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Erin Swain: A Blog About Learning to Snowkite

This is the first posting from Erin Swain, who is writing about her experiences learning to snowkite. We will continue to bring you updates from Erin about her experiences throughout the season.

You can follow Erin’s blog at http://www.thekiteboarder.com/tag/erin-swain/

The Real Deal on Snow Kiting as a Woman

OK, here’s my deal: I am 29 years old and have been snowboarding and surfing for about five years. I have been living in Colorado in the winters and the Outer Banks if North Carolina in the summers. I guess its only natural I attempt to get into the kite world. When I first saw kiteboarding I thought ‘whoa! That is f*ing cool!’ I was in Key West and was 21 years old. Almost nine years later (gosh that sounds like a decade!),  I finally had the opportunity to try it out.

This past summer I lived in Kitty Hawk, NC,  the perfect playground for a beginner. The first day I flew a kite and was harnessed in, I was pretty scared. I was trying to listen to my now ex-boyfriend as he shouted instructions over the wind. The simplest language was causing tremendous struggles for us as  we tried to communicate in the water. ‘Walk the kite up’ when I was holding it did not have the same meaning as I started walking forward with the kite in my arms, as opposed to using my hands to walk the kite into a ‘c’ shape required for launching.  I can honestly say, kiteboarding was tough to learn. Half the time I was frustrated that I crashed the kite, crashed my body, lost the board, lost my temper, etc.,  but I stuck with it in beginner conditions and started to realize quickly that the sport was the most rewarding one I ever undertook. I have only been out in the water about 10 days in the Outer Banks. I don’t  even know how to stay upwind yet. This qualifies me as a beginner for sure.

I moved to Colorado a week ago. As a snowboarding enthusiast and a girl that spent way too much of her waitress earnings on kite gear, I decided to check out snow kiting. My newest mentor (trust me ladies, you’ll have a ton once you get into kiting!) is Anton, and he owns the snow kiting business out here called Colorado Kite Force. One of the worst things about kiting to me was how expensive lessons and gear can be, but Anton offers a 4 hour clinic every week for women for $25!! Insane deal!

Being the novice I am, I called Anton from the east coast months ago to find out if my 7M and 9M will work out there, and how many lessons I may need. He informed me that snow kiting is way different and to make sure safety is the utmost of importance, that a lesson would be paramount.

On Wednesday, I headed over to Lake Dillon with my 9M kite, my snowboarding gear, and a beginners mind ….

In the Colorado Rockies, we had just gotten a few snow storms, and it was about 29 degrees as I headed East over Vail pass. The sun was shining and skies were blue. As I got out of the car I saw Anton’s kites inflated next to an unexpected unfrozen lake.  What if I zoom right into that freezing lake with my snowboard attached to me! Ahhhhhh! Anton greeted me with a pleasant smile and said today we would just take our time setting up and learning some basics.

He had a 7M rigged and a couple of other kites inflated. I watched a guy on skies to the north of us cruising around on a 17M! Already the mountain conditions were truly different just in the diversity of kites needed. Since there is no water resistance, you can fly a multitude of kites in the same wind! Sweet! I don’t have to buy a 12M just yet!

We tied our knots and ran out the lines, getting them caught by some pre-season  grass on the field next to the lake; that won’t be an issue once the winter conditions  really kick in. The first thing that was different was the wind. It was super light. Anton showed us how to grab the lines and tug ‘em to launch (unheard of in strong winds on the water) the 7M we were using. As Anton was ‘hooked in’ to the kite, I was surprised how mellow he was. I remembered feeling adrenaline rush through my body every time I was hooked in on the water back in North Carolina, plus the anxiety in my stomach as I pumped up my kite on shore. Since the wind here was so light and you are standing on top of packed snow, you don’t have to worry about the kite dragging you anywhere. This was one of the first times I was really excited about learning to kite on the snow. After some small demonstrations, Anton landed the kite and let me fly.

I took over and as the kite floated in the air, I was stoked. I had to really keep the kite moving to generate enough flying power, which I had remembered doing on a light wind day back in the water. I was able to control the kite pretty well, making big figure eights in the air. I learned later that the more vertical my figure ‘8’s’ were, the more in the power zone my kite and I would be with fewer chances of crashing the kite due to lack of wind.

I flew the kite for about 5 minutes before the wind died. Just being out in the fresh mountain air with incredibly beautiful views felt amazing! I didn’t get to strap into my snowboard my first day, but I can’t wait for better wind to let ya’ll know what it really feels like to snow kite.  Until next time…

Erin currently lives in Colorado’s Vail Valley with her rescue dog, Willy. She’s passionate about surfing, snowboarding, snowkiting, yoga, and food&wine.  She is always ready to try new experiences, travel, and spends her time loving her active lifestyle.

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