Sunday, January 20, 2008

Session 31: Another great day at Hampton

With a good southerly forecast for the day and blowing late in the morning, I headed to Hampton beach and got on the water at about 11am. The wind was consistent and in the range 20 to 25 knots, so conditions were really good.

After a goofy launch when I downed the kite I was up and going hard. Good speed and upwind tacks. The tightened footstraps were an improvement. I kited for about an hour then came in for a rest.

The wind kept on blowing and more kiters arrived and got going too, but it wasn't too crowded. I headed out for another session. I got hoiked off my board when doing a turn and couldn't really get back up wind to retrieve it, so I came in to shore waited for my board to wash in. A lapse of concentration saw me dive the kite into the beach too - yuk. Luckily there was no damage, they really are quite tough.

After untangling the lines I did a finals session getting upwind to the breakwater to get some real speed on the flatter water then came back downwind slalom to the beach. I tried a few more jumps without much success. I think I am starting with the kite too low. It is harder than it looks. I did get a little bit of air though.

I am finding "toe down riding" a bit disconcerting too so I intend to practice it some more.

Ivan showed up with his "surf style" board and departed to do a downwinder from Ricketts Point back to Hampton Beach, which he said would take about 2 hours.

I dropped my kite into SHQ to get the bridle lines checked for wear. After a couple of years use they may well need to be replaced.

I will try out a surf style board as they seem have advantages in a biggish swell and on light wind days.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Session 30: Fast upwind at 25 knots

The wind stayed less than 20 knots most of the day, but then picked up above 20 at 4pm, so it was time to have another go. It was blowing fairly hard at Hampton Beach and quite a few kites were out enjoying the wind.

I was on the water at about 6pm and immediately going places. Good wind makes it easier to kitesurf, as long as you keep control.

I used my shorter Litewave Tsunami board, but the straps were adjusted wide so I could use wetsuit booties during winter. Consequently, I was having a little trouble keeping my feet in the loops. I hit a wave crest and had the board plucked off my feet. I retrieved it by upwind body draggging, which was tricky in the strong wind. You need to keep power in the kite flying low above the water and really work the keel with you free hand, which is quite tiring.

Locking the kite in and going upwind was no problem in the 25 knot wind. No real danger of the board stalling. Some gusts tend to soak up most of the depower of the kite though.

Going out in the big swell was fun. The swell near the offshore reefs marked by buoys really stands up.

Turns were going well. With so much power in the wind I could almost stall and then get going again.

I got upwind as far as the breakwater, hoping to get some flat water behind it. However, at the flat water you lose the wind, so I did some wakeboard slaloms to go downwind.

I tried jumping for the first time by edging the board and sending the kite back to 90 degrees. I succeeded in getting lifted a bit, but not a lot. It seems I have developed some "anti lofting reflexes" which I will have to unlearn in order to get bigger air.

Lost my board again while cranking turns, but another kiter brought it over to me, which was most appreciated.

I finished after 7pm, feeling pumped. One of the best days ever.

I met Rick and Oz at Hampton - both had a great day out too. Ivan and the boys for SHQ were out kiting with their surfboards too.

Now I will tighten up my footstraps.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Session 29: Ripping at Hampton

A strong wind forecast of 30 knots came through at about 1pm, breaking the recent three day opressive heatwave of 40 degrees plus. I got down to Hampton at about 3pm. The wind was strong but perhaps not 30. I elected to give the 7m kite a go in case the wind picked up or big gusts came through.

I got up and going, but the kite was a bit underpowered. Also, it flys so fast compared to the 12m kite. I had to fly it to generate more power and also go downwind a bit. Great to get going though. Unfortunately I dunked the kite a coulple of times, then couldn't relaunch it off Brighton.

Speaking to Ivan from SHQ, he advises putting in as much pressure as the pump will allow to make sure the leading edge keeps its shape.

Another drift in to the beach. This time I tried he self rescue techique and wound one of the rear leaders around the bar and eventually got to the kite. I managed to get through some keen surfers in the swell at the beach, but then found alarmingly that I had heaps of line wrapped around my right ankle! The amazing thing was there were so many loops it was like I had attempted to do this. I thought about cutting the lines, but the kite was under control with me holding he tip and I was able to secure it on the beach immediately.

I then set about dealing with huge tangle - which took me about half an hour to resolve. Back at the car, the wind was still strong so I took out the 12m kite. Finally, some good wind! Great to get some speed up, go upwind and get some turns happening in the swell. Interestingly, the wind was 20 knots but a Southerly, which seemed to be easier to get out from behind the breakwater.

No dunkings, no swimming and some slowish turns. I tried the "one hand technique" briefly but found that I wanted to keep both hands on the bar to allow up and down direction for the kite. I was contemplating trying some small jumps - or at least board edging - but was a bit hesitant.

I would have finished at about 7:30pm, very happy and pumped.

It was sensational to feel the power of the wind and the kite and really lean against it. I think the larger board helped in the chop too.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Session 28: A downwinder in light wind at Hampton

Very keen to get out so I headed for Hampton with the wind speed showing around 15 knots in the afternoon and the forecast saying it could reach 20 knots. It was a very hot day so I wore board shorts and a rashvest rather than my 1mm wetsuit.

I rigged up and had a go but I struggled for wind again. The Crossbow 12m kite is rated for this wind strength but I struggle to go upwind and 15 knots. Maybe I am a bit too heavy at 82kg?

The wind didn't pickup above 15 knots, but it was so good to get the kite flying and into the water I elected to do a downwinder to Brighton which went quite well. I was again frustrated to see others whizzing along upwind off Hampton - maybe on bigger kites, or just with better technique.

Coming into the beach I picked a spot with some sand and not too many bathers. However, there was a nasty little reef exactly where I floated in on my back with my kite still flying. When I stood up my leg went right into a "rock hole" and I grazed my shin. If you were not careful or were unlucky you could even break your leg at ths spot.

I walked the kite back inflated, but struggled a bit to get past the first main groyne. Deflate next time, it is not worth the hassle.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Holidays at Sorrento, strong winds but sideshore

With the new year just arrived we headed down to Sorrento, Victoria for a short family beach holiday. I took the kite gear hoping for some wind.

Last year there was virtually no wind so I left my 7m kite behind. Space in our Suburu Liberty wagon was at a premium with baby gear for our daughter Chloe, the sea kayak and fishing gear on board too. It was a mistake to only take the 12m kite - heaps of wind this year and the 7m kite could have been used.

I saw a couple of kiters out in the strong Easterly, I think they launch at Sullivans Bay just east of the Sorrento sailing club. They were heading way out to the North and looked expert. They would need to be. If you dunked your kite and had to "float in" it would be a long way to the shore and you would be blown onto cliffs, boats and possibly the Sorrento pier!

Wind map for Thursday 3 Jan

View Larger Map

Sullivans Bay

There was only one other kiter out off Blairgowrie. However, the wind was basically sideshore, the beach was crowded and I thought the wind was a bit too strong for the 12m kite. Nobody was kiting at Rye. Frustrating . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Session 27: Desperately seeking wind

I injured my shoulder skiing in September and was forced to rest from kitesurfing until late December. I have been really hanging out for some wind and to get back out.

Finally, I was able to get down to Hampton on New Year's day with favourable conditions.

Fawkner Beacon wind graph - 1 January 2008

However, although the wind was reasonable out past the breakwater, there was a lull behind it on the beach. I launched the kite but couldn't really get going. Eventually near the rock groyne I started to get it together but there was another kite pfaffing around where I was headed so I turned around. Dunking the kite I drifted into shore and was assisted by another kiter who grabbed the kite.

There were heaps of kites on the beach and quite a few on the water. It seems like Hampton is getting more crowded. Quite a few people sunbathing and swimming too.

Frustrating. It seem that sheeting the kite in too much in an effort to get power sends you upwind and you lose too much power. I was on my small board too - which is harder to get going in lighter wind.

Saw some snazzy beach launches and many new kites. The Switchblade 12m kite is reputed to have as much power as the 2006 16m kite, and less bar pressure. I am holding off buying a bigger or newer kite for now.