Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A gusty northerly at Brighton, fun but no sun

Session 101,  31 August 2010 

Kite Switchblade 10
Wind 20 knots, NW
Duration 12:30 pm to 2:30pm

A good northerly was blowing today so I headed down to Brighton Beach on the last official day of winter.  There were a couple of windsurfers off Green Point, but no kiters at the beach.  I wore my canoeing vest and took the GPS, strobe and phone, just in case I got blown out into the bay or the wind stranded me out there.

I decided to use my twin tip board (the Naish Haze) to minimise the likelihood of crashes.  The wind was great when I headed out.  Another couple of kiters showed up and came out too.  Sam (from Bali) was one of them, using one of the prototype Ben Wilson kites.

It was nice to crank up some speed.  Slicing through the water and small waves made me feel like an accomplished kitesurfer again, after my time spent on the directional board.  I did a few jumps but was careful to avoid any mishaps.  

I had a rest on the beach when the wind backed off, then headed out again when the wind picked up.  It was stronger the second time; I was able to get some good speed coming back in and crank some turns on the swell.  

I was off the water by about 2:30, so I missed the big 35 knot wind that came in about then.  I would have been a bit overpowered on the 10 I think.

I nice session to blow away the cobwebs.  Thank goodness for kitesurfing. 

Self launching


Toeside, Brighton Beach

Offshore, city on horizon

A small jump.  No place for a big stack.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bali kitesurfing wave camp video

Here is a video I made of the Bali kitesurfing wave camp with Ben Wilson, including some tips from Ben on kite position in the surf and some scenery and kitecam footage.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back in black - Ben Wilson to launch his own brand

Ben Wilson has set 1 September 2010 as the date for launching his new brand - which will focus on kites and boards for the surf.  Register on his website to get the announcement.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strapless in a cold onshore wind at Hampton

Session 100, 15 August 2010 

Kite Switchblade 10
Wind 20 knots, SW
Waves Bay swell with shorebreak
Duration 5pm to 6:15pm (dark)

My 100th session!  I am deferring a bottle for champagne for a night by a warm fire.

Stuart and I headed down to Hampton late in the afternoon to catch some winter wind.  I got on the water just after 5pm with some showers coming through and a fairly strong SW wind blowing.  Stuart and another kiter were already out.

I decided to be brave and try going strapless on my S-Quad board as I have not yet refitted the footstraps after Bali.   The shorebreak gets a bit savage at Hampton in a westerly or south westerly and today was no exception.

I got going on the board after a bit of difficulty doing a water start.  The straps definitely help water starts as they locate your feet on the board and keep them there when you power up.  With no straps, you need to get your feet up onto the deck of the board and get some pressure on them with the kite.  This is more difficult than you would think.

When I did get going on a right tack I was goofy footed, so I had some trouble riding toeside on the reverse tack.  I got up after switching feet but was not heading upwind.  I ended up on the beach and walked back.

Stuart was finishing his session so I borrowed his twin tip.  I still had some trouble getting out through the shore break but I eventually got going.  The board is shorter than mind and the whole feel of a twin tip seemed very different.  You need much more power to plane and carve.

I got a few good runs in the moderate swell right up until it got dark.  Its the first time I have kited into sunset; it seemed a bit wierd kiting looking at the lights of the marina and yacht club.

Back at the car, it took me a while to open the combination key lock as I couldn't see the numbers.

It was certainly a lot colder than Bali, but the booties, gloves and wetsuit all work well to keep me warm.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summary of 2010 Ben Wilson Wave Camp at Bali

I strongly recommend the Ben Wilson Wave Camp at Bali for competent kitesurfers who are keen on riding in the big surf.  The camp provides excellent coaching and feedback - including video footage - to all riders.  The venue in Bali has good surf, and we got wind and kited on all days.  The camp the previous week did have a few days of no wind however.

I had logged over 90 sessions before I attended the camp, yet I felt like a beginner again.  Surf conditions are quite different from flatwater and some big wipeouts are possible.

If you are going to attend this camp I recommend you read the course information carefully, and that before you go you:
  • Ride a directional board for at least 10 sessions - in some small to medium waves if possible
  • Be able to ride toeside upwind on the board - this is important for both getting into position for waves and setting up for them.
  • Get your hold luggage down to 20kg to avoid punitive excess baggage charges.
These skills will allow to concentrate on kite and board techniques for riding waves.

The accommodation and food were excellent, and I really enjoyed morning walks in the quiet countryside and along the beaches.  

Here all my photos from the wave camp:

2010-08-02 Wave camp day 1

2010-08-03 Wave camp day 2

2010-08-04 Wave camp day 3

2010-08-05 Wave camp day 4

2010-08-06 Wavecamp day 5 kitecam and kite video

2010-08-08 Wave camp day 7 return to Seminyak

I really learnt a lot from the camp and I enjoyed the coaching style of both Ben and Bruce.  I now have a range of basic kitesurfing skills to practice and build a solid foundation for wave riding in big surf. This opens a whole new dimension of this incredible sport to me.

Getting a kite tow in to a huge wave then surfing it just like a surfer offers great appeal - and you don't have to spend all that effort paddling out then waiting in a lineup to catch it.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Bali wave camp day 6 - a good last day in mellow surf

Session 99, 7 August 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14
Wind 15 knots
Waves around 1 to 2m .

The wind came in again at noon, which made it six days in a row.   The waves were not so big today so getting out was easy.

Once out I again focussed on getting upwind, which was not too difficult early on.  I got in good position for some waves and rode a couple in.  There were not many big sets however so I didn’t ride any very big ones.  I was switching feet again so I surfed in goofy footed.

I didn't try sending the kite down the line as I thought I would keep some speed up and stay in front if the wave got bigger.  Having the kite flying with no pull down the line and then just surfing the wave takes a bit of getting used to.

I stayed out most of the day.  I have got used to the waist harness so it doesn’t bother me now and feels quite comfortable.  I saw a few fish out in the blue water past the murky river water.

It was a lovely sunny day and the wind kept up for most of it.  After I finished I tried unhooking on the beach; it worked fine.  I got overpowered a bit once but grabbing on the chicken loop and rehooking it works well.

All in, a great finish for the trip.  We have had wind every day and some great waves.

My skills progression for directional boards is to master toeside riding upwind - in hindsight I should have done more of this before coming.  

Friday, August 06, 2010

Bali wave camp day 5 - great sessions in the surf

Session 98

Switchblade 14
Wind 15 - 20 knots
Waves – around 1.5 to 2.5m

The waves were not so big today. I got out without much trouble.  Once out I concentrated on getting upwind, switching feet.  I then rode toeside into the surf zone and had a couple of good runs in on unbroken and smaller waves

2010-08-06 Wavecamp day 5 kitecam and kite video

It is very difficult to get the rear foot into the strap when riding toeside, you need to slow down to reset the stance.

I was feeling much more confident today, the situation seemed less daunting, and I was determined to have a go at a few waves.

On one run in I ended up riding toeside extremely fast as a went downwind, even with the bar sheeted out, but I was able to maintain control.  I still have some difficulty keeping the speed up toeside, but not this time.  The key for me is to enter toeside with a fast turn, and the rear foot already out of the strap.

I was able to do a few turns in the waves and keep ahead of trouble.  I tried the figure 8 setup and sure enough the kite drifted down the line, with absolutely no power.  This seemed really weird as I as I was not really surfing a wave.  This technique means you can surf waves with virtually no pull from the kite.

I landed at the shore for launch and to reset the kitecam from stills to video for the next trip out.

In total I went out four times. On the last occasion the wind had dropped which made it difficult to get out, and I ended up in the “trough of disillusionment” and got smacked by a couple of broken waves.  I persevered and got out however. The light wind made it difficult to make good progress; I cruised past the gnarly rocks glad to be clear of them, then came back in further upwind.  I decided to head for shore while I still had wind and got in without difficulty.

The kitecam stills and video came out well.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bali wave camp day 4 - huge surf and a downwinder

Session 97, 5 August 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14
Wind 15 - 20 knots
Waves - very big. 3m+

We did an early morning trip in a small bus to Medewi where there is a good reef break popular with surfers, but with a stony shoreline and lots of sharp oysters.  I went for a nice walk around the area, talked to a local fishermen and had a look at the outrigger boats they go out fishing in.

The waves today were much bigger. Some huge sets were coming in and breaking across the entire bay, including across the rip.  Bruce took a few of us down the next beach where there was good wide sand and smaller waves. Clyde and Amy walked down the Bruce, while Marty, Ian and I headed out and did a downwinder to the beach.

I waited for a quiet spell after a big set and got out without much trouble.  I headed out and came back in (switching) up to near the waves. Turning around I had a moment of panic when another huge set looked to be coming, so I scooted back out quick, cresting over a big big wave.

I then came back in toeside, with the kite higher in the sky than yesterday.  By this time Marty and Ian had showed up so we headed past the point and out a bit.  It seemed there was a huge surf between us and the beach, so I wondered if I could get in without a mishap.  As we tacked in I saw some flattish water and bolted in, getting to the beach without any problems.  I stopped and waited; Ian and Marty showed up and continued kiting, so I did some runs into the surf and back.

2010-08-05 Wave camp day 4

The break was not consistent, but there were some flat sections allowing for turns or switching feet.  I flew in to where Bruce was briefing the others and had a rest.

I headed out after a while back into the surf, but got dumped by a large broken wave and crashed the kite, which the Bali boy grabbed.  I reset the kite and went out again.  I was feeling fairly confident getting over the broken waves. but some were just too savage and big.  I crashed and relaunched my kite a couple of times, stacked with the kite flying too.  I didn't really get to surf the waves on the way in though.

On the last run I got dumped and tumbled again with the kite hitting the water. I nearly relaunched but some big waves loomed so I released it.  It then started sailing away along the shore.  I regretted not trying to relaunch it.  I chased after it padding the board but it was going faster than I was.  I then paddled to shore through the washing machine waves.  Just near shore I saw the Bali boy with my kite – it had been eventually swamped by a wave and washed straight in.

My helmet cam video card was full with deleted files so no recording from it today,

We packed up and walked back, my kite heavy with water and volcanic basaltic sand.  We got back to the main beach at 4:30pm, several of the guys were still out and having fun.  The surf was still big.  I pumped up my kite to dry it out and clean the sand off it.

Off the beach to the unit for a shower and a rest, then down for the 6pm video review, which went well, apart from Ken talking too much.  Some huge waves and huge sets.  Not a good day to get smashed by the water.

Sam ripped his 12m Switchblade down the middle so that kite is out of action.

General things emerging during video review included:
  • lower stance
  • shorter bottom turn
  • kite position – lower
  • follow the wave, don't come straight in
  • select the wave a long way out and ride it all the way in
  • don't try and catch waves that break a long way out with no wall
My personal gains on the day included:
  • More toeside riding with the rear foot forward, including in the surf
  • Climbing over broken waves better
  • Veering away from big waves to get out of trouble
  • Flying the kite higher to go upwind better

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bali Wave Camp day 3 - big waves and good wind

Session 96, 4 August 2010
Kite: Switchblade 14
Wind: Around 15 knots
Waves: 1.5 to 2m

Had a massage at 8am which was the best I have ever had.

Went for a walk in the morning between 7 and 8 down to a resort; they have their own private cove and beach, and the views along the main beach were impressive, as well as back to the break.  There is a large sea cave at the end of the beach too.

An outrigger canoe came in to the middle of the long beach, which also had a break as big as the main break at the far end of it.

The locals were dressed in finery and seemed to be participating in a ceremony in a house I passed along the way.

2010-08-04 Wave camp day 3

We had some more theory in morning followed by lunch
  • pop knees up the height of the white water you are about to cross
  • if crest coming, turn away to reduce impact, then turn back out after it has broken
  • big broken water coming - jump of board completely and do a "bomb shape" to reduce flailing
  • slow down for broken waves - if you hit them too fast you can launch - if no straps you are off the board.
  • 2nd half of figure 8 setup - when going out and a good wave presents, turn kite, then turn board to get on wave.
My task for the day was to ride toeside on my "natural" stance so I can get setup for waves properly

I headed out for the first and was nearly out, but another kite looming up coming in, I checked my speed and stopped.  The kite dipped down in the wind hole and landed.  Shit.  I popped my safetys and surfed in on the board.  The wind speed had dropped too so all kites were in.

We sat on the beach for a while and chatted.  At about 2:30 the wind picked up and Bruce headed out.

I got out with no trouble, but I had to slow down a bit to avoid launching over a lip.  Once out I was well powered on the 14. I went out the blue water and did one foot swap to make some ground.

On the next trip out I tried toeside riding.  Initially, I lost speed and board bogged down bringing me to a halt.  I then reset direction and tried a carved turn to generate more speed.  This worked, and I was off and going.  I found leaning well over the board away from the kite helped, and reaching out with my right hand free of the bar.  Keeping both hands on the bar tends to pull my body back toward the kite and disrupt the stance.  I was able to bring my rear foot forward, in fact leaving it there for the turn helped.  I was able to hold my ground for a while and get used to it.

I did three runs in toeside - the most I have ever done.

I ended up close to the rocks, which are quite daunting. A bomby off the point, and waves breaking onto cliffs.  I headed out on a longish tack to regain some ground upwind, then returned heel side.

Coming into the beach it all looked good. I entered the rip, then cruised in fast behind a broken wave.  The shore came up very quickly, then the beach break looked like dumping me onto a band of pebbles on the beach.  I got off the board, was dumped in the quite savage shore break and then crashed my kite in the water.

It really is a tough location in many ways.

Things to try tomorrow
  • keep kite higher to go upwind
  • carve a turn from toeside to heelside (necessary of getting on a wave)
  • more toeside riding

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bali Wave Camp day 2 - good wind and first major theory

Session 95, 3 August 2010

Kites - Switchblade 14, then Switchblade 10 then "borrowed" Switchblade 12
Wind - 20 - 23 knots
Waves 1 to 2m

Went for a swim in the morning.  There is a savage rip so swimming without fins is very difficult.  I struggled back to the waves breaking on the pebble bar but was not able to catch any cleanly. I got washed in back to the beach.  There was a drowning fatality here last week. I am not surprised, the beach is very dangerous due to the savage rip and strong crossflow into it.

2010-08-03 Wave camp day 2

I then went for a walk up to the main road to have a look around.  Lots of people living quietly in the area, and a few shops on the main road.  The beach area is undergoing a lot of development; it could well be a resort area within a few years.

I was more confident going out, but smacked into the crest of a wave just breaking which was a wall of water, stopping my dead in my tracks. I flew the kite out, and ducked under a couple of broken waves, with the board dangling on the leash.  After the set came through I got going again without too much trouble.

I was not able to get much upwind on the 14, it felt a bit overpowered, so I swapped over to the 10.  It felt better - less pull and more relaxing.  The wind picked up a bit and I was able make some ground upwind.

I got on one swell and rode it in.  Dropping into the rip gave me the option of resetting the board without being smashed by any waves.s

Later in the day I got on another wave, but came straight in. The kite lost power and I lost speed, then got caught by the wave.

On the last run I tried the figure 8 move, but couldn't really get it happening. I reverted to my flying the kite style I use on the bay rollers in Melbourne.

Did heaps of riding with the rear foot just behind the front foot, in both directions.  It felt better today and I had no mishaps.

I tried toeside riding, and got going better this time, but not comfortably.  I was loosing ground and going downwind a bit so I stopped after a short distance.  Toeside riding is difficult for me.  I was not able to try out bring my rear foot formard.

Getting out of the rip the last time I drifted into another wave zone closer to the "no go" rocks. Here the waves were smashing me, so I gave up trying to get out and body dragged on the board to the beach, and walked back.  Bruce asked me if it was my kite, I said "yes it was" then realised it wasn't. I had taken Sam's S12 out mistakenly, it has identical colours to mine.  Tip: Double check your kite.  That explained whey the depower was set on, which I did not remember doing!The waist harness is riding up and chafing at my lower ribs, which are now a bit sore to touch.  Right now I am wishing I had my seat harness (nappy), but the goal is to get better using it.

Tired at the end of the day.  The bali boys are great with the kites and helping out, retrieving kites and boards washed in, pumping up kites and carrying all the gear down there too.  I carry my gear back to the storage location and take my board, helmet & booties back to the villa.

Overall the quality if riders is very good, a hard core crew and very committted.  I feel like a beginner again, and a couple of others have remarked the same.

I am going to try and book a massage tonight.

Some rules
  • Going out, kite down over waves
  • Fly the kite, fly the kite, fly the kite
  • If in doubt, fly the kite out (over the waves)
  • Front foot, back foot, lower stance
  • Turn the kite, turn the board
Getting onto wave (left break)
  • Approach tacking right
  • Turn the kite left
  • Turn the kite right (figure 8)
  • Turn the board left
  • Follow the kite, stay on the wave
General tips

  • If in big surf off the board, duck dive under the wave, dip the kite down (kite out behind the wave).  While under, pull on bar to bring the kite back up.
  • When riding toeside, take the rear foot out and bring it behind the front foot to go upwind better.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bali wave camp day 1 - into the surf without delay

Session 94, 2 August 2010

Kite Switchblade 14
Wind 15 knots
Waves 2m

I booked onto the second Ben Wilson Bali Accelerator Kitesurf Camp this year that ran from 2 to 8 August.  Ben is at the forefront of kitesurfing big waves - he is one of the best in the world at this.

I have a copy of his Smack video which provides great information and tips about kitesurfing waves, but I decided that the opportunity to attend this trip and get expert coaching from both Ben and Bruce Exton would be a great way to learn faster with much lower risk of personal or equipment damage.

The next several posts detail my experiences on the camp.

You also read about my other experiences in Bali on my personal blog.

We met in Seminyak, a beach district north of Kuta and travellend to our destination for the camp - a lovely quiet spot with a nice surfing break.

About the location
The beach is not huge and there are some daunting cliffs and a very nasty bomby downwind.  This is not the place for inexperienced kiters, and there was not room for many more than on our camp - around 12 kiters. It is also not a good place to kite alone, there were dozens of kites retrieved downwind in a pumping surf by the Bali boys paid to do so.  The location is not publicised for these reasons.  Its basically not cool to just drop in when there is a camp in progress.

The first kiting session

We walked down to the beach and had a briefing from Ben and Bruce.  The basic warning was to watch out for the cliff area on the west end of the beach, either coming in before it or bail out past it.

I took off into the 1.5m surf, jumping in at the deep end so to speak.  I got going then hit a couple of large broken waves which stopped me.  The kitet then fell from the sky in a hole in the wind, so I popped the safety and swam in the short distance to the shore.   Fully releasing the kite early is recommended to reduce the risk of waves ripping the kite, which is more likely if there is tension on the lines.

The local Balinese helpers (paid) retrieve the kite when it reaches the shore and carry it back to the launch location.  On a couple of occasions they carried my board for me when I walked back with the kite in the air.

I went quite a distance out and enjoyed the marvellous view back the headland, the dark sandy beaches, coconut palms and some inland hills.  There is little development in this area, so there is a lot of vegetation and green.

On one run in a large wave looming up.  I was heading for it but was a bit taken aback by its size, so I wussed off as it broke thunderingly in front with my sitting "on top of the falls".

Exciting stuff - the adrenlin was really pumping. Getting into surf is definately a new dimension and a whole new skill set.  This instructional course looks like a good way to get into it and minimise potential epics.

I mostly stayed out beyond the break and concentrated on staying upwind.  I turned around just before the surf zone and went back out.

I crashed the kite once quite a way out.  Having the board leash was great, as I was able to leave the board and concentrate on relaunching the kite.  The leash did get tangled a few times when I reset my feet for direction changes.  This doesn't happen if you ride toe down one way and heelside the other.

A downwinder was tempting,

New things today
  • Board leash - this is good to have but a bit tricky to fit. The technique is to fly the kite overhead, let go with both hands and quickly do up the ankle strap, and then grab the bar.  It sounds easy but is a bit tricky. Conversely, the leash is best removed as soon as you reach the shore.
  • Getting out through surf- speed is good as it helps punch through and over waves. 
  • I changed the way I attached my safety system. I put the leash clip on the chicken loop buckle below the bar rather than through the ring of the IDS line. There are actually 3 releases - the main above the bar loop, the IDS line (with a dicky velcro attachment around a pin), then at the bar where the leash attaches.  Practicing the release system is highly recommended. 
  • I used the waist harness, which worked well, but did get a bit sore under the ribs.