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2010 - the year in review

Posted by bartman, 19 December 2010 · 457 views

My season starts, ideally, in March but realistically, and lately, in May. This year was the worst start yet with weather (read snow and torrential rain well above normal amounts) that did not suit my fair-weather flying. We didn't really see the rain slow down until the day before our Windscape festival which is mid June! All in all I had only a couple hours to shake off the cobwebs and make sure I could still fly a kite before the first day of the festival.

A few of those hours were in May during the Taber Fun Fly that Great Canadian Kite Company puts on. A rather light wind day, but always fun to get together with friends for an afternoon.

Windscape experienced two full days of sun and variable winds the entire weekend. The Friday night-fly had strong winds, but the official festival weekend had mostly light winds which did keep everyone grounded from time to time. There was no wind for a Saturday night fly, but it was a perfect evening for my annual BBQ for my Rev flying friends and a few other flyers I've got to know over the years. The previous eight weeks of poor weather did lead to a record festival crowd both days as spectators were looking for any excuse to get outside and soak up some blue sky and sun. Good for the festival!

The featured Rev team at this year's festival was 180Go! and what a great bunch of guys they are! When not doing their own demos they generally ensured there would be something in the sky for people to see and/or helped the rest of us learn a few more techniques to improve our own game that weekend. Mike Kory also led the available Rev flyers (about 9 this year) for our own little "mega-fly" on the Sunday. I'd like to see a minimum of 16 for the mega-fly in 2011 so if you are nearby or want to make a little trip to the largest festival in Western Canada please make plans! We'd love to have you. If you are an accomplished flyer why not contact the Windscape organizers and perhaps you can be an invited guest?

Unfortunately the weather for the rest of the summer was still mostly uncooperative with rain or wind extremes from still to storms, but not a lot in the flying range. I was able to get a few evenings with cleaner and usable winds, but total hours in the sky really was not even comparable to 2009. With my first ever trip to WSIKF (Washington State International Kite Festival for anyone reading not familiar with it) on the horizon I was getting concerned about my proficiency not being up to par to fly anywhere near other pilots many of which would be world class experts and performers.

Time marched quickly on and suddenly the big trip to WSIKF was here. It had been only a year since my bud Paul called me with his grand plan for the 2010 festival and now suddenly I found myself on a two day/20 hour road trip with Kite Cowboy and his family. He never had totally sold me on this idea (a week long kite festival?? Is this a joke?? Live together for more than a week in a small motel room?? I can't stand on a beach for a week flying a kite. I'll be bored out of my mind by day three!) and I'm not sure if it was the relentless pressure (or was that threats?) Paul exerted to wear me down or some force of nature that made me agree to it but I did find myself in the van, one wet August morning, heading to the west coast. There would be no turning back now both literally (and figuratively which I didn't suspect at that time). To me this was always going to be a one-hit-wonder type of trip - I'll do it once, but that's it.

We arrived at Long Beach to find fog and cold. My worst fear was realized. I knew the weather at LB could be a mixed bag, but I had just come from months of rain and was not prepared for more of the same. I was not a happy camper and was wondering how I could survive a single day of "damp cold" which, in itself, was a new level of discomfort for me let alone an entire week of the stuff! Where was the bus station?

Thankfully I was quickly whisked away to fly which kick started the week despite the first couple days of dreary weather. In short, since you can read my daily WSIKF blog for the nitty-gritty details, it was a great week and not at all like I expected it to be. I never got bored and, in fact, ran out of time most days to see everything there was to see. Above all else, though, I learned a lot in the way of technique and tips and met some great people who were very giving of their time and patience.

I came back home to deal with more poor weather and it did appear my kiting season would be cut short which was disappointing. I was hoping to put to use what I had learned at WSIKF before I lost everything I had learned but it didn't look like that would happen. Thankfully the whacky weather this year, once again, did a turn around and the shaky start to fall turned into a month of above normal temperatures with mostly decent winds. I spent as much time as I could in the evenings, after work and weekends exercising that new knowledge and adapting it to my local conditions. Participating in WSIKF and having that chance to fly in close proximity to others gave me a huge confidence boost and the kick in the pants I needed to try harder. Granted the Rev kite does have a steep learning curve at the beginning, but not so much that I couldn't have been a lot further along by year four if I pushed myself harder.

I made dreaded "practice" just another part of the fun. My weak points, for a long time, have been over control in reverse and transitioning hover orientation without needing the whole sky to do it so I gave special attention to those areas each time out. I read more and more on the forum and asked a few key questions of expert flyers which led to noticeable improvements in those areas. I started using the most brake I could get away with and still fly forward which, by necessity, translated into easing up on the reverse controls to keep the wing-tips from flipping which in turn translated into more stable inverted hovers and climbing up the window in reverse. Trying to keep an upright hover with all that brake was very difficult so I learned how to do short "pumps" as I rotated the kite through hover orientations which led to the beginning basics of the clockwork move. I read, and agreed with, a theory that tip turns were a key element to many team moves so I added those to the practice list. Don't get me wrong, a lot of this practice is still in a very rough stage, but the basic building blocks are all there.

In fact, I would say that by the end of my season I realized another "Eureka" moment that had been made up of a number little achievements through the year. It came as I did an inverted slide three inches above the ground where before I would be lucky to get it under two feet and keep it stable. My trick? Bend over and put the handles closer to the ground. It may not be that correct way, but for me it was an illustration of how to re-think the problem. It then occurred to me that I have all the skills to duplicate 90% of what I see other accomplished flyers do. I cannot do them as cleanly and perfect as some YET, but I will with more practice flying. One should never think of perfecting flying skills as "practice" it's just another form of flying so enjoy refining your skills in between doing your thing.

My skills are there now just not refined. I think that learning curve has finally started to level out!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Reference links:

Windscape Kite Festival - June 25 and 26, 2011
WSIKF - August 15-21, 2011
My YouTube Channel - new videos added Dec/10
Great Canadian Kite Company

Thank you Bart!

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