Kitesurfing Observations

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Kitesurfing Observations

Been in Charleston for a few days (some work - some off time) finding limited success at windsurfing due to high tide, poor timing, etc.

I have seen some kitesurfers (usually 1-3)and have a few observations.

1.  Kites seem to take as long to rig (or even longer) than sails.  The entire kit, however, is much smaller and easier to move around.  Should open up lots of possible access points, however they seem to need a fair amount of space to launch.

2.  Kites seem to get going in about the same amount of wind as it takes my Start to get planing (say 8-9kt with an 8.5).  Once they get going they are really fast and can handle lots of chop.  Before that, they can't do anything.  Sort of an all or nothing type thing.

3.  Most kiters seem to get someone to help them launch, though I am told it is not totally necessary.  

4.  When kiters fall off, they seem to manage to keep the kite up in the air, so relaunching is easier.  If it drops to the water, looks like getting restarted would not be that easy.

5.  Kites won't fly in less than about 6-7kt.

6.  Kiters will get air in way less wind than a windsurfer.  Kiters can jumpt 10-15 ft in winds less than 20 mph.

Based on this, I am thinking the reason we haven't seen many kites yet on our lakes is that with the winds being so gusty (i.e. 5kt in lulls and maybe 15 kt in gusts) kites would tend to fall into the water in every lull and be a real pain.  In a coastal area, this seems like less of an issue.

So what do you guys think?

Randy

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ChrisP
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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

When I was sailing in Miami in March, I would sail the oceanside beach at Virginia Key when the wind direction was right (This BTW, is a beautiful and easy surfsailing sight), and I was a little suprised to note that on both days, there seemed to be more kites than w/surfers and that the median age of the w/surfers seemed to be over 50, whereas the kiters were much younger.  It's becoming apparent to me that the impact of Kitesurfing in coastal areas is going to be profound and it's got me thinking.  Here are some thoughts and opinions: In coastal ares where you often have light but steady seabreeze conditions, kites will probobly become way more popular than w/surfing.  This will be due to several different factors.  You can plane as early on a windsurfer, I think, but you will be encumbered with a very large sail, a very wide board, and, not inconsequentially,a very deep fin.  Another factor, is that in terms of the ratio of work, time on the water, and frustration to speed rush type pleasure, kitesurfing is way, way easier.  This makes it a much better fit with the profile of the average person in our culture who might be attracted to either sport.  In this same vein, I would have to say that kitesurfing is also way sexier - that is to say, it is way bigger, visually, as well as in other ways.  I don't see it becoming a big thing on most inland lakes, mostly because of the windrange thing that Randy mentioned.  Being over or underpowered on a windsurfer, can be frustrating at times but is eminently doable.  With a kite, however, it can be the difference between being dead in the water and putting your kite and/or your body in peril.  On the coast, I see problems ahead, though, because of the fact that the kitesurfers occupy so much space, on land and water and in the air.  If the sport keeps growing as fast as I think it will, it will not be long before they start getting in their own way, not to mention ours and everybody elses.  Oddly, while I was in Miami, my brother brought to my attention an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, 3/11/02, concerning the present and future turf wars of kitesurfers and windsurfers.  To wrap up this ramble, I'll say this - if I lived on the coast, I would certainly try it and maybe pursue it.  I don't think that I'll ever stop windsurfing, though.  It's great fun and very special.  It's not all about going fast and looking cool, although these things are part of it.  For me, it's more basically about a primal relationship to wind and water, and part of this can only be explored by going slow.  Plus, IMHO, if it were easy, it wouldn,t be nearly as much fun.

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

My observations of kiters has been at Hood River( the event site), Oahu (North Shore) and Maui (Kehi).  The wind conditions at Hood River were strong on one day and mild on the other day, at Oahu they were 20 - 30 and at Kehi they were 20 - 30.  At each of these places I was sailing except Oahu.  Oahu and Kehi with the bigger wind speeds showed me how fast, dangerous, difficult and spectacular  kiteboarding can be.  Hood River also had some big wind days.  

When the wind got up and I was sailing a 5.0 or under the kiteboarders appeared to need exceptional skill to avoid all the pit falls of injury, not drowning, not crashing, and getting restarted.  When the wind was mellow (Hood River I was sailing a 7.5) the kiteboarders seemed to be having a blast.  They would get a little air and good planing runs.  Sailing in moderate winds did not look to difficult.  In fact, I thought I might even want to try it.  They were sailing in 10 - 15.  

The other extreme was the higher winds. I saw people crash into other people, people who could not get up at all and were dragged for a mile or two, people who would crash and burn from high jumps, and one guy even got drug over a coral reef (his chest bleeding) and pulled up onto the sand dune before he finally let go or got lose.  His kite ended up in a tree and he climbed the tree (bleeding and all) to get his kite back.

I would consider doing this but only in moderate winds.  I guess I am not a risk taker.  

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

Thursday provided another chance to see the kiters in action at St 29.  (Wasnt' bad for windsurfing either at low tide, the flatest water this side of Aruba and winds 17 mph "gusting" to 18 mph. Was a lot like landsailing, except my jibes were not as good.)

1.  The kiters seem way ahead of us in the "stoke" department.  I was just about the only windsurfer present Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (rained wed), while 2-3 kiters showed up each day, if only to wait for wind.

2.  Wasn't a problem "getting along" with the kiters.  I just stayed upwind. I do agree with Chris that they are going to pose a bigger problem for each other than for us, if popularity continues to grow.  Kite guys were friendly and happy to share the ocean.

3.  I agree also that the visual appeal of the sport is pretty impressive.  You could almost see kites becoming big banners for advertisers (beer and cigarettes, for example - maybe they would do so and help keep the price of gear down!).  It does look really cool.  Then again, so does windsurfing.  I remember seeing a windsurfer out on the ocean in Hilton Head several years ago and thought it looked really neat.  I decided to take lessons for something to do, and got hooked on it.

I'm sticking with windsurfing, at least until I see evidence of success at our local spots, and learn how to swim a whole lot better.  (Then again, I thought that wide boards would never replace longboards.)  Kiting may well begin to impact travel plans as it seems to be more and more popular in the "destination" type places.

Randy

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

I'm waiting for someone who wasn't born while Eisenhower was still president to respond to this thread.... Wink

wf

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

Ike was still president?? I think I only missed Harry Truman by about 2 weeks.

Randy Biggrin

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations- interesting reading

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kitesurf/files/KITEBOARDING%20SAFETY%20REFERENCES/1.%20%20KSI/

the database has been split up into separate files. the old link was dead

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ChrisP
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Re: Kitesurfing Observations -  Scary  Stuff!

 Thanks - this should be required reading not only for all kitesurfers, but any one considering it, and probobly anyone likely to find themselves in close proximity to power kites. :o

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

Good point Chris, I should put something up on the website since many of us share launches and water with kites.  Maybe it'll keep someone from getting hurt from trying to do something nice.

Those lines can really "bite".

wf

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

I'm with Chris P. on this kite boarding thing.  Windsurfing is a primal, "soul"  thing for me.
I love snowboarding, too. Just got back from 4 days in Colorado. I love it and it's so much fun, but it's about adrenaline and excitement. Nothing wrong with that. However, it's experienced on a "lower plane" of existence than the sublime, exalted activity of windSURFING. Same for Kite boarding. Everytime I watch a bunch of kiters, they are so focused on the kite and the effort and tensions involved in keeping up with it all ---even the very good ones -- that I don't believe the sport can deliver the "connection" I experience when I windsurf. It's like the difference between "joy" and "fun".  I plan to experience the fun of kiteboarding but I don't think it will deliver the "joy" that windsurfing does.
     

Chuck Hardin
Whitecap Windsurfing, Inc.
http://www.whitecapwindsurfing.com

c:706-833-WIND (9463)

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

I am just getting the windsurfing bug, not yet equipped but heavily researched.  I am an experienced sailer and an experience traction (the same kind as kiters use) flyer.  I wanted to dispell a few ideas I heard in the earlier posts.

1.  Flying a kite can be a spiritual action just as riding a motorcycle, skating in a half pipe or windsurfing is.  It just takes practice.  According to some kiting mags i have read, a lot of guys are using sails that are too big for the conditions, thus the frantic look.

2.  Distance and safety, every resource I have seen, suggests keeping a minimum of 100yrds from any other watercraft when kiting.  Most recomend using a 4 line kite (which allows the sail to be depowered) but as 4 lines are more difficult than 2 lines... you fill in the blanks.  In addition, most sites are pushing the use of helmets to protect your brain, and maybe more importantly, portect your ears from the lines.  

3.  As far as wind speed,  You should be able to get out and plane with as little as 5mph. You just need a big ass kite.

Pray For Wind

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Re: Kitesurfing Observations

Michael,
Thanks for the observations but some of the things you point out are the things we recognize as some of the, shall we say, "issues"
 
"1.  Flying a kite can be a spiritual action just as riding a motorcycle, skating in a half pipe or windsurfing is.  It just takes practice.  According to some kiting mags i have read, a lot of guys are using sails that are too big for the conditions, thus the frantic look."  

Not denying this, thus our interest.  But someplace, especially like Lanier, it's very easy to end up on something too big for the conditions.  Every windsurfer has a story about getting caught out when conditions change.  The wind that is 10-12 suddenly goes twenty +.  You need a way to make it home without getting into too much trouble.   Or the other day when the wind goes from 5 to 25 in the gusts.  Indeed, many of the incidents we've read or seen have happened to kiters with a few years experience (which in this sport is a long time).
 
"2.  Distance and safety, every resource I have seen, suggests keeping a minimum of 100yrds from any other watercraft when kiting.  Most recomend using a 4 line kite (which allows the sail to be depowered) but as 4 lines are more difficult than 2 lines... you fill in the blanks.  In addition, most sites are pushing the use of helmets to protect your brain, and maybe more importantly, portect your ears from the lines."  

And this becomes the real issue as far as other water users see it.  Sounds simple- 100 yds.  But think of it dynamically.  Take that 100 yd circle and sweep it across the water at 20 mph.  In a 10 second period (approx 30ft/sec) that safe space becomes 200 yards long by 100 yds wide.  Now we are talking real estate.  

Add a second kite and it's 400 x 200 yds (ie over a 10 second period that amount of space needs to be empty per safety guidelines) - bigger than some sailing spots.  You can write off launching at just about any place on Lanier in the summer time for sure as well as Kelly Park, Huguenot, Galt's Ferry.

Add two more kites and now we are talking about 1/4 mile worth of unsafe zone upwind/downwind.  And given that most windsurfers/ kiteboarders sail at a reach out and back to their launch, this isn't as much space as it sounds.  On a typical day at most sailing spots, a lot of sailors are in a pretty narrow band across the water with just a few who regularly sail way up or down.  

Also, in windsurfing, the simplest rigs are also the easiest to depower (luff).  That it's the opposite in kiting means that either a) beginners will tend to be attracted to 2 line rigs or b) those using 4 line rigs will take a longer time to reach a safe level of proficiency.
 
3.  As far as wind speed,  You should be able to get out and plane with as little as 5mph. You just need a big ass kite.

Ditto windsurfing.  It's called a 12.0 rig in our case ;).  Neither rigs are cheap though.  Kiting equipment not only takes up less space in your car but those big kites make your wallet lighter too.  But go back to your #1.  whaddya do when #3 becomes #1?  

Michael, don't get us wrong.  A ton of us would love to kite, we just don't see it ready for prime time as a widely practiced sailing sport.  There still exist significant issues regarding space, self-rescue and depowering the rig.  Until then, the sport will tend to be limited just to a few locations where the wind tends to be steadier with open and shallow water.  Hatteras? okay... Van Pugh on an April Sunday? ....mmmm... probably not yet.

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