Monday, May 31, 2010

Silly Kite Video

There are two basic kinds of jumps in kiteboarding: "pops", where you keep the kite steady but do a quick carve with the board to flick yourself out of the water, and "boosts", where you swoop the kite up past vertical to launch yourself into a soaring leap. You can also blend the two kinds of jumps to varying degrees, and enhance either one by using a wave to initiate it. I had a hard time learning pops because they require a weird sort of timing, but now I like them. They are kind of like windsurfing "chop-hops" in that they can be spontaneous responses to the terrain that don't interrupt your forward momentum.

You can see some mediocre pops and boosts and other attempted show-off moves in this board-mounted video, taken Saturday at Kimberly Bergalis Park in Fort Pierce. The winds are light (10-12 knots) so I'm riding my big 179 cm kiteboard and 14 meter squared kite. The song is by Alice in Chains.

29 May 2010 Kiteboard Board Mount from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The video from the gopro looks grey and dreary but it was actually kind of pretty out there. For the first part of the session I had my camera set to take still shots, accidentally, but that turned out to be ok because I was able to play with them and make them look nice (see slideshow below).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

News and Formula Windsurf Stuff for Sale

I'm in a rush to prepare for a science-related trip to Boston (leaving tomorrow) so I'm going to see how efficient and terse I can be in composing this watersports-related blog entry. I'm giving myself 20 minutes. Ok:

News item #1- I got a new toy from Maui Malones. It's an Exocet Warp Slalom 71, an all-black, carbon fiber, slalom windsurfing board. (For going fast and racing.) Sunday afternoon I rode it with a 6.8 sail in 10-13 knots. In that wind strength I had to pump the sail and fish for gusts to get planing, but once planing, wow! It was like the board had afterburners and could go upwind and plane through lulls like magic. I'm sniffing around for a nice 7.5 - 8.5 sail to complement it better.

News item #2- To avoid toy and time overload, I'm selling my formula windsurfing stuff. Here's the info on it if anyone is interested

2004 Exocet Turbo Formula II. Well used but no leaks or major repairs, 5 straps- $200
Select DC 70 cm fin with screws and washers- $50
520 cm NP 100% Carbon Mast- $100
9.8 Aerotech VMG 2005, fuschia and yellow, durable grid construction, rigs fine on the mast.- $150

There's videos of the gear in action here and here.

$460 for everything if you pick it up in Fort Pierce.

News Item #3- Since the wind was from the Northeast last weekend the Fort Pierce crew launched their kites and windsurfers in the lee of the South Jetty. Here are my most poignant jetty weekend memories:

*The illusion of flying over the underwater terrain because the water was so clear.
*Steering around sea turtles.
*Steering around schools of jacks.
*Steering around bold yellow clumps of Sargassum seaweed.
*Steering around a manatee orgy.
*Chasing a flying fish on a way-out-there windsurfing run.
*Three rednecks wading through the swimming area with full spearfishing gear.
*One redneck returning early and vomiting copiously into the sand. He buried it.
*My roommate Antonio and buddy Marc advancing their respective levels of kiteboarding.
*A fat guy with tattoos and a ponytail hitting on Antonio's Brazilian intern.
*A very stoned teenager stumbling around trying to bum a ride to Port Saint Lucie.

Another thing wasn't so much a memory as a set of observations confirming my theories about what it takes to kiteboard in light winds. It takes a big board, a big bow kite, gentle kite trim, and only moderate edging with the board. Some good kiters had big enough kites but tiny boards that wouldn't allow them to stay upwind. In windsurfing it's obvious that you need a big board to use a big sail. A similar principle seems to apply in kiting, but a lot of kiters just don't seem to get it. They lose in the light wind stuff because they never go bigger than their narrow little 125 - 150 cm boards. Some other kiters were sheeting and sine-ing their kites too aggresively, generating power but getting dragged downwind or stalling their kites on the upstroke. In light winds I think it's better to ease out on the sheeting and let the kite "suck" you upwind, which of course is easier to do if you have a bigger board with more glide and float. The sheeting out a bit to go upwind technique works best when you keep your board speed up and the kite flying efficiently by not edging harder than necessary to maintain line tension. Finally, I noted that big "C" shaped kites are lousy, since they have more drag and less power for their weight and they require more wind to do everything.

Ok, that was more like an hour. I'll see if I can be "terser" in my composition next time. Back to work...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weekend Beach Fest

What could be better than a long Saturday afternoon windsurfing and kiting with your friends at the beach? Doing it again on Sunday, duh! There's nothing like sore-all-over tired to help you sit still in your desk chair on a Monday. :)

Here's some pictures from Saturday of my kite pal Marc, my windsurf buddies Brandon and Lisa, and myself. I was riding a 179 cm Litewave Freeride and flying a 14 m Cabrinha Contra. 179 cm is really big for a twin-tip kiteboard, but it rides super smooth because of the rocker, concave bottom, and relatively narrow tips. It's ironic that it was the cheapest used board in the shop when I picked it up last year, and yet it turns out to ride nicer than any of the other big boards I've borrowed or tested since then.

Marc was flying a new-to-him 2009 Cabrinha Crossbow 16 meter kite and riding his Litewave Wing 153.

Brandon rigged a small 5.0 sail on his longboard for Lisa.

Lisa did fine with the small sail, and the next day she was out with a 6.6 on my Kona longboard. Goes to show that you don't need to be an advanced shortboard windsurfer to ride in the ocean. Just need to be brave enough to try it and stick with it until you get your sea legs.

Fort Pierce moonrise.

There are some more pictures from the session in this photobucket album, but I'm not posting them here because there are some seat-harness-junk shots that I don't want to inflict on unwilling victims.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poor Man's Helicopter

Tuesday after work I met my windsurf buddy Brandon at the beach. He had been having a good session on his 6.0 Ezzy sail and 114 liter Seatrend board until stepping on something weird in the shorebreak, dropping the sail, and breaking a batten. While Brandon re-rigged to the blue 6.6 I recently sold him, I tried to decide between rigging my 6.8 sail or my 12.0 kite. The onshore direction and apparently fading strength of the wind, combined with the imposing, seaweed-filled shorebreak, convinced me to go with the kite. In other words, I chickened out.


At first it seemed like the kite was a good choice, because I was only lightly powered on my big kiteboard and there wasn't enough wind for Brandon to get off the beach. But then the skies cleared and the wind picked up enough that I would have been well-powered on the 6.8. Oh, well. I got some ok footage with my "straddle mount" kite camera until a drop of saltwater got on the lens in exactly the right spot to blur me out, obscuring my awesome back loop and (unintentional) kiteloop crashes. Even though I was just a blob after that, the camera still worked to get some good "helicopter shots" of Brandon windsurfing. When Brandon was dialed in he was too fast for me to keep up with on the kite, but he crashed and fell off plane regularly enough that it wasn't too hard to get him in the shot again. Anyway, here's the video. The annoying techno song is "Fire" by Ferry Corsten, and the vocals are Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran.

Poor Man's Helicopter from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The seaweedy shorebreak definitely makes things interesting. All kinds of live and dead marine plants and animals collect in it when we get several days of onshore winds like this. I think I got stung by a chunk of Portuguese Man O' War jellyfish sometime during the Tuesday session because I now have itchy bumps in a tentacle pattern on my belly.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Slalom Windsurfing - Last Place but Had Fun

The Stuart Spring Fling windsurfing regatta was last weekend. I wrote a report and made a video and stuff. It's on my windsurfing magazine blog at:

The Straddle Mount, A Technological Masterwork

After my dangling kite line camera mount fiasco last week I decided to scrap that idea and work on a more stable kite line mount. I was sort-of stealing the idea from this mount I saw advertised on the internet, which straddles the two center lines of the kite. The difference is that my mount was designed to straddle wider, and be positioned higher up the center lines. I used the same padded stick that I had for the dangle mount, but I replaced the hanging grommets on the end of the stick with double-ended coat-hanger-based line grabbers.


It stuck on the lines pretty well, with just a bit of rattle when I went over chop that I can probably fix by tightening up the spiral line grabber loops in the ends of the coat hangers. Unfortunately the wind was very light when I tried this last night, so I struggled to plane and couldn't stay upwind. I think the mount tightened the front lines a bit, too, making the kite a bit depowered. Nevertheless, I was fairly pleased with how it worked, and some video was salvageable. After I stopped filming and took the camera off, the wind came up enough to have a short but fun little session. Stoke!

Straddle Mount Experiment from James Douglass on Vimeo.

(Notice all the crud on the beach in the video. This is the time of year that a lot of seaweed and seagrass washes up and collects in a stinky mass at the Fort Pierce South Jetty.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Dangle Mount, an Unsuccessful Experiment

The first two times that I mounted a camera on my kite I strapped it to the kite's center strut. That's an easy mount to do, but it has two disadvantages: 1) it's far away from the kiteboarding action, especially given that the GoPro is a wide-angle camera, and 2) it's always tilted sideways at whatever angle the kite is tilted, with dizzying effects when you swoop or turn the kite.

I thought I could get around those problems by making a camera mount that would dangle from the line like a ski lift chair. That way the camera would always be level with the horizon. To get it closer to the action I would "rappel" it about halfway down one of the front lines of the kite.

Dangle Mount

I tried it yesterday on the ocean but it didn't work very well because it jiggled and rocked back and forth too much, and sometimes even spun 360s around the line. Even after image stablization in iMovie, the footage is pretty much unwatchable. It might be good for still shots, but I think that's about it.

Special Kite Mount from James Douglass on Vimeo.

I'll try again with extensions under the camera so it dangles lower, but I think that will just make the period of the rocking longer. The next thing to try will be a more fixed mount that spans across both the front lines. That will have the same tilting problem as mounting directly to the kite, but at least I will be able to get the camera closer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Video + Windsurfing Event Coming to Stuart 8-9 May

Check out my blog on the windsurfing magazine website. I just posted a new formula windsurfing boom-mount video and announced an upcoming windsurfing festival / race to be held at the Stuart Causeway this coming weekend. Here's the link:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weird Car Crash on Seaway Drive Bridge

Fort Pierce, Florida seems to be a hotspot for "wtf!?" moments. There's nothing so bizarre that it can't happen here. Sunday I was driving home over the bridge when I saw a white pickup truck stopped on the other side. It had somehow jumped the barrier in an accident with an old sedan and was precariously perched in the narrow pedestrian walkway. If not for a fortuitously placed light post it would likely have fallen one hundred feet into the lagoon below. Yikes! Fortunately, it looks like no one was hurt. Does anybody know anything else about this accident? I'm speculating that one or more of the drivers involved may have had too many rum runners at the "Jetty Bar and Lounge" on the island, a well-known mecca for serious alcoholics.