Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Embarrasing Floater

Today was the perfect day for kite surfing. Well for me, almost perfect. I went to the beach after checking my favourite web cam and seeing that kites are being launched one after the other. Although the wind prediction was quite strong, it turned out to be much less than what was predicted, making it perfect for my size 10 kite. (I only have one kite and is thinking that a smaller kite might come in handy for stronger winds). To top it all, the waves were relatively small and the water very flat. Even the temperature was quite acceptable, despite the strong southeastern of the past couple of days.

I had a ball of a time, practising my jibes, my wave surfing and my jumps. All were coming together quite nice. But then it happened, what I always fear most, second to dropping the kite in the water. I lost my board.  I stopped using a leash a while ago after I did a full session without a leash. I broke the fourth one in an unexpected jump. It is dangerous to kite with a leash on. If you get airborne or tea-bagged, your board stays behind in the water and when it gets released from the water, it shoots straight towards you. If the missile hits your head you could be in for some serious troubles. Blood, water, sharks, knocked-out...get the picture? The problem with kiting without a leash is that from time to time you get separated from your board. There is a technique on how to get it back, but it has always been a disaster for me. When you get separated from your board you tend to drift downwind much quicker that what the board does. The physics behind this is very easy to understand....object pulled by a 10 sqm kite compared with small object floating calmly on water less affected by the wind. So, the trick is to use a body dragging technique to pull yourself upwind while the board takes it time to float downwards. The problem with this is that it is ten times easier to explain than to actually perform. Each time you swallow a mouthful of sea water and lose concentration, your kite gets pulled up and you get dragged further down. In the end you are exhausted and not an inch closer to your board, despite all your efforts. If you are in luck, someone else might come to the rescue, grab your board and drop it downwind. This takes some skill as well and can only be executed by the more experienced kite boarders. When there are not many around you are left to your own devices. 

Upwind body drag technique
So, I dropped my board when I stopped to turn around (point A on photo), a couple of meter behind the Sely 1 and about 300 meter from the shore. I had water and suntan lotion in my eye and while I was struggling to release myself from the burning sensation in my eye, I also managed to release myself from my board at the same time. In my effort to paddle back, I lost control of my kite and was lifted a couple of meters further away from my board. I immediately started my body dragging technique but soon realised that I was wasting my time and instead was heading straight for the Sely 1 (point B). At this point someone else saw that I was separated from my board and indicated that he would get it for me while I allowed myself some tricky manoeuvres to steer away from the ship that was slowly approaching. The kind rescuer couldn't get hold of my board, dropped his kite twice in the process but successfully relaunched again. A second and a third kite boarder tried their luck in retrieving my board, but also with limited success. In the meantime I was floating downwind still trying to get back to my board, but at least steering clear from the ship. My board seemed to follow me, so close but yet so far. Only when the fourth guy came to assist, he managed to get hold of my board and took it to the shallower water. I was at point C when I got hold of it again. I got on and went in for a couple of meters before I turned around to make landfall (point D) nearly 30 minutes after this whole ordeal started. Thirty minutes of trying to get hold of my board, wasting energy and wasting time. But I made it out alive and still think it is better to kite without a leash. Much better to lose your board and reputation than losing your head I guess. Despite the wasted time it was still one of my more enjoyable sessions. I still need to work on that upwind body dragging technique, but I will do that when it is required again. I hope that is not going to be soon though. In retrospect this couldv'e been worse...it could've been my kite that was dropped....but ket's not go there right now.

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