Airstyle – Old School – back to the roots

IMG_1183EWhen I first started kiteboarding back in the dark ages, it was all about airtime. I mean what other sport gave you that thrill of being in the water and at command get airborne ?
You just never seemed to get enough of that. Then we started to develop styles.

But then Marketing and the Kids got involved. And things got kind of complicated.

Much discussions have been trashed out on the battle field (forums) about what kiteboarding is for different individuals. And so you have wake stylers, free riders, wave riders, with boots, strapless, with straps, strapless freestylers, mega loopers, big air, Airstyle, mega crashers the grass mowers and the kooks. ( I might have missed somebody 🙂 )

A lot of people follow some kind of a police fashion; wear the pants, wear the shorts, don’t wear the shorts, fall on your face rather than put straps on, don’t be seen without boots, etc…

As with much of my life, I tend to disregard trends and kind of go where the wind blows. Excuse the pun.

So after much meanderings in the different aspects of kiteboarding, here I am looking at getting back into some floaty airs and some old school tricks (which seems to have evolved into Airstyle thank to Toby from kiteforum.com)

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But like everything, things have changed, mostly the equipment has changed. Partly, the equipment is perhaps at the source of this fragmentation within the sport. 15 years ago riding waves down the line was impossible, the kite would front hindenburg as soon as the lines lost tension, and relaunching was a serious mission, especially in surf, everything broke easily, and boots were left to the wakeboarder.

The kites have evolved into very specific design for different types of styles and conditions…

Back in the day all the kites were powerful slow beasts, perfect for Airstyle. Today you sit with this scenario:

standard kites on a standard 21m set up are generally too fast, the lines are too short and the bars generally not set up for hang time tricks. So you gotta do a custom set up. My first step towards re entering the realm of board offs and slides was to choose the right kite, get a shorter bar with a different set up and lengthen the lines.

My kite choice is a 13m Peter Lynn Fury because of the amazing float it has in the jumps being a high aspect ratio. At my weight (70kg) I could have maybe gone for a 15m, but I live in a place where the wind can get really strong… and in strong winds,  15 m becomes a handful. I find the 13m is comfortable even pat the 20 knots mark. Then 45cm bar with 24m lines which will probably get extended to 27 to get that maximum float time and slow down the flight speed of the kite.  This gives you more time to concentrate on the board. I am also using the inside attachments at the wing tips. The Fury is fast as it is also a race kite, but I find with these settings it’s slow enough to do plenty and still fast enough to loop it during slides and other moves.

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Small bar set up1 Small bar set up2The ultimate set up would be a micro loop on the bar which allows you to hook in at full power and hook out as you touching down. However for now, the stopper on the de-power will have to suffice.

A small light board would also be ideal. But for now I’m gonna use my AXIS 134 Limited as I find it highly versatile. A bigger handle also helps. You also need to set up the straps on the board nice and loose so that the board pops off your feet when you need it to!

It’s a different type of riding. Lots of power, lots of time in the air and lots of losing the board whilst working on new tricks.

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At the moment I m just working on the foundation for new tricks meaning getting my timing right with the kite and getting the board on and off. Also revisiting the famous dead man 🙂


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I’m already seeing some progression. Now to start throwing some variations 🙂 But then riding waves is so much fun and I get side tracked.

 

 

 

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Dealing with Big waves

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It has always been in the nature of mankind to push the limits. Further, faster, stronger, and also bigger. Although for a majority it means their waistline, I suspect that people reading this post would be more likely thinking along different lines. kite lines perhaps?

So this time we are talking waves.

In the last 3 weeks I had two sessions is some pretty big waves. It sparked the idea of sharing some thoughts and experience on the subject.

Whether it’s bodysurfing, body boarding, wave skiing, supping, long boarding, surfing or kite surfing, few will deny the fact that the bigger wave is always the more exhilarating ride. But how does one approach big waves?

I do not profess to have the ultimate experience in big wave riding, there are a multitude of kids in places like Hawaii who have much bigger balls than me and perhaps more frequent outings in massive surf, however I can vouch that I have a fair amount of experience dealing with big surf on my own and with no immediate help nearby.

For the purpose of this blog we will define a “big” wave as follow:

“A wave that has the potential to put your life at risk by either keeping you under or knocking you unconscious. ”

So how does one face these exhilarating monsters. Perhaps the following advice will allow you to shortcut a whole lot of painful real life experiences (mostly due to having gone through them myself and having been lucky to come out alive)

 

Conditions

Big waves can come in all kinds of shape and form. From messy wind swell to solid ground swell. It can crumble from the top or tube top to bottom. And of course in the context of kite surfing with all kinds of wind conditions altering the wave face and the way the wave breaks.

Always try and understand the conditions as best you can before heading out.

Choose a kite size where you will be properly powered and start by having a few test runs before dropping into that pit.

In my opinion, rather be overpowered than underpowered.

Personally my worst scenario is a cross onshore fickle wind, underpowered with big swell. As far as I am concerned, a recipe for disaster.

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Equipment set up

This is how I would personally set up my equipment:

No board leash

Kite leash to be removed. If necessary for some reason, attach it to the front of the harness so it is easily reachable.

I would say a floatation vest is a must. When you getting tumbled, you can easily loose your sense of up and down. the life vest doesn’t.

Straps/ No Straps: This is all dependent on conditions. Most people would amaze themselves at how big a wave one can get over without straps. The decision is not so much about size (although when its crazy big there is no doubt that straps are a must for safety and enjoyment) but more about the wave face conditions which is generally linked to the direction and strength of the wind.

Cross-off shore tends to clean the wave face where a cross-on makes it more bumpy.

Of course different experience levels will also mean that your “strapless comfort zone” will increase or decrease.

If it’s crazy big, long lines will allow your kite to sit above the potential wind shadow of the waves.

Make sure you have tried and tested equipment out there and know your release mechanisms intimately.

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So what if something goes wrong

First thing to do is NOT PANIC.

Assess the situation as quickly as possible and stay level headed. Time is generally a key element to your survival.

The number one rule is to keep your lines tensioned and the kite in the air.

Kick the board away from you to avoid collision.

If the kite drops in front of the white water get away from your lines and release everything

If the kite drops behind the wave and you are not getting dragged, you generally have a few seconds to see if you can re-launch it, but always be ready to release everything.

The most dangerous thing is the lines wrapping around parts of your body. So releasing is always a better option…

It is obviously super important to understand and know the difference between a fun big wave, and a big wave that can do serious damage. We all have different experiences and perspectives.

A few of my kite-mares in big waves have included almost losing consciousness after hitting a oncoming lip on a mistimed jump, getting anchored to the bottom by my kite lines wrapped around my hand whilst foolishly trying to rescue equipment and getting dragged under water for a good while and unable to release. But level head and some luck got me out of those.

But even if big wave riding has some dangers associated with it and is not for everyone,  it is one sure way to get an adrenaline fix and your blood pumping!

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The Peter Lynn “Swell” v2 – My take

G0236971EAfter a spectacular launch thanks to insane conditions during the shoot in Cabo Verde, I decided to produce a little video to try and highlight the attributes of this New Peter Lynn “Swell” v2 in all kinds of conditions.

From small to medium size waves with on-shore, Cross-shore type conditions which is, I guess the type of conditions we mostly encounter.

The kite has kept a lot of the characteristics of the Swell v1, Just seems to have a smoother flying and slightly more aggressive lift. Fast across the window it does everything you want it to do. Light and reactive at the bar with all the depower you need on waves, it also has some impressive boosting and looping chops!

Also been getting in tune with my AXIS wood pro board from AXIS Kiteboarding, super reactive and radical in the turns.

Thanks to Underwave for the support. Great wetsuits, great harness!

I’ve always been a fan of the “Swell” and it hasn’t changed.

Enjoy

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