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How Far Do You Push Wear?
By Brendan Richards
You can learn a lot about a kiter just by looking at his or her chicken loop. This being the one part of kite equipment that requires periodic maintenance, the condition of a rider’s main depower line can give you hints about the personality of the kiter. Is the trim line clean and tidy? A little rough around the edges? Completely haggard? Regardless of whether you weigh in as a fair-weather lightweight, a weekend warrior, or an everyday heavy, at some point you are going to have to cross that bridge: Tempt one more session or go straight to your local shop for a replacement.
If you enjoy a good self rescue every now and then, feel free to test the limits of line wear. However, if you don’t want or need the exercise of an unexpected swim, you’ll have to find the fine line between acceptable wear and pushing your luck.
How far you push it probably depends on some vague and unspeakable risk calculus, factoring in any of the following variables; cash in wallet, deficit of time, cost of kite repair, size of surf, degree of self motivation, and the perceived importance of the immediate session standing between you and a fresh chicken loop. When I was a student, short in terms of time, cash, and a sponsor, chicken loops were routinely ridden threadbare and almost always until broken. Even now, as a sponsored team rider where replacement chicken loops are in abundance, I still find myself on occasion riding trim loops resembling dental floss, and this is because after all these years, my guiding principle in chicken loop replacement is this quiet voice of reason in my head which is given absolutely no authority despite an almost perfect track record of predicting imminent trim loop failure. It doesn’t have to be that way, so I consulted a man much wiser than I, and here is the rule of thumb the great Peter Schiebel taught me:
It’s good to get in the habit of visually checking your trim loop each time you get in the water. If you see some fraying or irregular wear, then you should take your fingers and get a feel for the extent of wear. For the equipment hypochondriacs out there, getting fanatical about a minor amount of trim loop fraying is a waste of time, but when your minor fuzz turns into missing chunks, then it’s time for a trim line tune up. Squeeze the trim line between two fingers and move down the length of your trim loop to get a feel for areas where the Spectra has worn thin. When the gap becomes tangible and considerable between the worn and unworn areas, it’s time for some preventative maintenance. Of course, if you like swimming surrounded by balls of kite line and a giant piece of fabric, then by all means see just how far you can push your luck.
It should be noted that despite his wise advice, Peter ended this fall’s first double overhead session with a depower line so thin that he was able to floss his teeth with it.
Brendan Richards rides for Caution Kites (http://www.cautionkites.com), runs Santa Cruz Kitesurfing (http://www.sckitesurfing.com), and generally likes to avoid long ocean swims. Check www.cautionkites.com/vid/trimloop for an instructional video on how to replace your chicken loop.