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Erin Swain: Lessons to Learn in Gusty Wind

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/

I went to JR after Scott told me it was blowing well until a rainstorm chased him out.  He said it would continue to blow, but to watch out for storm bands.  I got there and there were four kites in the air. Dimitri and his son were rocking some custom wet suits in bright colors that made them look like super heroes (which I think they are!).

I didn’t have any expectations about the session because it was blowing hard but really gusty.  I decided I might as well try to get my 7M in the air, and hope for a few tacks.  One of the guys that was leaving said “be careful out there today.”  Now I am already a little nervous, but his just makes me even more cautious.

I started pumping my kite and met a guy named John.  He said “Are you Erin?” Then he told me he has been reading my blog on TKB.  I was happy to hear it!  He was really nice, he is a kite instructor with Kitty Hawk Kites.  He gave me a launch, but I realized one of my outside lines was crossed.  I was about to walk back and redo my lines when John said “stay there.”  Then he asked another guy to hold my kite while he undid that line, and fixed it.  Sweet!  Again, it pays to be a girl.

I got up and riding pretty good, but I immediately realized how hard gusty winds can be.  I had some good tacks, and some where I had to work my kite.  Then a gust would come and I would be overpowered.  These conditions were not fun for me.

I was just about to call it a session when my friend Billy showed up and said “You gotta stay out there Erin!  It’s the only way you’re  going to get it!”  He convinced me to keep trying.  I got a launch and tried again.  I was struggling keeping my edge in.  Billy kited over and told me to try his board.  I did, and I did much better.  His board was much smaller than mine.  I remembered the tips Dimitri gave me last time about the board size.

I did have one crash that would’ve been cool if the air was intentional.  I was going to the left and a gust came and my kite whipped over to the right like a pendulum, sending me flying.  I was so surprised by this that I just laughed it off.   Billy came over a bunch in the water and gave me some great pointers.  He told me I needed to tack out further if I ever wanted to stay upwind.  He also reminded me to keep the kite moving to keep it powered up.

All in all, I had a few tacks upwind and I did way better holding my edge on a smaller board (as a beginner, a larger bard will help you stand up and ride, but, you outgrow it as soon as you want to hold your edge).  I learned to be very careful in gusty conditions.  The gusts overpowered me at times, so I never got too close to shore just to avoid catastrophe if I got thrown.  Don’t be too cautious as a beginner.  Don’t be afraid to stay at your comfort level and walk a little bit in to land your kite to someone on shore.  First  gusty day: Valuable lessons learned.

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