January, 2004

Jan 04

Kite trends

OK – this is advice for people buying kites, it is not intended as a slur of any particular kites and it is not meant to persuade anyone to buy any kite over another. As usual I am talking about landboarding kites and I also may be speaking utter rubbish, you decide.

I first noticed someone kiting at a beach in Newquay when I was there on a surfing trip. I came back up north and immediately starting looking for information about kiting on the internet. After reading various forums for many hours I decided to buy a Blade 2 4.9. I was lucky because there weren’t really any other kites around that made my choice difficult at all. If I was starting the sport now this choice would be undoubtedly harder. The land scene’s gone de-power and although I’d still go for a Blade these kites have a lot going for them and are the right choice for a lot of people.

Last year (03) Flexifoil launched the most recent version of their main land kite – the Blade 3 but it wasn’t as well received as the previous Blade. Whether this was because of supply issues to begin with, because it’s a higher performance kite that requires a little more skill to get the most from it or any other reason is pretty irrelevant to this discussion. Ozone also launched the Frenzy, a de-powerable bridled foil which has become a real hit, especially in the snow kiting scene.

This is, of course, fine – kites come and go every year. However in forum land it was quickly easy to spot threads such as ‘I was going to buy a Blade but CluelessArse123 said they’re crap compared to a Frenzy’. The trouble is CluelessArse123 could just as easily be a kite god as he could a kite goon. Different people prefer different kites and what suits one may not suit another. Although it’s getting harder to buy bad kites as the main ones around at the moment are all really good, it’s definitely still worth making sure you get the kite that’s right for you as they are all quite different.

This year Ozone have released the Frenzy 04 with a significant price increase and it’s interesting to see that the Peter Lynn Guerillas are starting to get more attention as land kites from the internet public. Is this the changing of the guard again? As Peter Lynn prepare to launch two new ARCs, the Bomba (pronounced “bomb-ba”) and the Fantom it’s going to be an interesting time.

I’m not really saying all that much here apart from reminding people not to buy a kite because of what someone on a website said (this could include this website!). Make informed decisions by getting to the beach and test flying the kites for yourselves. If this isn’t possible choose your sources well and remember that high post counts on forums mean sod all when it comes to flying kites! I’m not saying people shouldn’t read advice on the internet, not at all, just that it might not all be appropriate and that people should be aware that there really is no substitute for getting out there and test flying kites.

Jan 04

Those epic kite days (part 1)

Lest I forget I’m going to write a little bit about some of my awesome kite days. This one is about the middle of summer 2001 and I’m just starting to get the hang of kiting properly. After Brendan went in a funny ‘not wanting to do anything’ mood in Fort William on a mountain biking trip I decided to hot foot it east to St Andrews where the wind was supposed to be good that weekend. I arrived just in time to grab a couple hours of boarding before bivving at the beach.

I woke about 8 and it was a gorgeous day – warm sunny and about 12mph of cross-onshore wind. A bag of crisps for breakfast then I got stuck into mountain boarding. I’d never done hooked in jumps before so my main aim was to get them sussed, but I went for my first 720 first and was surprised to actually land it. Hooked in jumpsp were a lot easier than I expected and I soon started doing some grabs. Gradually my confidence grew, the wind picked up a bit and I was holding the board for longer. I starting thinking that one footers would be possible but then realised I was being silly, afterall this was when one footers were still magazine worthy moves for pro’s on the water!

Suddenly I had taken my foot out the board. Landed in a heap of course but I had gone for it without even meaning to! Two young girls had started watching me and were ‘ooo-ing’ when I stacked it and cheering when I landed stuff. After some more efforts I started landing one-footers,

grabs, one-footers, 7s


december mega day with j and s

arc sunset


blade 3 day 1

ilness with s

downwind in muriwai

Jan 04


It was my 24th birthday on Friday so, unsurprisingly, I managed to get mangled all weekend and am only just recovering now! Thanks to everyone who showed up and had fun. Not sure some of the antics should be written up on a blog so I won’t.

I’m looking forward to this being a really positive year for me. My back is slowly getting a little better, I am starting to get back into sports, I’m moving into Edinburgh this week and generally things are on the up. I’m really hyped for getting as fit as my back will allow.

Jan 04

Authentication security

Both Simon Willison and Adam Kalsey have made excellent posts about authentication security. This has come at a very appropriate time as Mike and I are developing an admin panel for SC3 just now. I’ll definitely be implementing a delay in the login script (for starters) as there are only three of us using it and I’m sure we won’t mind. Definitely something I’m going to have a good think about. Any thoughts Mike? (those posts are code free ;)

Jan 04

Click, click, pop

Went to the hospital yesterday for my delayed appointment. The news was probably mostly as I expected apart from the annoyance of not being allowed to do press-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups until I’ve seen them again in four months. I had been hoping to be able to do a little indoor climbing, but it looks like that’s not happening for a while. Also no running and I’m not really meant to play racket sports where I’m lunging about too much. I was tentatively told I could cycle on the road, but to take it easy.

“I’m afraid I don’t think you’re going to listen to me.” the surgeon said as I was leaving. She’s judged me wrong though – nobody is more keen to get back to kiting, climbing and all the rest than I am, but the last thing I want is to hurt myself more. ‘Click, click, pop’ would not be cool.

Yesterday I was reminded again what a serious injury it is. Although there’s always a bit of pain, it can be easy to forget. I’m also starting to realise how long it’s going to take to get strong again. My priority for the next four months is to get as fit and strong as possible, although I’ll need to find out what the best way to strengthen my back is. Longer term plan is to be back to kiting strength by the start of September.

Jan 04

MP3 players and Jornada memorial

OK, I’d love a decent MP3 player, really love one, but am holding off buying one until one comes along that’s just right for me. So much has been written about the iPod that it barely seems worth bothering, but I might as well. It seems to me that Apple have so nearly got it right – by all accounts it’s small, really easy to use and sounds great. They are expensive, but so are all of the comparable players. The battery life however just doesn’t cut it for me. I’m sure most people would rather have a small unit than a better battery, but it doesn’t even last the length of a decent flight. So close Apple, so close…

Any suggestions for other MP3 players appreciated – ideally something like a 20gig iPod with a better battery.

All this thinking about MP3 players was sparked by the recent sad demise of my Jornada 720. I had previously broken one of the hinges on the screen and had it fixed under warranty in record time by HP. It had long passed out of warranty when I broke the other hinge though and HP told me it would cost £320 to fix – that’s half the cost of a brand new one! Thanks for really continuing to support the users of your old products Hewlett Packard, this is a really encouraging me to buy something else from you :(. What’s even worse is that nobody appears to be developing handheld PCs anymore which is a real pity as I really like the form factor (I don’t like the pen only ones for entering more than a few lines, I hate writing). It was especially good when travelling on kiting trips or the like and I even wrote a chunk of my dissertation on it when I was bouldering in Font. RIP Jornada.

Jan 04

Change of site address!

We’ve decided to move our blogs to different addresses and although I’ll setup re-directs from the current blogs these will expire at some point so please change your bookmarks and links once we’ve moved. We will be moving the sites over in the next couple of days so if anything goes funky, that’s why. The RSS feeds will also change locations.

This site will soon be located at mark.scottishclimbs.com

Mike Lauder’s site will be mike.scottishclimbs.com

EDIT: we’ve mostly shifted the sites over and have hopefully changed all our links. There might be a couple of trackbacks pointing to the wrong place, but I reckon it’s mostly OK. I’ve also reset my entry referrers for the new domain.

Jan 04

Kiting site aggregation

Found Caramboo.com, another kiting blog, the other day. There aren’t all that many kiting blogs around and, unsurprisingly, those that are tend to be by programmers (or at least Linux users in this case ;). There’s a fairly entertaining link to a video posted on the site that reminds me why kiting is so fun. It’s a bunch of folk messing with a wee kite in high winds and just reminds me of the fun you have when you’re playing around with a group of mates. A quick search for other land kiting blogs revealed – Stephen (this will make more sense when you read the next bit!).

OK, I haven’t fully thought this one through so feel free to shoot it down in flames. I was thinking about kiteATB.co.uk, a site run by a cool bunch of guys who are keen to see it expand. Right now it’s about the only decent site I’ve found dedicated to kite mountain boarding. Although there aren’t a vast amount of landkiting sites around just now (I think that number will increase) I think it would be cool if they added an aggregation section to their site. Basically other sites would be able to ‘ping’ kiteATB.co.uk, using trackbacks or something similar, every time they have an update that is related to kiting (probably landkiting). The result would be that kiteATB.co.uk could keep a page of the ‘latest kiting articles from around the web’. This would only really work while kiteATB.co.uk is main landboarding site and if it was started early (once it is sort of ‘standard’ for landkiting sites to ping kiteATB.co.uk, all new ones will do it). Other sites would use it to get traffic to their sites and users would all visit kiteATB.co.uk because it has all the updates in a central place. It would also be good for creating a links directory, people could rate sites and probably loads of other things I haven’t thought about.

Just a thought, maybe this is complete fantasy, maybe I’m mis-judging things but it would be interesting and fun to implement.

Jan 04

ScottishClimbs re-structuring

There have been some good suggestions for SC3 on the forums which is excellent. Hopefully that thread will continue to produce more good ideas. Mike Lauder has also posted part 3 of his mini-series about the re-structuring, which is all about the NRDB this time. The new routes section is something that we really need to work hard on as it could be an excellent resource.

Mike and I have been thinking hard about how to make the data accessible in new (and hopefully better) ways and I think we’re starting to get there. Basically it’s looking like the site is heading towards completely integrating all of the data, almost exactly as James Sheffield and I had envisaged when we created the first database schema for the site back in the day. When I actually implemented the site though some things, like routes being on buttresses on crags, were dropped in favour of keeping things a little simpler for the user and in SC3 we need to make sure is still the case.

Proper integration of all our data could be excellent (think of looking at a crag and having all the related data to hand straight away) and I’m much more keen on implementing this than adding new features to the site, initially at least. One thing that has cropped up a couple of times on the forums is a site-wide search facility. Complete fulltext searching will definitely be implemented in SC3.

Unlike Mike I’d like to keep the conditions database to see if it will work. The current implementation was very rushed and is poor. Would be quite interesting to see if doing it again will see it get anymore use, although it is a low priority IMO. There are also a few nifty interface features and stuff we’d like to implement, but thinking about this stuff is a fair way away yet.

Jan 04

Blog maintenance

Finally got round to re-coding the templates that Movable Type comes with to something a bit tidier and meaningful. Still not happy with the commenting system, but that’ll have to wait for a wee while I think. Donald, just for you I’ve added a summaries RSS feed :). Points awarded to any kiters who can name the famous kitesurfing spot I’ve used in the header. I’ve also taken Mike’s lead and setup a ScottishClimbs category as I can see it getting a lot of action in the next few months.

I’ve started getting stuck into the PHP for SC3. We’re still conceptualising the site itself, but it’s looking like it’s going to be epic and I can’t wait to get a beta version of the site working. Mike has been thinking about SC data structuring and has come up with some nifty ideas. Will be interesting to see what’s in part 3 of his series (hopefully tomorrow).

Jan 04

Foils for landboarding – de-powerable or not?

As the main piece of kit in kiteATB, the correct kite choice is vital. Here I’m just jotting down a few thoughts about kite selection for mountainboarding that apply to me, as much for myself as anything else. I should point out that I’m a fully hooked Blade 3 flyer and it might be unfair of me not to say that I’m sponsored by Flexifoil and am pretty comfortable riding with powered up kites. Hopefully this isn’t biased, but make your own mind up. I haven’t done enough kitesnowboarding to make any comparisons with that, I actually think kiteATB is closer to kitesurfing anyway. I hardly know anything about kite design, aerodynamics or anything like that, but I have done lots of landboarding. Chris Calthrop has an article about why he chooses Blades over inflatables, but he may be as biased as me! Although you can use inflatable kites on land with a lot of success, for most people this isn’t a good option and most landboarders go for foils so that’s really what I’m talking about here.

At first glance de-powerable kites seem to provide a better solution – namely by helping to absorb gusty wind and giving more windrange for each kite. Why then have I never enjoyed kiteATB as much when I’ve used a de-powerable kite? Although I use my Blades on the water sometimes, I prefer four line, depowerable inflatable kites for kitesurfing. It’s not a case of enjoyment, I love surfing with the Blades from time to time, but it’s actually easier with an LEI. Yet for some reason the same does not apply when I go mountainboarding.

The difference lies at the other end, the board and surface you’re riding on. When kitesurfing you need power just to keep yourself planing and the resistance is much greater than that of a mountainboard on sand or grass. There isn’t the same ‘stop-go-stop-go’ feeling when you’re on land as the board just keeps on rolling. Also kitesurfing feels quite ‘edgey’ – you are either holding an edge or not. This isn’t really the case on land as the board does not skip downwind in the same way as on the water, but can hold varying amounts of power. I think this is why I find it much easier to mountainboard with a Blade in gusty winds than I do to kitesurf with one. This isn’t to say flying a Blade in gusty winds is easy – it is a gutsy, high performance kite and extra concentration and pilot input is required in these conditions.

Jumping can be easier with a de-powerable kite – pulling the bar towards you will increase the power of kite and when properly powered up can pull you off the ground. This is especially noticable for me in transitions where it is useful to have the ‘pop’ of when you pull the bar in. This, again, is down to the board feeling less ‘edgey’ than kitesurfing (on the water you can push against the water and pop little jumps without using the kite). Hmmm, de-powerable kites still sound great, don’t they?

De-powerability, however, inevitably comes at a price, and it’s a big one – for whatever technical reason de-powerable foils do not have the lift of a Blade. I like jumping so this is a major disadvantage to me. Riding on two lines is as simple as it gets, distilling kite boarding to it’s simplest form – steer left or right – so that launching, landing and even flying is very basic. Low wind performance is much better, tangles are drastically reduced and there is very little tweaking to be done to your equipment.

The real clincher for me, and I hope this doesn’t sound trivial, is how Blades feel. Riding a fixed power Blade feels solid at the bar, I like having a direct connection to the wind – I find it really helps me feel when I’m powered enough to time jumps and the like. The solid feeling means you can happily take your hands off the bar for grabs or whatever (holding the bar anywhere, not just
the middle) knowing that the kite will be well behaved and that your flightpath won’t change. You can unhook and the kite feels and behaves just the same making it predictable and confidence inspiring. This may be especially beneficial as the sport progresses and new technical unhooked moves come along. Of course with a de-powerable kite you can hook into your fixed loop or fly unhooked, but it doesn’t feel the same to me.

While I fully acknowledge that for most people wanting to ride on the water to a decent standard LEIs provide the best solution, you need only look at the results of any pro-level competition for proof, I’m not so convinced that de-powerable kites are as advantageous for mountain boarding. I’m not saying everyone should fly Blades, for some people de-powerable foils are almost certainly better, and I’m not saying I’ll be flying fixed power kites forever, far from it, just that I don’t think de-powerable foils are good enough just now for what I want them to do. If someone can make a lifty de-powerable kite that feels like a Blade 3 they could be onto a real winner…

Opinions welcome and encouraged.

Jan 04

ScottishClimbs 3

The re-development of ScottishClimbs is well under way now and is looking like being a really good challenge – there are already some key decisions that we’ve had to make. ScottishClimbs as it is was my/our first attempt at a CSS only site, so we’re really enjoying getting stuck into the third incarnation and testing all of our development skills.

As Mike says we’re putting a lot of thought into data structuring and how to better use the content we’ve built up as well as loads of other stuff. It’s gonna be good…

Jan 04

The year in pictures

Inspired by Diff from over on ScottishClimbs, who in turn was inspired by the BBC, I’ve decided to do a ‘Mark’s 2003 in pictures’. Basically I’ve chosen 12 photos, in chronological order, that mean stuff to me from the past year. I haven’t necessarily picked the best quality photos, but I think as a whole they reflect my year reasonably well and hopefully don’t bore people to death. There are a few photos that should’ve been taken – the car I wrote off, something for the ‘Tiree Incident(s)’ and me lying in pain on the grass after my accident (I remember someone taking some photos of this – does anyone know who?) all spring to mind!

I spent a month and a half kitesurfing around Cape Town. A somewhat done-to-death photo from Table View. This is where I’d stay if I went back to SA, it had the most consistent conditions. Table Mountain from Table View
Certainly not one of my best days in SA, but I quite like the photo. I had barely enough power in the onshore wind to get out past the drastic shorebreak but started to have some fun just cruising around, catching a few waves and occasionally ending up 25 feet up the beach when the water disappeared. (photo by Big Pete from Edinburgh) Battling with shore dump at Table View on an underpowered day
I left SA and went to New Zealand where I got back to my much missed kiteATB. Spent a month and a half living with a couple of cool Kiwis in ChCh then toured both the South Island and the west and far north of the North Island, including Mount Taranaki (pictured). I met up with Alex, a cool girl from Edinburgh who knew the guys I was in SA with, and had a wicked laugh for the last couple of weeks. Can’t beat Scottish banter. Mount Taranaki, North Island of New Zealand
A few days before I left for New York I sold my car to a dodgy Iraqi guy and found myself on a street in the centre of Auckland with far too much stuff as usual. No point travelling too light, that would be easy. Way too much stuff, as usual
Got back to Scotland and got stuck straight into more mountain boarding with Stuart and John from Wind Things. Kiting was going off and we were sticking stuff we didn’t think was possible. This photo of John is just one out of a whole bunch of wicked photos. (photo by Pete Kykroudis). John pulling a great rodeo 360 off the rail
In the summer Flexifoil decided to sponsor us – this is day one with the Blade 3s and I’m loving it. Not long after this a squall came through and I did one of my biggest mountain board jumps. Thankfully the lads from X-Zone were on hand to grab me before I got hauled into the bushes. (photo by Steve Burgoine). Kung fu!
Kiting was going better than any of us could have imagined but the highs of the summer came to an abrupt end when I broke my back in a kiting accident. This photo was taken about 10 minutes before I hurt myself. Catching a truck varial
After an operation to put metalwork in my back to hold me together I was let loose on the world again. No kiting or any other impact sports for a year. Fuck. Even a funky scar doesn’t make up for it. At least breaking your back gives you a kick ass scar
I had to wear a back brace for the best part of four months and couldn’t do any sports. I could go walking though and I did, loads. In the photo my Mum and I are walking round the Whitadder reservior
and you can see how low the water levels are after one of the driest summers I can remember in Scotland.
Mum and I walking about in the Lammermuir HIlls
The boredom was intolerable so I got back into techno and clubbing. I always seem to do this when I’m injured and can’t do what I want. Here’s Pedro, myself and Brendan someplace after some club, probably Dogma. The boys
I also got heavily into web development, learning loads about CSS, developing a few sites and getting clothes sorted for ScottishClimbs with Mike Lauder. The photo is of my good mate Michael Tweedley in the final of the Glasgow dry tool comp which I was at for SC. It’s not easy getting an interesting photo that relates to web development… Mike Tweedley in the final of the Glasgow dry tool competition
An attempt to dye my hair blue for the St Andrews kite day went a bit wrong and I ended up with a blondey/silvery/purple head to match my space-age looking back brace. Failed experiments in hair dye

Jan 04

New Year

I wasn’t in a clubbing mood so ended up staying in Haddington last night, which wasn’t as dire as it sounds. Saw Stuart, then hung out with Brendan and Pedro and headed up the Garleton Moument, a 40m high pillar on top of a hill near Haddington, to watch the fireworks at midnight. Unfortunately the main Edinburgh fireworks were cancelled because of the breezy weather but there were still plenty going off around the town, in some of the East Lothian towns and some good ones over in Fife. We hung out up there for an hour, took a photo, then headed back to Pete’s for some beers and a good laugh.

I’m not much into New Year’s resolutions – if I want to do something I tend to just do it. However, a couple of things I want to get done are:

  1. Be happy. More of a life resolution than anything else.
  2. Get fit. My back’s getting a little better and I’m super hyped for sport.
  3. Sort out a flat in Edinburgh. Hopefully this won’t take a year…
  4. Do more web development, starting with finishing off the Visual Output site and thinking about SC3. This site could do with looking a little less tragic too.