They may be short on firewood but the tribe and vibe is inbeatable. This is the one time a year I sleep in a tent! I’m flying in a National Team Rider Kevin Hoye to help with a kiteboarding foil clinic. Forecast is keeping us all in suspense but we’ve learned it’s better to show up and bring the stoke. Lots of 2017 gear to show off and plenty of gabbering about the techy side of kiting. OneWheel available to demo. Anyone have a grill? A teddy bear?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get ready, it sounds like Kite Crossing 12 is in the plan for March 4-6, 2016. It will be at Lake Mille Lacs near Garrison, MN as it has in the past. I have not yet been to this event but the KiteND crew hopes to represent this year. This is set up as an endurance race event but you can just come out to have fun too. Whether you snowkite with board or skis or you just like to watch crazy people run around on the ice and snow, it is sure to be a good time.
Here is what the Fleet 8 folks have to say: “A weekend of freeriding, endurance race, expression session, gear demos, instruction and more. Riders are encouraged to spend the weekend in Garrison or nearby. The Welcome party, On the Ice Festivities, Riders Party and Saturday’s Banquet is free to all registered riders and guests.”
The Red Bull Kite Farm race event and competition will be making its return to Regina, Saskatchewan on February 12, 2016.
Last year, Regina welcomed over 100 competitors to face off in an endurance snow kite race. International riders will be competing against Saskatchewan’s home-grown talent in an endurance race across the frozen Regina landscape. The overall winners in both ski and snowboard divisions will win an all-expense paid trip to Norway in April 2016.
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.
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.
Get your winter kiting started in a big way at the Bighorn Snowkite Summit December 7-13, 2015. Freeride, discussions, partying and world class snowkiting. Starting at $65/day gets you lodging, food and snowcat rides to the area.