Monday, November 26, 2007

Kite surfing conclusion and tips.

After a hard kiting session!!

Well, I though I would put a few pictures of me kite surfing up, so that you can see that the course has indeed brought some results.

I'm on my way...

In addition I believe a few comments regarding kite surfing and the course should be mentioned, in case anyone else gets inspired by my results.

First you have to pump up the kite..

The most important thing to remember about kite surfing in my opinion is that this can be a dangerous sport, and not to treat it too lightly. Of course that said, I think pretty much anyone who has the mind to it, can learn how to do it.

Make sure everything is ok, and lay out the lines..

First, find a good teacher. This sounds simple, but can be pretty complicated affair. A good starting point is to find out if they are accredited by an organization (IKO for example).

Time to practice..

Second, when meeting them, ask them a lot of questions and if they answer competently (or appear to) and communicate in a patient manner which you understand, then the chances that you can get along with him/her is good.

This isn't so hard after all..

Additionally, have a look at the equipment, have them show you the kites, boards, bars, flotation device, and harness. If it fits and is in good shape then you are off to a great start.

Lastly, discuss costs up front, know exactly what you are getting into. How many hours, what is included. Options after the course; can you rent from them, and what additional services can they provide. For example after the course, it is not certain that you will be surfing, but all you may need is some additional practice, how much will this cost, and can they provide someone to help or supervise you, should it be necessary.

Alex the Kite Cabana kite surf teacher

As far as my course was concerned. Alex is very competent, and the Kite Cabana Kite Surf School is a pretty small operation, so you get a lot of personalized service (this can be good or bad, depending on your point of view). One of the best things I found was Alex would make sure that you could master the various exercises before allowing you to move on. The course is not about just completing the 10 hours, regardless of your confidence and competence. Rather, he makes sure that you are ready to move on to the next stage before letting you continue.

Up and moving, and sometimes just moving...

On the downside, his equipment is in rather poor shape (read the previous blogs for examples of broken lines, kites etc..), and the choices are definitely limited. Also on the downside Alex would often get called away or interrupted by other students/teachers or whatever while giving class, leaving you there waiting.

Finally, there were two things that I missed in this course. The first was a syllabus. It would have been nice to have an outline of how the course is structured at the beginning. Of course if this is required, you can just ask. Nevertheless, I think that it is a good idea that they provide it up front.

Getting dragged along in the water is easier than standing up..

Also, I think some more time should be spend on explaining the equipment itself, in particular, care and maintenance, different setups, advantages and disadvantages and other details regarding the sport itself and what you need to know to practice it safely and competently.

All in all, would I do this course again at the Kite Cabana Kite Surf School, the answer is yes.

It isn't all about kite surfing...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Day 7

Kite Cabana Kite surf school

This is the last entry in the kite surfing saga, not because I can surf, just because there is nothing left to do but practice, practice and more practice.

Today started out good. I got to use a "C" kite. The "C" kite is a bit different than the bow kites I had been using previously. The main difference is that is has a much more limited wind range than the bow kites. The reason for this is that the "C" kite uses no rollers on its lines, it has just 4 straight lines from the bar to the kite two on each edge, where the bow kites has also 4 lines but these connect do not connect directly to the kite, but rather to other lines which use rollers to adjust the form of the kite based on how much wind it is getting. This makes the bow kites much more flexible and also it doesn't steer as directly (quickly). So the first impression of the "C" kite was that is that is very "nervous".

The cabanas at the Kite Cabana

Once I got the kite set up and in the air it was off to practice standing up and surfing. Unfortunately the wind was dying down as the morning progressed. So I actually managed to crash the kite a couple of times because I "lost" the wind. Another thing with the "C" kite, it seems a bit more difficult to get back in the air and it likes to flip around on itself, making it necessary to get back on land and untangle the lines. To be honest, this might (just might) also be due to my lack of experience.

As far as surfing is concerned, I can get going fairly well, but I am not moving the kite around quickly enough (or there isn't enough wind / kite too small?) to really surf. So my surf sessions are limited to getting up, moving along until the momentum stops sinking back down and then repeating the procedure. Sometimes is goes pretty good, sometimes less so, but the end result, is that I can't quite get going. My session ended today by breaking the strap on the board. At least it came of in mid launch. Once I got back to shore, it turned out that the screw holding the left foot strap had come loose, so it turned to not be me a major issue (unlike the ripped kite, yesterday!!)

The bar at the kite cabana

Regardless, I am having a blast, and looking forward to more practice. This might be the time to mention that even though my training sessions are only a couple of hours at the most, by the end I am pretty dead. This is a lot of work, and even if you aren't holding the kite back with your arms, you still have to work quite a bit, not to mention the sun, sand, and waves. Yeah, I know it is a pretty tough life.

Katheryna back at the hotel enjoying our "apre" coke next to the pool..

From now on Alex is just giving me the kite and board and I am on my own. Welcome to kite surfing....

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Day 6

Kite surfers of the main beach in Cumbuco

This is turning into a never ending story, or maybe nightmare (at least for Alex). Our lesson yesterday was cancelled due to lack of wind, and so we were to try it again today.

Everything started out good, there was a bit more wind than yesterday, I got the 12 sq meter kite up, and had another go at standing on the board. I was having some problems with bar as the stopper was a bit loose and at the slightest gust the brakes would be released (the first safety feature, which is when the bar is pushed up past a stopper which then releases all tension on the kite). Making controlling the kite a bit more difficult as I would have to do it with two hands and still try and get the board on my feet. After a round of this and crashing the kite into the water (a first for me) Alex made a slight adjustment so that the brakes wouldn't release on their own.

Kite surfer at the weekend competition

By the way, my first real kite crash and in the end I didn't manage to get it up (ok, in the end it basically reached the beach with me in tow), before getting to the beach, as the waves were moving me closer and closer to the kite and I didn't manage to get any pressure on the lines. In deeper water I would have swam diagonally away from the kite to get rid of the slack and the kite should come up quite easily.

Kite surfers at the weekend competition.

The next round everything went fine, I stood a couple of times before sinking back down, and on what proved to be the last try of the day, I got up leaned too far back, landed on my back as if I had slid out on ice. The kite went down, and when I got it up it had a large rip on the left side, it flew but that was clearly it for this kite, so back to land. Some more material failure. Alex was clearly not too happy, and we agreed to give it another go tomorrow with another 12 sq meter kite.

It is getting pretty annoying not being able to practice, as each time is like the first time. But I have stood, if not quite surfed yet, I am getting the feel for the kite, the rest I think is just practice, practice, and more practice.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Day 5

Cumbuco beach during surf competition

Well, this was supposed to be the last day, but things turned out a bit different.

Today I got a larger kite, 12 sq meters to be exact. Now I had a kite which could really lift me up if it had half a chance. The difference between a 9 and a 12 is huge. With the 12, I felt that it could turn nasty any moment, but as long as I kept it under control it worked great.

A competitor at the kite surf competition

To get a feel for the larger kite, I took it out for a body drag, and it really made a difference. The kite was pulling a lot more even at positions where the other kite barely made itself noticeable. After successfully completing this trivial exercise, I got the board and it was time for the real thing.

Even the pros crash

After getting in past the waves (which were pretty high) and into the swells, I tried getting the kite on my feet. By the time I had the board on right, I was out of position and as previously I haven't yet figured out how to get into or stay in position with the board on my feet. So I got rid of the board behind me and the kite carried me forward a bit, so I had to start doing my best superman impressions to get back to it. During the second turn things turned sour. For some reason I lost complete control of the kite, and it pulled me very rapidly downwind, spinning in the process. As well trained as I was, I let go of everything, this should insure that the kite stopped pulling as fast as it should have gone slack. No such luck, the kite hit the water and immediately wanted to rise again. I tried getting hold of the bar but it did not do anything. The bar seemed jammed in a twisted position with one of the control lines wrapped around the brake/power adjustment. The kite kept trying to rise and turned crashing into the water repeatedly. As it is doing this, it is also pulling me very fast downwind and towards the beach. As the bar was of no use I had to release the main line to give the kite more slack and hopefully slow it down. Now the only thing holding us together was the leash. As the kite and I neared the beach there was little let for me to do but release the kite completely which I then did.

Luckily for me there were a couple of people near the kite when it got onto the beach, one of them grabbed it and secured it, as I climbed out of the water. By this time Alex was also running down the beach and when he got to me asked what happened. I tried explaining that the kite just went out of control. At the time I though that one of the lines on the bar control must have jammed in the roller or something. As I had done nothing out of the ordinary, and I was in complete control of the kite until it spun out of control, it must have been something "technical".

We unravelled everything and Alex took the controls and wanted to get the kite airborne to check everything out. As I was securing the kite, I noticed that one of the rollers was loose at the end of a cable, so I signaled Alex to come back in while I secured the kite on the ground ground again. When everything was secured, we had a look at the lines, and sure enough one of the outside control lines had broken, and the corresponding roller was hanging loose. This explained everything. Material failure and not human error was to blame. So my record remains clean. I still haven't crashed a kite (or had to get one airborne out of the water...).

And another crash

As he had no other 12 sq meter kite available after 20 minutes, my lesson was over for the day. Alex would try and get the kite fixed by tomorrow so that we could have another go at it. I must say that I really liked the 12, it lifted me easily, and though being more difficult to control, it is slower to react to input, so everything moves in slow motion, almost.

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Day 4

One of the competitors getting his kite out of a tree...

Due to a kite surf competition here we had the weekend off before continuing the course on Monday.

But before getting to that, a couple of words about the competition. It was really interesting, lots of great tricks, some drama and spectacular crashes. These guys did jumps, flips, and spins which were incredible, but they also crashed, lost their kites, and fell getting up, had to do supermans to get their boards, got their kites tangled together, and one even got his kite tangled in a coconut palm. Making me wonder if this isn't a lot harder than it looks!

A couple of other competitors getting tangled up...

For some human drama; apparently one hot-shot got disqualified, and then went out on the course during the following heat and disrupted the proceeding to a point where they had to cancel the heat and call in the police! Once he finally came back in, he was running around trying to get away from the security people who were trying to keep him off the competition grounds. The whole time he was followed by a bunch of kids and hangers-on, all wondering what he was going to do next! By the time the police showed up he had run off somewhere, and the competition could continue.

After all these fancy tricks I was really looking forward to the next lesson and finally trying to get up on the board. Once I got my gear on and the kite up, Alex went through the explanation and some demonstrations of how it was done.

The first thing is position. You have to position yourself and the board correctly so that you are facing downwind, with the board facing the direction that your kite will be pulling you. Ok, this is pretty straight forward (at least on the beach).

Next, you move the kite to 12 and control it with one hand while holding the board with the other and putting it on your feet. Again this works fine on the beach.

Now, with the board on your feet, and with you and the board in the right position, the next thing is to get the kite to pull you up and move you on your way. Sounds simple (and looked really simple during the weekend competition), for the beach exercise you sit on the ground and move the kite slowly to one side and then back to the other and slowly let the kite pull you up. The trick is to move the kite enough that you get enough wind to pull you to your feet, and not too much that you go flying uncontrollably down the beach, or little that you just sit there. The key is control. You are basically looking to put the kite in the position where it catches enough wind to haul you up but not too much so that you are out of control. This "sweet" point turned out to be a lot more elusive for me than I would have thought possible. Nevertheless, after a while practicing this on the beach, Alex announced that it was time for me to try it in the water.

A water start turned out to be much, much more complicated that it looked. The first problem was just getting the board on my feet, with the waves (we were beyond the break zone, but I still had to deal with the swells), and kite moving, both keeping me off balance, made this a lot more difficult than it looked. Then once the board was on my feet, I had to make my move before I got out of position, which would happen very quickly. Alex showed my how to hold position with the board, something about moving your legs and pointing the board in the particular direction that you wanted to be in. Something I didn't really understand and didn't quite managed. Once the board was on my feet that was it, I had to start in that position or abort and take the board off an move around until I was in the right position before trying again.

Crash, getting dragged along by the kite (I have some experience in this...)

Nevertheless, after a couple of attempts, a few aborted attempts, some plain disasters, I did manage to stand up and get pulled around 5 meters downwind. Then I ran into my next problem, after the initial pull, I would loose momentum and sink. I was not moving the kite enough, or fast enough to keep a steady pull. When I moved too quickly the kite would rip me from the board and I would land 10 meters downwind with the board swimming gaily 10 meters behind me. So I got to do plenty of supermans to retrieve my board and try again. By the time the lesson was over I had stood or partly stood a half dozen times, but never really surfed! I had done maybe 20 supermans and swallowed half the Atlantic in the process. Additionally, I had a kite from another student come down on top of me when it crashed into the water (something which can be very painful, and very, very dangerous). In order to keep from getting tangled or hit, I dove under the kite, when I came up for air the kite was still on top of me so down again and when I finally came up I was clear of the kite. The miracle is that during all this, my own kite was in the air the whole time. As a matter of fact, to date I have yet to crash my kite, either on land or in the water. This doesn't do me much good, but I think it is pretty cool.

One of the competitors doing a superman to get back to his board...

While attempting to stand you are getting constantly pulled downwind, so after a few attempts, aborted, crashed or otherwise, I had to get out of the water and walk the kite and board back up the beach, this was to avoid getting too far downwind and into a zone where there was a lot of traffic. A couple of times of this and you get pretty tired, so although I was ready for another attempt, I was kind of relieved that the lesson was over for the day.

In the end I think one of the problems was that I was doing this with a 9 sq meter kite and this is not only too small for me, but as the lesson went on there was less and less wind. Now a pro would have no problem, but for me a small kite meant that I had to do a lot more work with the kite in order to get the required amount of pull. This meant that the kite had to be moved a lot more and a lot faster, required a much larger degree of control, which I don't yet have. So I was either getting too little pull or too much, I couldn't find and keep enough wind in the kite to get surfing, but tomorrow is another day...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Day 3

Some great manouvers during a kite surf competition..

This morning it started out too windy to kite surf, so when we got there, there was no-one kite surfing. Luckily the wind settled down, and we were able to do our class. As we were setting up a lot of other people were also coming out. Today's lesson consisted of learning the signs used by kiters, getting the kite airborne and getting it down again. Together with one new exercise and some more practice with the old ones the lesson went by pretty quickly.

Getting the kite up and down is a fairly simple affair as long as one remembers not to try and do it too directly into the wind. Rather as long as it is done perpendicular to the wind, i.e. both you and the kite are parallel to the wind it will both go up and come down in a controllable manner.

Some great manouvers during a kite surf competition..

Now to the signs, in kite surfing you need someone to help you get the kite up and also to get it down. Alex did mention that it is possible to get it up alone, but it is pretty difficult and takes lots of practice. Getting it down alone is not that big of a deal, but it is better to have help. The main issue is that once the kite is down it needs to be turned and secured otherwise it will fly off on its own. The same when getting it airborne. The kite is not just going to lie there and wait for you to be ready. If you have enough wind to kite surf, the kite will want to take off or tumble down the beach with or without you.

The signal to get airborne is a thumbs-up. The person securing the kite will then just let go of it, and if you are in the right position the kite will slowly climb as you gently pull the bar in the opposite direction. You are now ready for your kite surfing session. No too complicated. Some additional tips, in the wrong position i.e. the kite is too far down wind, the helper will have a lot of problems controlling the kite. Also, make sure there isn't any slack in the lines when the helper lets go, otherwise the kite goes directly downwind and will more than likely take you with it.

When you are finished with your session and you want to get the kite back on the ground, the sign is touching the top of your head with the fist of one hand. Assuming that there is someone on the beach who is a kite surfer, they will know what you want.

Bringing the kite down is simple, it wants to come down anyway, you just control that it doesn't come down too fast, and once your help grabs the kite take a step forward to put some slack in the lines, while your assistant turns the kite over and puts some sand between the ribs to keep it from going up on its own. That is it.

After practicing take off and landings a couple of times, Alex sent me off to do figure eights again. By now I am getting some good speed and I am nearly coming out of the water when turning around (I am using a kite smaller than I need, otherwise I really could be getting airborne when doing this exercise). After a while of this, Alex sent me off to do some more superman exercises. For some reason, I think that yesterday I did them better, as today I wasn't able to hold the position as closely as yesterday. Nevertheless, Alex was satisfied enough that he put me on a new exercise.

This exercise has no name, at least none that he mentioned, and involves taking a board for a ride out and back. Not riding the board out and back, but carrying it out and back. First he had me holding the board with one hand and then crossing over and holding the board with the other hand on land.

Here I should mention that all the time that you are on land you are controlling the kite with one hand, either right or left depending on where the kite is. At the 12 o'clock position you switch over to the opposite hand. When the kite is on the left side you control it with your right hand on the right side of the bar (the dark colored side), when the kite is on the right side you control it with your left hand on the left side of the bar (the lighter colored side). So now I got to practice carrying something in the (previously) empty hand.

Not all manouvers ended well..

Once he was satisfied that I could move from right to left holding the board, he sent me off to do body drags carrying the board out and back. The hard part was getting in and out of the water over the waves carrying the board. Once in deep enough it wasn't a problem. Just hold the board in one hand, keep the kite steady and off you go. The cross over was a bit tricky but not too difficult. I just had to do it a bit slower than before to avoid too much drag from the kite while moving the board from one hand to the other. The key being, to do everything nice and slow.

That was it for today. A few more of these and Alex called me in. Apparently I am now ready to try and ride the board, which will be the next lesson.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Day 2

Some great manouvers during a kite surf competition..

Body drag redoux, figure 8's, and superman, the path to enlightenment is sometimes long and winding. The second day started out with the usual delays of interruptions, which didn't get better over the couple of hours of today's course.

Despite the idiot proofing and yesterdays lesson, I managed to almost put the lines on wrong. Dark color to dark color, light color to light color, even that seemed too complicated for me. The teacher noticed my error and corrected it, so at least he was paying attention. If that wasn't enough, once the kite went airborne one of the lines was crossed. This was not fatal, but I had to bring the kite down and correct the problem before continuing. Maybe I should be paying more attention?

Ok, once these "minor" errors were corrected and the kite was up it was time for some more body drag exercises. I actually enjoy these things, the sensation of being dragged back and forth in the water is pretty cool, and not difficult. Today I got a larger kite, 9 sq meters, so it has a bit more pull than yesterday, of course there was a bit less wind today, but at least it wasn't gusting.

Some great manouvers during a kite surf competition..

After a while of this the teacher called me over and gave me a new exercise, figure 8's. What I had been doing was keeping the kite steady at 2 o'clock or so while dragging me out, and then 10 o'clock to drag me back. This is all fun and well but pretty slow and boring. Figure 8's give you more speed as the kite is moving around getting more wind. To go out I would do small loops with the kite, from 1 o'clock to 2 o'clock and back, then turn and do the same from 10 o'clock to 11 o'clock to get back. You are now moving quite a bit faster and so is the kite across the sky. The best part was the cross-over where you were turning back, here the kite would lift me out of the water. Weeee... The more I did these the faster I would move the kite around and the faster I would go, now this is fun. Which is of course why after a while the teacher called me over and gave me a new exercise. This one was called Superman.

The point of the exercise is to be able to retrieve your board after having lost is upwind. He explained that when you loose your board, and you will, many times over the course of a days kiting. The board is dropped behind you as the kite is always pulling you forward. This necessitates that you go upwind to retrieve it, or at least not go too far downwind, while the board comes to you. So the exercise teaches you to steer the kite with one hand while using the other as a rudder to steer against the wind. Now as you are steering against the wind while holding one hand in the water and the other hand controlling the kite. Keeping it nice and steady at 2 o'clock or 10 o'clock coming back, you body is positions directly into the wind and waves, so you will find out very quickly that the second object of this exercise is not to drown or drink half the ocean.

Not all manouvers ended well...

Now this, though not being really hard, is certainly more work than fun. Pick an object on the beach go out steering against the wind with one hand, turn, come back steer against the wind with the other hand and see how close you manage to get back to the object you picked. I did manage to get back to the same house but that is about it. Maybe 10 meters? But there is certainly a difference between just being dragged downwind and steering against the wind. In the end the work in the water at least kept me from having to walk too far back up the beach to do the exercise again!!

That was it for the second day. It would have been much better if I had not made those stupid mistakes at the beginning but hopefully I have learned something, which is why I am here.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Kiteschee surfing for idiots and middle age people: Intro & Day 1

A great manouver during the kite surf competition..

This blog entry is a blow by blow description of our 5 day kite surfing course and how we got into it and what we got out of it. Enjoy.

After a long and complicated deliberations we finally decided that we had had enough of just touring around and watching other people having fun in the sand and the surf, so we decided to try our hand at Kite Surfing.

Ever since we first hit the beaches in Mosqueiro we have been surrounded by Wind surfers and Kite surfers. The poor surfers and boogie boarders are in the minority due to the lack of waves and the fact that they (the waves and logically the surfers) only come out when the tide is up. The wind however is relentless, there is a strong and steady South Easterly blowing all along the coast.

A case in point would be Jericoacoara. The central beaches at Jericoacoara were so packed with wind surfers that it looked like they were surfing on top of each other. The northern beaches had kite surfers going downwind for kilometers. You would see them start a few hundred meters down from the kite surfers and then surf until they went around the point and out of sight around 5km down the beach (there are special buggies labeled "kite taxis" to go and get them). The surfers and boggie boarders would come out late in the afternoon when the tide was up and hit some of the waves at the southern beaches, which were ok, but nothing too impressive. In the central bay they would also hit the waves with long boards and ride the small waves coming in. All in all it looked like the wind surfers and kiters were having most of the fun.
Further along the coast it would get worse, in various places like Paracuru north of Fortaleza there were some gorgeous stretches of sand beaches covered with kite surfers as far as the eye could see.

A good landing after a great manouver at the kite surf competition.

By the time we made it to Cumbuco beach we had decided that we would either have to learn to kite surf or wind surf. Cumbuco being a relatively trendy beach resort just north of Fortaleza had the infrastructure necessary. After having a look around it was decided that it would have to be Kite surfing as wind surfers were in a minority around here. We found a relatively in-expensive pousada in Tabuba beach (a not so trendy beach town next door to Cumbuco), and started too look around for a kite surfing school which would meet our budget and requirements (budget = none, requirements = not laugh us out of town).
The fist two things we quickly noted were, first, that it is an expensive sport to learn and second, that it is a sport for young people. By young I mean in their early 20's.
On further study though, I must admit that it is actually not all that expensive when compared to scuba diving or even skiing. The equipment is expensive but not overly so, and like scuba diving or skiing the major expense is getting to (and staying in) places where you can actually practice the sport.
After having checked every kite surfing school in the area we choose one run by a local, called appropriately Kite Cabana Kitesurf school (website is at the moment not on-line but I assume it will eventually be..), which also has a very nice pousada attached (much too expensive for us unfortunately), and is 50 meters from the beach.

The first day started well. Alex our teacher and apparently the owner of the school, greeted us warmly and started the conversation with "I have a problem". Turns out that he would not be able to hold the course on Saturday and Sunday as there is a kite surf competition and a lot of people would be expected. So not only would everyone be busy, but there would be no room on the beach for beginners (the beach is 750 km and stretches to Natal, but that is another subject!). But of course for us this is not a problem, the course would be split into three days (today was Wednesday), and then continued on Monday for the last two days. Overall the course consisted of 10 hours over 5 days.

Once this intro was over, we headed to the beach, after finding a spot in the shade we commenced with the theory. Kite surfing theory is fairly simple, there are two basic rules. The first, you need room, lots and lots of room. Something which a quick look at the beach did not confirm, as there seemed to be kite surfers pretty much on top of each other everywhere. The reason for the room, is that the kite is 30 meters away from you, so you need to take this into consideration before doing anything in close quarters.
Second, there are three types of wind, on-shore, off-shore, and side-shore. Two of which are ideal for kiting, off-shore, and side-shore. The other, on-shore wind should be avoided at all costs. A quick explanation might be in order. On-shore wind, blows from land to water, off-shore from water to land, and side-shore parallel to land. So if you go kiting with an on-shore wind, you won't be coming back. Simple.

The remaining theory consisted of a couple of cards showing the positions in which the kite pulls the most, namely low to the horizon downwind (obviously, or maybe not). The neutral position of the kite being 12 o'clock (straight above you). The cards show how the kite is an arch and that moving the arch from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock vertically is where there is the least resistance, and when lowering it horizontally there is more resistance (ie. pulls the most, also known as the "Power Zone").

Ok, after this, it was time to have a look at the kite.

The first piece of equipment is the "bar". This is how the kite is controlled and consists of a bar to which the kite is attached with 4 lines and you to the bar with one line. The bar also has the control lines rolled up on to it, so were shown how to unroll it and make sure that the lines where untangled. The bar is also divided into two parts the right and the left. Which are color coded. The color is irrelevant, but important is that the right bar will always have a dark color, and the left bar a light color. This is to make sure that in case the bar twists that you know which side controls the correct side of the kite.
The ends of the lines are also color coded to match the bar, left a lighter color, right a darker color.
Once the lines where laid out it was time to unroll and pump up the kite. The particular kite we used was 7sq meters and has inflatable ribs as well as an inflatable leading edge. In essense the front edge of the kite is a tube as well as 4 ribs to which the kite material is fastened. This all gets pumped up until it is nice and ridgid.
Alex then showed us how to turn the kite and how to secure it on the ground to insure that it doesn't fly away. Something very important as 5 minutes previously, we watched an unsecured and unfastened (to the bar) kite take off and roll/fly down the beach with people chasing it. So I guess not everyone paid close enough attention to this part of the course.

To carry it around invert it, and hold it by the leading edge. To secure it on the ground lay it down in the flying poistion and throw some sand on the kite between the ribs to keep the material from catching any wind. So far so good.

Now we were ready to connect the kite to the bar via the control lines we laid out previously. The four control lines (two right; dark, two left; light) are connected via a knot and loop system to the kite. Alex kept explaining that this is where the most of the accidents. Apparently it happens that people connect it incorrectly, and when they first try to fly the kite goes out of control taking the person with it. Assuming you remember to connect the dark to dark, and light to light, and with the addition that the lines are set up so that of the two right lines one has a knot and one has a loop, to match the line on the kite it is nearly impossible to go wrong. Nevertheless, once everything is connected, it is important to do a double check and make sure that everything is ok.

After the kite and bar were connected and everything was checked, it was time to go to the rest of the equipment.

This consisted of, a helmet, a bouyancy vest, and a harness to connect you with the kite. The equipment was neither in a very good state of repair nor did it fit very well. But it was functional.

In between various explanations Alex would continually be interrupted by other students or teachers to take care of some detail or other, something which is annoying to say the least but we managed.

The next thing is getting the kite airborne. A simple procedure as long as you follow one simple rule, don't try to get it airborne downwind, rather side-wind. What I mean by this is you need to stand parallel to the wind with the kite in front of you, so it goes up from the three or nine o'clock position, that is it. If you try to get it airborne downwind it will more than likely drag you and the kite into a building or worse.

Once the kite was airborne, Alex showed us the controls in action, including the "power move" which is when you pull the bar towards you, which in effect gives you a quick shot of lift, as it makes the kite more wind resistant, and of course, stressed that we were not to do that! Kind of takes the fun out of it. The controls are simple, pull left, kite goes left, pull right the kite goes right. With the additional notation that on sand/land we were only to use one hand to control the kite. Why is that you might be asking. The reason is that on land you have to carry your board with you, so you only have one hand to control the kite. Obvious, if there was a board nearby, which at this point there wasn't.

He also then explained the various safety features, of which there are three. The first is to push the bar forward, this loosens the pull on the kite and it goes slack. The second is a quick release button on the harness connection line which will detach the kite from your harness. The last one is a leash which is also connected to the harness connection line, this he explains is a safety feature not for your safety but for that of others, so that the kite doesn't go flying solo down the beach and hurt someone.
Additional the kite has an two adjustments for more or less power, a red ball and a black ball tied to a central line which controls the shape of the kite. Basically the flatter the kite is the less wind resistance it has, the more curvy the more it catches the wind and hence pulls more. The safety features basically remove any tension on the lines and thereby leaving the kite slack and it would just drop with minimal pull.

I must admit that I was a bit nervous the first time he tied the kite to my harness, but once the controls were in my hand it was a piece of cake. The kite reacts pretty slowly, so you have to make adjustments before they are necessary, and although there was a bit of a pull, keeping the kite level at any particular position was not all that difficult. The main difficulty was the wind, occasionally gusty, which would make it necessary to make more corrections than normally. Anyone who has flown a steerable kite will know what I mean. Also unlike a steerable kite, (mine is around a meter), this is much slower and predictable. The steerable kites are extremely fast and can be pretty quirky.

Once I got used to the kite, the controls, and the pull, I got to do exercises, consisting of moving the kite back and forth across the sky. Quite interestingly, it was more difficult controlling the kite when on the left (inland) side than when it was on the seaward side. I assume it was the angle of the wind. Katheryna also noticed this when it was her turn.

The day ended by doing body drags the first one accompanied then after that alone. Basically you walk into the water with the kite and once you are deep enough let the kite drag you out 40 meters or so and then turn the kite around and let it drag you back to the beach. The only problem here is making sure that you stand up before the water gets too shallow, otherwise you get dragged onto land, which can be painful. One thing I can say about this, is that it is much more fun doing the exercise alone. The not so fun part is having to walk up the beach again to do the exercise again as you are walking up against the wind and an ill fitting harness makes it pretty uncomfortable.

This was the first day, and I must say it was fun, and so far not too difficult, although I have a feeling it will be soon...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Beaches, Beaches, and More. Mosqueiro to Cumbuco (Fortaleza)

Rural Brazil..

The center was dry, Diamantina was cool, Lençois was touristy, Belem was hot and humid, plenty of the "real" Brazil, mostly no tourists or associated infrastructure (with the exception of Lençois and Diamantina), now it was time to head for the beaches and the "other" Brazil. Many say the most interesting part of Brazil.

Beach strip in Mosqueiro, PA

We started by heading to the campground in Mosqueiro. As I noted previously Mosqueiro is an island near Belem. It has some excellent beaches which have waves and a tide although more than 150km from the Atlantic ocean. It is also one of the places Belem goes on the weekend to get out of the sticky and hot city. During the week though it is deserted, and the only action is the daily market when the fishing fleet comes in. The beaches range from empty stretches punctuated by a few "Barracas" (Kiosks) selling food and drink, to the city beaches with high rise apartments across the street. Our preference was Praia Paraiso on the norther end of the island. Conveniently the campground was less than a km from this beach! The campground was run by a couple who acted as caretakers for the owner who only came out on weekends to watch over his restaurant on the premises. The beach was nicely deserted during the week, and tolerable on the weekends.

The Brazilian beach preference seems to run to somewhere where they can park their car play music out of the back and have plenty to eat and drink to accompany the tunes. Particularly on the city beaches where they would be cars parked all along the strip, all playing music at deafening levels, making for a very interesting spectacle. The funny thing is that few people were actually in the water. As most other places, this would be reserved for the children.

A steady wind also allowed the wind and kite surfers to practice their art along various stretches of beach, and of course plenty of people playing sand futebol (pronunced futscheebol also known as soccer).

In the end we spent two weeks here, and looking back at it, I am hard pressed to explain why. It was just relaxing, we spent plenty of time on the beach, shopping for food at the market in Vila (Vila de Mosquiero, the main city on the island), practicing our camp cooking, and enjoying a bottle or two of Cachaça (over the two weeks!!). Trying some of the "stranger" delicacies available, such as Açai, maniçoba, tapioca and a variety of fruits available at the market, whose names escape me.

Açai has a very fruity bitter taste and is used in a variety of things from drinks to a sauce served with pretty much anything. Maniçoba, which we tried at a beach kiosk, where they assured us that "tourists" don't like it, was a black soup/sauce with meat in it. It has a salty bitter taste, but is definitely palatable (accompanied by rice). Apparently it is made from the leaves of a plant which have to be cooked for 7 days as it is poisonous otherwise. In Vila there is a whole row of stands selling tapioca in various flavors and methods. Apparently a favorite breakfast food of the locals and tourists alike. We tried "wet" tapioca with coconut, and a "dry" tapioca. The dry tapioca was fried and both were served like a rolled up pancake. I preferred the wet version which had a sauce and therefor easier to get down. The other was chewy but otherwise pretty tasteless.

All good things must come to an end, and we finally dragged ourself away from Mosqueiro. It helped that it has started to rain more and more as the weeks passed. The next stop was 300km away at the first Ocean beach in the area; Salinopolis, or Salinas for the locals.

Corvina beach, Salinopolis, PA

Salinas was great, first it was empty, second the beach was pristine, no kiosks or Barracas to ruin the view (or the sound of the ocean). The beach we stayed at was Corvina beach, a stretch of beach which had a large lagoon in front of the ocean, effectively making two beaches. The lagoon is shallow and can be waded easily at low tide (a little deeper at high tide), to get to the ocean. The waves made us return to town and buy a boogie board! Which we then made good use of during the week that we stayed, so much so in fact, that I had to make various repairs to the board.

There are a couple of other beaches, particular Atalaya beach a few km's away but none had the deserted feel of Corvina. Atalaya turned out to be a wide beach which could be driven on at low tide, with plenty of barracas to provide the necessary liquid refreshments. After a week practicing with out boogie board it was time to move on. The next stop was Sao Luis, which we had been told was a very nice town.

Mosaics in Sao Luis by night, MA

It is indeed a very nice town. The old town is a world heritage site. Not only that, but the beaches are only a couple of km's away. Additionally I read that it is the Reggae capital of Brazil! Something I couldn't confirm, although I did see a couple of "Reggae bars".

The architecture is very interesting (building covered with colorful tiles, and my favorites the street lamps everywhere) and I took tons of pics. The beaches were nice and wide, with plenty of room for quads and 4x4 cars to run around, at high tide there were waves for the surfers and boogie boarders. The water was a bit murky but otherwise very nice. Being a world heritage site, there were plenty of tourists and attractions/shopping for them. A few days of this was enough for us and we continued on to Lençois Marahense which is a national park with huge sand dunes.

Lencois Marahense NP, MA

We made it as far as Barreirinhas which is where the road effectively ends, as past this you need a 4x4. From here we took a tour to the dunes and dune lakes nearby. The price was outrageous for the 10km off road ride to the dunes. The "tour" consists of a walk to two of the lakes, and the ride back and forth, that was it. The price of 20$/p was in our opinion pure highway robbery. Luckily it didn't take anything away from the dunes, which are very beautiful. The lakes between them are very interesting. Apparently, water filters through the dunes and collects in various lakes between the dunes, most of which dry out over the season, but a couple which always contains water. The most interesting sight is where the dunes end directly in the water, making for some spectacular pictures. Also the color of the dunes; snow white, gives the whole area an almost surreal feel.

Sete Cidades NP, PI

Since the track between Barreirinhas was un-passable for us, we had to back track to the main road going to Sao Luis, from there we headed to Piripiri, where we wanted to go and visit the Sete Cidades national park. After passing Piracuruca we entered the park and found out that they had camping there, so we didn't make it to Piripiri. We stayed in the middle of the park and camped at the hotel grounds. The following morning we took a 6 hour walk in 40C heat checking out the park sights. A guide is required, and the one we got is apparently the only "native" guide in the area. Something he would mention on a number of occasions. Native meaning he was born in the park (the last people to leave the park left in 1976, although the park was established in 1961). The park itself was pretty interesting, we saw some animals and plenty of rock formations, which with a lot of fantasy, or a 6 year old could be anything you liked. From giant serpents with scaly skin, to huge elephants, or the profile of some long gone ruler of Brazil. There were even plenty of rock paintings, in mostly geometric shapes, which we speculate were a bunch of pre-historic kindegarden kids just doodling, but what do we know.

Luis Correia, Atalaya beach, CE

Ok, enough sightseeing, now back to the beaches. From Sete Cidades we headed straight north to Luis Correia which was supposed to have a beach camping. No beach camping, but we found plenty of vacation condos for various government institutions, from police to military. In one they allowed us to stay the night for a very reasonable fee, and though the place was a dump we took it. It had an excellent view of the ocean and beach, and had plenty of room for us to spread out. The beach, Atalaia, was for the most part deserted, and looked like it had had its best days quite a while ago. Most of the installation along the beach and across the road were in a pretty bad shape. Empty, abandoned, and being taken over by sand. There are also some spectacular dunes just as you get into Luis Correia from Parnaiba.

After settling in, we went to Parnaiba to have a look. Parnaiba turned out to be a delightful town, with a nice central square, some wide boulevards and is fairly small and compact. it used to be a major port, but since the river silted up and the port moved it has gotten pretty quiet. Nevertheless, it is doing pretty good, judging from the fancy stores and huge houses along the road headed to the beach. When I mean huge, I really mean huge. These compounds take a block, have three entrances and three to four buildings spread around. Must be nice.

Nearby was one of my favorite spots; the Pedro do Sal beach to the north. A long empty stretch of beach which the surfers (all 4 or 5 of them...) take over when the tide is high, otherwise completely abandoned. Even the main area where the kiosks are is overrun by sand, giving it an abandoned look. There are plenty of large sand dunes along the road leading to this beach also.

The day before we left we were stopped by a group of people blocking the road going into Luis Correia, there had apparently been and accident, and when we drove through we saw a small child lying dead on the road. The ambulance and police were there as well as lots of on-lookers, but for some reason no-one had bothered to cover him up. This was to say the least, a horrible sight that I will not soon forget, and made our stay here memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Things didn't get any better, as three days later traveling between Gijoca do Jericoacoara and Cumbuco we saw another accident, this time a young man was lying dead on the roadway early in the morning.

But I am getting ahead of myself, after Luis Correia we headed to Gijoca do Jericoacoara. We took the road along the beach which had some spectacular dune vistas before turning inland. The ride was uneventful, other than the last 70km which was on a very bad sand track, which as anyone who has ever ridden a bike will know, is not fun, specially not on a fully loaded bike. I managed to make it 69.5km before dropping the bike, and twice at that, this only 500 meters from the campground, very annoying. Luckily only my pride was hurt.

Jericoacoara dunes at sundown, CE

The following morning we took one of the frequent trucks to Jericoacoara and spent the day walking around this trendy beach spot. There is little that is Brazilian about it, other than being in Brazil obviously, otherwise judging from the people and languages spoken this could be anywhere from Hawaii to Tahiti.

There are only sand roads in town, but plenty of boutiques, and coffee shops, as well as pousadas and upscale hotels. There is large bay and a constant wind which attracts wind and kite surfers from all over the world. There is also a surf beach nearby. The sunset during high tide in the bay is magical. A lot of people climb up to the nearby giant sand dunes and watch it from there (along with hundreds of others...), we preferred the bay.

It is definitely easy to see why Jeri is so popular with wind surfers, you can literally go 10 meters from your room and jump on your board and off you go (at least during high tide). The apre-surfing is also first class, at least from the look of it. For our tastes though, too many tourists and too expensive. So after the day there we decided to continue on.

The next stop was Cumbuco beach. Someone had recommended that we stop there on our way south, as it has some nice beaches backed by beautiful sand dunes. As I noted previously, on our way there we passed another fatal accident. Something we both hope is not going to be a trend. Cumbuco turned out to be pretty nice if a bit glitzy/ritzy for our tastes. Luckily for us there is a much more affordable beach just next door, namely Tabuba beach.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,