Posted on November 20 2019
Good habits: Solutions to keep onside with the locals.
In Wellington, there is no shortage of wind. It’s deemed the windiest city in the world.
We attract tourists wanting to challenge their skills, or only have a short time to stay, so Wellington is the best opportunity for kitesurfers.
Foilboarding has taken it’s time to catch on because there is always an opportunity to use a twintip. Some locals don’t even own a double digit kite!
So what does this equate to as far as good habits are concerned?
Well, with lack of quality teaching in the local area over a number of years (The closest quality school was a two and a half hour drive to Wind Warriors in Foxton), many riders either taught themselves or took on the skills taught to them by local friends. Add to this visitors from around the world demonstrating bad habits and there is a recipe for disaster. A classic minor example is the ‘ping’ test on the bladder. People who flick the bladder with their fingers to check the pressure, are many. Those that can actually equate the 8-9 lbs pressure with a particular and accurate resonant frequency are kidding themselves (It sounds and looks cool though). Instead, grab the bladder and give it a squeeze. Feeling the pressure is more accurate and ensures a rigid frame every time. To be sure, observe the gauge on your pump for assured accuracy.
It’s probably important to mention that no matter what you provide as a solution, there is always someone to either ‘offer an improvement’ or completely ignore/destroy/or just plane ‘can’t be f#@ked’ joining the team of good habits.
So let’s look at, arguably, the top five ‘bad habits’ in Wellington and their respective solutions (Good habits).
1. Kite set up.
So many kiters set up IN the ‘Launch/Landing Zone. There are a raft of other issues attached to this: Setting up lines upwind, ignoring the environment around you (including those wanting to land their kite or are in trouble and require assistance), using a tether (or too afraid to ask for a launch) when other kiters are about to help out, leaving your kite in the landing zone (because you’re going to come back to it shortly).
Solution: Take your time, take a look around. Take notice of where people launch their kites (which should be as close to the waters edge as possible). This is the zone, NOT to set your kite up in. Instead, ensure that your kite is set up out of wind as much as possible, and is well weighted if you’re not going to be near it. Allow for lines and bar as well. That 25m of length where the pilot and the kite will need space to launch/land.
It could be suggested that you pump up the kite first. This gives a clear intention of where you INTEND to set up. It’s a clear visible marker. Laying out lines are not always easily seen or people/animals (especially non-kiters) don’t even notice them at all and they can potentially walk/drive/ride right of your lines, serenely oblivious to your glorious kiting endeavours. If your kite is parked on the ground, wind on the lines, or snake them up to reduce the distance and area they take up.
KitesurfNZ has even suggested on a Google Map, areas for set up launching/landing and kite parking when kite is not in use. Included also, are the outlines for vehicle parking and ‘no fly’ zones.
2. The test pump or flying an inflatable kite on the beach.
This one has put people in hospital in Wellington. Launching the kite successfully, the pilot chooses to give the kite a little pump by pulling on the bar or procede to teach a buddy (I’ve been guilty of this myself many times and didn’t take it seriously until I completed my Instructors Course AND saw the dangerous situations in which people have been seriously injured). The test pump usually results in a little lift off the ground to the delight of a local public audience. In gusty Wellington this can have disastrous results. Many kiters have been ‘launched’ rather than lifted and then failed to punch out because of panic.
Solution: Keep the ‘showing off’ for the water. If you’re not sure whether you’ve chosen the correct size kite, then your kite choosing routine is severely lacking. Purchase an anemometer. It takes the guess work out of your kite choosing (or ask a local).
Surfers will often sit in their car and watch a set or two come through before gearing up. They are considering, current, wave size, wave power, set times and other local conditions for that break. Kitesurfers are notorious for ‘rushing onto the water before the wind dies’ or because their mates are already out there, or they just want to be first on the water. Let the bad habit guinea pigs go first, while you take the time to chat about conditions and kite choice.
A test pump also probably means you have the kite directly over head (Zenith or 12 o’clock). Another bad habit in most (not all) circumstances. Keep the kite at a 45 as much as possible. Test pump in the water, it’s a whole lot less embarrassing and more forgiving.
3. Failing to flag out.
This is an easily avoidable issue. When something goes wrong, you should never be afraid to flag out. There can be occasions/exceptions when your kite is inside out, or the end is just lightly caught by a line or other similar circumstances, when there actually is no need to flag/punch out. This is for those times whereby, after a few attempts at trying to fix the problem or when a rider is out of control that the release needs to be thrown. Failing to do so can put others, who try to help, at risk, when you could simply punch out and return to shore safely to fix the problem. Same goes on land. You should always have the mental image in your head of punching out. I saw an example of this in Cronulla. Two of us left on the water in 35 knots and the other rider headed to the beach. I watched as he, keeping his kite low, punched out. His kite flipped over and sat dormant on the beach in strong wind. He walked his way up the safety line and grabbed his kite. I’d never seen that done. In Nelson we always had a line of trees to land our kites behind.
I practiced that same punch out on the beach about an hour later and was almost surprised with the same result. In the worst conditions. A self-rescue, even on the beach would clearly be the safest option.
Solution: Punch out. Done well, a self-rescue should take minimal time. 5 mins on the land. 20 mins in the water. It also reduces the issue of birdnesting the lines, and increases the opportunity to re-ride quickly.
4. Talking about yourself.
Surfers are also notorious for this. People can’t wait to get back to the beach to share their epic moment or progress. Fueled by adrenaline and the satisfaction of achieving momentous goals the compulsion to railroad the conversation in favour of your own achievement with loud voice or pure excited language is all too overpowering at times.
Solution: Ask someone how THEIR session went. Bother to take notice of what others are doing on the water when you’re riding upwind. Tuck away one thing you saw another rider do that they have been working on or clearly demonstrated some skill or progression with save it for the ‘highlight reel’ conversation back on the beach. Ask them how it they went and if the opportunity arises, mention the cool thing you saw THEM do. Rewarding is the moment that the same habit comes back to you and someone asks how your session was and keeps eye contact because they’re also ready to listen to the answer. Remember, when you do answer, offer the headline moment of your session rather than the diary entry of the whole event.
If someone had a bad moment, remember to check on them. There is no need to relay the moment but a simple inquiry of, “Are you ok? Is there anything I can do to help?”, means a bucketload to someone whom has potentially had their confidence knocked.
5. Riding gear past it’s expiry date.
This excludes random acts of breakage or incidents in which loss of control causes damage to your gear.
Just like food, there is a ‘use by date’ and an ‘expiry date’. The use by date of gear can often be extended if it’s looked after. Kites that are hung on hooks (even still in their bags) will drip dry. Fresh water on metal parts, increases longevity. I’ve even found that folding my kites seems to have less wear and tear on canopy and it inflates very easily without ‘laying out’ the kite.
Checking your gear BEFORE and AFTER each session cannot be stressed enough. Slapping a patch on both sides of a pinprick can easily increase the longevity of a kite. It is important to patch kites well and leave time for the patch to adhere. Check for fraying lines and if you’re unsure, ask a more experienced member their opinion.
Five positive habits of kitesurfing:
- Be mindful of your kite set up and what’s going on around you.
- Keep the learning and riding in/on the water.
- If in doubt, punch out.
- Compliment and encourage others.
- Check your gear regularly.
Have fun, stay safe, push the limits!