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.
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.
See you out there soon.
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.
Calling all kiters! Don’t forget about the Regatta this August 22 and 23 in North Dakota’s Fort Stevenson State Park on beautiful Lake Sakakawea. Kiteboard and other wind riders are welcome. A sign-up is available on the DYC Racing site below but if you don’t want to or forget or whatever just show up on Friday or Saturday and hang out. There are a handful of kiters already planning on coming but you are all welcome. Come to kite or just watch. Just come.
Hope you can make it up for the fun.
The sailboat crowd has invited the kiteboarding crowd to join them in their regatta this year. The events take place at the Fort Stevenson State Park on Lake Sakakawea starting Friday, August 22, 2014. This will be a great chance to get together and meet other wind sport enthusiasts. For those just getting into the sport of kiteboarding, this will be a good place to ask some questions and check out gear.
The sailboats will be racing on Saturday with an exhibition area for the kiteboarders. With enough interest we may be able to set up a kiteboard race as well. Without enough interest we will just get together to freeride and hang out. It may be possible to arrange for a professional kiteboard trainer to come out and join us as well if we could get enough interest in that.
There will be Saturday entertainment for those who stick around. Tickets and food will be extra, I will try to have a few bracelets available for sale on the docks for those interested. Those who want to stay in the park should make arrangements through the Fort Stevenson office by calling 701-337-5576.
If you’re interested, sign up through the link below and we’ll make sure your contact info gets filtered to the right folks. Yes this includes the kiteboarders.
Feel free to call if you have questions, comments or ideas,
Please sign up for the event so we can get an idea of how many folks are going to show up. It will help organize this and future events.
Friday, Aug. 22
- 7:00 pm: Social & Rules Refresher at De Trobian Marina
Saturday, Aug. 23
- 9:00 am: Skippers Meeting at De Trobian Marina
- Noon: Race Start at the mouth of De Trobian Bay
- 7:30pm: Garrison Beach Party at De Trobian Marina with music from Billy D and the Crystals
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.
KiteND heard the annual Gathering on Lake Mille Lacs is set for July, 26, 2014. This is what Mike from Lakawa had to say about the event: “No structure, just show up at Malmo Fri-Sun.”
More info at: http://www.lakawa.com/lakes/millacs.html
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.
WCCO TV did a story on snowkiting in MN. You can see a little background video from the Mille Lacs Snow Crossing. Check it out here – Snowkiting Group Loves This Minnesota Winter.