Kitesurfing Fun Comes Back Surf Style
Posted by direwolff on April 1, 2007
When I first took kitesurfing lessons, the board of choice where I learned was the Naish Sky Pirate. This was a 6’6″ mother of a surfboard style directional board, that rattled throughout the ride, but had amazing floatation giving a beginner rider that little extra welcomed support. One had to jibe when changing directions as there was very little chance of riding that board toe-side given it’s width and the layout of the straps. Jibing was never a strength of mine, but fortunately the wakeboard style boards started getting better. Since then, bi-directional boards have become the stipend of the sport, and now even beginners are better off riding these twin-tip boards so as to avoid the whole jibe thing, as well as move up the learning curve of doing tricks faster.
However, there was always a core group of former surfers that kept their surfboard style handy and would put on a show any time the coastal conditions here in the Bay Area called for some wave handling. Heck, down at Waddell Creek (down by Santa Cruz), the surfboards never got put away at all. Many of us twin-tippers could also ride the waves, but in our case it would be more about just riding in wave conditions than truly riding the waves where you nearly completely depower your kite and just surf wave before powering up again at the end to get back out.
Last season however, saw a pick-up of people in the Bay Area getting into the surfboards for what seems to be two reasons. First, lots of the seasoned twin-tip riders have reached the competency of the big air tricks, whether these be huge straight jumps, rolls and spins, or the more committed kite loops. Sure, every one keeps working to perfect these tricks, but there are those times where you just want to sail and the surfboards provide that ride. The second reason is that with kites having bigger and bigger wind ranges, one or two kite quivers are becoming more common than what used to be 3 or 4 kite quivers. Hence, you can more easily extend your low-end wind range by using a surfboard which requires less wind than a twin-tip wakeboard style. When combining this with a desire to surf the waves, the surfboard becomes an invaluable component of your gear.
Jeff Kafka, local Bay Area kitesurfer, who’s also an accomplished surfer (yeah, this guy rides Mavericks on a tow-in board…sick!!!), not to mention a great snowkiter whose school Lil’ Pinot & I attended last February in Utah, just started shaping custom kitesurfing surfboards under the brand Prisoner Of Wind.
His boards are pretty awesome. Last Friday was my first time on one after hearing so much about them. Another buddy, “Gibby”, let me ride his 5’2″ Tri Halo board at Crissy Field, and all I can say is what a fun ride. That board is cut for smooth turning wave riding, and though that was far from the conditions I was riding in, it was especially great when I was doing a downwind ride surfing the swells. Because I ride “goofy-footed”, the Quad Skull was going to be the better board for me, partly because of its stability and unwindability (which is necessary at Crissy), but also partly because of its ability to release when snapping on a wave. Since most of my top turns will be toe-side, I need the snap a bit more than a regular rider doing a heel side turn off the wave. As it turned out, another friend, Gabe, was selling his 5’2″ Quad Skull in favor of a 5’9″ he’s having custom made by Jeff, and was willing to part with his old board at a fair price…so I jumped on it.
So here’s my newly acquired board…
Managed one reach on it yesterday and I could feel the unwindability on it. Only lasted one reach because I had the wrong straps on it, but even so, it’s still motored. Good thing I also had my wakeboard so I settled into an expression session at the beach. Today it looks like we’re going to get a session at Stinson Beach with the winds appearing to cooperate. I still don’t have my jibes down, which means that I either fall in the drink while trying or pull it off at the speed of molasses. Having said that, it’s a small price to pay to learn a new aspect of the sport and to enjoy wave riding. Fortunately, since I generally pop into the waves toe side any way, I’ll likely be able to ride Stinson without too much problem as I’ll already be in the heel-side position to exit the breaks once I’m done riding the wave, and the waves there tend to me more mellow. Anyway, I’m super psyched to experience the zen of wave riding.
(6:13pm UPDATE: The board rocks, but I still suck at riding a surfboard. Man, this thing takes on the waves with true style. It was so easy to turn on it and get right up on the wave. Unfortunately, my inability (or fear) of jibing meant that I got tired fast riding on one side of the board, so I only got to ride it for about 20 mins. Fortunately however, I had my Underground Firebird with surf fins on my goofy direction which made for an awesome surf session any way. I should also say that Stinson went off today and played host to nearly 15-20 kiters.)