Thursday, November 24, 2011

Test-driving the Mystic Warrior III waist harness

I have been waiting a while now that the wind will be favourable for testing my new waist harness. I have just converted from a seat harness to this new and fancy waist harness with the hope of improving my kitesurfing skills. Apart from the things mentioned in my previous post on my new harness, I was really hoping that with the new harness I would progress faster and be more maneuverable in my lower body for wave riding. So, the first day that came for me to test my new harness was 2 days ago.

Day 1

The wind wasn't very strong, around 10 knots. I used my Cabrinha Swichblade 10 and hooked in. The first thing I found was that there was something missing on my harness to click in, but then realized later that the missing safety hook I have on my waist harness is just positioned at a different spot. So I eventually went in without being clipped to the safety hook. No real issue, the only problem is that I might loose my kite in case of emergency, but with such a weak wind, I very much doubted that. The sea was a bit choppy with a lots of sets rolling in, so no clean face waves, just whitewash spoiling an otherwise beautiful day.

My first concern was the take-off. Was I going to be able to stand up, seeing that the kite will be pulling from a different point? No issues in getting up, actually managed to get up in very low wind with no effort. Approaching the first small wave, clearing it was no issue. So basically everything was feeling the same. It did however feel as if my lower body was doing its own thing underneath me, but isn't that what I was hoping for...?

Day 2

If the conditions were "bad" on Day 1, then Day 2 was worse. The wind was at 20 knots gusting to over 30, the waves were significantly bigger and the sea more choppy. Definitely not the perfect day to further test my harness, but I still wanted to feel what it can do and if the transition was going to be easy. I was quite pleased after Day 1, so I was hoping Day 2 would seal it. I went out with my Cabrinha Nomad 7 seeing that I was just about to have "lift-off" from the beach where I was standing wondering if I should take my 10 or 7 kite.

When I entered the water I realized for the first time that this was not the seat harness I was used to. Because of the strong wind I inevitably had to keep my kite straighter up than normal and that immediately did what everybody else was complaining pulled the harness from my waist up to my torso. I still managed to start relatively easy and was heading to encounter my first wave when I felt a bit reluctant to do the first jump. Unfortunately for me the decision wasn't mine and I made quite some air before I landed perfectly and continued my ride further in. I did feel different than my seat harness jumps and instead of feeling like I was flying (like in my paragliding harness), it felt like someone was lifting me from under my arms. The position of the harness was uncomfortable and I could feel it.

The second thing I noticed was that I was losing ground and was going downwind with each turn. Because the harness was further away from my feet, I was finding it harder to dig my heel in, resulting in losing grip that prevents me from going upwind. I stopped on the beach, pulled the harness down and went in again. This time it was better, but then the third problem arose. When I did my jibe and brought the kite over, the harness was pulled back up to my torso, leaving me back from where I started. Even with the jibe I couldn't dig in to do a short turn and at times I was actually lifted from the water as I brought the kite over. I lost my board twice while doing this, something which haven't happened in many months now.

What bothered me the most was that the harness close to my chest was actually making it difficult to breath, so more than once I pulled in my stomach with the hope of getting it down. This had the opposite effect. I remembered someone telling me that I should fly my kite lower, but with the strong wind I was going too fast and was thinking that if the sea wasn't that choppy that it might actually work. Today it didn't, I was going to hit a speed bump and swim hours to recover my board. I was not not in the mood for that.

So to be honest, today I felt like a beginner again. The kite was pulling me around, I lost my board on various occasions, I swallowed water and I had to do the "walk of shame" about four times.  I will however keep using the harness until I am just as comfortable with it as I am with my seat harness. I have already experience the possible "freedom" I am going to have on the water and waves with this new harness, but for now I need to work on getting my heel in and keeping the harness around my waist. I might also have to fasten it tighter, get rid of my beer belly and work on my pecs. That might keep the harness down and solve the problem ;-)

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