New Johns Saturday Jun. 3

Roger and I rode New Johns last Saturday, June 3. Winds were cycling from 10 to 35 and back. This wasn’t gusty but more like ten minute intervals. Unpredictable even for ND.

They were on the light side when we hit the water. We started looking at a spot near the South boat ramp as it was a WNW wind which is mostly on-side-shore. I was worried we would hit shore right away if the wind dropped for very long so we moved to the North side of the lake on the point by the North boat ramp. Strangely, there the wind was more WSW. I know that doesn’t make sense but that is kind of how New Johns is – the wind seems to swirl or maybe it is just the shoreline that makes it seem that way.

We wore shorties and I didn’t even notice the water temp – really comfortable. It is early for water this warm. Get out and enjoy it.

I was debating over using my 13m or 17m. Glad I went with the 17 Zephyr. Roger went out on a 13m. We left a vehicle for the ride back downwind since we figured we would be doing some floats with the crazy wind.

Roger was working it with the 13. I had a pretty good time of it with the 17. I have been happy with the depower of the Zephyr when the gusts come up. It doesn’t feel scary like I thought it would. I was able to maintain position when the wind was up but kept losing ground when it died. I actually got some good tacks in but I realized I need a lot of board and body position work. I should have had no problem out there but I find myself stalling my kite at times when the wind goes down. I need to learn to use the board better and lay off on the sheeting when the wind lulls.

I did have one problem out there. Twice my chicken loop came undone. The first time was no problem as I was already bobbing with the kite down. The second time it happened I was sinking and I must have pulled back on the bar so hard it knocked the loop off my harness. This resulted in a lot of slack in the line and the kite rolled which stuck me with inverted lines. I know there is a way to undue those but I haven’t had any success doing it in the water. If you know of a good video on how to do that post it in the comments. Anyway, this resulted in a self-rescue situation which I don’t like doing that much with this Ozone system. I was fairly close to shore so I just floated in till I could touch and then straightened things out. Roger came down and grabbed my kite shortly after so all was well at that point. But if I had been in the middle of the lake, this would have been a miserable float in. Not sure what the takeaway on that is. Maybe just be aware of the potential. I am sure I caused the chicken loop to jump out, just not sure how.

St. Paddy’s Day Session

All it took was a text from fellow kiteboarder and a note to my boss and next thing you know I am out on the riding in a way I doubt St. Paddy ever invisioned. We thought the best place to ride would be a frozen lake because of the warm weather. We were wrong. It turns out the ice was melting fast and there was open water. What we didn’t expect was the amount of snow in field we have ridden before. It wasn’t bad at all. There were bare spots but for the most part, the snow was good. Winds were 22+ with the usual ND gusts. Nothing is more fun than boosting in the sun. I had a few really big boosts and a couple epic fails. Not sure yet if I got a concussion. It was a great day and probably the last one of the winter season. It was a good one to end on.

Check out the video!

2017 Kite Crossing Recap

6am wake up call. Coffeed up and on the road to Garrison, MN, for the Mille Lacs Kite Crossing. Registration was the night before so the race was out for me. The race is the big event of the day and the reason for the event but it wasn’t the main reason I made the trek. My interest was in meeting other kiters, learning what I could and making connections. To me, being a kiteboarding pioneer in ND means to exploring the scene around us and bringing that back to share. Not to offend any of the real kiteboarding pioneers and innovators, what I meant by a ND pioneer is that there just isn’t much of a scene here and I am doing what I can to grow the tribe.

You are probably here for the event itself though. So here we go, the location was great, the wind was good, temps pushed 40 and a couple inches of flour were neatly blanketed across the ice. I would guess there were fifty kiters on the ice representing all skill levels. I would say there were twenty-five kites in the air at any given moment for a good part of the day.

Upon arriving to Garrison, I found a buddy of mine who drove up from the Twin Cities. We took a quick walk around the camp to talk to folks and get a feeling for what was going on.

As a side-note, we did stop by the Slingshot rep’s van and had a quick chat with him. I was hoping he would give my buddy some guidance or information. I didn’t expect a free lesson but maybe the use of a trainer or something. This is a thought for Slingshot and other kite makers. Maybe you guys should have trainers and demo kites available to introduce people to the sport. Otherwise it is like saying hey looks like fun huh? Too bad you don’t have a few hundred just to try a kite. It just doesnt seem like letting folks use demo gear would be a bad way to grow the sport and sell some kites. Enough of the soap box though.

The other guy I met is the owner of Lakawa, a trainer company in the twin cities. He won the race last year and won it this year as well – in a tuxedo. He spent most of his day after the race trying to keep people from driving over his lines. That was comical. Not that getting your lines ruined is funny, I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t move his stuff out of the main traffic area. We talked to some good guys who were set up next to us. They were knowledgable and fun to talk to. I have found kiters to be a good group of folks to hang with and talk to. I definately want to come back next year and participate in the race.

But for this run, I got some good runs in. The other kiters were inspiring and pushed me to boost higher and ride faster. I started out with my 9m but it didn’t have the power so I ran the 17m most of the day. There were a lot of 12s flying around and a few big foils. I love the wind range on my Zephyr. But that isn’t what this is about.

We had lunch at the best Burger King – it had a bar connected to it! After lunch we rode some more and then went looking for the party and awards ceremony. I say looking because no one seemed to know where the party was. We tried one place but it turned out to be wrong so we headed to another spot and found the post event dinner. It was great and hosted at the local VFW. After dinner I headed out for the long ride home.

If you are expecting a well-oiled machine of an event – this is not it. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. If you are looking for a good ride with some mostly friendly folks, then give this event a try. If you are looking for white glove treatment, this might not be the event for you. I am not that guy so I had fun and I think you will too.

Innaugural flight of the Zephyr 17

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.

Takeaways:

  • 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.

 

 

Now that is Independence Day

It was a couple days before the 4th of July but kiting is a great way to celebrate independence. It is truly liberating when you are on the board, the kite is parked and you are just having fun. The rest of the world seems to melt away when the kite is up. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I am still scared I am going to kill myself doing this on the water. That is the best of kiting but it doesn’t come without its frustrations too. On this day I had both.

Watch a video from the session!

I went out on Big Cormorant Lake and measured the wind at a fairly steady 13-14mph. So I grabbed my gear and headed to the other side of the lake as the wind was on-shore where I was at. Several of the places I wanted to go were packed with day-use families and partying young folks so I headed for the only spot I could think of that would have a place to gear up and get out. This was an empty lot up for sale so I was hoping they wouldn’t mind if I used it for ten minutes while I geared up. It really felt to me like the wind had come up more and I had only brought one kite in the boat over with me – my 13.5m Kahoona. Thinking the wind had improved, I rigged for less power or set my lines long. This will come into play in a bit.

On a side note, someone did come walking over from the nearest cabin so I was expecting to get an ear full of how I shouldn’t be there. Luckily this guy, who also owns the land for sale, was a pilot. So he had an interest in what I was trying to do and even offered me his beach to use. We chatted very briefly and I put the kite in the water.

This was on the South shore with a South wind so I drift launched the kite from the beach. For those who haven’t done that much before, this can be more problematic than you would think. There was a wind shadow from the trees so the kite was manageable. The problem, and I have noticed this before, is that the wind swirls a bit near the shore. While the kite starts to go out just fine it sometimes tries to come back to shore. This messes up lines and anytime my lines are loose I get nervous. With careful patience I was able to get past the wind shadow. I was thinking that pilot watching must have thought I had no idea what I was doing. I slowly dragged out into the lake for a good thirty minutes. Every few minutes I would test the wind with little success. A couple times the kite fell behind me and even rolled once. Luckily, I didn’t get the lines inverted. I hate that. I am certain the wind died as I got out in the bay. There were white caps on the way over but now nothing.

Eventually the wind came back and by this time I was in the middle of the lake. Big Cormy is a pretty big lake too. I got the kite up and was by working it hard was able to keep it up. You will see that if you check out the video. My trim strap wouldn’t hold so I couldn’t generate any more power that way. I was really wishing I had rigged for more power at this point. The wind did get better as the session continued. I was cold and tired from working the kite and then the wind got just right and things got fun. That is when I was feeling that freedom I mentioned earlier. Finally, after all that work, there was a pay off. I actually had a pretty good ride. I hadn’t been on a board since last summer so I was happy with my board skills. There was a little air now and then.

If it hadn’t taken so long to get things right I would have liked to spend a little more time trying some things out. I was at the North end of the lake now and had an opportunity to ride into a clear shoreline and again use the wind shadow of the trees to shut it down. So I rode in and had no troubles rolling up the lines and closing down the kite. My ride was following along so they pulled up and picked me up. Away we went to clean up and call it a day.

Something about prairie winds

The predictions were for snow early and wind about 2. The snow was more like oatmeal but the wind did come up quickly about 3pm. This is a reality of our sport out here on the prairie. People often say the wind blows all the time here. I tell them to buy a kite and it will stop. Of course the wind doesn’t cease but owning a kite increases your awareness to the wind and the quality of the wind. You start to understand even when the wind is blowing it may be too light or dangerously on the other end. It isn’t uncommon to get what happened today – the wind was still as Mona Lisa’s smile for most of the day. Within an hour or two it quickly rose to around 16mph with gusts over 20mph. Then, like an angry toddler given an iPad, the wind quickly stilled as darkness fell. In just a couple hours the tantrum was over and so was my kiting session.

Perhaps I should get to the point. All the wind towers dotting the ND prairie confirm this is a windy region (Side note – you do not want to kite into one of those).  But before you join the “wind energy is all we need”  advocates you need to get a kite. You should to do that anyway. The reason I say this is because the wind is really inconsistent out here. It will blow at a perfect 15-20mph while your at work and then drop to zed when your not. Seriously, a flexible schedule is necessary to maximize the use of your kiteboard up here. Unfortunately the wind doesn’t blow just the way we want on the weekends. I have watched blizzards coming in to try and catch that sweet hour or two between flag down and flag ripped off the pole. This isn’t the gulf where the wind makes a decision and sticks with it most of the day. Our wind is variable and gusty. If you want the perfect day you need to be patient, vigilant and opportunistic. You have to watch for those perfect conditions and then drop everything and go when they arrive. If you aren’t so picky, and I am not, you go when you can and make the best of it. And there are many of those days. Don’t worry, once your kite is in the air and your sailing 25mph across a frozen lake, you won’t be thinking “I wish I was back at work.” You will be smiling, relaxed and happy.

Now a note about my session yesterday. The wind came up and the sun was getting ready to go the other way. I quickly grabbed my stuff after work and was on McKenzie Slough in half an hour. I keep my stuff together so I don’t have to look for it when the time is right. The ice was good. The snow cover was patchy but navigable. I forgot my ice screw but at 16mph the setup was pretty easy so it wasn’t necessary. It was a quick session but fun and I got to finally give my 10m Rally a good run. It will take a little getting used to .vs my 13.5m Kahoona. The 10 is quite a bit quicker and surprised me on a couple turns and jumps. Looking forward to the next session to dial in the timing with this kite.

See you out there soon.

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

Sharing the knowledge

Something interesting happened the other day. A friend who I have known for years sent me a photo of some guys trying to snowkite at Cottonwood Park in Bismarck, ND. His question accompanying the photo he sent me asked whether I had ever tried something like that. I said I had and if he wanted I would let him try with my trainer kite. So we went out this past Saturday up at Horizon School. The wind was light – around 10mph. The wind was light even for the 3.5m I have. He had a tough time keeping it in the air. At times it would come up for a while and get easier for him.

He was having fun and getting the hang of it so I decided to use the opportunity to get some practice with my 9m Slingshot. I haven’t had much time with that kite. I only brought my snowboard and having unsuccessfully tried my board only a couple times I was hesitant to try it with the low wind and lack of snow. But as it was the only option I went for it.

I rigged up downwind of the kite and did the slide it around trick. Then I walked it over to a fence post and wrapped my chicken loop around the post and went to put on my boots and board. I was able to get some pull but I had to work to keep the kite in the air. It was some good practice time but 5mph more would have been nice.

My friend had a good time and wants to try it again. Maybe we will have another kite buddy out there soon. Speaking of which, if anyone knows who those guys at Cottonwood were have them get in touch with me.

 

Quick notes on Lake Sakakawea

I often get asked what the big lake is like for kiteboarding. I have not been out on Sakakawea but some kiters got together and hired a trainer (see video below) out of NC to come up for a few days.

Here are some notes from Courtney on the lake:

“I think the best way to Kite on the Biglake is doing a water launch in a pontoon boat or Jetski. With the high water that we had this year most of the beaches are fairly small but 15 miles east of Williston there’s good beach on the North and south side of the lake. The good part of high water is there are numerous days that are large enough to kite on in Highwinds with flatwater. Not good if you can’t ride up wind but if you’re riding up when the bays are great. We launched from shore two days and the third day we did a water launch. I boarded out of the bay at Lunds Landing on Friday with an offshore wind. The way the lake twists and turns if you are in a boat you can always find place with side onshore wind. Both beaches we were on nice sandy beaches.”

Fourth of July Session on Cormorant Lake

Waking after days of gale force winds and 4 foot swells I checked the forecasts for the day. They said the winds would diminish over the course of the day. With kids and chores to do I waited for nap time to go. Unfortunately it was too late. My plan was to drift launch from the South side of the lake and downwind to the North side where we were staying. The launch point is tree lined and when I tried to launch the kite it would slowly get about half my line out and then swirl back to me. After a few tries it got messier and messier. The longer I kept trying the more the wind would die so I got a JetSki ride out towards the middle of the lake. I wound up my lines, left the kite blown up and just held it on the back of the Jetski.
Even out there it was tough to get it up in the air but I have never been accused of giving up easy. It was a lot of work but during the gusts I was able to ride for a bit. After an hour or so I ran out of lake and called it a day. I was happy with the fact that even though I couldn’t stay up on the water, I actually did a pretty good job of controlling the kite. Practice is a good thing so I took some solace in that.