Erin Swain has been 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 Women’s Snowkiting:
I woke up to a bluebird day in the mountains with no new snow, so decided to call Anton and see if he would be kiting that day. He said it should be good, so I took my kites and my dog over to Lake Dillon hoping to get enough wind to actually strap in this time.
Ok, so… I am not being modest here…I suck at setting up my gear. It’s due to inexperience for sure. It takes me 30 minutes to run out my lines and pump my kite up (maybe 45). Luckily, there were no knots in my lines, otherwise I can tack on another 30 minutes and a lot of curse words running through my head. Pumping my kite was interesting because it was the first time I pumped up my 7M Best Waroo.
First of all, my other kite has only one valve, so it pumps the leading edge and the struts all together, and this Warhoo has separate valves for struts and leading edge. So, I start pumping my leading edge, and then realize I have never pumped up a kite like this. So, feeling like a total cook, as I am pumping the leading edge, I yell over to this local dude Mike “Hey, which am I supposed to pump up first, leading edge or struts?” He answers “struts!” Great, I had a 50/50 chance and was wrong, oh well… As I pumped my struts, each one took me several tries to cap the valves as I kept letting out too much air and had to re-pump. Note to self: don’t wear gloves and work on the technique of using two hands when attempting this.
Anton came over and adjusted my back lines on the kite as I was hooking into the bar. He explained what he was doing but I still don’t understand…something about the angle of the kite. Thank goodness he knows what he’s doing! Then he came over and showed me how to tug on the two outside lines and rock the kite on one side to get it to launch. As I watched him and tried to listen to instructions I felt confused. I guess I will just do what I always do to re-launch. Trial and error works for me. Just keep pulling on different lines ‘til something happens.
The kite launched and I was standing flying. I wanted to fly the kite for a while until I felt perfectly competent but Anton insisted I strap the board on. This was a huge difference from kiting in the water. His confidence in me strapping the board on was overwhelming, so I hesitantly listened. He told me to go right and not hit the river. Shit! There’s a river to my right and a giant unfrozen lake behind me. I hope I don’t land in either!!!
I was shocked the first time I pulled the kite into the power zone and it just lifted me and my board so gently, sending me gliding across soft snow. It was surprisingly easy! I would say a hundred times easier than being in the water. The wind was only blowing 10-12mph so it was real mellow and that gave me the confidence to glide a decent way before ungracefully crashing the kite and attempting to switch directions.
Just like re-launching from the water, I was confused at first, and doing my trial and error method to figure out how to get the kite back in the air. After a few dozen crashes and re-launches, something clicks. I can’t explain it like Anton about how to re-launch. For me, it’s just feeling it and experiencing it. I still need much more flying experience to get good at this.
I have to say, I felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment as I scooted back and forth across the kiting area. I had seen Anton in the early days back in 2005 kiting on Lake Dillon and always wanted to try it. I think everyone that was kiting that day knew how I was feeling cause I would unexpectedly cheer and scream little ‘whooohoooo’s’ as I kited across the lake. At one point, I hit some fresh tracks of a little 1 or 2 inches of fresh snow. That felt really cool, and has me excited for some deeper snow. I also came upon a little jump that someone built. I cruised closer to it to check it out, but decided not to hit it until I find out where my kite should be in that situation.
One major difference and hard habit to break from the water is that putting the kite at 12 o’clock on the wind window is your friend and resting spot in the water. On snow, it’s the contrary. I kept putting the kite there when I wanted to rest, but I would eventually crash the kite, or sporadically change directions unintentionally. Overall, it was best for me to keep repeating a mantra in my head keep the kite moving, keep the kite moving, keep the kite moving for the light wind conditions.
Overall, my first day strapped in was a success! I even went toe-side for all of 3 seconds! I almost hit my dog with my board at one point, I got stuck in a lull by the brush twice; needing assistance to get back to higher ground; cruised over some gnarly little rocks (lucky I was using Anton’s rock board), and caught my front edge going down hard and fast. Other than those minor caveats, I was cruising around for over an hour! I am stoked on this sport. I really can say it is a great way for a beginner to build confidence, kite skills, and the main goal- HAVE FUN! Next time, maybe I will learn how to better transition my turns, and possibly get air???….I will keep you posted!
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.