Tuesday, April 21, 2009

HQ Powerkites World Tour stop - OBX

Beautiful weather welcomed the HQ Powerkites World Tour to the Outer Banks (OBX).

Our destination on Saturday was the cashmere sands of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, North Carolina.

Jockey’s Ridge is like a dream. Atop the 100 foot (30 m) dunes are spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Albemarle Sound waters with clean winds from any direction. Best of all there is plenty of soft and forgiving sand for jumping, scudding, kite flying and hang gliding. Between the dunes are small, hard-packed areas that can be ridden with a buggy. However, Craig Young demonstrated how a buggy with standard wheels and a large kite could roll right over dunes. Warm temperatures, sunny skies and winds of 15 mph+ made for a fun filled day. The entire HQ Powerkite range was available for trial and the HQ Team USA staff (Tim Baxmeyer, Melanie Pargmann & myself) was on hand to offer free lessons and guidance. New friends were made and that evening we retreated to a local tavern for a BBQ deck party and views of the sunset over the water.On Sunday, the tour headed 30 miles (50 km) south to Waves, North Carolina on Hatteras Island. Chris Moore and his fine staff hosted the day’s events at the new Kitty Hawk Kites flagship store and kiteboarding resort, which featured lots of action with the NEO and Hydra water relaunchable kites. Many kite boarders gave the NEO a trial. Some beginners used the 8m NEO for their first body drags. A line of novices gathered in the water to use Hydra trainers for their introduction to the sport. There is nothing like getting pulled head first into the water for the very first time! Again, Mother Nature smiled and provided us with southwest winds of 15-20 mph, sunny skies and warm 61 F (16 C) water temperatures.

It is a good feeling when you wake on Monday with sore muscles. The Outer Banks is kiting Nirvana and we long to return for another session.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NABX - North American Buggy Expo

Once known as the Spring Break Buggy Blast, this has been an annual event on the Ivannaph dry lake for years. Located on the state line of Nevada - California, it offers not only great venue for land sailing, but cheap lodging at the Terrible's Resorts nearby in Primm, NV.

Nearly 200 wind enthusists gathered on the lake bed. This year offered a lot of wind...with two days providing 35+ mph winds and gust up to 50+.

Matched my personal best speed of 55 mph in a buggy. A teamrider from Holland hit 77?!?!?!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Smithsonian Kite Festival

A soggy forecast did not damper the fun and enthusiasm at this popular annual DC event in its 43rd year. The crowds were lighter than usual because of the cloudy skies and muddy grounds. But it was exciting to see the cherry blossom buds popping and to be flying kites again on the National Mall.

Having not been to the event in over seven years I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends from the region. One old friend was Patrick Callahan and after catching up we agreed to compete together as a team in the popular Rokkaku Battle to occur at the end of the day. If you’re unfamiliar with a Rok battle, it is a western take on a kite fight (aka The Kite Runner). The object is to down or cut the other kites out of the sky. Last one flying is the winner.

A number of small exhibit tents lined the edge of one field with booths from the Swedish and Czech Republic embassies, Smithsonian kite history, green energy promoters and so on. I was recruited to assist with kite building at the American West Indies booth where they gave away the kites for free. These Dracon Foundation “sugar glider” kites were made from paper and bamboo sticks and got their name from their resemblance to flying squirrels.

One of the hallmarks of the Smithsonian Festival is the kite competition where only homebuilt kites are allowed to enter.

As with many things in life, a good story and fancy dress can put you ahead.

Xtreme Green Team

Dressing for the job they want, not the job they have.

As the Rokkaku Battle approached, Patrick was nowhere to be found. My friend Jim Cosca had been recruited to battle with the ladies from the graphics department of his former employer - Premier Kites. The ladies brought yellow battle shirts with the team name ironed on the front: Screamin' Jim and the Ripstop Girls.

I made my way onto the field thinking Patrick would eventual show. When it was announced that each team required a minimum of two members, they singled me out as the only team short. I wanted to battle! So I needed to act quickly. I turned to the on looking crowd standing at the edge of the roped off field and loudly pronounced “Anyone here want to run around this field with me and fly a kite?” A moment passed with no takers. Suddenly, a lady shouted, “I will!” and she stepped on the field to join the fray.

With only a minute remaining, I gave her (Amy) some basic information – “I need you to help launch the kite, then run back to me and hold the line winder.” The battle fielded fourteen teams and we came in fourth during the first heat. Along the way we engaged another kite and cut them from the sky! Our kite only came down because we ran out of wind. I needed to make a bridle adjustment before the second heat.

Along the way, I was feeding Amy information about how to fight in the battle and basic kiting tips. Despite my adjustments, our Mona Lisa adorned kite was not quite right after launching the second time and we were quickly downed. It was a kite from my old collection of Premier Kites (yeah, I once worked there, too). It had a defect – the top tie lines for the spreader / keel connection was sewn three inches too far to the left. As a result it snaked the spine badly, making it unstable in flight. Without the tie off, the spreaders would slip and flatten the kite too much. This is what occurred during the 2nd flight. So for the third and final heat I was able to rip off the cord and connect the spine to spreader directly with a knot. It held for battle. However, we were outmaneuvered by the eventual winners (The Midnight Squadron from Laurel, Maryland) and we probability came down in the middle of the pact. Not too bad for taking a volunteer from the audience.