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Erin Swain: Downwinder from Ramp 46 to Somewhere in Salvo

 

Erin Swain has been writing about her experiences learning to snowkite and is now transitioning to the water. 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/

 
Oh My Gosh!  Downwinders are a beginner kiter’s best friend! I had the best day ever. Today I went out with my bud Scott. Scott has been kiting for six years and he has taught me soooo much about kiting.  We went to check the wind in Kitty Hawk but it was too light so we drove down to Rodanthe and got some great 17-22 mph SW wind.

Scott says there’s an old saying about white caps when it’s windy: “There’s sheep in the Meadow.”  In our case he said it was more like rabbits or gerbils, but either way that made me laugh! I was able to take out my 12M I just bought used from a friend three days ago.

Scott talked to me all the way down about his experiences with kiting which were all great to learn from. It’s really cool being able to hear about some kiting lingo that I never understood before, but things start to make more sense after I am able to increase my capacity for understanding the gear.

At first, I was always just trying to ‘feel it’ or ‘get it’, without much consideration to the physics and mechanics behind the sport. It was a struggle for me to comprehend all the switches in the wind and just how much was going on with variables like power/depower, currents, board position, kite control, obstacles in the water, etc…

So, this session, I went right to the board instead of doing the body drags first.  That was a great accomplishment. It’s cool how with every session, the smallest accomplishment feels major.  I was up and riding on my first kite dive. I went right and left, but this time I did better on my less dominant side.

I felt really confident on my new 12M. Scott told me he was going to go in and get his gear. Then he gave me the best piece of advice. He said, “Hey remember to have fun with it!” As he headed in, I was soaring out further than I have ever gone in the sound.

Watching the water under my board as I skimmed over the top of it was so cool. I remembered that Scott told me to stay in the general area, so I tried my best.  Using an osprey nest as my landmark, I realized quickly I was not staying, or getting back to the general area I was suppose to be in.

I kited around for about a half hour alone, trying to get back upwind. I guess I am not riding upwind today. I just remained calm and kited left and right, sitting down each time before I switched directions.

After a while laid-back surfer dude Scott kites up to me and says, “we’ll just do a downwinder and I’ll hitch hike back to the car.”  Cool I think, now I don’t have to worry at all and I can try some transitions.

So, just riding and not trying anything new is getting boring after tacking back and forth so I start trying transitions (This just means trying to stay above water when turning from right to left). The first one was my best of the day…it was slow and awkward, and I am sure my body position looked ridiculous as I was hunched over and trying to just stay above water, but  as I kept trying, I would catch my front edge, crash the kite, lose my board, etc.

I was surprised how some of the skills from my beginner lesson (the first land lesson I ever took through Kitty Hawk Kites) came right back to me. I remembered how to body drag back to my board and a little bit of relaunching techniques.

At one point I was trying to get my board on and I stepped on a crab. That little bugger totally bit my toe hard! As I winced with pain I couldn’t help laughing at the fact that I am doing one of the hardest sports I have ever tried and I am about to burst into tears over a crab. I snapped out of it pretty quickly and focused on the kite.

I would go from working on transitions to trying toeside. I couldn’t get either down but the attempts were interesting.  The only way I could try toeside was by going fakey and just trying to whip my board around. It was a success once, but all the other times it was a fail. Oh, well, I’ll get it eventually.

After a considerable length session, I had one really scary experience where I couldn’t re-launch, lost my board, and was drifting toward an island with not a clue what to do. Lucky for me, some nice kite chick came by with my board and Scott flipped my kite over so I could get it back in the air. After what felt a like half hour without my board, I was super frustrated. If there’s anything to motivate me to get better at this sport, its being in the middle of the sound, not being able to get to my board (even though I can see it, and it looks so close).

I wouldn’t have to deal with getting my board back if I wasn’t trying to progress, which is just part of the process every beginner must go through. All in all, I had an incredible session. I did feel like a kook when I went to land my kite though.

I was struggling to keep the kite flying in a wind shadow blocked by an island, so I took my board off and walked in holding my board and keeping the kite at 12 o’clock.  This embarrassing ‘walk-in’ took me ten minutes to get close to shore with a few people watching.

Lucky for me, Scott was wading out to help me land my kite to him in the water and get me safely back on land.  This was the most rewarding feeling. I had been out in the water for over three hours, crashed my kite so many times, lost my board too many times to count, and was ready to take a rest. I feel like I am really making some step towards not being such a kook, but I have a ways to go. Until next time, praying for perfect wind…

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