Fargo kite store closes doors

This post is a bit late but I felt compelled to write something when I logged on to this blog and noticed the story about the store opening. Unfortunately, they have shut down for now. I have not heard any buzz of them opening up again. Sorry to see them go.

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Sticky kite pump

If your pump doesn’t seem as smooth as it once was or you are seeing black rubbery gunk on the shaft it is time for some silicone. That is what I was seeing so I bought a spray-on can of silicone and tossed it in my kite bag. I spray it directly on the pump shaft about every other time I go out. Happy kiting.

Kite set-up tips from watching a first-timer

Since the point of this blog is to help others avoid mistakes while getting started in the sport I’ll talk about some of the things I noticed while helping a friend on his first day. I had (and still do have) some of these same problems so they are probably worth mentioning. The hope is you won’t make the same mistakes or have the same problems.

First, if you buy a used kite make sure you get the manual. My friend did get the manual with his and we had to consult it. I wouldn’t buy a kite if you can’t get the manual from the seller or online from the manufacturer. The manual should explain how to rig the kite. Things can get real hairy if you don’t properly rig the kite and you don’t want to have an accident on your first day out. My buddy was excited to get his new kite in the air so he didn’t have much patience for getting it rigged properly. This is one area I have found you need to take the time to get right. His first attempt to rig the kite ended up with tangled and crossed lines. This would have been a bad way to start. I suggested we re-run the lines and we did. Don’t worry if you don’t get the lines right the first time. I still get tangles in mine when I’m in too big a hurry and not paying enough attention. As long as you double-check them before you try to launch it isn’t a big deal. Have patience and re-run the lines as many times as it takes to get it right. It is a lot easier to re-adjust when the kite is sitting nicely on the ground than when it is flailing uncontrollable in the air. Remember the lines are your control so if they aren’t set up  right, you might not have any control.

Now back to that manual. My friend started rigging the kite with the steering lines attached to the leading edge of the kite. I thought that seemed strange so we double checked the manual and realized they should be attached to the back or trailing edge. The leading edge is the one with the air-filled bladder or vents if it is a foil kite. The bottom line is if he hadn’t had the manual as a reference and checked it he may have tried to fly the kite with the lines set up improperly, attempt to fly it for a while, get frustrated and sell the thing on Ebay thinking it was defective. Instead, he got it set up right and enjoyed his day.

Takeaways:

  • Have patience – don’t try to launch until you are certain you have everything set up properly
  • Each manufacturer has their own systems so don’t assume the way you saw someone else’s kite rigged will be the way yours should.
  • It is possible to launch a foil rigged upside down and backwards (I saw it) but I wouldn’t recommend it

Best Kahoona review

This is a review of the 2009 Best Kahoona 13.5m depower kite. Being fairly new to the sport of kiteboarding I didn’t know what to start with. After a lot of research this is the route I went. I probably should have written this a while ago but didn’t feel like I knew enough about the kite or the sport to be able to provide any valuable information about the kite. I probably still don’t but here you go. The kite was marketed as a good starter kite. It was said to be safe and easy to learn on. I have generally found this to be true. 

Set-up and launch:

The kite is easy to rig and get in the air. Until recently I have been kiting alone so ease of set-up is important to me. The lines are color-coded so it is hard to screw them up. The kite stays pretty well while running lines. I wish the red side of the bar was the right side but it is a little late to start that convention now. I have tried rigging the lines from upwind and downwind from the kite and both seem to work just fine. I haven’t really had any problems rigging this kite alone. The kite launches easily near the edge of the wind window so I haven’t had any face plants when launching.

Flying:

The kite is predictable and easy to control.  I have felt very comfortable with the depower which has been good for my confidence building. Yeah, I have spent some time on the snow but I haven’t really felt out-of-control ever. When I get overpowered I can drop the handle and it lays down as expected. And it stays there too. It usually just lays leading edge down ready to go when you pull the bar back towards you.

Shutting down:

This has been a little trickier since I am always doing it alone. But the kites ease of control has let me drop it in an area that is somewhat sheltered from the wind. This has allowed me to walk the lines up and deflate the kite. I wouldn’t want to do this in a situation where the wind had increased during the session to a dangerous level. So I need to come up with another option but that isn’t really a knock on the kite. I have used the ball hitch on my truck to hold the kite but probably not the best solution either. It worked in a pinch though.

I could see where more aggressive and experienced riders might want something a little more responsive but I think I am quite a ways from that point. For now it has been a good kite and pretty much what I expected. I feel the kite fits the target Best was going for with this kite and would recommend it to others looking at getting into the sport.

Starting snowkiting – skis or snowboard?

People who haven’t snowkited before ask me whether they should start power kiting with a board skis. I think the answer to this is pretty easy if you do one or the other now – do that. But if you’re not proficient at either, just start doing one of them. Obviously either one will work. There are plenty of YouTube videos of people doing both. Maybe do what your friends do so you can bum their gear. Just like in the alpine world each will have their own advantages (see the post about that). But if you don’t snowboard or ski now and your buddy’s don’t either just get started doing one of them.

If you don’t do either and that is what this post is really for, I think skis are a little easier for picking up the power kite sport. Not because of the way you fly the kite but because of the things you need to do when you are not flying. For example, the other day I set up my kite to far out of the wind window and needed to alter my position in order to get the kite into the window. I had walk across a gravel road to do so and then back again to get going. The road has nothing to do with conversation but gives you an idea of how far I had to move and what kind of surface you might have to move across. Imagine trying to do that with a board strapped to your feet. Then imagine being in waist deep snow and having to take your board off to move. These things are just easier on skis. You can move around on different surfaces without having to take off your equipment.

But whichever you decide to do, know that either will work. I would suggest getting out to your local ski area and get used to your board or skis before trying them with the kite. You’ll be glad you did. Time on the hill along with some practice time with a trainer kite will help you out a lot. Once you have done that take a lesson and you should have a solid base to build on. Then get going with the power kite. See you on the snow.

Fargo kite store is open for business

During the Thanksgiving holiday I was roaming downtown Fargo and noticed there is a new kite store in town. Kotikites & Windsports is open for business. I wish them the best. The store should help generate some interest in the sport in our part of the country. They do sell power kites as well as clothes and other wind sport toys. They said they were going to try and locate a trainer and do some beginner classess. I did a little browsing and can’t say they had the best prices I have found but there is something nice about buying local. Good luck Koti.

First winter kiteskiing session with Best Kahoona 13.5

After getting the feel of kiteskiing behind my Hydra I was hooked and had to pick up a bigger kite. I was hesitant to go to big coming from a trainer but I ordered the 2009 Best Kahoona 13.5 from Wind Power Sports. It arrivved and I headed out to Lake Josaphine in ND. The sky was cloudy with some light flurries and wind was light (9-10mph). I checked the ice and found some holes frozen over that were at least a foot deep so I figured it should be safe. Then I got my kite blown up, stretched the lines and connected everything. It took me a couple tries to get it up in the air but it was really pretty easy to launch off the snow. I moved the kite back in forth overhead for a while to get used to the pull and the fying characteristics of this kite. This is the first time I have had the kite out of the bag. 

I don’t have a lot of patience so I quickly got bored flying the kite. So I stepped into my ski bindings to get ready while keeping the kite in a neutral (overhead) position. Then I dipped the kite into the wind window and my skis started gliding across the wind-blown lake snow. The snow wasn’t real hard but blown. It almost always is in ND. Josaphine isn’t a real big lake so I was able to go from edge to edge back and forth pretty easy. I didn’t try to go up or downwind, just across it. This is where I got my first real taste of the depower bar and how to use it that made sense. I had played with it a little while body dragging but it didn’t really make sense to me until using it on the snow. This was a great experience. I didn’t go crazy and found myself using my skis to brake quite a bit so I would need to use the bar more for that but I was happy with my first attempt. The snow started moving in and I needed four wheel drive to get back in to the access of the lake so I had to cut my session a little short. It would have been nice to have someone else there to enjoy it with so if you are in ND and want to kite, let me know.

Buying my first depower kite

While kiteskiing behind my trainer I really got hooked. So I decided to take this sport to the next level and get some real equipment. Unfortunately I didn’t have anyone in my area who kites. So I didn’t have anyone to bounce questions off of about what to buy. I scoured the web and called several dealers looking for answers. This might not be the best way to go about it but I bought my first kite based on advice from dealers and blog posts. From those sources I was able to narrow my choices down to a few options. From there I just looked for the best deal I could find. I ended up going back to the same guy I got my trainer from at Wind Power Sports. I bought a Best Kahoona 13.5. This was not an easy decision.

Picking a kite type:

My original reason for getting into this was to ski in the winter so a foil kite was my original plan. But my research on the web and talking to some dealers pointed me towards an inflatable. Even though I planned to use it mostly in the winter my research showed for a first kite it might be best to get something I could use all year round. This would help with the learning curve by getting used to just one kite. It seemed to make sense at the time. The arguments for greater depower with a LEI over a foil helped too. This means you can use an LEI in a greater wind range than you can of a foil of similar size. Having not used a big foil I can not say if this is true or not but I have to believe the so called experts. I wasn’t excited about blowing up a kite in zero degree or below weather but it isn’t really that bad. Some people blow up their struts at home so they don’t have to do it in the cold. In the end I think you have to decide what is best for you.

Choosing a kite size:

A lot of factors determine the best kite size. Your weight, height, season and the winds you expect to ride in will direct you here. I went with the 13.5 based on the manufacturer’s suggested wind range of 10-20 for the Best Kahoona. This seemed like a pretty reasonable range for my area. This is sold as a beginners kite with good depower and relaunch capabilities. Those were important factors to me. Derrick at Wind Power Sports recommended it with the idea that I would be able to grow into it but not out of it to soon. It was hard for me to imagine going from a three meter to a thirteen but he assured me it would be ok. I was thinking a seven or nine originally but am happy with the thirteen because the winds haven’t been as strong as I thought they would be. Keep in mind I live in one of the most consistently windy spots in the country. In the end it is a personal decision based on where you plan to ride, how you plan to ride and your size. No matter what you decide, just make a decision and get out there.

Using the HQ Hydra on water

While the Hydra will work on water it isn’t the same as an inflatable (LEI). Don’t think you are going to deepwater start with this thing. I used it a couple times on the Missourri river. There are a lot of sandbars on the river so it is easy to get into the middle of the river while still standing on dry land. This was helpful. You need to be, or at least the kite needs to be, on land to get the kite in the air. After getting it up I would walk it over to the edge of the sandbar or into the shallows and fly it over the water. If you crash the kite or lose power and hit the water it does hold enough air to relaunch for a short period of time. If you can get it powered up quickly you can relaunch off the water. If you don’t get it up quickly the material gets water logged and then it isn’t going anywhere. I had to walk it back to shore a few times and let it dry off. It dries fast though.

My first experience body dragging was using this kite on Mille Lacs with an onshore wind. I had someone hold the kite on the end of a dock while I walked out the lines. The water was waste deep so it was easy to move around, get set up and ready to launch. Water depths you can touch in makes kiting easier. The wind was strong enough to body drag in to shore and repeat a few times. This was my first real experience using the kite to pull me. When body dragging, keep in mind, you will go with the wind so don’t try it with an offshore wind unless you have a way to get back. Body dragging was a helpful experience. It started to give me a feel for what I should be practicing while on land. It gave me a better understanding of why the figure eight pattern works, why it is important and how it relates to using the kite to pull you. Don’t think you need to begin with the board immediately. Take the time to get a lesson and then try some body dragging to start with.

Takeaways:

  • when the Hydra gets saturated it doesn’t fly any more
  • body dragging is a good experience builder
  • on shore wind – wind is blowing in to shore
  • off shore wind – wind is blowing away from shore or out to sea 
  • side shore wind – wind is blowing more or less parallel to the shore line

First flights with the HQ Hydra 300 trainer kite

After receiving my HQ Hydra 300 trainer kite I ordered a couple beginner videos on Netflix. These helped a lot. They give good info on wind, equipment and what to expect before going out. I felt a lot more prepared after watching these.

First flight with HQ HydraMy first outings were in a wide open mowed area – probably a couple acres. I found out it is much easier to do this in an area that is mowed as opposed to an area that is not. After a few weeks the grass in this area was long and made it much more difficult to get the lines laid out. These fine lines catch on sticks, twigs and tall grass. So any brush becomes a pain when you are trying to get situated after a crash or just move around while the kite is on the ground.

It really helped having a buddy out there with me to help me launch the kite the first few times. It took some playing around to get a feel for when the kite is ready to launch itself so until you get this down you can lower your frustration by having a friend help you out with launches and re-launches when you are starting out.

My first outings went pretty well. Getting used to the trainer was pretty easy. The safety on the Hydra works well and you can bail at any time. Over all it worked well on land. I could feel the power right away and could see how this could pull you around but it didn’t feel over-powering either. I don’t know what the winds were on those days.

Takeaways:

  • Having a buddy to help you launch the kite is very helpful – especially on the first few flights.
  • Have your buddy watch the how-to videos so they know what you are trying to accomplish and what to do.
  • Short grass makes it easier to work with the kite and lines.