Alberta & BC Rockies PowerKiting
Written by: Sophie Benavent,
Atlantic Winds Adventure (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)
(902) 468-0205 or www.4WindSports.com
[ Background | Equipment | Where ]
Power kiting is a fast growing and dynamic new sport, which is gaining lots of popularity. Power kites are large kites designed to provide significant pull for your favorite sport enabling such fast-moving options like: kite surfing (on a surfboard), kite buggying (on a purpose-built 3-wheeled cart), kite skating (on a skateboard or roller skates), or snowkiting (on skis or snowboard), plus kite landboarding with an All Terrain Board. Other variations include kite sailing and kite layaking.
Kiteskiing began in the mid 80s on frozen lakes and fields in the US Midwest and East Coast. In 1987, the re-launchable inflatable kite was invented which proved both lightweight and stowable. It's easy to pack and transport to your sports location of choice without significantly adding to the space required for your other sporting equipment. If you dropped your kite in the water you could re-launch it and carry on sailing. The modern sport of Kite surfing was born. In 1999, a team used kite power to pull sleds to the North Pole. Since then, kite manufacturers test their kites in extreme conditions, including the fastest ever crossing of the continent of Antarctica in 2004.
The UK has been at the forefront of the sport of kitesurfing, with its Flexifoil company being one of the largest and oldest (since 1972 with recreational kiting then power kiting) power kite manufacturers in the world. They continue to innovate for all kite sports, and sponsored the Antarctic crossing.
Today snowkiting is becoming increasingly popular in Canada. With a fast learning curve, this new sport dramatically expands the possibilities of winter sports. Just bring your pair of skis or your snowboard and take-off for new winter adventures. If you want to keep on kiting after the winter time, it's no problem. Get into kitesurfing, the skills you've learned in snowkiting will be very useful in kitesurfing.
Like kitesurfing, snowkiting can be very hazardous, and should be practiced with care. Here are a few basic safety rules:
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- Never venture onto the water in direct offshore winds (because of the possibility of being 'flown' out to sea) or direct onshore winds (because of the possibility of being thrown against trees, rocks etc). Cross-shore wind directions are considered to be the best.
- Never underestimate the power a kite produces or how quickly the weather conditions can change.
- Always test your safety system on your first flight and activate it if you feel you are losing control of your kite.
- Always use safety equipment; helmet, knee/elbow pads, gloves or life jacket (kitesurfing)
Fly safe with a high quality kite with a kite size appropriate for the wind conditions and your skills and you'll get addicted in no time.
Power kites should be flown with caution, in clear safe areas, and with the proper safety equipment:
These kites come in two main forms:
- Foil kites are soft kites with a number of cells running fore & aft, allowing air to inflate the kite. Closed cell foil kites have inlet valves that prevent water getting in. (Peter Lynn makes a foil kite which can be used for both kitesurfing and snowkiting)
- Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI) kites have inflatable bladders on their leading edge, which keep the kite floating when they drop into the water.
Foil kites are more durable than inflatable kites; they are also more popular for land or snow kiteboarding. Leading manufacturers for Foil kites are Flexifoil, Peter Lynn or Ozone.
Kites come in various sizes ranging from 1.5 sq. meters to 21 sq. meters on up. The larger the surface area the more power the kite has. Bigger kites are usually used on water as there is more friction on water than on land, kiters need more power. This is because marine kiters often begin sitting, fully immersed, in the water and must depend on the kite to not only provide forward velocity but lift them out of the water, where they achieve optimal speed. Kite boarders often have two or more kite size for different wind conditions.
The kite is controlled via a control bar or a set of handles (kite buggying). Bars provide a quick-release safety-system, and a depower system to adjust the kite's power in case of gusts and stronger winds.
This is the device that moves you across the surface. The possibilities for traction are almost endless, you can use a surfboard, a wakeboard, a kite buggy (a 3-wheeled cart), a skateboard or roller skates, skis, a snowboard, a All-Terrain Board, a Landboard. Peter Lynn makes a special catamaran for kiters: the Kite-Cat.
Some riders use a harness to connect the kite to themselves to free their hands to do more advanced maneuvers. It's also a good way to rest your muscles from the power of the kite. There are two different types of harness: a seat-type or waist-type harness. Main manufacturers are Dakine and Maui Magic.
Even in water, a helmet is recommended when flying a power kite, because a gust can lift one very quickly, to great heights. A life jacket is mandatory to practice Kite Surfing. On land, serious power kiters use a full set of pads as well.
If you are looking to buy your first power kite, ask advice to your local retailer. They can help you choose your kite. Taking lessons is definitely the best way to learn faster, it's also a good way to try different kites before you buy.
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There are many places across Canada where people can practice: Essentially any large area with exposure to consistent, steady winds (10 to 35+ knots):
Sophie Benavent is with Atlantic Winds Adventure, 552 Windmill Rd, Dartmouth, NS (902) 468-0205 or check www.4WindSports.com.
- A large lake with enough space to launch the kite or along the Ocean's shore
- In Nova Scotia: Grand Lake, Lake William, Bras d'Or
- In the Toronto area: Lake Simcoe, Cherry Beach (near downtown Toronto), Wasaga Beach (on Georgina Bay), Long Point (on Lake Erie), Sauble Beach (on Lake Huron).
- In the West, the Okanagan and Shuswap Lakes provide a very broad water surface, and importantly are large enough for "clean air" without turbulence caused by nearby forests and hills.
- A frozen lake or an empty snowy field, including open areas in provincial or municipal parks. Get permission before using a farmer's field.