View Full Version : The kiting bug....

01-29-2012, 05:01 PM
So all my friends I grew up windsurfing with back in Puerto Rico have gone to kiting, so with a week to spend in Puerto Rico with the family I figure I should give it a try. So I booked some lessons with the folks from kitesurfpr.com in my old stumping grounds in Punta las Marias in Ocean Park. I had flown a the kite before so knew some of the basics, so I spent the first day doing a quick refresher and doing some dragging on the water. Things went real well without the board so I was feeling pretty confident and ready to tackle the kite/board combination the next time out.

A few days later I took my next lesson, and should have listened more closely to my instructor Bart, 'you windsurfing guys have some bad habits, don't hang on to the bar, if you need more power move the kite don't pull on it.' I think it also would have helped if he said 'treat it like wake-boarding, if you are losing control let go of the bar'. Well some habits are hard to break and it helps to be a few hundred yards from shore and playing in a semi-soft medium. This day we had breeze in the mid teens and it took about a dozen times to figure out how hard to drive the kite for the conditions to the enough lift to get out of the water, how much to lean, where to initially point the board. I would get up but immediately focus on the board, WRONG, loose sight of the kite, loose power, begin to fall and pull on... wait, do what, no, no, don't do it, pull on and hang on the bar.... oh shit lift-off.... My head is telling me to push on the bar, but my windsurfing instincts make pull on the damned bar. Needless to say the instructor had a good laugh as it was quite a spectacle. The second time I made that mistake that day was the end of the lesson for the day. Similar problem, got up, went looking for more power driving the kite up, started to fall and stopped looking at the kite WRONG, and at the same time over corrected and pull hard on the bar WRONG, WRONG. Needless to say I learned how to jump without any waves. This time I was told I pulled myself out of the water over 15 feet, flew downwind much more than that, tucked my legs under, never releasing the bar REALLY WRONG, crashing the kite on the water with such force that it exploded on impact. End of lesson. Good thing this excellent outfit has a dingy following the students around. We picked up the pieces and went back to shore for some wound-licking beers. Would come back the next day to see if I learned anything from today's experience.

Had a moment of hesitation to see if the school would take me back after the day's carnage. They did. I spent that night telling myself to push, not pull, the bar. The day started out beautifully with the fan turning on at 10am with a nice mid-teen breeze. The kite ready we took the dinghy up about 1/4 mile upwind to start the day's lesson. The first run was much better, I didn't get a consistent ride but I had good control of the kite and the board. I would get up focus on the kite and sit back down, having good overall control. A couple small launches as I played with my positioning on the board, but always pushing on the bar (well, almost always) when starting to loose control. Was feeling really good and felt I was at the cusp.

For the second run (after riding the dingy back up) the wind dropped as some clouds started building up. So I had to re-adjust everything. Needed to be more aggressive with the kite, etc, so I couldn't really build up from the previous run. Then the squall approached.... The winds started to build and started feeling a bit overpowered by the kite. We didn't really go through this scenario on land. So my first instinct was to crash the kite, and have the instructor jump in and take it over. But the kite wouldn't stay down. With the building breeze the kite would just lay on the water pulling me. I could keep my head above water, but I wasn't in control. So I pulled the first emergency release for the chicken loop. This de-powered the kite some, but it was now dragging me backwards. I signaled to the instructor and he jumped in and started to swap the kite to him. All this time I had my hand on the kite release ready to pull if necessary. After destroying a kite the day before, I wasn't to keen on disconnecting this kite. The instructor was able to swap the kite and sail it back to the beach.

Back at the beach we discovered that a line stopper on the kite de-powering line had jammed not allowing the kite to properly depower, so I'm glad I did what I did. Afterwards we talked about the incident and discussed options for this type of events.

Anyways after about an hour of waiting for the squalls to pass, we were able to jump back in the water for the last run. This time the conditions were back to perfect and I was committed to get up and go. In this last run I had 4 or 5 good rides. Focusing on the kite I was surprise my legs did the right thing. But even then, whenever I stopped paying attention to the kite, I would let it ride to high and that would end the right.

I think I'm past one of many humps, but one that I think will allow me to progress. Now the question is will I have time (or take time from sailing) to kite....