February, 2005

28
Feb 05

Snowkiting

Stuart, Andy and I managed up to Aviemore yesterday for some snowkiting, as Stuart has explained. Having been excited about kiting on snow for years, it was great to actually get out and get some done. I had actually been once before, but there was very little snow and very little wind. We got to the car park at Cairngorm and walked along the trail towards Coire an t-Sneachda for ten minutes before we found a spot that looked good and not too rocky. Before we get too into the kite chat, here’s a photo Andy took of me looking camp with pink hair – because some people want to see it.

I'm looking quite smug for some reason

The wind was amazingly smooth, much better than I expected and even much better than some mountain board sessions I’ve had. The snow was pretty good too. Another couple of heavy snowfalls beforehand would have been nice, but tough to complain too much in Scotland. So, being blessed with pretty damn good conditions, I was all set for a great day. Then came a major surprise – I thought it was a bit boring.

Snowkiting didn’t live up to my expectations which, with hindsight, were unrealistically high. I had a vision of cruising up a hill and slashing my way back down as I picked the most interesting line on the hill. Give this any serious thought at all though, and you’ll realise that this can never really be the case – you’re trapped in the fairly narrow set of rules of what the kite and wind will actually allow you to do. The wind was cross-uphill for us yesterday and getting uphill was easy. Coming down though, the apparent wind made me very powered and I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to go where I wanted on the hill. Having done a reasonable amount of snowboarding before, being restricted to not being able to go too far either upwind or downwind was a chore. Turn too fast and the kite wants to fall out of the sky and if you’re five feet too far downwind to hit that lip you saw – tough shit!

I may have built snowkiting up too much in my mind and was mistakenly under the impression that it would be very different to mountain boarding and kitesurfing – in the end, I didn’t think it was as good as either of them. The terrain doesn’t move around like waves do, and snowkiting doesn’t have that magic X factor (a whole other post) that mountain boarding has always had for me. Ultimately though, the lack of freedom I felt with the kite was the killer blow.

I think the true benefit of snowkiting is the jumping potential and in days gone by I’m sure I would have loved floating down the hill. However, since breaking myself, doing big jumps over land isn’t cool and snowkiting became just another kitesport for me. When I started mountain boarding I could go out sometimes and cruise up and down, just enjoying getting pulled about by a kite. This novelty has worn off for me though and since I’m now not into doing big jumps, snowkiting seemed suddenly quite redundant. Don’t read this as ‘I’m bored of kiting’ – I still have a lot of interest in wave riding, and John and I have been doing something quite new on mountain boards recently. I am still interested in seeing the possibility of using a kite to get me to the top of a big hill where I can wrap it up and snowboard down again, but this needs further research. My feeling is that, on a decent sized hill that you’d actually want to board down, the difference between the wind at the top and the wind at the bottom of the hill would be massive, possibly too big a range for one kite. We’ll see.

In case anyone’s interested – I was flying an 8.5m Blade, which I thought was perfect in those conditions, although softies who don’t like fixed power kites may not like it. In an ideal world, I think it’d be more fun to be on a smaller kite in a stronger wind. I’m aware how negative this post sounds, so don’t get me wrong – I had a nice day and snowkiting was reasonable fun, but there’s plenty of stuff to do in life so I can afford to be critical! I’m glad I’ve had a good day at it, but in snow like that, I’d much rather go proper snowboarding.

This was also posted on the Wind Things team site.


25
Feb 05

Turbo update

After returning from biking in Spain (photos are coming, honestly) I moved flat to the other end of Edinburgh, installed Gentoo on my computer (takes ages), took on loads of freelance work, got excited about kiting, decided I want a new laptop, nearly let Dave get my bike stolen, arsed about some more with Gentoo, finally sorted out a net connection at the flat, pulled an all-time great wind-up on Andy, got offered a job, did some really good biking in the Gallies, did some more coding, signed a non-disclosure agreement and now I’ve got pink hair.

Well, it wouldn’t be a turbo-update if all the details weren’t in one big sentence. I’d love to have enough time to write something decent for this site!