Saturday, June 1, 2019

The path to foiling enlightenment...

photo credit- C Ray

Just when you think you've finally reinvented yourself & got the foiling thing- the whole world comes crashing down. The trick is to the surrender to the flow and just trust the process.

I'm a few years into this foiling endeavor, starting with kiting and now windsurfing and the more I do it, the more I'm hooked. It's almost as if you get a brand new start to enjoy your most favorite thing in the whole world. For me, the process of learning to foil has been unlearning all the other things, which doesn't come easy after decades of muscle memory but then again if you trust the process, the fun will come.

For most, kiting is the light wind option, but for me, it's all about exploring the what the foiling windsurfer can do in the light breeze. When the breeze is under 15k, I opt for the foiling windsurfer as that's the best tool for the job. You can shlog to the wind line and not worry about the repercussions of dropping your kite and self rescuing a foil kite & board. Once up, it doesn't take much to keep going. All the power is generated from the foil and with a few pumps of a 8-9m rig you can get going in 10k and stay foiling in 7k, In anything over 15k, You don't need anything over a 5-6m rig to keep the power going, I  never though a year ago when I first got a foiling windsurfer that a foiling gybe would be possible but now I'm oh so close.

This year I up'ed my game and got a high aspect foil specific rig, It's a game changer with a long luff and short boom. The Severne hyperglide 2 8.0m rig locks in the ride both upwind and downwind and is very powerful around the race course.

Im running a mikes lab foil with an 83cm fuselage and 90cm front wing. Its a bit smaller than the standard 100-120 cm F4 and starboard fuselages but once lit, its f' fast. Most of the time it's me and not the foil that's holding my speed back. However, the longer fuselage is quickly becoming apparent to balancing out the weight of the rig so far forward.  There's not one magic bullet that gets you 100% up to speed but a combination of a bunch of stuff. The foiling board, believe it or not still makes a big difference. The rocker line makes it easy to pop back up once you come down off a foil. The starboard 177 foil board seems to be setting the standard. Lighter booms help as well making the swing weight less when you need to gybe.

At the end of the day, however, it's time on the water that's crucial to making all your foiling gybes light wind take offs and heeling the board to windward.
After 1 Friday night foil windsurf race race and a few Thursday night kite races , I remain humble and realize there's still much to learn for this grasshopper.

Racing is not the end all, be all of sailing. Sometimes you've just got to kick back and enjoy the ride.
After years of competition, I'm realizing its not necessarily about how you finish but how much fun you have.


When its 10-15k, I start thinking about the foiling kiteboard, Its so much fun, generating so much lift from for the foil with the upward lift of the kite. Straight line kite foiling is still like nothing else in the world, as if you were riding a powder board on a bog pow day in the mountains. The upward vector of the kite pulling lend itself well to foiling, Transitions on the other hand are still the death of me. On one tack I can make a foiling gybe, coming from starboard onto port. Switching my feet on the other tack feels like my legs are jello, my knees are wobbly and I'm a hot mess.

I'm still no closer to tacking the foiling kite board than I was 4 years ago when I began this journey. The process of turning the front of body into the wind vs turning your back does not come easy. Years of muscle memory tell me otherwise despite trying to do doing a foiling kite tack in the shower, in the grocery store line and even in my sleep. I look back the beginning of my windsurfing  journey 30+ years ago and and think about how long it took me to learn how to do a proper planning gybe- probably years until I really got it.

I've switched to the lower aspect and more forgiving Ozone hyperlink kites. Even now, 2+ years in, the simpler foil kites are the way to go. I'm actually leaning towards more of a free ride set up for next year as you simply dont need to go that fast all the time, especially as the SF breeze comes up. I see the recreational kite foilers ripping it up with the small kites, small boards  and bigger front foil wings and wonder if there's more than one way to get to this foiling dharma state of bliss.

As for now, I just try to enjoy the moment no matter what I'm' doing. When its 25k+, that means grabbing a small tube kite and surf board and really getting into the puffs. Power kiting with a 7m kite in the big breeze can be so exhilarating. I've gotten several days this spring in 30-40k  breeze playing in the tide lines as force 8 gales blow through the golden gate.

Nothing lasts forever, so enjoy the ride.




Thursday, February 14, 2019

Waist deep in the promised land

Imagine your favorite pillow.
White and fluffy and as soft as a baby lamb's coat. Rolling contours envelope the surface creating a personal palace for your head to sink into.

Now imagine the same landscape but instead of a pillow, it's a wide open winter wonderland of snow covered meadows, subtle valleys and endless terrain. You are just a spec on it's surface.

Instead of your head sinking in, you're able to effortless glide across the terrain, riding in and out of valleys, across ridges and floating over streams below.

This is snow kiting.
No waiting in lift lines.
No over priced lift tickets.

Just you, the kite and a pair of skis or snowboard.


Happiness can be found at the end of a kite



This years mid winter adventure took me to the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming- east of Yellowstone National Park for the 2019 Snowkite Masters. It was a gathering of like minded kiters from the Rocky Mountains & East and West coasts at North America's premiere snow kite lodge- Wyoming High Country lodge.

Snow kiting combines the best of snowboarding, sking and kiting. It allows you to ride practically anywhere- up and down the mountain, across powder filled meadows, rolling terrain, gullies and ridges. You can glide down the face of the mountain as the updraft provides continuous lift for the kite. You can ride for miles in any direction exploring endless powder.

However, it ain't as easy as it sounds.

Just getting there and setting up in the cold weather can be a feat

Huffing around to set up kites and snowgear with 5 layers of clothes on and an harness at 9500' elevation takes it toll. So does postholing through the powder to get set up.

I'm not gonna lie. It was cold. -20 wind chill.
2 base layers, wool sweater, 2 downs & a shell + 2 kite mares on my first afternoon out left me wondering what the hell I was doing.

Just like there's no easy way in, there's no easy was out.




The lodge has a snow cat that pulls a trailer out to the best spot for that day's riding. About 15 kiters pack their gear in and ride out the either Terminal A or Terminal B, depending on the wind. It might take an hour or so but once you're there, it acts as base camp for the day. You ride till sunset when they come back and pick you up, towing the trailer back to the High Country Lodge, where the toastiest of toasty meals is waiting for you. The lodge has set the bar high with a full breakfast and dinner served in the great room and warm soup and sandwiches on the mountain.







For 4 days, we repeated the scenario. Each day got progressively better till the last day I was ripping around on my 9m Ozone hyperlink just as comfortable as I was on the water. I can't say enough about snow kiting to improve your kiting skills. I got some great lessons on kite handling, especially with the 12m foil kite in lighter winds. I switched line lengths from 15m lines to 25m lines and oh my, it's like a whole new performance level on your kite. While the shorter lines work well bringing the kite forward while racing, it doesn't allow you to get the full pendulum swing as longer lines in the lighter breeze.

I was able to downloop the kite right up the mountain and get to even better winds. Coming back down the slope on a snowboard and kite is simply bliss. You can park the kite above you while you carve untouched powder. Skies seem undoubtedly more suited for snowkiting than a snowboard but alas, this dog can only learn one new trick at a time.





The organizer set up activities everyday from a snowkite race to poker runs. It really encouraged you to push yourself and have some fun. The camaraderie was outstanding. I got to know many new kiters- even legends of the sport. Noah Portiz- aka Captain Party- out of Bozman Montana was one of the instrumental pioneers of snow kiting in the Rockies. He's got stories to tell about every spot they've kited in a 1000 mile radius as well as a shot of whisky to share.





Besides the races and poker runs there were Ozone kite demos to try. The single skin foil snow kites have a huge advantage of simplicity. While they are not as performance orientated as the foil race kites, they do get you up, down and launched and landed all very easily.





I really can't emphasize how fun and accessible snow kiting is whether you're a  novice or a pro. The hardest step was committing and just getting there, after that the fun was non stop.