Kitable days are limited in ND. Winds, work, family, weather, difficult travel, commitments and a million other things keep us from getting out and riding whenever we want. Therefore, it is necessary to make the most out of each opportunity. After several days this summer when a 14 wasn’t enough kite I decided if a good deal for a light wind kite came up I would take it. Come November, I ran across a good deal on a demo Zephyr but it sold before I could get the deal done. The sales lady at Kiteboarding.com new I was disappointed and called me back a bit later with the same deal on a new 2016 kite. I was all over that. Fast forward a few months and a couple no-wind failures for a first flight I finally got my chance.
I met a friend at McKenzie Slough. The wind read 15 on average with a high of 18. I am pretty sure it was gusting in the mid 20s by the time I got rigged up. I was hesitant about putting up a 17 in that wind but I really wanted to give my new toy a shot. Justin’s encouragement gave me the juice I needed to blow it up. We decided he would watch for a bit and if I was too overpowered he would help me get it down.
Just a note about the oversized pump – worth it on a big kite like this.
Justin gave me a launch and I was off for first impressions. I was initially surprised by how much control there was over this big kite – especially since this should be the upper wind range for this kite. I was definitely lit completely depowered. The kite was rigged on the middle notch so no tweaking there. I was hesitant to unleash the hounds and found it surprisingly easy to tame this lion. I don’t know if they intended this kite to be flown in 20+ with ND gusts but the kite handled it so I would say it has good depower. After a few overpowered runs back and forth I decided to switch kites so I could work the kite a little more. I dropped the kite with help and switched to a 9. That might give you an idea of the range of the Zephyr. I rode my 9m Rally until my legs and core were shot. We played on the snow drifts for quite a while. I was working on landing my jumps softly rather than the alternative – it feels a lot better. My legs were burning and ready to quit but since the wind had let down a bit, I decided to give the 17 another try. I got a few good airs in and made some fast runs up and down. It was a good day but I was gassed and decided to call it a day before I got hurt.
I like Ozone’s fit and finish. The kite seems solid, durable and there are some nice features like the big valve. Not sure why kite makers don’t have a valve you can lock the hose to either by screwing it in or some other method. Something to prevent hose blow out would seem to be a good thing.
I think the Ozone bar is decent. Because the wind was strong I didn’t really play with the power adjustment much.
I was surprised by the big Zephyr’s wind range. Although I have tried it around 9-10mph and had trouble getting the kite up. I had hoped it would fly in the 8-9 range.
I have heard the kite referenced as being fast for a big kite. I thought it responded a lot like my 13.5m Kahoona. I suppose that comment validates the claims that it flies like a smaller kite. I wouldn’t say is fast or nimble. But I didn’t really expect it to be real agile. I did make a few turns too fast and got downwind of the kite – causing it to fall out of the sky. I didn’t wait for the kite to get around before I started my turn. My Kahoona usually ends up with inverted lines when that happens and the Zephyr did not so I was happy about that.
I haven’t found it to be the easiest to launch either. When it is leading-edge down, it takes a little effort to get those big wings turned and off the ground.
From what I have experienced thus far, I am thinking this kite has enough range to replace my old 13.5 in most conditions.
I have used snow, sand, bocce balls, the ball on my truck and even a soccer goal to keep my kite steady while I am doing other things. But none of them were quite as useful as the ice screw. What is it you ask. Well, the special screws are generally used by ice climbers. You may have noticed them in action on the Coors Light commercials were the guys go to great lengths to deliver the beverage. Back to the point, these are hollow screws with a ring on the end. I bought mine off a fellow kiter but you can find them online. Now why would you want one? As I stated at the beginning, there are times when you need to park your kite, detach and do something else. I really like this when I am setting my gear up before kiting. I attach my safety/bungee cord from my kite bar to the ice screw. Then I run my lines (attached to the bungee) downwind from the screw. I inflate the kite and attach my lines. Then I can set it up on its side at the edge of the window without worrying about it going anywhere. If anything is messed up it becomes really clear at this point but it is still easy to fix as I am not at all attached to the kite. This is a good time to inspect everything. You can also grab onto the bar and try out the kite this way. Again you aren’t attached so you aren’t in any danger of something going wrong. Once you are sure everything is ok you can hook up your chicken loop and then detach the bungee from the ice screw and hook it to your harness. You want to be careful when doing this as you will likely have to take your eyes off your kite for a couple seconds. If you have help the other person could do this for you. You are probably thinking if you had help you wouldn’t need the screw at all. I still like them because it does give you independence. At some point in your session you might want to stop for a snack or rest. Just ski up to the screw, unhook your safety cord from your harness and attach it to the ice screw. Now you are free to do whatever you want without worrying about what your kite is doing. You can be sure it will be sitting right where you left it. If you want to put the kite nose down to keep it still that isn’t a problem either. I have found the ice screw to be worth the money and can’t say enough good things about it.
If you are handy you can probably make your own screw or think of a similar tool to do the trick. If so, let us know about it here.
An ice screw can make your kite set up and tear down safer
The ice screw is particularly handy in high wind situations which can be difficult to shut down on your own
Have noticed your pump is getting sticky or seen black streaks running up and down the pump shaft? If so this might help. Try a little silicone spray on the shaft before use. I have a bottle of Liquid Wrench in my kite bag. This might save your O-ring and your kite pump from a premature death. Good luck.
Don’t trash that expensive kite just because of a little tear. Small tears in the material of the kite can be repaired with kite tape. It can be purchased by the foot or in pre-set lengths. I bought mine online at kiteboarding.com. They have videos showing you how to use it too. I had a two inch tear about six inches from the bladder area. I cut a piece of the tape off that covered my tear. Put a board under the kite so I had a flat spot to apply the tape and that was it. Then I flipped the kite and did the same thing to the other side. It has been on a few months and in the water once. The tape seems to be holding just fine.
Larger kite problems can be sent in to professionals to have them fixed. I know a guy who tore his kite in half slamming it into the water. He sent it off to have it fixed and it was good as new at much less cost than a new kite.
Want to know what the next big thing in kite sports is going to be? Well don’t look here. But if you just want something wacky to do you could give this kite tubing thing a try. Yes, kite tubing. North Dakotans are crazy and this is proof. It all stems from the sub-zero winters. Darin from Mandan is credited for starting this new sport. He found a way to have summer fun in a new way with his Hydra 300 and an inflatable tube. As he put it, “Ya the tube is ok, but needs fins or a rudder because once and in awhile it would spin me around haha.” I especially like the person hanging onto the back of the tube working as ballast and a rudder. So this might not take off the way kiteboards have but fun is fun. Just be safe.
What do you do when it is four below zero, the wind is blowing at 16 miles an hour and the wind chill is about twenty-five below. Well, if you are from the South you probably think the Mayans were just a little off on their dates and the end is here now. But if you live in western ND you head out to the lake to play in the snow. And that is just what this nodaker did this afternoon.
Mother nature hasn’t been good to snow kiters the last two winters. She has been stingy with the snow cover and the winds never seem to be right. A winter storm promising ten inches of snow was what the weather man was spewing all week. But those guys were wrong as usual. Instead, we here in the middle of the state were left with another sunny, cold Saturday afternoon. Those of us who grew up in the frozen north know the perfect days for anything are limited and if you wait for those you won’t be doing anything but waiting. So making lemonade out of frozen lemons, I decided to head out into the cold and get some snow kiting done.
I couldn’t convince anyone to join me in the sport but I did have a friend come out to watch and loan me his GoPro which you will see some of once I get the footage. While getting rigged up my hands got a little cold but after that I was actually sweating by the time I was done. You collect some pretty good cold weather gear after four decades in the tundra.
Anyway, the wind was WNW averaging 16 when I started and gusting over 20. One of the things I like about the setting up on a frozen lake is that I can use my ice screw. A fellow kiteboarding buddy sold me on of his extras and I love these things. Sure there are ways of securing your kite when not being used on land but I haven’t found anything as nice as these screws. They go in and out of the ice very easy. They are as secure as if they were in concrete. Getting back to the story, I ran my lines downwind of the ice screw and locked in my leash to the loop on the screw. This will keep the kite depowered once I hook it up. Then I got my kite ready. I inflated the struts in the warmth of my basement and partially inflated my main bladder there as well. I do this so I don’t have to spend the time pumping in the cold – that is when your fingers start to freeze. So I didn’t have to spend much time blowing up the kite. Next I connected the kite with the nose facing the wind. This is a little more difficult when you don’t have it anchored like I do in this case. The important thing to think about when the kite is facing the bar is that you don’t get your outside lines up on the side of the kite. They should end up underneath the kite and not tangled with your inside lines. Then I went back to the ice screw, picked up my bar and steered the kite over to the edge of the wind window and set it down to rest while I finished getting ready. This is another nice thing about the ice screw. If something were wrong with my lines I am not really at any risk by testing it attached to the screw. Sure, if something went wrong with the leash I could lose the kite completely but I am not in any way attached to the kite yet. This way, if something is wrong with the lines and the kite goes crazy, I am safe and can just let go of the kite. Then I can walk down to it and fix the situation.
Ok, so I am geared up and ready to go. I just loop in to my harness and attach the leash when the moment is right. Don’t mess this up or your kite is leaving without you. The snow was crusty on top from thirty mile an hour winds the day before. There was about four inches of snow covering most of the ice with much more near the leeward edges of the dry land. A few bare spots of ice existed but they were small and created no issues. Once or twice that crusty snow grabbed my skis and pulled me over but it wasn’t bad. The sun was out and the wind was a nice speed for the day. I had a good time working on fluid turns, jumping and just going fast down wind. Of course, that means going upwind later and that was a chore today. I finally got the feel of jumping without turning. I could only get it going one direction and I can’t really describe the feeling. I just played with it until I could feel and identify the right time when the kite was powered enough to pull it off. Once I could feel it, I would apply a little extra pressure under foot and pull back on the bar. Then get ready for the ride. I was taking it easy since there wasn’t a lot of snow in some spots so I can’t say I got any huge air but I had fun and got a little better at it.
Well, that is it for today.
Don’t be afraid of cold temps. You will be working enough to stay warm.
Get as much of your set up done indoors as you can.
Get an ice screw if you are going to be on the frozen water.
You may have already read my post about the United Airlines baggage fees I was charged on a trip to TX. If so skip the next couple lines. If not, the story goes like this. I was charged twenty-five dollars for my kite gear on my way to South Padre, TX. On the way back I was charged a hundred dollars for the exact same set up. I requested a refund for the difference on the way back and was denied. I got two responses from United and here they are.
Dear Mr. Cook:
Thank you for contacting United Airlines. Please forgive our delayed response. We are committed to responding in a timely manner and are doing everything possible to optimize our efficiency.
When traveling with a kiteboard we have a service fee of $100 each way. Please view the link below. http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/sports.aspx
I regret we are unable to refund baggage fees. I am sorry for the inconsistencies as you should have been charged each way.
Thank you for your patience.
Customer Care Mmanager
United realizes that at times it may be necessary to travel with an item that exceeds weight limitations where additional charges may apply. In this event, all charges must be disputed at the time of payment for refund consideration. No refund will be considered after that time; therefore we are unable to honor your request.
Please be assured that United Airlines values your business and we look forward to serving you again in the future.
Customer Refund Services
So there you have it. If you fly United with kiteboarding equipment expect to pay the hundo. Now that said, a friend took the exact same two flights I did and was charged twenty-five both ways so you could get lucky. But I would recommend another airline altogether. The last line of their response letter should have read, “please be sure United values your money and looks forward to taking it from you again. We will let you leave town with your stuff but then we will coerce you into paying a lot more to get it home. Of course you could always leave it with us in the airport if you don’t like it.”
My point wasn’t really to bash United but just to give other kiters the awareness of what they might get into flying with them. Expect to pay extra baggage fees.
When I noticed United Airlines started adding kiteboarding gear as part of their accepted sporting goods equipment I was pretty happy. As usual though the airlines let me down. I had different experiences getting my kite gear checked at different airports. Upon further review of their policy since returning home I found some problems with the policy.
I flew United from ND to South Padre, TX. On the way down I got through the check-in process without any trouble. I paid the checked-bag fee of twenty-five dollars as the policy states and went on my way. This was how I expected the transaction to go down.
Returning home things went differently. I had the same bag and the same contents inside. But this time I was assessed an oversize bag fee of $100. When I stepped up to the check-in area the woman asked if the bag contained kite gear. I answered with a yes. She then said it would be a hundred dollars. I told her the policy stated kite gear was to be treated as a simple checked bag according to her airline’s policy unless it didn’t meet the criteria as set out in the policy. She was unaware of the policy and asked another woman to look it up. Sure enough she came back with the policy in hand and stated my bag was to big to qualify. She hadn’t measured it yet. As you can see United had already decided I wasn’t getting through without the added fee.
Knowing my bag was sixty inches long I asked that she measure it. She measured the bag from end to end and then the height on both ends and told me the result was seventy-two inches. I then told her she measured incorrectly. What reason would there be to measure the height twice and add that into the total? She never even measured the width. So she didn’t measure correctly but it wouldn’t have mattered. The policy states length plus width plus height. After further review of the policy and checking with some kiteboard pros I have determined no kiteboard would be allowed to fly at the regular fee. This is because no kiteboard would fit within their restricted dimensions. In order to do so under the policy as written a kite board would need to be 1″ x 48″ x 13″. Or at least some dimensions similar to that adding up to less than 62″. Maybe someone has a board like that but it is too small to fit the norm. Isn’t that what the policy is written for?
Wakeboards, snowboards and downhill skis are not limited by this strange set of dimensions and therefore allowed to fly at the regular rate. As far as the airline is concerned, what is the difference between a wakeboard and a kiteboard? Sure there are some kiteboards which would be closer to the surfboard category and probably should be charged as such but many are not. When I travel with my ski equipment I am probably traveling with more surface area and weight than with my kite gear but I have never had any trouble with it all. Well, United did temporarily lose my skis once.
Anyway, I couldn’t leave the bag at the airport and go home without it. Since I couldn’t reason with her I told her to charge it and I would dispute it later. So I will be having a conversation with United about the difference I found between their check-in process at the two different airports as well as the discriminatory way their policy is written towards kiteboard equipment. I will keep you posted on how this turns out.
With my trip to South Padre coming up I needed to find a way to get my gear down there. I thought about renting but I want more time with my own gear. I don’t want the added learning curve of new gear. Although it would be a good way to try out something new.
I have a Liquid Force 151 Proof. This board is too long for most bags at 60″ so I didn’t have a lot to choose from. Price and size are why I went with the Mystic wheeled “golf” bag. It is a no frills type bag with the basic padding on the bottom and board side of the bag. I will be using some old towels to pad the tip and tail. The kite, wetsuit and similar soft materials will help pad the top side. There are some internal tie downs for the board to keep it in place. That is about it for this bag. I was a little underwhelmed but like I said, there were a lot of bags i couldn’t use. I will let you know how it traveled when I get back.
I did get my kite, board, harness, bar, lifevest, wetsuit, booties, camelback and flip-flops in there. That pretty much put me at the 50 lb weight restriction the airlines impose. Not that it would matter. For more on that check out my post about United’s handling of my bags.
Promoting the sport of kiteboarding in central ND – come out and join us.