Category Archives: Locations

First Snowkite session of 2015

It was almost the first session of 2016 with the late coming of winter this year. But we did get in one session before the year’s end. It was light wind and I wasn’t convinced we were going to be able to get the kites in the air. The optimism of my new friend Justin got me going and kite we did. We had about an hour of enough wind to ride. I was able to get some speed and even some small air. We were out on the McKenzie slough South of McKenzie, ND. I really like this spot for snowkiting when there is snow –  and of course, ice. The water/ice runs right up to the road so it is easy to access and makes for a big wide-open playground. There are closer spots to town but this is one of my favorites in the winter.

This was the first time I met Justin so we swapped stories for a bit while we watched the sun fall. The weather was nice, there is good snow on the ice but it could another couple inches would be perfect.

two kites on the snow
Getting ready for the ride
Paul
Paul
Justin
Justin

Multiple kiteboarders spotted at same time in western ND

Kiteboarders

Kiteboarders are used to sharing the beach with their brethren but in western ND wind lovers are more likely to go it alone. This picture shows three kites which is an unusual site out here on the prairie. But it isn’t like the beach was overcrowded. No, there is a lot of room for more so come join us next time.

Chris, Al and I met up at New Johns Lake, NE of Wilton, ND. We didn’t get a good reading so we aren’t sure what the wind was but our guess was about 15-20 mph with gusts of 25+ when we started about 2 pm. and it went down slowly to probably about 10 mph by 5 . The wind was tough from where we started. We were going to try and stay up wind and if it didn’t work we would just ride down wind and have someone pick us up. That is pretty much what happened. Both Chris and I found the wind going one direction to be nice and very rider friendly but coming back was difficult and we couldn’t get back up-wind. The closer we got back to the South side, where we started, we would lose the wind. There isn’t much out there to block it but it did. So we both ended up down the lake. Chris got a ride back from a nice lady camping along the lake and I got a ride from Al’s wife who was nice enough to come get me. Al didn’t trust the conditions with his kite. He got it in the air but backed it down and elected to go fishing instead. The water temp was warm enough to go without a wetsuit but I wore a shorty anyway.

It wouldn’t be a day of kiting without some kind of story right. I was trying to get upwind of an island and I knew I would be cutting it close  but I really thought I was going to be able to ride the edge of it. See where this is going? I should preface the rest of the story with some background info for those who have not kited in ND. The wind is gusty here. On this day it was more variable than usual. Back to the story. I was edging hard just a few feet from land and the wind died so I wasn’t going to make it anymore. I ditched but not without issue. I did slide across a couple submerged rocks that led to some scrapes on me and the board. The thing that I was most concerned with was the fact that the kite lines were now caught up in the three foot grass leaving he kite hanging out on its own without supervision. The lines were slack and I was worried if the kite powered up it was going to be hard to control the power. I am writing this so you probably already know it turned out ok. Afterwards I asked myself why I didn’t just stop outside of the danger zone and look for another route.  All I could attribute it to was my competitive nature and a need to push my limits. My wife would likely give you a different reason and it would likely rhyme with dupid.

Next time, you should come out and if nothing else, just sit back, enjoy the outdoors and watch the folly.

First session of 2014

This was a day of firsts. It was the first time I was out in 2014, the first time I met Darin, the first time he flew a de-power kite, the first time either of us had tried McKenzie Slough and the first time I locked my keys in my vehicle while kiting. I wish I could say it was the first time I had ever locked my keys in my car but I cannot.

prepping kiteDarin had contacted me via this very blog to find out more about kiting and luckily we were able to connect. Having another kiter in the area is great. I know now of five others who kite. If you are kiting in the dakotas or live in the area and thinking kiting might be fun let me know. I would like to get more folks out there enjoying the wind.

He caught up with me just as I was finishing my pumping. I locked down my kite to the ice screw and then we went over some general set up and safety instructions. He got set up but was missing a harness. I couldn’t really make fun of him for that since I kind of needed a ride back to town when we were done. He was able to learn a little about set up and we locked him to the ice screw so he could fly the kite a bit. I think that was an eye opener for him having only flown trainers up until then. He noted the power was more than he expected. He was flying a 9m Slingshot (forgot the model) in 19 mph winds. The sun was out and it was about 40 degrees which is beautiful for this time of year.

Speaking of the conditions, this was the first time I had tried the McKenzie Slough area. I had been hesitant because it is part of a Wildlife Management Area and didn’t know if that was allowed. But I talked with an ND Game and Fish representative earlier in the week and got the verbal approval. The snow depth on most of the bigger lakes is bad. The warm weather and wind have left them looking like speed skating rinks. This slough has held the snow a little better. The area is large enough for a few kiters  to play together. The road runs through the slough so access to the ice is easy. This spot is about eighteen miles East of Bismarck so it is much closer than many of the bigger lakes I had been using. That is an obvious bonus. I will be back.

As for my progression, I did try a few jumps and I’m getting more comfortable with the idea. I had to cut the session short so I didn’t get to practice as much as I would have liked. But it was a beautiful day and the snow was good so I can’t complain at all.

Takeaways:

  • If you are interested in getting started with power kites contact me
  • The really good days are worth the wait
  • Keep track of your keys

2013 – Mille Lacs winter crossing

Mark your Calenders!What: Mille Lacs Kite Crossing.

When: Friday thru Sunday, March 1-3.
Where: Garrison Bay, Garrison, MN.
Who: The race is open to skiers, boarders, men, women and children. Pretty much anyone willing to give it a try.
Event Format: A weekend of freeriding, endurance race, expression session, gear demos, instruction and more. Riders are encouraged to spend the weekend in Garrison or nearby. Saturday’s Banquet is free to all registered riders.
Format: The race will be a long-distance, kite endurance run. The Race Committee will determine the course based upon the conditions of the day. Details of the race are provided at the Kiter’s meeting. If you intend to race you must attend the Kiters meeting. We will try to provide a total distance of 16-20 miles with up to a four mile leg.
More info:

Windy session on 2/2/13

Forecasts showed high winds. I headed east early in the day to beat the big winds. I drove out to Lake Sibley. The wind was averaging 16 mph and gusting to 27 so I was a little leary. My 13.5 m is rated at 10-20.
I partially pumped the kite at home to limit my prep time out there. I connected my bar to my ice screw, ran them out and connected them to my kite. Then I finished pumping the kite. This worked ok. It was just a matter of getting the main valve in the right spot so I wasn’t inside the lines.
Next, I started flying the kite still attached to the screw so I could test the wind which is coming up. It felt strong but ok so I hooked in and took off. The snow was only a few inches deep and the strong winds were pulling me through it to the ice underneath. So it was a little slippery.
The wind came up fast and hard. I was only out for about a half hour to forty-five minutes before shutting down. I got tore down just in time for the all-out blizzard. I don’t know if I learned anything today but it was time with the kite and that is helpful.

Cold weather snowkiting – not that bad.

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.

Snow kiting on New Johns Lake 1.12.13
Snow kiting on New Johns Lake 1.12.13

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.

Takeaways:

  • 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.
  • Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com/user/thekitend

Third and last day in Padre

After some preliminary checking with the weather services the consensus in the house was the only way to accurately predict the weather is to go outside. Seriously though, the predictions for today were light but looking at the palms outside it didn’t look to bad. A couple of the guys headed to the hospital to get a cut on a foot looked at. While they were out a few of us headed to the water to see what the wind was like. When we got to the beach it was pretty empty and really wet from the storm the night before. We took a couple of wind readings and it was good. So we headed back to the house to pack up the gear.

We got packed, stopped for some food supplies and returned to the water. The beach was filling fast now. As the other guys pumped their kites up I checked out what everyone else was doing. Almost everyone was pumping and flying 9m kites. Knowing most of the people out there were better than I am I decided not to try the 13.5 in these winds. So I spent the morning helping people launch and land. I chatted with some folks and got to meet some interesting people. I did learn something from this too.

I learned when doing an assisted launch as the kiter, it is good to start downwind of the kite. Stretch your lines out and then walk back up wind keeping the lines tight as you go. This gives you a good look at the kite and lines and allows you to ease into the transition of powering up the kite.

I had a couple offers to fly some 8m kites but I didn’t feel comfortable flying someone else’s kite. If something happened to the kite I would have felt terrible so I declined. When the guys got back from the hospital we broke out the 7m kite my buddy had bought on the beach a couple of days earlier. The wind was dying now so the 7 didn’t have enough power to keep us up. But we did get some good practice with kite control. It is getting much easier to control the kite after three days of this and we are not crashing the kite hard anymore. My buddy Roger and I went back and forth playing for a while and switching the kite and board from one person to the other to let them play for a while.

While we were playing with the 7m the wind continued to drop and was now perfect for the 12 to 14 range. So I blew up my kite and my friend blew up his. With the wind to low for the 9m one of the other guys, Jeff, was flying he decided to help us out. He was a lot of help. His advice was good and his assistance was great. If I got to far down wind he would grab the kite and fly it back up wind for me so I could start over. It was a lot easier walking up wind without the kite.

With Jeff’s help the light bulb turned on and I had the aha moment. I finally got the idea of where my board needs to go. I have been unintentionally pointing the board up wind immediately after I get up. With low winds this becomes a problem because I would basically kill the kite. I was so afraid of going straight downwind I was over compensating and going up wind. I think this was a result of not being able to really go up wind and get back to my starting point. I didn’t want to get to far down wind before I even got started.  I got over this and just let the board go downwind until I was up and in control. Then I would point it where I needed it to be. This made so much more sense now.

The other thing Jeff helped me with was to explain why I kept stalling the kite. It was in part due to my board direction but I was pulling back on the bar too much as well. Once I let the kite go down wind to start with and just let it fly things went better. I found that sweet spot in the bar where the power was just right. This is something no one can tell you – you just have to feel it for yourself. Once I found that sweet spot I stopped crashing the kite. When I would fall I could still feel that area of the bar where I could maintain control of the kite even though I may not be able to see it – like when I was under the water after falling. So now I wasn’t having to relaunch or put as much punishment on the kite.

By the end of the day I was riding pretty well. I still wasn’t able to make a fluid change of direction on the board but I was getting the edging down and was really happy with the progress of the day. I need to work on getting the board on edge a little more to give the kite more resistance and allow for up wind travel. This is a lot easier on the snow.

I have to say thanks to Jeff and to Dorian for their help this week and in days past.

Second day in South Padre

Up early today. I wasn’t feeling breakfast so I  brewed up some joe and started getting the gear together. I was out with the vehicle this morning. When we arrived at the flats there weren’t many people out yet. The wind is light but the joke around the house is everyday is a 13.5m day for me. I only have one kite so no matter what the wind is doing I am using my 13.5 Kahoona or not going at all.

Everyone was quick to unpack and eager to get out this morning. Before going out I had a chat with one of the guys bout my depower strap. It has always hung loose when I am riding and was wondering if there was a way to fix this. I had always fully depowered the kite by pulling the strap before starting a new session. Then I have left it depowered while riding. Once in a while I power it up a bit but for the most part I have always ridden with it fully extended or depowered. That is why it is always dangling. It dangles because it probably wasn’t meant to be ridden depowered like that. After talking with some guys I realized it is probably better to start depowered and then power up all the way. With the kite powered up there is room to depower if needed which is probably more important than the other way around. Riding it this way also solves the dangling problem.

With that new wisdom I got ready to get out on the water. The wind was light off shore. I got the kite up but there wasn’t a lot of power there. I couldn’t stay up on the board very long. I would get up and sink after a short ways. It could have been my technique but I would like to blame it on the winds. The biggest kites were out this morning. Guys were flying 16s with success but nothing smaller. I played for a while and gave up for now.

Later in the day the wind came up so I went back out. I was getting some short runs but couldn’t make any up wind progress at all. So I was getting pretty far out in the lagoon it was starting to become a concern. I thought I would give another up wind attempt but crashed. My kite rolled backward on itself and the lines got tangled. Before I could figure out what my next step was the kite caught power and started spinning. I immediately pulled the quick release. It was pulling me out or down wind pretty fast and I was really getting worried at this point. I thought seriously about pulling the leash and letting the kite go. In the moment before I was going to pull the trigger the kite crashed again. It rolled backwards on itself again and rested. The lines and bar were a mess at this point so I took the opportunity to walk up the break lines and gather up the kite. I got a hold of it and started walking back to shore. The shallow water is a nice feature of  South Padre. I was probably three hundred yards out so it took a while to get back in. I was beat when I got back to shore. I cracked a beer and watched the others play.

When everyone was ready we headed home. Shortly after we got in the house a storm hit hard. Really strong winds and hard rain resulted in water pouring in the recessed lighting and down the walls of the lower level bedrooms of the house. That was interesting. After cleaning up we tried to out to eat but the power was out on one side of the town. We headed way south to Dirty Als with hopes they had electricity. They were and we had another tasty meal.

It was another beautiful day on the beach in spite of the scare. And every day riding, no matter how bad, makes you a little bit better for the next day.

First day in South Padre

We arrived at our house in SPI shortly before midnight. Roger and I came down to hang out with the Lakawa kiteboarding crew with hopes of improving our skills and having some fun. We were successful at both.

After arriving late we stayed up even later chatting about what to expect. The house was full and we got the last beds in the living room but we didn’t come this far for the accommodations. Waking up to the smell of coffee and the sea breeze was a nice change from the daily grind. I rolled out of bed and started the greetings with everyone I missed the night before.  The winds were predicted to be strong and I only have one kite – a Kahoona 13.5m.  It was nice that people were ready to get us on the water as soon as possible to hopefully get out before the wind got too strong. I made some scrambled eggs, grabbed some joe and prepared my gear for the day. The house has several vehicles so those of us who were ready earlier hopped in and headed out. Mike took us on a little sight-seeing drive to check out the north end of the Island. It isn’t really the north end but the road gets overrun by sand dunes and he wanted to show us that. It was worth the detour.

Now on the beach, the wind was howling. Although every day for me is a 13.5 day, this one would have been dangerous with that kite. So I watched everyone gear up, launch, kite and land. I was trying to pick up  whatever tips and tricks I could by watching. But there is no doubt with only three days of kiting available to me I was bummed not to be riding and taking advantage of my short time on the island. I started thinking about renting a smaller kite for the day as well as looking at any other alternative. Being a newb and not being seen before by any of the folks out there, no one was willing to bum a kite to me. This is totally understandable and I would probably feel the same way. But anyway, a guy looking out for me found another guy on the beach who was willing to sell a 7m Cabrihna for $75. I thought about it for about a second and before I could say yes Roger told the guy it was sold. It was $130 to rent so it made perfect sense to buy the kite.

Now that we had a small kite to use, we pumped it up and strutted out to the beginner area away from the better kiters. Dorian walked out with us to give us a hand. I went first. I was able to get up for short periods but nothing longer than about 30 yards. Apparently I kept going upwind to soon and taking the kite out of the window so I would lose my power and sink. It wasn’t that graceful every time, I had some good face plants and short drags as well. But the beauty of this place is you can stand up anywhere in this water. Most of the time I was more worried about hitting my head on the bottom than anything else. After getting tired, Roger took a shot with Dorian giving him basic kite flying instruction. Afterwards Dorian decided to give the kite a try and then we called it quits for a while.

When we got back to the vehicles some of the best convenience store burritos I have ever had waiting for us. After some food and some line adjustments Roger and I went back out to see what else we could learn with this little kite. We took turns getting beat up and swallowing lagoon water. At the end of the day we hadn’t had much success but did get some good time picking up our kite flying and body dragging skills.

A little frustrated but hopeful for tomorrow I watched the sun begin to set and the real kiters move from sea to shore. With the vehicles packed we headed back into town where we cleaned up and headed out to eat. At a table set for fifteen in the Padre Island Brew Pub, we enjoyed getting to know each other, telling stories and making fun of each other and ourselves. After dinner, back to the ranch for some more stories and bed – or the couch for me.

Even without the success I was hoping for on the water, it was a good day on the beach. An interesting place, interesting people and an inviting day tomorrow. I know it is cheesy  but I can’t help but think about the Zac Brown Band’s “Toes” after a day like this.