

6. Jump too close to the beach or over super shallow water.
Just because you can usually jump, land, and turn around in about 100 feet doesn't mean the 100 feet remaining between you and the shoreline is a good place to try to jump, land and turn around. And just because you usually land softly doesn't mean you will land softly when you do a big air over 6 inches of water. Even if you do everything super skillfully, shit can happen with the wind that makes you go a little further, higher or faster than you expected, and then you crash and hurt yourself or some other people.

OK, that's it. Now here's my videos from the weekend, both shot Sunday. I started out kiteboarding, then when it got windier I went windsurfing, so that's the order the videos are in.

Kiteboard Jumping Session 7-25-10 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Midsummer Windsurf 7-25-10 from James Douglass on Vimeo.


Morley said...

I dunno, James, some of those kiteboard dangles were pretty close to the beach!! ;-)

Morley said...

Oh, and I meant to add it looks like an impressive amount of fun, speed, and turnyness for a relatively big board and sail; in that light a wind most here would still be sitting on the beach.

James Douglass said...

Morely- Eh, yeah, I need to watch that so I don't become a "brat". :)

The windsurf sesh was definitely fun. I probably could have gotten away with a 6.0 but it was nice to have good power on the 6.8. The fin I'm using is a chunky weed-wave fin that has lots of grip and grunt and turns pretty smoothly but lacks some speed and pep. I'm still searching for "the ultimate fin" for that board. That will probably be another blog post.