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.
Below is a video I found on YouTube. It is funny because it is how it is when you are learning. Kiteboarding can be a frustrating sport to learn. It isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes some determination and maybe a little something wrong in the head to get through the early stages. Seriously though, it is fun. Lessons are worth the investment early on.
This past Saturday I met up with a fireman after he had contacted me with interest in learning more about kiteboarding. I gave him some basic info on required equipment and the options within those pieces like kites, harnesses, lines, etc. after we talked for a while I put him on the trainer kite. He caught on quickly and really liked it. Getting out gave me a chance to fly my 9 meter Rally too. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet and have been excited to see how it works compared to my Kahoona. This also gave him a chance to go through the steps of set up and take down of the kite.
The thing I was most jazzed about was the fact that we might get another kiteboarder in our area. The more the marrier – and safer.
Free up your calendar Saturday afternoon, June 7. We will be having the first semi-organized meet and greet of kiteboarders in western North Dakota. The goal for this meeting is to connect kiteboarders in the area, exchange numbers, check out gear, ask questions and tell stories.
Meet at Horizon Middle School in Bismarck, ND. Go around to the North side or back of the school where the soccer and football fields are located. I chose this spot because the wind is predicted to be low (6mph). So I picked a spot with an open area where we could possibly play with trainer kites and if people wanted to put gear out to show off or check out they could. Hopefully we can meet on the water next time.
1:00pm Saturday, June 7. If no one shows at 1 I will wait until about 2 for people to show. I will stay and talk with people as long as they want to be there.
What to expect:
A few folks have expressed interest in learning more about the sport. So I want to introduce those folks to the gear and answer any questions they might have about how to get started. Another goal is to connect local kiters and maybe exchange some contact info or whatever. Kiting with someone is good for learning, easier, more fun and safer than going by yourself. I will bring my trainer and my bigger kite to show folks how the gear all works. If others with gear would like to bring theirs and show it off too that would be great. Someone mentioned they would like to see how kite systems other than the ones they own work. We don’t have a store we can go to to check this stuff out so this is probably the only way we can compare systems. This would be good for those thinking of buying more or first time equipment.
Other than that there is no real plan. I hope a few people show up and we can wing it from there. Stop by even if it is just to say hello for a few minutes.
I have been hearing folks say they would like to learn more about the sport of kiteboarding and want to get in touch with area riders. I am thinking it might be time to have Bismarck’s first kiteboarding event. Don’t set your expectations to high but it could be the start of an actual community. Let me know if you have any interest or ideas for a get together.
Ullr, the norsk bringer of snow, has been stingy with the white stuff this winter. I don’t really believe in snow gods but I do know this has been a dismal winter for those who like to play in the pow. On the other hand, this has been a windy winter in western ND. We have had several clippers providing strong winds for days at a time. This past Saturday (February 1st) I took advantage of some 15mph winds on McKenzie Slough. The windchill was well below zero but hey, it is kind of to be expected when your sport calls for wind and snow.
The weather really wasn’t bad. The lake could definitely use more snow cover. It is probably about 60/40 split between snow/ice. The ice is the kind they play the winter classic on – clear and bumpy. One of my skis was bumped off track by a chunk of ice, causing me to mentally prepare for the thought of knocking out a tooth in the very near future. By luck I was able to regain control over my legs which I suddenly found performing involuntary splits. I was expecting to go face first onto the ice with no way of saving myself when I got control back and avoided the impending danger. But this little scare made me think twice about my speed and my attempts to try catching air on these conditions.
Earlier in the week I watched a video on Kiteboarding.com about how get started with jumping. I was kiteskiing but assume most of the principles they mentioned for kiteboarders applies. I also assumed the theories are the same for snow and water. Feel free to correct me if my assumptions are wrong. The idea was to keep the kite steady at 45 degrees and turn up wind to apply pressure against the kite. I didn’t find that this really gave me any lift. Maybe if the wind had been stronger it might have worked. I’ll have to try that next time. But the second part of the kiteboarding.com tutorial went into steering the kite to gain power and lift. So I tried to work this in with my steering and had better results. It took a while to get the feel of lift. Once I started to get it I was able to repeat it and get some small air. By steering the kite from 10 or 2 o’clock towards 12 o’clock I got the extra lift I wa looking for. The tutorial had also prepared me for the downwind travel I got when in the air. So I knew I might need to keep from oversteearing the kite and stalling it. So up around 12 o’clock I would steer the kite back into the direction of travel giving me a soft landing. I got one really nice three or four footer and decided to end it on a good one before I crashed on the ice and ruined the day.
The jumping tutorial at kiteboarding.com does a good job of explaining this technique to newbs. Check it out.
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.