Erin Swain has been writing about her experiences learning to kiteboard. We will continue to bring you updates from Erin about her experiences throughout the season. You can follow Erin’s blog at https://kiteboarder3.wpengine.com/tag/erin-swain/

The sun was out, but it was about 50 degrees and blowing strong. I had been out the day before in the clouds and wind and was cold but I figured the sun would warm everything up.  I had a posse of 9 people ready to do a downwinder.  The weathervane on top of the building was going nuts when we arrived at Kitty Hawk Kites. One minute it was south west, the next it was turning east.

I was nervous about the session to start with because of the sporadic changes in the wind.  With 9 people talking about different opinions, I was also thinking about my last 2 downwinders with my bud Scott that went unfinished. After about 45 minutes of discussion, we decided to do the downwinder.

After my friend Mira bundled up and went out, I was one of the early guinea pigs to see what size kite the girls should all fly to be powered up. I put up my 9m Renegade EPIC kite and had one of the sketchiest launches ever.  The buildings create a wind shadow, and on this particular wind direction, it makes it much harder to launch. My friend held my kite and I tried to launch, but it brushed the bulkhead and hovered there. Crap! What do I do, I don’t want to get launched into the bulkhead if a gust comes! I had to think quick and keep tension on the lines. I backed up as much as possible and the kite re-launched in the water.

At this point, my board had floated over toward a boat so I kept the kite at 12 o’clock.  As I leaned over to grab my board, I watched my kite fall from the sky due to the wind shadow AGAIN.  But, the kite re-launched and I remembered my friends saying that it’s much windier when you get way out there. I put the board on my feet and immediately tacked out.

It felt great to get out of that dangerous wind shadow and into the real wind. I was cruising along just fine thinking that it wasn’t too cold (I will remind you I was wearing a full wetsuit, booties, gloves, and a hood), when I caught my edge and crashed hard. Water shot up my hood on the side of my face, and instantly I was freezing. I guess this wouldn’t be so bad if you don’t crash. 

I got up and re-grouped. I body-drug back to my board and was up and riding again.  The wind  was blowing great out there and I felt perfectly powered up. I did a few tacks and realized I was not going to go back to that wind shadow where I launched. I tried to stay upwind, but was a little ways downwind of my original launch point. I worked on a few transition turns and toe side ollies while waiting for the other six kites to meet me and two others out there.

After  what felt like an hour (but was prob 30-45min), I was getting really cold. All I could think about was going in.  Scott finally kited up to me and yelled something but I could hardly hear him with my hood over my ears. I signaled ‘come on, lets go!’ as best I could and I think he got it.  The two of us headed downwind while the others seemed to be staying way upwind of us.

After some more tacks, I was freezing.  I realized I couldn’t really communicate with Scott and decided I needed to in ASAP. I saw REAL Watersports ahead and saw my opportunity to land and get warm. I headed in towards land hoping Scott would see me staying close to shore. Luckily for me, I saw someone launching at REAL, so I signaled for a landing to the guy that launched his bud. Once he landed me, I rolled up my lines and ran out onto the dock and yelled to Scott that I was just too cold and wouldn’t make the 6 mile downwinder.

He said he was going to keep going, and I said I would try and meet him there. I got my gear together and started walking back.  A really nice couple picked me up and drove me the couple miles back to the car. I was stoked. I got into dry clothes and saw my friend Mira. We decided to try and get down to where Scott was finishing so he would have someone to land his kite to.

Half-way on our drive, we passed his car.  He was already done. We asked about the other 4 riders (Allison and Jonathon were still at KHK, plus me, Mira, and Scott accounted for) and no one seemed to know where they were. We realized they kept going so tried to go get them as well.

In the end, They had gone 4 miles further than the original plan. When I talked to my friend Deb, she said I did the right thing by going in.  She said the wind picked up and she was over-powered and freezing the whole time. I learned a some valuable lessons in cold weather.

  1. Know your threshold so you can account for how long you want your session to be.
  2. If your going to do a downwinder, get in the water and go, don’t waste time staying upwind.
  3. Sometimes its best to go with a smaller group of kiters.

All in All, I think I will follow my friends ‘rule of 100’.  She doesn’t go kiting if the air temp+water temp is less than or equal to 100.  That day was 102.  SO…close enough.  I like that logic.  Thanks for the advice Susan!

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