Learning to Kiteboard — a better day

In Learning to Kiteboard — It’s Not Like the Video Said I talked about what it was like to fly the kite in light winds. I neglected to mention that the week before I tried to fly the kite in heavy winds. Sand was flying violently off the beach, and no one was there. I’d estimate the winds at something above 30 mph. Turns out Wunderground agrees with me (check the wind graph toward the bottom of the page at 4 pm: just over 30 mph, with gusts close to 50 mph) My performance looked something like this. I didn’t fall down, but I did get popped about ten feet along the beach, and I promptly crashed the kite and broke one of the lead lines.


This is a pretty large flag. Not sure, but at least 10-15 feet long.

This is a pretty large flag. Not sure, but at least 10-15 feet long.

Well, it turns out that the winds were too light. I learned a lot about handling the kite, but not enough about how it flies. I now think you need roughly 10-15 mph of wind to learn. That’s an estimate. To the right is what the flag on the breakwater at Marina Del Rey looked like yesterday, when conditions were excellent. Here’s a link to a map of where I was and the breakwater. Wunderground says the wind was just over 10 mph.

Yesterday the kite was a different animal. In light winds it wouldn’t fly by itself; if I wasn’t working it side to side it was sinking to the ground. Yesterday the kite leapt into the air and immediately positioned itself almost directly overhead.

And when I worked it back and forth through the power zone, it really pulled. I weigh about 170 lbs. right now, and I could lean against the kite strongly. No danger of being hauled away, but I definitely shuffled my feet forward a few times to keep my balance.

The kite is most powerful when it’s moving quickly through the “power zone.” The power zone is about 30 degrees to either side of directly downwind. Outside of that the kite practically luffs. Just being in the power zone means that the kite wants to move forward, toward the top/leading edge. Keep it neutral and it will move nearly overhead, as I said.

So what you do is work the kite through a figure eight: down to the left, then turn up and over and go down to the right. Rinse and repeat. Again, the instructions from the manufacturer and the guys at the store are vague: do this until you get bored (maybe ten hours, they say), then sign up for a kiteboarding lesson.

I look for something more specific, so here goes.

For starters, hitting the ground is bad. When you’re kiteboarding I gather it can be difficult to re-launch a kite that’s hit the drink, so you want to avoid that. You can get pretty far away from land while kiteboarding, and no one wants to swim in from a mile out. (Note to self — need to practice distance swimming…) So I don’t think I’ll be taking a lesson until I can go out practicing for an hour or so without crashing the kite. Yesterday I was practicing for about two hours, and I crashed maybe twenty times, so I have some work to do there.

Second, on a kiteboard you need to be extremely sensitive to how hard the kite is pulling. With bent arms I’m able to easily pull in or out as the kite pulls less or more. So I’m trying to fly nearly straight-armed as much as possible, to force myself to focus on the strength of the kite. It took half an hour to get used to that yesterday.

Third, you need to be fully in control of the kite, making it do what you want when you want. Mostly what you want is steady power. So I’m trying to see how long I can produce reasonably steady power. On a real kiteboard, I think this is easier. You can go with the wind, so you don’t have to maneuver the kite as much, and you can make up for variations in power by angling your board. But for now, here’s what I’m doing: I bend my knees and lean into the kite as I make figure eights, and see how long I can control that situation. My goal is to be able to reliably do 100 large figure eights with nearly straight arms without moving my feet, leaning back strongly.

So far my record is 68 small (easier) figure eights with my arms bent somewhat and shuffling my feet a few times. For large figure eights with straight arms, I’ve done 14. I have a way to go…

Update: I just found http://howtokiteboard.com, which has a ton of information (and a few broken links, so don’t be put off).

Update 2: The wind wasn’t blowing today, so no fun.


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