Progress- it doesn't come easy or fast but when you least expect it. Sometimes it doesn't seem to come at all despite everything you'd hoped for. The important thing- is to keep moving forward
I've been on the kite foil now for just over a 18 months- jump starting into the new discipline just after having learned how to kite a year or so before that. The transition to foiling wasn't swift but now that I've got some time on the water, things are becoming easier. It's an amazing feeling- a total game changer from the previous 30 years of sailing and windsurfing. I've gone form barley kiting to getting most of my sessions on the foil. It took me most of last year to learn how to foil and most of this year learning to go downwind comfortably. The sport remains awesome yet humbling in so many ways. I can foil in most conditions from 10-24k. However, all that changes when you line up on the race course- especially in San Francisco.
This past August, the Hydrofoil Pro Tour came back to San Francisco for the 2nd time. Last year I entered knowing that it would be a huge learning curve just trying to get around the course. I barley made it. I found my weakness and made huge strides going off the breeze over the previous year. This year the middle of the fleet is now where the top of the fleet was last year (making most of their transitions) & the top guys are now going around the course 20-30% with the improved gear. It's a fast moving disciple and an even faster moving fleet. I was just 1 of 2 guys still using tube kites. Its no excuse for still not being able to tack but this is a sport where you need to devote time to improve your skills & keep up with the equipment just to make it around the course- a difficult proposition for anyone coming up through the fleet.
Transitions are still the death of me. For the love of God, I still can't make a tack. My gybes while getting better still end up like some story of road runner cartoon running off a cliff and falling into the abyss. All that recover time puts me back in the fleet and outside the time limit for an official score. I know it's just a matter of time till it comes but all the meanwhile, getting DNF's in the score sheet is getting pretty depressing. I keep reminding myself it's all about the journey. As I look back at my windsurf racing career, there was a lot of time spent in the back of the fleet at international regattas getting up to speed and gaining experience. I was never the fastest or the most talented but I stuck with it the longest and the persistence eventually paid off. Now that I'm in a similar position, it's hard to see the progress when you've tasted success.
I've made a plan for the fall, winter and spring to work on my transitions so that next year I'll be able to play the game. It looks so damn easy watching the top guys foil through their tacks and gybes but it all good time I remind myself. Now for every session forward I'm going to force myself to make practicing tacks and gybes part of the game. So far I've just relied on coasting by but real change comes when you go beyond your comfort level. Failure becomes more important than success in the long road of learning a new technique. There's no easy way around it. I'm also jumping ahead and getting a light wind foil kite for the off season when the wind is a bit lighter. It should help me with the transitions as the foil kite proves a bit more lift than the tube kites. However it does come with several more strings attached both literally and figuratively. The bridles on the foil kites are a bit more complicated to provide all that additional lift but come with their own set of hazards. Load them up unnervingly and they break. Drop the kite in the water and it becomes a whole lot more complicated to wrap up. However, if you don't keep up, you get left behind. I'm sure it will come with its own set of challenges but there's only one way to move forward- and that's to never give up.
Onward and upward.