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.

2017 Mille Lacs Kite Crossing

The 13th annual kite race/event at Mille Lacs Lake, near Garrison, MN is scheduled for March 3-5.

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.

Details

Categories: Ski Men, Snowboard Men, Ski Men Masters, Snowboard Men Masters, Ski Women, Snowboard Women, Juniors
Qualifications: Anyone willing to give it a try.
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 Racer’s meeting. If you intend to race you must attend the Racer’s meeting. We will try to provide a total distance of 16-28 miles. Snowmobile support will be provided along the course. Helmets are Mandatory. Awards: Awards will be based on timed finishes and presented at the Awards Ceremony on the day of the race.

Schedule

  • Friday: registration and racers meeting
  • Friday: welcome party at Harbor Inn
  • Saturday: racers meeting
  • Saturday: race events weather permitting
  • Saturday: party and banquet at the Y Club
  • Sunday: backup day, free ride & socialize
  • Sunday: awards presentation

More Info

 

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

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.

Big Day on Big Cormorant

After a good first day kiting on the snow I was hoping for another but the forecast didn’t look good. It was a sunny and warm Sunday morning. I was looking out the window at the smoke coming off a sugar beet plant miles away from my parents home in Moorhead, MN. I could see the wind was blowing straight away to the North but it was hard to tell how fast. So I debated packing up and heading back to Bismarck. I was moving slow and enjoying conversation with the family when my friend from the lake called. He said it was good and I should come back down. So I jumped in the car and was there in about 40 minutes – just after lunch time.

He was right. The wind was blowing steady in the 14 mph range. It was a little gusty and I think the average speed picked up as we were out there. We just played for a while. Today we were able to go about 20-30 mph across the soft white blanket on the lake. The snow is uniform across the whole lake but you need to stay away from the large pressure ridges at the openings of the bays and around the shore. But the middle of the lake is wide open with nothing in your way. I did get some jumps off the snow drifts around the ice houses but then it was back to work.

I practiced getting up from a seated position to mimic coming out of the water. This is something I will need to be able to do in Padre. I also practiced getting some air while standing stationary. This was just for the fun of it and because I have no idea how I am going to change direction on my kiteboard so I thought it might come in handy if I need to get some help hopping the board to switch my feet around.

If you read my last post you know I haven’t been able to change direction very well. I usually end up with my kite coming around too much and getting up wind of me. Obviously that doesn’t work very well. Basically, this puts the kite out of the wind window so it falls gently to the ground. I spent a little time watching my friend make turns and the light bulb went on. I had been turning to late. I was waiting to feel the pull of the kite before I started my turn. I was thinking the kite should pull me around in order to keep it powered up. But I was wrong. As I watched him I realized I needed to start turning when the kite does – maybe even a little before.  This is what he had been telling me all along but it didn’t register until I saw it. Once I figured that out I was able to make turns the rest of the afternoon without any trouble. By the end of the day I could make slalom type turns one after another without any trouble. Thanks buddy. I guess the gist of that is to start turning your body when you initiate the turning of the kite. It will take the kite longer to make the turn but you will be able to keep the diving motion of the kite going and maintain the power because you are already in position to head the other direction. It also gives you a lot more control over the kite when it comes around. So if you need to power up or down you can easily do so.

We did some more figure eights today too. My friend asked me to get closer to him today. I warned him what that might mean with a newb like myself but he was willing to risk the tangled lines for my benefit. So we weaved back and forth around each other with our kites and lines coming within just a couple feet of each other several times. I think we got this down now.

All in all it was a great day. Got some good speed, a little air and learned to change direction effectively.