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.

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Learning to jump with some success

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.

Takeaway:

  • The jumping tutorial at kiteboarding.com does a good job of explaining this technique to newbs. Check it out.

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

Soggy and calm still beats working

I don’t get near as many opportunities to get out kiteboarding as I would prefer. As such, I have a tendency to get excited when an opportunity arises. Perhaps overly at times. So with a few hours of free time at while at the family lake house in MN I got my gear ready. No, I didn’t measure the wind. I knew the wind was likely on the light side but thought I could will it to be enough if I ignored the thought of it. I was, of course, wrong. But I had everything set up on the ice so I thought I may as well keep going. This is when my kind sibling informed me the lake has flooded and there was water below the snow. He could have told me that when he saw me blowing the kite up a half hour earlier – but didn’t. Anyway, I decided to make the most of it. Oh, did I mention this was going to be the first time I had used my board instead of my skis. Well, it was and I didn’t bring an alternative ride. Practice with kite can never be a bad thing so why not take the opportunity and go with it. I was able to get the kite up a few times and move a bit but it was tough going and only on the gusts. That meant when the gust died, so did the kite. As kiting goes, I followed next. Usually landing in the water my brother was nice enough to have mentioned ahead of time. I was dressed right so the water stayed where I wanted it – on the outside of my clothes. Luckily, it was cold enough to freeze the water on my gloves before it had a chance to soak through. So how about the silver lining. As I mentioned above the chance to practice with the kite was worth the effort. I really don’t get out enough. While providing much Christmas laughter and cheer for my family I did get some valuable practice time and look forward to a windier and whiter season. If you have one of these sessions, just remember, it is the bad days that make the good ones seem so.

Kite tubing – the next big thing?

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.

kite tubing
Kite tubing in central ND

Record breaking snow storm doesn’t mean great kiting

After digging myself and my neighbors out from under 17.5 inches of snow I had to go do something fun. Since it was April, the air warmed up quick and turned what was some of the heaviest snow I have shoveled into mush pretty quick. I geared up and headed out to a local field to give it a whirl. The wind was barely enough at 11-13 mph.  The snow in the field was more like water than ice. But considering this was the only real snow we had had all winter I was determined to get out. Pat was out with me and he wasn’t going to let the poor conditions ruin a good day. We got set up and Pat was well into the field with his foil by the time I had my LEI ready to go. I set up with everything attached to the ball on my truck – with the kite sitting downwind, nose to the wind. With everything in place I went back to the kite to set it on edge and get it ready to fly. As I grabbed it I noticed it felt soft and as I turned the kite on its side it collapsed. So I blew it up again and went through the same process with the same result. Realizing I must have a leak I shut down the operations for the day. Pat came back to see what was going on and said the conditions were so bad he was going to hang it up as well. Record snowfall and still no kiting. ND weather is crazy.  So that was it for the 2012 winter. Hope for more next season but looking forward to the summer sessions.

Note:

I later blew up the kite in the backyard and confirmed I do not have a leak. I must have just been careless with something that day. I did find a small  two inch tear in my material and ordered some kite tape from kiteboarding.com. It was easy to apply and fixed me up good as new.

Takeaways:

  • As always, check everything twice. If I had I wouldn’t have had the air leak problem I did.

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

2012 Big Cormorant Lake outing

With new baby in tow we headed to MN for a week of rest, relaxation and hopefully some wind. Of course, we had a great week with hot weather and almost no wind. One thing I noticed after buying a kite is the wind doesn’t blow nearly as much as I once thought it did. While gazing out the cabin window the morning of July 4th, I was excited to see a few white caps rolling into the bay. I started getting things together and ran out to the middle of the lake to take a wind reading. Wind was a little light between 9-16mph. Wind was out of the South and I was on the North end of the lake so I put my gear in the boat and drove over to the South side. There is an open sandy beach tucked into a small tree-lined bay on this side of the lake so I got my gear ready there. The plan was to drift launch and slowly move out of the trees’ wind shadow. My plan would have worked really well except the seasonal boat parade came around the corner just as I was going to get started. So I waited for the parade to go by and followed the plan. I drifted out with no problem but it was slow and I could tell the wind was going down. When I did get out of the wind shadow I was able to get the kite in the air. The wind was borderline and I had to work to keep the kite in the air. I was really working it but still couldn’t stay up for very long. I tried for quite a while but eventually I couldn’t get the kite in the air anymore and had to call it quits. I pulled the center lines toward me and grabbed the kite. Then I had the boat come over and loaded everything back up in the boat. I deflated the kite as I rolled it into the boat to make it easier to get in.

It wasn’t a great kite day but I got some practice and that is always a good thing. With the light wind I got to practice the deep water launches and starts a lot. The kite has a tendency to fall out of the sky in strange ways in light wind so I got some practice getting it squared away again after those strange landings. So if you are wondering if it is worth going out on borderline days I would say yes.

First trip to New Johns Lake

In town the air was hot and the wind was blowing so I texted some friends about going kiting. I heard back from one right away. He picked me up after work and we headed to New Johns Lake NE of Wilton, ND. This is my first time kiteboarding since my trip to Texas back in April. The lake was pretty dead – just a couple boaters out. Winds were really gusting out of the SE. We left transportation at the West end of the lake and took off from a campsite at the east side. So our plan was to just go downwind from our starting point back to the public access. Speeds at the beach were 10-18 mph but I think they were stronger on the water as there was a little bit of a rise blocking the wind where we took the reading. I was on my Best Kahoona 13.5 and my friend was using a 19 Flysurfer. I took off first and he assisted my launch. Right away I felt overpowered so I brought it down and he grabbed the kite so I could make some adjustments. I changed the rigging on the kite by moving my steering lines down the pigtail on the kite – basically making the back lines longer. Then I relaunched with his help and that felt a lot better. I had some trouble getting a good start. It took me a little bit to get used to the gusty wind. I don’t know if I ever really will. After a bit I got up and had covered some good distance before crashing. I was getting downwind. In fact, I was going a lot faster than I wanted to. I was sort of on the edge of controlling my board although looking at me you probably wouldn’t have noticed the control. I knew I needed to get more on edge but the gusty winds made it hard to keep any consistency going. Once I got going pretty good the only trouble I had was losing the wind but still going fast on the board. So a couple times the kite went down and my speed carried me in front of the kite or downwind of it. This results in a nervous waiting game to see if the kite is going to roll. The first time it didn’t but the second time it did and I got my lines inside out. I tried to mess with my bar to get things straightened out with no luck. The kite was laying nice on the water at the edge of the window so it was ok. I thought about bringing it over head to the other side and dragging back to shore but didn’t want to chance something getting worse. So I crawled on top of the kite and intended to ride it to shore like a floaty toy. It was slow going and luckily some young guys in a boat picked me up and gave me a lift back to shore. That was nice because I was going to end up on the wrong side of the lake riding the waves. It wasn’t really a concern as we had a plan for a pick up in case that happened. A walk would have been in necessary but it wouldn’t have been to bad.

It was fun. I am not sure what I learned today so I don’t have a lot to pass on. I guess the one thing I would say is cover your bases before you start out like we did. No matter where we ended up we would have been ok.