_SwellSpect_

Comrades,

I have dream that I am hoping to make into a reality in the next year: team racing on surfboards and kites. Some might think " how ridiculous." Others might immediately wonder where they can get their lines coated in glass. But you are on this list because either 1) you kite 2) you team race 3) you are crazy enough to try and combine the two. Hopefully all three apply.

The basic idea is to get a group together somewhere with solid wind and a spacious access point, set up a digital N or box course and sail either 2v2 or 3v3 just like regular team racing under the RRS. Everyone would be on similar sized inflatable kites and a surfboard, and the emphasis would be to use old gear so its not the end of the world if shit hits the fan (and no, we wouldn't actually use glassed lines).

Kite saftey will be key!

Obviously the potential for spaghetti kite mares is high. But I think with that the right crew and the right location, we could start slow ramp up to some pretty interesting racing. There would be a lot of figuring out to do: what exactly happens "when boats meet" and just how far we could push things without shit hitting the fan too hard. If it works out though, kite team racing be a pretty crazy and epic addition to the other things people are doing with kites these days.

Most of the people on this list are from the group that with Clinton et al have been going to Hatteras in June the last several years. From what I hear, that could be an ideal location and situation. Another good option would be up at Sherman Island any time from April to September.

Stay safe,

Capt. Fishsticks

The Exoskeletal Flier

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It has been called the "Frankenboard, "What the hell is that", "backward", and just ugly. But this board has had a long life and it is now flying around the world on a sword 1. These days it has grown a fishbone stringer and other exoskeletal reinforcements as well as some chinook mast tracks on the under-side.

Though strong now, The Exoskeletal Flier actually broke in half at the feet of one Tobias Schmid when he didn't notice the beach sneaking up on him. He came by the board by writing a short story for a surf magazine when he was riding ripples down on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The story won a contest and so they sent along a surfboard that used to belong to a pro surfer, or so the tale goes. Perhaps he was telling a tale only to me!

Whatever the truth about the board's origins, we do know that Tobias broke it in half a few years ago. Over the last winter, I transformed the back half into some kind of monster. Or so the "Crissy Foilers" might yell out of their Tesla windows.

Beware!

The Exoskeletal Flier could soon be terrorizing a race course or kite spot near you, possibly carrying on its back an angry pirate weilding a hook knife lasoo, ready to claim the kite of any who'd cross him!

How to buy a good ol' kite

Goin' Cheap

Kiting can be an expensive sport, especially if you feel the need to keep up with the rat race and always buy the newest model. For many, this is not an option. Not to worry! It's definitely possible to buy some older gear and still get out on the water. The hardest thing to find is usually a good kite. Go cheap on the board. Even though you see some twin-tip kite boards on sale for $500+, basically any twin-tip will get you going. Look for something less than $200, the bigger the better for starting out. If you already surf, consider buying an old beater surfboard and installing footstraps. Compared to the board, the kite is a much more important factor if your going to kite on a budget.

How old can I go?

"Never been used!! Modern Design!! Everything you need to get started. No Tears, No Leaks!!"

The good news is that after about 2011, most kites had a modern enough design that they are good enough for a beginner to get going on. What you want is plenty of depower and some good upwind performance. Also, its good if its not going to blow apart the first time you crash it.There are tons of classified sites out there where you can find all kinds of kites. Look out for most things that are older than 2010, as you have a good chance of picking up a lemon, or an an old style kite that doesn't work the way modern kiters expect them to.

Finding a kite

So where to start? Many local kiting companies offer some kind of a deal if you take their lessons and buy kites from them. Lessons+Kite can be a decent deal, but normally only applies to current year kites. If you have the money, great! If not, consider getting a lesson only, and try to pick something up second hand. Most instructors will be happy to help select something that will get you going even if its not going to make them rich. Check out some classifieds such as ikitesurf, craigslist, or your local forum, ext. Recently, a great website has scraped all of these and more put together a searchable database: getakite.us. This seems like the best way to go! Look for something 2011+ and you should generally find a good kite. There are countless reviews available online for the thorough pursuer, and its a safe bet to get a kite similar to one you learned on.

If buying an old kite, definitely go for a 4-line over a 5-line kite. Though a few companies tout 5-line systems as better for safety and relaunch, they are more complicated and less universal. A 4-line system can easily be combined with just about any 4-line bar, and its easy to tune the front/back lines to get it balanced.

Becoming the Waroo

There are also a few exceptions to the 2011 rule. One great old kite is the Best Waroo. Some time around 2007, best really figured out how to make a good kite that depowered well and builds up some decent power when you get the apparent wind going. There is a reason that when you see old kite bums at a place kite Sherman island, they are probably flying best Waroo's on an old sketchy bar with above the bar safety. You might not like the image, but you must become such a person. Or at least the best Waroo is a good kite to look for and one should not feel bad about flying it even if its seen more moons than all the other kites at the beach combined.

The waroo is a true utility kite; a proletarian workhorse of generations gone.

In fact, there are a typically a bunch of ol' Waroo's listed on Getakite.Whatever you find, there is no reason to buy into the latest model bogaloo. Unless, of course, the Jones have all 2017 kites.

Inspect the Kite

If you are buying the kite online, its tough to get an objective idea for the condition of the gear. However, you can still ask good questions of the current owner: is the material crispy? Any tears or major repairs? Leading edge in good condition? Does the kite hold air for 24 hrs? How much has it been flown? What are the bridals like?

What About a Bar?

So what to do about a bar? In addition to developments in kite design, developments in bar design were essential in the development of safe, depowerable kites. The fundamental change between early kite designs and modern kites is the incorporation of "sail trim" into the bar design. Kites went from two lines to four lines, with the ability to change the position of the front two relative to the back two. This essentially made kites just like any sail on a modern boat: you can ease and trim the sheets to change the angle of attack of the sail relative to the wind. On a boat, this is essential for two reasons: 1) you need to change the sail trim to make a sail work at different points relative to the wind and 2) if you get into overpowered or into trouble, you need to be able to ease the sail to dump the extra power. This is precisely the case for modern power kites: by sheeting the bar in and out, you are effectively trimming and easing the kite.

The good news is that among 4-line kites at least, most bars will work with most kites. Often times people convince themselves that they need a special bar thats matched to the kite they are trying to ride. This notion is, in general, cod-swallow when it comes to 4-line kites. There are a few important considerations.

  • 1) The safety system on a bar should have an effective throw range for the kite you are using. If you need to flag-out the kite, the line or lines it deploys on need to move enough relative to the others so the kite totally depowers. A single line flag-out is the most reliable system, and its best if there is at least 12' of throw. Two-line systems are ok, but they work for some kites better than others.
  • 2) To work on any kite, its best if a bar has a big range to trim front lines relative to the back ones. Your trim range is composed of two parts: a) the trim and ease range of the bar (adjusts the back lines relative to the front), and b) the trim and ease range of your depower (adjusts the front lines relative to the back. Most kites are set up so all four lines are equal with the depower all the way out and the bar all the way out. If a kite is way out of trim at this base setting, you can adjust the knot you are attaching to on the bridal, or use pig-tales to change the length of the line.
  • 3) They don't call me Pig Tales for nothing! In other words, you might find that the ends of your lines and the ends of your bridal don't match. The great thing is, you can easily make pig-tales out of any piece of strong line. Don't use your shoelaces (unless you wear dymenma), but there is no shame in having comically wide line as pig-tales if you are in a pinch, though monkey-fists might facilitate tangling of your lines/bridals in a crash. As you build a quiver of old makeshift kites, you only need one bar. You can find pig-tales that equal out the lengths and endings so it fits each kite.
  • You may want to consult the Kitebar Cookbook for some pre-modern designs that will get you playing hockey in no time flat.

    Ride-a-Plank

    Now you need to find a board. There is a lot of literature about how you need a twin tip with the perfect flex and just enough area to nail a super-rad double donkey. Obviously the sport has come a long way but mostly this is a lot of codswallow. You need something about the right size for your bodyweight and the breeze you plan to ride in. If you can't find a cheap twintip somewhere, try building one yourself. A simple technique is similar to building a long-board by laminating together plywood. Make sure you get it sealed and consider adding some rocker but putting your lamination on two chairs with weight in the middle. If you have the resources, you can add some fiberglass. There are some good guides about this online, but the best is by old Tim Anderson: The Kiteboard Cookbook

    Whether you listen to ol' Tim or decide to buy a cheap twintip second hand, there is no need to break the bank on a twintip, espicially if its going to be your first one. Odds are you'll eventually descover directionals make more sense, but thats not what Anderson thinks.

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    It's not that hard to build a makeshift board.

    4/23/16 - Wizard Staff, Anacondas and Epic OB Kiting

    Heavy waves, heavy situations at Ocean Beach. Slayed some waves on the anaconda with an ozone at the end of my lines. And, I was also slayed by some. Some were taller than my apparment.

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    Strong NW medium period swell had more umph than expected, and the sets were breaking all the way out on the south patch. It was knarly and you could see two successive sets breaking along the other reef from the beach at kellys cove. I soon found out that these stand out waves were a significant fraction of the length of my lines tall. Thurdering lefts breaking along the outer break at Noreiga and also out on the inner portions of the South Patch were in play!

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    I made a lot of them but made fast and deep when their sisters barrled down on me. All in all happy to be back on dry land; Yar! and with all me digits.

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    Kite Bar or wizard staff, ill be ready for the next battle tomorrow!

    2/14/16 - Pescadero to Waddell on a Surfboard

    Last Sunday I headed down from SF, and met with Comrade Evan in Palo Alto, then crossed the Santa Cruz mountains on Page Mill Road. Page Mill is a very windy drive and we got way off into a discussion of random walks and other far out things. Page Mill connects to Alpine Rd, which eventually spits out at the San Gregorio General Store. The General Store is a gem of the coast north of Santa Cruz: highly recommended place to grab a beer and listen to some bluegrass music on a sunday morning. After getting the latest from the proprietor about his exotic chickens, I provisioned: water and peanuts for the dry bag, and some chips, salsa and some green ones for before and after.

    CE and I went over to San Gregorio Beach to check the conditions there. Wind was really strong off the coast but was getting pushed up by the bluffs to the north and hills to the south and not making it consistently into the beach. Might have gotten the kite in the air but it would have been really sketchy getting out past the surf. Not a good place to start.

    left-image We hopped back in the car and drove two miles south to Pescadero Beach. Wind was much stronger there and solid all the way into the shore. Packed up the dry bag with water, peanuts, two flares and cell phone inside second drybag. (I normally would carry a VHF as well but forgot it home). We set up the phone to broadcast my position using the Glympse app so CE could track me from the car. This really doesn’t buy much because using an app relies on the phone being in data service which is spotty at best along the coast. Broke out the 9m Edge and attached it to the ozone race bar. Went over the lines and bridals, no issues. Attached the dry bag securely to my harness and went over everything once more. Good to go.

    CE launched the kite, I grabbed my surfboard and hit the waves. Had no problem getting out past the surf.Once I was outside, I was set - heading southwest on starboard - no turning back now :)

    Up by Pescadero I was about 20 degrees west of the angle of the coast on starboard and a little south of perpendicular on port. All through the trip, starboard was pretty uncomfortable due to the swell angle, while port lined up with the swells like a dream. I had to fight the urge to gybe back into the coast and play in the surf, and ended up doing just two or three steps back in before Pigeon Pt Light. As the coast started to bend east, the port gybes lasted longer and longer, and it seemed like I was able to ride some of the swells for a really long time.

    In addition to being awesome to park it on a swell for minutes at a time, it was also really interesting to ride with the swells for a long way because it seemed to allow you to pick out the different waves in the spectrum. In the open ocean, waves with different periods travel at different speeds in an effect called dispersion: the longer the period the faster the wave. On a kite, you are generally faster than anything but the longest period waves once they break, but in the open ocean, the short period swells are slower than you and the long period swells are faster than you. Sunday was the tail end of the huge swell that peaked Friday (Mavericks Contest) and was huge on Saturday. By Sunday, any energy left from that swell was relatively short period, and I could overtake, but there were some smaller longer period swells that were going faster than me (unless I rode them :).

    I passed a windsurfer at one of the beaches between Pigeon Point and Ano Nuevo, said cheers and kept on my way. There were some really nice rides in the relatively clean waves to the south of the light house and I had a lot of fun every time I gybed in.

    Right at Pigeon Pt, the wind got up to somewhere in the 20’s. This was the sketchiest point because with the land bending eastward, the wind was parallel if not very slightly offshore to leeward of the lighthouse. Nonetheless, I could see Ano Nuevo Island at this point and was happy to keep it outside of DDW. Not a hard task: I very happy to gybe onto port and ride the waves every chance I got. As I got close, I picked out a line right to the east of the Island where there is basically a channel: few or no reefs, deepest water and max shelter from the swell. No need to play in the waves there!

    As I cleared the Island, I started to make out kites way in the distance ripping along below Waddell Bluff. I was very happy to see them, generally breathed a sigh of relief now I was in the smooth water south of Shark Haven. In no time, I was riding the waves with the other folks down at Waddell and then came in for a beer. Only CE was nowhere to be found! I trudged around the parking lot looking for the car, in need of a beer. After downing the water I brought with me, I started to wonder if I had remembered to give CE the keys. They certainly weren't in the dry bag! Anyway I chilled for a few minutes only to find Evan had been reading on the beach the whole time.

    1/16/2016 Rockaway Beach


    "Bass Swell nails California Coast!"

    As of midday saturday, a super long period swell has hit California. This is the same sweeping wavefront that wreaked havoc on the North Shore of Hawaii. It hit the Northern California bouys with a dominient period of 24s. Out of this world! The period will slowly clock down move down as the energy intensifies and the main front hits Sunday. Already on Saturday, the big sets are increadibly powerful and moving as fast as they will in this 1/16-17 swell in californa.

    I was just out at Rockaway beach and took some low notes right on the head! I paddled over the top of some some 15ft+ sets and saw even bigger breaking on the very outside of Rockaway cove. Caught a right or two and was inticed by the lefts coming around the point from linda mar. With 20s+ period, its nice to know you can count pretty high before you have to worry about the next wave keeping you down again!

    Check out the SwellSpect interactive demonstration! You can experiance this mondo swell without even getting your head wet. Mouse over the current data or play the last month's wave sounds. Without a good speaker, you might not hear the new swell yet at all as it is a very deep rumbling! As the stormfront gets closer, the waves will take on higher and higher frequency. Normally in surfing, we think of this as shorter and shorter period (worse and worse). You can see this in a spectrum, as plotted on the period axis. Right now, the period is super long and the pitch is super low! Check out the current sounds on the height plot!

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    Copyright SwellSpect, 2015