Kiting

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.


1
Oct 04

Force 9 is a tautology

Stuart and I have just got back (read: I’ve just finished writting this) from a few days wave-riding up north, which is one of the best kite trips I’ve been on. The weekend started entertainingly – on arrival at Fraserburgh I realised that I had left my bag with my clothes and camping gear in my flat so after some pasta and a few whiskeys and beers I crashed out in the van in a board bag and loads of Stuart’s warm clothes. We got up early and checked out the waves – they were looking lush, but there was sod all wind. I got changed into a wetsuit to go surfing but (thankfully) Stuart managed to convince me it was picking up so we just ate some crisps instead. The wind was indeed picking up and within 20 minutes it was cranking so we shot to the beach and started pumping.

I had wanted to kitesurf Fraserburgh (cool 3d panorama) for a long time, but that morning was the first time I saw just how good it was. The beach picks up any north swell going and westerly is just slightly offshore, the perfect direction for riding waves, and not too gusty. That morning the waves were nice: head high, maybe overhead in the sets, but dropping off – apparently the previous night some windsurfers were out in mast high (double overhead) (bastards).

Wind Things vs Fraserburgh, round 1

Disobeying the five minute rule (when the wind is changing, wait five minutes to see what it does), we put up 11m and 12m kites and headed out. Right enough, the wind kept picking up, Stuart’s kite ran off over the dunes and I was soon as powered up as a schemie’s car modification magazine. I discovered you can hold down shit loads of power on a 12m Storm III, but it was pretty hopeless for waves being that powered up and getting back upwind was becoming a real mission, so we headed in and got some bacon rolls.

Wind Things vs Fraserburgh, round 2

Back at the beach it looked like the wind had calmed down so back out we went. Never one to make life easy for myself, I rigged the 12m again and soon found I was too powered for waves. Potter was ripping on his 9m so I swapped over to an old 8m and eventually started to be able to enjoy the waves. The difference being able to plane quickly made was immeasurable, I started to remember how to really hit waves with a kite and caught a few really good long left handers. After a couple of wicked hours some of the local boys turned up, but the wind and swell were both dropping fast. Don’t you love being that guy on the beach who can say “You should have been here earlier?”. Great day.

The swell direction had moved to the west, so the north coast was the place to be. We headed up to Thurso (via the rather beautiful Fochabers), which had the added advantage that we could crash at my mate Peter’s house rather than me sleeping in a board bag again (thanks man!).

Storm force 10

The next day we woke to the sound of all the doors in the house rattling. We had already seen the forecast and written the day off as a rest day, but we were both secretly hoping it wouldn’t be as windy as they said. We spent the morning checking out some beaches and cursing the strength of the wind. There was loads of swell about, but it was nuclear windy. We had a look at the BSA surf comp at Thurso East – those guys are amazing surfers. Saw a particuarly huge triple – quadruple overhead set come through and they were still ripping despite the mental wind. Very impressive indeed.

Later on we stood on top of a small bank just to feel the wind. It was some of the strongest wind I’ve ever experienced, something around a sustained Storm force 10. Stuart, Peter and I spent the evening picking wild mushrooms, drinking and talking about all sorts of stuff, including the meaning of sport, hay bales and tautologies – great fun.

Wind Things vs Dunnet beach

The wind was forecast to be much more reasonable the next day, but drop off sometime in the afternoon, so it was another early start. When we got to the beach I wasn’t falling for the 12m trap again and stuck up the 8m straight away, but was immediately underpowered – bugger! The 12m was just how I like it.

Dunnet faces predominantly north-west, but curves quite a lot. The wind was from the west and was pretty onshore, which made getting out past the walls of whitewater a bit of a battle. The waves out back were chunky and I made a couple of big drops onto them, but overall it wasn’t really worth the effort of getting out back and we spent most of the day playing on the reform waves on the inside.

When there are waves, riding them is my focus, so I didn’t bother doing many jumps, but it would have been rude not to see how lifty the new Storm is. I whacked the de-power strap all the way out, and instantly felt super juiced up. The water was butter smooth and as I lined up for the jump I could just tell it was going to be a good one. I flew Wipika AMPs last year, which were excellent, but the acceleration when I popped this jump was unreal and it felt like a pretty huge jump, with enough time to move the kite around to get double lift. A few more jumps confirmed that this is one lifty kite. I might prefer wave-riding, but I’m looking forward to having a good session just jumping this kite at some time soon.

We found ourselves about a km down the beach and Stuart volunteered (sort of) to walk back to the van and pick me up at the caravan park about another 2km down the beach. Thanks mate, the downwinder was fun! :)

Windfarm fun

After ten minutes of the drive home we were already bored so screeched to a halt when Stuart spotted a windfarm that would make some pretty interesting photos. We spent a fun half hour playing on a mountain board with a 4.9m Blade that was on lines just a wee bit too long for comfort! What a great trip.

If you’re still wondering why Force 9 is a tautology, get to know your Beaufort scale.

Some photos will follow as soon as Stuart finds his memory card… :roll:

Comments are closed, but you can comment on the same post at the Wind Things team site.


4
Sep 04

Me and the future of kiteATB

How I see the/my future of kiteATB.


1
Jul 04

The trick is to keep riding

As you might know, I get a real buzz out of improving at sports. I love it.

Staying injury free is the best way to improve.


8
Jun 04

Being ‘powered up’

The term “powered up” is used a lot in kiting, and should be a pretty easy one to get to grips with, but I’m going to try to put it into words.

There was a recent discussion on a forum about how weight affects one’s ability to ‘edge’ a landboard. The gist of it was someone saying that Blades are better suited to heavy guys because they are able to edge better (I have a feeling we were actually getting our wires crossed, but let’s assume that’s what was meant for the sake of this post). This is wrong. I think the confusion comes from there being a difference between how much power the kite is producing and how much of that is usable power. The amount of usable power is how ‘powered up’ you are.

Three things affect how powered up you are: wind speed, your kite and your weight. The windspeed and the kite combined create a certain amount of power, then your weight affects how much of that power is usable. Obviously, heavier people require more power to jump a certain height than lighter people. So, assuming the wind speed and kite remain the same, but a heavy person is flying the kite, he is less powered up than the light guy. Therefore, when he’s edging a board he’s holding less usable power.

I daresay someone clever could work out a formula a little like this:

poweredupness = (windspeed * kitepower) / weight

Okay, so I’m probably missing a to-the-power-of in there somewhere and I don’t know of a way to measure the power of a kite, but you get the point. Weight is extremely important in kite selection and is in direct relation to how powered up you are. The important distinction is the difference between how powerful a kite is in a given wind and how powered up any idividial rider on that kite is.

This was also posted on the Wind Things team site, but comments are closed there.


17
May 04

Sporty trips and wee adventures

It dawned on me the other day that, what with one thing or another, I haven’t been out of central Scotland for about nine months! This is very unlike me, and I’m really hyped to escape up north for a while soon. The real trouble is that I only really go somewhere to do some sport there. I quickly learned that I don’t enjoy holidays, no matter how nice a place is, unless I’m doing something I’m into and now that I’m starting to do more active stuff, I can’t wait to get away again.

While walking to work this morning I reminisced about some past trips that I’ve been on and realised that the best ones have all been climbing trips. It’s a bit of a cliche, but there really was a lot more to these trips than just the climbing. I used to hitch and bivvi a lot around the country for climbing and every trip up north felt like a wee adventure. Sleeping under boats on the beach, under fish crates at the harbour or getting lifts from eccentric old boys in shonky cars was good fun. No, it was better than that – it was absolutely wicked.

When my final exam at uni was over, my coursemates all went out on the piss. I went for a quick pint then headed to bed so that I could get up and go hitching and climbing in the north-west with Alastair for ten days. It was one of the best trips I’ve been on – the weather was great, we had a great laugh, saw some lovely sunsets and even got some trad climbing done.

Since getting into kiting I’ve also been on plenty of trips and they have been great fun, but none of them have captured that adventurous feel of some of the climbing missions. Of course one big difference is that you can’t very easily hitch-hike with four kites and two boards (although I did manage to hitch the four miles to the beach every day in Fuerteventura – very lucky), but there’s more to it than that. With kiting it seems too easy to get sucked into just going to the same beaches every week, just because you know there’s wind and it’s the safe option. Once I’m back into kiting I’m going to focus on getting away from that – find new spots to rides, both on water and land, and recapture some adventure in these things.


13
May 04

SPKA event this weekend

Just a wee note to say that John and I from Wind Things/Flexifoil will be at the SPKA event at Stevenston this Saturday to give out some free kiteATB coaching to whoever wants it as well as to judge the freestyle event and offer as much feedback and advice as possible.

We’re bringing along the Wind Things PA system (thanks Pedro!) and a case of Red Bull for some loud entertainment, and of course some of the rest of the team will be there too so come over and have a chat. It’s a totally free and friendly event where everyone’s invited, so get yourselves there.

Let’s hope I have a better day than the last time I was there…


20
Apr 04

Personal danger and the implications

There seems to have been a lot of comments on forums recently that go along the lines of

What are you thinking about? You’re giving our sport a bad name and making it look dangerous!

The comments are usually in response to somebody saying they’ve been tethered flying, flying a 10.5m Blade in 90mph wind or trying a quadruple backloop double kiteloop.

I am as keen as everyone else to see the sport progress well and gain the status and reputation it deserves, but this paranoid approach is not what’s needed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting dangerous kiting, but we need to realise this is a sport where people are going to push it, and sometimes people will get hurt. However, as long as something is only dangerous to whoever is flying, it really isn’t a problem (OK, it could be a big problem for the flyer, but not in the context I’m talking about). I don’t think that either the public or the councils are ignorant of the fact that kiting is dangerous, nor do I think they would differentiate that much between someone breaking their legs in a buggy in 10mph and someone snapping himself doing a quaruple backloop double kiteloop.

Telling people not to try dangerous tricks or fly really powered up is not the answer, it just doesn’t work like that. It’s hard to deny that jumping 20ft (proper 20ft!) on land is very dangerous, but everyone likes to jump so where do we draw the line? 10ft? 5ft? It’s just not happening.

What we should be doing is making sure that everyone knows the risks involved, both to themselves and, importantly, the others around them. This is what’s really important in my mind. Although we’re fortunate enough to live in Scotland where it’s not hard to find plenty of space all to yourself, even some of the popular spots up this way are starting to fill up and, as anyone who’s been to St Andrews on a bank holiday weekend in summer will tell you, it’s starting to get a little scary! Everyone should know to get insurance.

When people are as aware as possible about the dangers they can make educated decisions about their kiting and if they want to be a lemming they can do so without endangering anyone but themselves.

Flying powerful kites, on water or land, can lead to trouble. It’s a dangerous sport – get over it.

This has also been posted on the Wind Things team site. Comments have been disabled on this post, you can comment on the same post on the team site.


14
Apr 04

New Wind Things team website

Some of the crew!It’s been a bit of a web development frenzy recently, and I’m finally getting some time to write something for my site.

I’ve just finished off the Wind Things team site. Basically it’s a Movable Type powered site for the six members of the squad to post their thoughts and ideas abouts kiting and whatever else seems appropriate. I think we’re all quite hyped about it and I don’t think any other kite team has done anything similar as yet – wahay! You also get to find out what those South Park characters from a couple of months ago are all about. Check it out, let me know what you think and tell me if anything seems pretty wrong!

I’m not exactly sure how my kite postings here will interact with the new site as I obviously want kite related stuff on both. Perhaps some fancyness using trackbacks or web services is called for, we’ll see.

Geek stuff: the site should all be valid XHTML 1.0 strict and CSS. Sometimes I’m sure someone will write some invalid code, but I’ll fix that as soon as I notice it. There is one true validation error which I can’t work out because I can’t figure what to do with the Movable Type templates for that situation. No bonus points for finding it! The site isn’t displaying exactly as planned in IE5.0, but is bearable enough and generally degrades not too badly from IE6 downwards.


20
Mar 04

England beats Scotland in windy shocker!

There will be an image here when I get round to putting it back up!

You don’t see this very often, although having said that, we did just get some squally Force 8 coming through a while ago! Wind in England, well I never…

Image from XCWeather.


16
Mar 04

Freeriding

I hate the word ‘freeride’. I’ve read an article a while ago in a mountain bike magazine that reminded me of my dislike for it. The guy who wrote it was saying that he thinks that jumping off drops is freeriding, riding rocky and rooted sections is freeriding even kids making jumps in the street is freeriding. Hang on a minute, this is what everyone does on a mountain bike, this is mountain biking. My preference is for doing long rides in the hills on technical singletrack. Is this freeriding? Who cares?

Why it must be labelled like this is beyond me, why can’t you just call it mountain biking? Perhaps it’s all just been invented by companies for commercial gain. On the other hand, perhaps I’m thinking too much.

Freeriding seems to have crept into a lot of adventure sports, including kiting where you can buy so called ‘freeride kites’. What on earth defines a freeride kite? Perhaps if we ever get round to making the Wind Things kiteATB DVD we should have a slogan on the front like “The latest in modern-hardcore-progressive-freeride landboarding”. Hmmm.

Despite many different definitions of the word, one common theme is that you are “free from rules”. Bollocks. What rules are imposed on you when you go biking, snowbarding, kiting or anything like that? The only real rules I can think of, apart from having to get home for your tea, are found when you’re competing. Now for the bit that I’ll bet nobody can understand, a classic oxymoron – there are freeride competitions!


1
Mar 04

Kiting videos

Over the last few months there seem to be more new kite videos posted on sites than ever before. I thought I’d post links to a few of the best ones that I’ve found. If there are any I’ve not mentioned that you really like, let us know please (except ‘the Guerilla video’, I thought it was crap)!

EDIT: Cris Walsh has pointed out this G-ARC video (110 megs), which is much better than the other one. Ta Cris!

  • The Geilo Vid, 23.35 long and 120 megs big – easily the best snowkite video I’ve found. Plenty of action and some lifestyle stuff in there too, very cool.
  • Col Du Lautaret Jan 04, 10mins and 71 megs – stonking opening jump and some nice kiteloops, but a wee bit ‘samey’.
  • Frenzy 04, 4.20 and 65 megs – some nice moves in there.
  • Peru wave riding, 3.20 and 26.8 megs – some pro’s riding at a lush looking venue. This is what kitesurfing is about, roll on autumn.
  • US KiteATB, 3.20 and 5.5 megs – some nice mountain boarding from the States.
  • Colac Bay, NZ, 4.30 and 20.5 megs – lovely wave riding video from some of the folk I met in New Zealand. I didn’t find anything that good there unfortunately. Having trouble finding this one again. I’ve just found another Colac Bay video that is 35megs, but it’s crap, this one is way better.

I’ve also got a Pete Trow and Josh Mulcoy wave riding video from California and Baja, that is really, really good and a neat video from a comp in Portugal (I think) but I can’t remember where I found them.


27
Feb 04

KiteATB moves I want to try (but probably shouldn’t)

Last summer kiting was awesome, until I broke my back. Soon I hope to be strong enough to kite again and it’ll be time to think up some new moves again. As I’ve said, the kiteATB scene has, generally, gone for low technical moves rather than big jumps. Having had a long time to think about it, I’ve having to agree that this is the sensible option, but there are a few big air tricks that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, no matter how much I think about my back! Hmmm…

  • Blind Date –

26
Feb 04

Summer/autumn 04 sporty targets

Now I’ve got more of a handle on what’s what with my back, fitness and so on I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to be up to this summer. Fitness is the key this summer so that as soon as I’m able I can hit kiting hard. Some of these could still be a bit over the top, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. This post could come back and bite me later in the year, especially the way I’ve been swimming recently!

  • Swim from the Lady Isle to Troon in the summer – the RNLI guys are wanting to give me a lift out and escort me back if I can raise some money for their lifeboat appeal.
  • Manage 60 mile bike rides (on a mountain bike, but on road) without killing myself. Just get generally bike fit again.
  • Scottish islands swimming trip – still to be planned. Basically doing several open water swims on the islands on the west coast.
  • Start kitesurfing again in September, back dependant.
  • Could be dreaming – climb a F7A sport route in the autumn – this is very back dependant and might even have to be on a top rope, if at all.

Don’t think that’s too unrealistic, I might add a couple more later (might end up taking some away though!).


8
Feb 04

Kitesurfing in gusty wind

A water post for a change this time, a gusty wind land kiting post will follow at some point when I’ve thought more about it. There are loads of advantages that kitesurfing has over windsurfing – need much less wind, don’t really need waves to have fun and the kit is easier to lug around. While I can’t see all that many people taking up windsurfing over kitesurfing in this country, sticking a pole on a board does have benefits over kiting in certain conditions. I’ve never windsurfed so this is just the impressions I get from watching and what others have told me – please correct me if this is wrong.

When I was in South Africa a few of drove up from Scarborough to Eland’s Bay, an excellent and semi-remote village a few hours north of Cape Town. It is home to a very famous left-hand point break and is loved by surfers. When we arrived it was nice and windy so a couple of us tried to go kiting despite being only a few hundred metres downwind of a tall cliff. Predictably it was a gusty nightmare and it was almost impossible to keep the kites in the sky nevermind get in the water. However there were a fair few windsurfers riding the break very sucessfully (and seriously pissing the surfers off because they could catch the wave so much further out!).

When I was in New Zealand I headed to a famous windsurfing area called Taranaki. This place isn’t all that popular with kiters, probably because of the very rocky beaches and big swells. The week that I spent there saw only ESE/SE winds which meant riding at a break called Kina Road in fairly offshore conditions. Although there weren’t any large cliffs around, the wind was very gusty and riding upwind was extremely difficult. The windsurfers were really struggling to get out past the initial breakers as there was a pocket of light wind. Once they got out back though, none of them had any bother at all while I was getting ripped off the water every few feet just trying to ride along.

The reasons why they were succeeding where we couldn’t are fairly obvious – bigger, floatier boards and their sails simply don’t feel the effects of gusty winds as much as they aren’t on the end of 30m lines (kite can shoot about in the window showing the effects of gusts and lulls more). Actually, as I’ve never windsurfed, this second point is guesswork as much as anything else but seems sound enough. In situations like Eland’s Bay with it’s very tall cliff upwind the commonly proposed solution to gusty winds, using longer lines, may actually make matters worse as it gives the kite more space to play and the air is still turbulent higher up anyway. Perhaps the solution in these situations is actually to use much shorter lines and put up a bigger kite, thereby emulating the sail effect of windsurfing a little.

This is really only a massive problem at wave-riding spots where you’d like a little bit of offshore and sometimes the lie of the land isn’t overly friendly. Unfortunately wave-riding is the best part of the sport in my opinion. Gusty winds are the bane of kiting and are why windsurfing will not die.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to test any of this out until my back’s better. Comments encouraged, the more info I can find about this the better.


29
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.


28
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

board-offs

december mega day with j and s

arc sunset

rangiputa

blade 3 day 1

ilness with s

downwind in muriwai


14
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.


9
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.


24
Dec 03

Winter Kiting

Found jRoo the other day which is an interesting looking blog. There’s a post and photo review of the new Frenzy 04 which is pretty interesting. On the kite forums there’s plenty of talk about snowkiting as expected. John and I had loads of snow kiting plans for this year, shame. I’m starting to think about next winter though. Current idea is to head to France or Canada for a couple of months snow kiting but, as usual, this would be helped by finding someone that wants to come. I’ll go on my own if I have to, but I’m getting sick of going on trips without any mates. I must know someone that want to go and play in the snow for a couple of months, surely…

Back in my world things tick over slowly. Going swimming again today, fitness is creeping back in. I’m dying to get back on a bike, hopefully January sometime. Right now I’m working on coding the Visual Output web site (will be www.visualoutput.com when it’s done) – at the moment I’m developing a stylesheet switcher that uses JavaScript if available but falls back onto PHP if not.

Have a top Christmas everyone!


4
Dec 03

Kiteloops

When I was at the St Andrews kite day at the weekend I had a chat with someone about kiteloops. There seems to be a lot of confusion over kiteloops so, for anyone who cares, I’ll explain kitelooping as I see it. I’m talking generally, not just about kiteloops on a mountain board, snow or water.

In a normal jump the kite is kept overhead and is redirected in the direction of travel sometime during the jump to land softly. With a kiteloop the kite is not kept overhead but looped, either direction, in mid-air obviously generating lots more forward pull. This is where things start to get a bit fuzzy: only rarely will the kite manage a complete loop and with bigger kites it’s simply not possible to do a full rotation. You quickly realise that it’s much easier, and less sore(!), to loop the kite while on the land/water/snow than in the air. So how far round does the kite need to go before you land to be a kiteloop? My basic rule of thumb is that the kite must be pointing towards the sky rather than the land/water/snow. This means that most of the kite’s loop must have been completed in the air, it’s a mid-air kiteloop after all.

You can loop the kite either way: backwards (opposite to the direction of travel) is easiest as the kite has less distance to travel – it’s already done some of the loop as part of the jump. Forwards requires a bigger jump because the kite needs to move back over the top of the window and then loop. As I found out at the weekend it seems some people are claiming kiteloops as normal jumps then just downturning the kite on landing and heading off in the other direction. This isn’t the same thing at all in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong these are nice moves to pull but they aren’t kiteloops.

Chris Calthrop distinguishes further by calling kiteloops done with de-powerable kites ‘de-powerable kite loops’ and loops with brake-turned foils (like a Blade with a cross-over kit) ‘kite-spins’.

“(Note on Kite Loops: As the sport evolves into this new era it
is important to understand the differences in kites to judge the manoeuvre. The more inside itself a kite turns the easier a kite loop is. The more dynamically powerful the kite, the harder a kite loop is. For example: If a kite just rotates 360dgs directly above a rider’s head, it is just a ‘kite spin’; but if it carves a massive powered arc close to the water line with rider airborne, then that is surely a real ‘kite loop’ or ‘power loop’. If the kite is de-powerable in the middle of that manoeuvre the skill level required is reduced, as with all manoeuvres of course.”

He’s right of course, it is easier on a de-powerable kite, but I don’t think I’d bother going that far, anyone can choose a de-powerable kite after all. I like the idea that I’ve done ‘power loops’ though :0).


30
Nov 03

St Andrews kite day and purple hair

Last night I had dinner at Potter’s house where he and his wife Diana made it seem like a good idea to try dye my hair blue. All was going well until we washed my hair and most of the colour parted company with my head leaving a kind of blue rinse effect…not cool. Hopefully this photo does it justice. If it doesn’t look that bad, it hasn’t done it justice!

Failed experiments in hair dye

Today Potter, John, Pedro and I went to the St Andrews kite day. Bad start to the day for Ped as I trapped and mangled his fingers in the door of the van – bad one, sorry mate! It was the first time I’ve been around kiting since I broke my back and it was actually pretty cool. Thankfully there was no wind (typical kite festival then) so nobody was looking like they were having too much fun. Was cool to speak to loads of folk I’ve not seen since the summer: like Kai from Flexi, all of the St Andrews crew, Iain from Twist and Turn and GPS Roj from PKD. Had a decent scran and some beers in St A’s which was a laugh then back in the van with the usual proper discussion on the way home :).

Tomorrow’s the day I’ve been waiting for for the last three months, I finally get to start taking my brace off – yippee (although it’ll probably be a total anti-climax)! It’s only for half an hour, but it’s a start and I’ll probably be glad to get it back on ‘cos I reckon it’s gonna hurt.


12
Nov 03

“buggying is simply wrong”

Oh dear, how silly some people can be. ATBMag interviewed me for their latest issue which came out the other day. Seems someone isn’t too happy [Mell has deleted this thread but I saved a copy just before he did] with something I said. Quite entertaining actually. I’ll put it into context:

What made you take up KiteATB over other kite sports such as buggying or kitesurfing?
I kitesurf and kitesnowboard as well as mountain board and they all compliment each other really well, although kiteATB feels quite different because of the wheels. Buggying is simply wrong. When I started I just got a kite and didn’t really know what it was all about – KiteATB just looked cool.

Man, that wound someone up enough to post on a public forum! I think he/she needs to take up kiteATB :). Buggying does feel wrong to me though – you’re flying the kite off to one side, not in front of you. Buggies are more expensive, a pain to travel with and crap for jumping. Why anyone getting into the sport would choose three wheels over four is beyond me (OK, they go a wee bit faster, but you’ll soon get tired of that!).

I’ll hopefully get a copy when I get to the shop the morn, I’ve still not seen it.


23
Oct 03

Not recommended injury

Not recommended injury

EDIT: the post I made a year after my accident may be interesting too.

A little over two months ago (August 17th) I broke my back quite badly in a kite mountainboarding crash. I landed very hard on my arse after my bar (which controls the kite) got caught on my harness. My L1 vertibrae burst into my spinal column damaging my spinal cord, but thankfully not severing it. I spent two and a half weeks in Glasgow Southern General Spinal Injuries Unit, which is an excellent facility by the way, where I had an operation to stabilise my back with two plates and four pins.

By all accounts I’m super lucky to be able to walk and should make a pretty much full recovery, even if it takes a year. I’m at the stage where I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a back again and I’ve got another eight weeks of wearing a space-age-looking back brace before I can start to get my back strengthened up. The surgeons are very non-commital (fair enough!) about how long it’ll get to back into sports and I’m just going to take it as it comes.