Thursday, July 30, 2009

Upwind to flat water near the Mowbray River mouth

Session 55: Thursday 30 July 2009
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
  • Wind: 20+ knots (est)
  • Low Isles wind: 9am SSE 35 km/h 3pm SE 48 km/h
  • Duration: 2 hours 12:00 to 2:00pm
Last day in paradise. Did a 75km bike ride up past Mossman through Miallo.

Visited 4 Mile Park on the way home. There was wind but not kiters on the water. Lee had his kite inflated and was getting ready to go out. Mal was there too, tossing up between his windsurfer and his kite.

Had some food and a nap then headed down to the water. Lightly equipped this time. Board shorts and rash vest - "almost naked". No wetsuit, vest or surf socks. The aim was to keep most of my kit dry so I could post it home later in the afternoon.

I headed out on the 14m kite. The wind was initially enough to get the kite going. I did a few runs and completed by first kite down turn (to the left, not the right) which went well. Certainly generates more power and keeps the board going fast. Just need to spin the bar half a turn to uncross the lines.

The wind picked up to about 20 so I depowered the kite and concentrated on going upwind as much as possible. It is certainly easy to go upwind without too much speed. I decided to head up towards the Mowbray Mouth as I saw some kites up there in the distance.

Here is the wind chart for the Low Isles from Seabreaze.

It was good fun getting into the small surf, running down and across it on a left tack and heading straight out against it on the right tack.

Eventually I was close to some flat water and decided to head to it over some shallow water. However, it was a bit too shallow, the board stopped and I fell off and into the sand. I wasn't going very fast so I did not get hurt. I did a few more tacks then slowed right down and found a section where there was enough water to cross, then I was in the lagoon.

By now the other kites had arrived. They were on a downwinder and were all good kiters. I found out later they were from Cairns. They were getting good speed and doing some good jumps on the flat water. I avoided jumping due to the shallowness of the water.

I did some really nice fast runs once I had scoped out the water. Some large fish about, possible some rays, so not a good place to wallow about. I did not get up as far as the Mowbray River mouth so crocs were not a major concern.

Towards 2pm I started heading back. Trying more wakestyle downwind riding. It is quite different from normal upwind riding. More edge changes, more upright, rapid direction changes of both board and kite. More progressions to practice.

Then I did some very fast skimming reaches to get back to the beach. A wonderful session and a great way to finish the trip.

I chatted to Mal, a grey nomad from Traralgon up north for the winter, while my gear dried in the wind. He said there was virtually no wind in June for 3 weeks, and only 1 good kiting day a week for the first half of July so it seems I have been lucky this time with the weather.

Later in the afternoon I loaded a lot of the heavier gear into my wheelie luggage and caught the bus into Port Douglas where I found a couple of boxes, borrowed some packing tape from Something Tropical, packed the gear and posted it. The total prices was about $70, which is much better than the $240 excess I was charged on the way up.

Out of the 8.5 days available for kiting, I kited on 7 of them, all good sessions, and went bush walking on one. Five good bike rides on different todays. An outstanding success. Great variety from downwinders to flat water riding and small surf, all with very good wind. A good way to consolidate skills and work on progressions.

I used the 12m Crossbow once, not particularly successfully, the 14m Switchblade all the other times. I did not use the 7m kite once.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Over four hours kiting at 4 Mile Beach

Session 54: Wednesday 29 July 2009
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
  • Wind: 20+ knots (est)
  • Low Isles wind: 9am SSE 52 km/h 3pm SSE 43 km/h
  • Max speed: 40.3
  • Trip: 44.6
  • Logged time: 2:00
  • Average speed: 22.1
The forecast 20 knots blew most of the day. The others needed for the downwinder to Cape Kimberly bailed so we couldn't do the tour, but 4 mile was on fire. Some headed for Cooktown, but there was plenty of good wind at 4 mile.

Got on the water about 10:30 after resting from the morning bike ride. The wind was strong and consistent. Zee from Melbourne had arrived at 4 mile for the first time so I gave him sone tips and he launched my kite.

The 14m kite was lit up so I de powered it to make the ride easier. There was a turtle feeding behind the reef. I saw it 4 times. Each time as I got closer it dived when it saw me. The last time I was heading straight at it and our eyeballs met.

I got lofted on a direction time and landed on my arse on the reef, but my harness took the impact without me getting injured.

Turning from left tack to right tack is a less fluid than from right to left. I tend to stall the board and then dive the kite to get going. Not good when over the reef. One big jump landed heavily, but my harness and vest cushioned my impact on the water.

Jumping ok on both sides now. I tried my first kite down turn - it generated a lot more power and pulled me forwards. Lee advised letting the board slip downwind to maintain control.

I did some reasonable toe down riding on both right and left (harder) tacks for practice. It is nice to carve a fast turn from the toe down position. I worked upwind behind the surf break into flat water on the shallow reef. The disadvantage is that you end up over the reef and have to be careful. It is also where the turtle was hanging out.

I got right upwind towards the Mowbray River mouth too, then wakestyled downwind back to the main beach. I had a break after an hour or so and grabbed some food and my SLR camera from the flat. Took some photos of the kiting and around 4 mile beach.

I kited for another 1.5 hours after lunch but my GPS batteries gave out so I did not get the full log. My numbness in the hands was not so bad today. I varied the grip a bit and shook it out while riding.

I finished around 4:00pm which coincided with the wind dropping below 20 knots and packed away the kite on the grass. The fabric of the kite now has a crazed appearance - I will check this out when I get back.

All in all a very consistent wind day and excelling kiting, with some skills progression and good jumping. 4 mile at its best.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ripping in a late afternoon storm

Session 53: Tuesday 28 July 2009
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
  • Wind: 23+ knots (est)
  • Low Isles wind: 9am S 22 km/h 3pm SSE 41 km/h
  • Max speed: 32.3
  • Trip 16.8
  • Logged time: 1:02
  • Average: 16.2
The forecast 20 to 30 knots did not eventuate. A few storms were passing out to sea, but not much wind at 4 mile so the downwinder did not eventuate.

I visited the supermarket for more supplies, admiring the fruit bat colony hanging over the bike path on the way there. Stocked up with some friut, crumpets and muffins.

Visited the the beach later in the morning. Brett turned up and went into town so I caught a lift into town. Updated my blog and Facebook and checked my email at the Wicked Ice Cream Internet cafe. The mango and lemon gelati was excellent. We grabbed a coffee then headed back to 4 mile. Brett dropped my at the corner cafe where I finished my Internet activities then headed back to Doug's for a light lunch.

Back to the beach at about 2:30. Chatted to a local about GPS units and software for kiting. He recommended and NAVI GTR.

The wind sprang up so I setup my kite, then it fizzed. Chatted to Tomas about progressions. Brett recommends a downward kite turn. Tomas said it is a more powerful turn and you have to make the turn tight. He also said that a kiteloop when jumping is good, and to pull the loop just after the apex of a jump.

The wind picked up a little so I headed out. Not much power so I had to fly the kite and ended up a few hundred meters down the beach after a few tacks.

Walking back the wind picked up a little and a storm front was approaching so I headed out. The storm hit and the wind lifted to 25+ knots which gave me plenty of power and upwind direction. I was stretching out to hold the bar so I ended up de powering the kite which then made it quite manageable.

I was a bit nervous about having the 14 lit up, but it was good to fly. There were two others out. We were really moving in the wind and rain. I turned on my helmet cam half way through, having now got the hang of using the controls when in motion. Two beeps for on, 1 beep for recording, 2 beeps for stop recording, and 2 beeps for power off.

No problems going up wind, and the jumping was not a problem. I was surprised that I didn't jump higher considering the strength of the wind.

The wind dropped after about an hour so I came in and packed up in the rain then headed back to the unit for a rest and a snack.

Brett called to advise the downwinder from 4 mile to Cape Kimberley was on again for tomorrow with the boat arranged. His father Peter will be the skipper. The forecast is for 30 knots again so I am faced with a dilemma about which kite to take. In theory the 12m Crossbow would be ideal, but the bar pressure is a worry. The 14m Switchblade is much better if the wind drops and is also good for going downwind. De powered, it is quite manageable.

My hands get sore after an hour of kiting, my right hand in particular goes a bit numb. Gloves don't seem to prevent this. This could be a limiting factor for long downwinders.

Cookie said he is going for a bike ride up the hill tomorrow so I may go along if it is not raining.

My stay here is nearly over. It has been worth having enough time to wait for good kiting opportunities and try different options. My kiting has exceeded expectations.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Downwinder from Pretty Beach to 4 mile beach

Session 52: Monday 27 July 2009
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
  • Wind: 15-22 knots (est)
  • Low Isles wind: 9am SW 17 knots 3pm SE 33 knots
  • Duration: 2 hours approx
  • Max speed: 39.4
  • Trip: 41.1
  • Logged time: 2:08
  • Avg: 19.2

Video of the trip shot with a helmet cam

Track Log map, starting at Pretty Beach in the south

A big downwinder. Fantastic. From Pretty beach to Port Douglas. Got going into around 20 knots with some warm up upwind tacks. Then we headed downwind.

A dramatic backdrop of mountains with the Cairns road visible around the headlands.

Into the beach for some playtime in the small surf. The young fella with us crashed his kite near the beach, we could see him as we rounded a point. The wind dropped. I had to fly the kite hard and could only just keep planing.

Brett headed back into a cove to wait for young fella. I headed out to find more wind. Scanning back I saw him propped. Eventually I decided to keep going while I had the wind. I tacked out a long long way into no mans land. A long way to Port visible in the distance, mangroves along the shore. I came into the shallows for some flatter water, the wind picking up strength. Really nice kiting.

On my furthest reach out I was startled by a large splash nearby - something big and black.

Probably a Dugong as I did not see any fins and it went right under. Bigger than a turtle.

I turned around and headed in towards the Mowbray River mouth.

Wary of the river, I tacked back out. The sandy end of 4 mile beach was visisble so I was near home. I cruised in with a couple of fast tacks and landed at the kitebeach, very glad to have made it without incident.

Brett and the young fella eventually showed up. They travelled closer to the shore kiting on the flat water between an outer reef/sandbank and the shore.

Models doing a photoshoot in swimwear on the beach. Bretto got them to model with one of his kiteboards.

Picked up the car then had lunch. Went out for another session from 4 mile but the wind was not very strong and it was an anticlimax after the downwinder.

Here is a larger scale map of the route showing Cairns and Port Douglas.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

A downwinder along 4 mile to the surf club in good wind

Session 51: Sunday 26 July 2009
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
  • Wind: 18-25 knots (est)
  • Low Isles wind: 9am SSE 33 km/h 3pm SSE 41 km/h
  • Duration: 2 hours approx
  • Max speed: 37.4
  • Trip 29.2
  • Logged time: 1:17
Dried the kites out after the morning bike ride (to Ellis Beach), then wandered across to the Treetops foyer to get a forecast. There chalkboard is not in use any more but the guy behind the counter looked up Seabreeze. 15-20 knots was forecast for the afternoon.

The palm trees around were waving, so I estimated the wind at above 20knots. I rang Bretto - he said the wind had just dropped - so I took the 12m and 14m kites to the 4 mile park.

All (30) kites on the beach when I got there at about 1:30pm. Pumped up and chatted to some locals. They were complaining about the beach being too popular and talking of kiting elsewhere. It was not crowded by Victorian standards.

The breeze picked up at about 2:30 so I headed out. Fast tacks. Got in a couple of jumps on the right tack. Practising toe down riding. I can do it on the right, but not the left tack. Went a long way out and back. A few beginner riders nearer the shore. I was a bit wary after yesterday's crossed lines so I gave them a wide berth.

Went out to near some 3 cats. Two fish jumped fast out of the water around me. OK if they were scared of me as a potential predator, but not so good if a real predator (such as a shark) was around so I scooted back in.

After about 1 hour I noticed a couple of kites going downwind. Thinking it was Bretto's downwinder I followed. Fast planing. Nice not have to keep edging and have a look around.

I travelled out then back into the waves. Had to be careful jumping as the wind was getting stronger and the water near the beach is shallow. The wind was getting stronger so I depowered the kite about 50%. I went out a bit past the point then returned to the smalll surf. Caught the board in a wave once and had to retrieve it in the shallow water.

Quite a swell building up out further. After a few tacks close to the lifesaving flags I started scoping out a landing. One of the two kiters was way upwind, the other eventually went into the beach where his girlfriend landed his kite. It was too good an opportunity to pass up so I came to shore and he landed my kite.

Here is the GPS track log.

We chatted briefly. He was a Russian, with accommodation just nearby. No wind in Russia this time of year apparently.

Self landing could have been dicey as the wind was nearly onshore and there were people walking on the beach. Flagging the kite with the IDS would work but actually getting it to
land on the sand would be the hard bit. No sign of Bretto, so it looked like I had to find my own way back.

I carried the kite along the beach to the ramp, deflated it and carried it onto the grass where I rolled it up and secured it within the harness. Stopped for a coffee and biscuit then walked into town along Macrossan St. Doug was not in the shop, so I caught a shuttle bus back to Treetops, walked through to leave my gear at the unit, then onto the kite beach to pickup the bike, the other kite and get my key.

A great day kiting in paradise again. My helmet cam attracted quite a bit of attention.

However, the long recording to the end of the card doesn't have a properly terminated file. It seems that turning record of manually is advisable to ensure the recording files are appropriately created.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

An epic session at 4 mile brings up 50

Session 50: Saturday 25 July 2009
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
  • Wind: 15-23 knots (est).
  • Low Isles wind 9am SSE 26 km/h 3pm SSE 33 km/h
  • Duration: 3 hours approx
  • Max speed: 40.2
  • Trip 16.4
  • Logged time: 1:15
Checked the beach out at about 10:00 and there was wind, so I got my gear and the 14m kite and headed for the kiting location.

The wind was blowing above 20knots so I scooted back on the bicycle to get my 12m kite.

As I was just about to head off from the beach one beginner flew his kite across mine crossing the lines. I pulled my safety. Once flagged I disconnected the leash and threaded it back over his lines then clipped in again. Watch out for beginners,

Once on the water, the wind dropped a little so I went out and back then walked back along the beach.

There was an offshore rainstorm, the wind was perhaps associated with it. I pumped up my 14m kite in anticipation of more wind.

It came it at about 1:30pm so I headed out. Fast cruising, quite a distance offshore. Jumping on a left tack (my strong side) is now fairly easy, but jumping on my right tack is not. I seem to have trouble getting the edge release and much height. The kite tends to wallow a bit and lurch forward.

I practiced some toedown riding - which feels OK on a right tack but quite weird on a left tack. More practice required.

I ran the webcam for and got a little footage, incluing Bretto instructing on the beach. I also had the GPS on for a while too.

Heaps of speed and lots of runs. There would have up to 15 kites on the water when it got busy, and a couple of windsurfers.

The kiting was great for about two hours. I came in feeling tired in the arms and a bit numb in the hands. Love this 14m kite.

I rested on the beach for a while and headed out for another half hour when the wind picked up again. Another squall was coming so I came in and packed up both kites which were wet and sandy, before loading up the bike for the cycle home.

This one day has made the trip worthwhile.

Bretto has a downwinder planned for Sunday, a tour to Low Isles for Monday and a boat trip out to Undine Cay on Tuesday with a possible tour option from their to Daintree Cape Tribulation for an overnight stay.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Warm water at Port Douglas

Session 49: Thursday 23 July 2009
  • Wind SE 15 knots (est)
  • Low Isles wind: 9am WSW 13 km/h 3pm SE 31 km/h
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
A good session. Out for about an hour at about 2:30pm. Then the wind dropped.

Great scenery, and warm water.

Not much wind about in the morning, but it seemed to picking up a bit around midday. I returned to my unit for lunch. I noticed the tops of nearby palm trees were swaying in the wind, so I got my gear organised into the backpack and cycled down to the kite beach.

About 3 others were already out and the wind was good. Into the warm water about 2:00pm then off. Good speed. I did one longish run to where I could see around the Port Douglas headland to the distant Thornton Peak. 4 mile beach is a great place to kite. The mountainous backdrop behind the palm tree lined beach is interesting to view from sea. The tide was heading out so the reef was exposed. It is an easy walk out to the water over sand.

But don't launch with kite near the palms - fly the kite over the beach.

I did one good jump. Then on one run the wind died and my kite fell from the sky. I relaunched it without much trouble and elected to get back into shore and stay closer in. A good move as it turned out; the wind lost its strength to I did a few runs drifting downwind and then walked back up the beach. This first session had lasted about 1 hour and my right wrist was a bit sore and in need of a rest.

A few locals had assembled near the beach hut watching proceedings, and one pupil was undergoing instruction with the Windswell kitesurfing school. Until very recently, there has not been much wind about.

After a sojourn on the beach the wind picked up a bit so I headed out at about 4pm with a couple of others. Not quite enough wind to stay upwind though, so I did an out and back then walked back along the beach.

A couple of locals did a downwinder to the surf club at the other end the beach and eventually made it.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

A lucky breeze at Gnotuk

Session 48
  • Location: Gnotuk Avenue
  • Wind: 12 to 15, westerly
  • Time: about 1 hour
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
I headed for Gnotuk after today's bike race at Casey Fields near Cranbourne. I was lucky enough to win in A grade by about 10cm.

The Fawkner and South Channel beacons were showing some SSW wind and my kiting gear was still in the car after yesterday. There was not a lot of wind when I arrived, but a few squalls were visible across the bay. Nobody else was there - was this going to be futile? Did the locals know better?

I donned by cold wet wetsuit, set the kite up, and launched it with the help of a bystander (who knew how to launch kites).

After a bit of "shorebreak flailing" the wind picked up and off I went. I did a couple of good runs to the south - about 2km down along the beach - and even managed a jump. Once again that feeling of freedom and speed.

I was a bit tired after the racing and holding the right tack for a while was tough, but coming back was fine. The wind tapered off after about 15 minutes so I walked back a short distance along the beach. Some locals had showed up. They get a free parking pass for the coastal reserves, which would make Gnotuk more attractive as the parking is expensive.

I landed the kite and waited for about 30 minute, then another wind front arrived so I headed out again. This time it was easier to stay upwind heading north. Some good kiting again. The others were quickly pumping up their kites but by the time they were ready the wind eased again. It is best not to travel to far in conditions like these our you might face a long walk back.

Three lads of Indian descent were on the beach taking photos and came up to me for a chat and a photo opportunity. Kiting certainly appeals to onlookers. They were very complementary.

That was it for the day. No more wind fronts followed so I headed home.

Great to kite at a new location. One of the locals said the downwinder from there to St Kilda via Ricketts was good to do. The also go to Frankston and Parkdale. Opportunities abound, but more wind is needed than what winter offers.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Kitesurfing distance records

I have been researching kitesurfing distance records out of interest. I really enjoyed the downwinder we did from Ricketts Point to Hampton. It really piqued my curiosity about how far people have actually travelled with a kite and what may be possible.

So far, the best documented distance record I can find is that of Kirsty Jones who set a distance record for a kiteboard when she travelled 225km (140 miles), crossing from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Tarfaya, Morocco, in about nine hours on May 13, 2006. Here is a video of Kirsty's feat.

A record combination of distance and speed of 207 km in 5h 30 was set by Raphaël Salles, Marc Blanc and Sylvain Maurain on July 24, 2007 between Saint Tropez and Calvi, beating Manu Bertin's previous record of 6h 30 for the same journey. Their average speed was almost 38 km/h.

I have updated the kitesurfing article in Wikipedia with this information.

Allison Shreeve attempted to windsurf across Bass Strait on 26 March 2009. The planned route was 130 Nautical Miles (250km) between Stanley in Tasmania to Inverloch in Victoria. However, she abandoned the attempt out due to mild hypothermia and cramps around 80 kilometres off the Victorian coast late on Thursday afternoon after leaving Tasmania just after 7.30am (AEDT). She had to contend with strong winds soon after leaving Stanley on Tasmania's northwest coast and suffered cramps early in the crossing.

Only one other person has ever windsurfed across Bass Strait before - Nick Maloney, who took 21 hours to manage the feat in 1998.

  1. Tampa Bay area kiteboarders take aim at distance record, Terry Tomalin, St. Petersburg Times, February 27, 2009
  2. - Long Distance record
  3. Allison Shreeve - Bass Strait Challenge 2009
  4. Honourable exit for Bass Strait windsurfer

A cool westerly at Hampton

Session 47
  • Location: Hampton Beach
  • Wind: 12 to 15, westerly
  • Time: about 1 hour
  • Kite: Switchblade 14m
Some good wind was forecast today, so Stuart and I headed down to Hampton. There wasn't much wind when we arrived at about 10:45 but it looked like some might be coming so we rigged up. There was hardly enough wind to self launch. We got our kites in the air then did some slow and difficult runs in light wind along the shore, then walked back.

I ended up in the surf half beached with the small shorebreak pounding into the back of my head. Light wind really puts the focus on technique. You have to get board speed up to get going, and not try for to much upwind, or you just bog down and stop.

Reminder to learners: it is harder to learn in light winds.

I was contemplating having a go unhooked, but then the wind picked up. We both had several good runs out and back. Not quite enough for jumping. I am really glad I bought the 14m kite for days like this.

A squall was visible out in the bay which could have contained lightning and may have had stronger wind gusts, so we stopped at about 12:45, in time for me to race back and accompany Lena and Chloe to Princess Wishes (Disney on Ice) which was actually pretty good.

Stuart and I spoke about how great it was to get going for even a brief session, and the incredible buzz you get kitesurfing. We both compare it to the joy of skiing powder, and that its much easier and convenient to go kiting frequently than it is to seek out powder.

If you are thinking about taking up kitesurfing I really recommend you give it a try. Book some lessons and go for it.