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June 27, 2008 / TildeWill

Authentic Battle Damage

I got my training kite today!!! So right after work I [tried to] ride the bus to Chrissy Park, which I had checked out yesterday. I got there around 6:30 and cracked open my kite. I was pretty easy to set up, or so I thought, especially after I untied the kite from the ropes and retied them. I was on a beach and ready to fly. But everyone had their dogs out and I was pretty sure I was going to crash it more than a few times. It turns out that to self launch the kite, you have to set it up just right, so there’s a lot of “set the bar down, run up, flip the kite, put sand on the trailing edge, run back, untwist the lines, then, when it’s just right, pull the kite up… and the kite should do the rest. But it didn’t, it crashed, and it crashes hard.

A guy on the beach named CJ helped me launch it a few times, and he flew it with some success for a while, but noted that the kite didn’t want to stay still. I figured it was too much wind. He left and I crashed a few more times, some in the water. Now my kits is not only water logged, but sand is sticking to it like a champ. I’m pretty sure I’m kite-retarded at this point and decide to let the kite dry a bit as I inspect how it works.

It turns out that even though I’m not fencing, I am still a foilist. The kite design is called a foil, which for kites at least, means it has air intake on the leading [wind facing] edge. The kite is sealed on the trailing edge. The wind flows in, and provides structure to the kite. For comparison, the kite used to surf is a bow kite (there are some others too), but it does not have the same air intake set up that a foil kite has. Instead you inflate the leading edge and some structural struts. This has two advantages, one being that it floats in water, which is nice for umm water sports. Yes. The other, which has not been mentioned in any of the literature I’ve read thus far, is that crap doesn’t get IN the kite (ie. sand and water). What this means is that my training kite is not well suited for beach conditions, and would in fact provide a much more enjoyable experience in a park. Good to know.

I also notice that my kite has two sets of lines per side (that’s four sets for those of you playing at home. The same will be true of my surfing kite. In this case each set attaches to a single line, that then runs to the steering bar in my hands. There are back lines, which are closer to the trailing edge of the kite, and front lines, near the leading edge of the kite. I saw that on the right side, these groups were easily separated. On the left, not so much. So apparently I managed to tangle the left side when I was initially setting up the kite. The fact that CJ flew it at all amazes me. So I got that straightened out.

Now I could fly the kite with a decent amount of ease. Surprisingly, steerable kites are steerable. I remember buying a yellow dinosaur kite, I think when I was in Kitty Hawk, and seeing steerable kites back then, and guys talking about how they could pull you off the ground. I remember being fascinated, but somewhat shy on money to have a kite I could steer. So single string it was. Anyway, I’m flying along, working the bar one handed, doing figure eights as the guides suggest, flying without looking at the kite to get the feel, when I notice my foot feels… “moist”. Sure enough there’s a sand filled skin flap on the bottom of my foot. It doesn’t hurt just yet, but I still have to get home…by foot. I brush off my foot with my sock as best I can and hobble on home (with the help of a cable car part of the way). I make sure to clean it well when I get home, it’s not bad, mostly dead skin that it got, but it makes walking interesting.

So lessons learned:

  • Check your lines.
  • Fly kites on the beach that don’t have built in sand compartments.
  • Fly kites that do have sand compartments in the park.
  • Get proper footwear for beach conditions.
  • My training kite can pull me for a step or two, but I’m not going to really go anywhere.
  • Don’t be afraid to let go. The kite will power down and everyone will be happy.

To work on: Right now when I fly near the edge of the “wind window” my kite keeps collapsing then unfurls when it is upside down and dives at the ground if I have tension on the lines. That needs to not happen (especially since a crash like that will break a bow kite).

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