KiteTheBay in La Ventana, Baja!

Vamos a Bahia de La Ventana, Baja-A Kitesurfer’s Winter Retreat!

The winter season of 2013/2014 was beautiful and warm down on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, in the Bay of La Ventana.  They say it was warmer than usual which is fine with those of us who spend more time in the water than on land.  It became one more reason to walk down to the beach and jump in.  As if there weren’t enough…like the blues and greens of the Sea of Cortez that make every session feel liken you’re kitesurfing on a postcard.  Or the excitement of a norte wind starting to blow in the pre-dawn hours making you wonder if there will be some swells to ride.  When it’s not windy, there’s time to relax and rebuild the excitement of what tomorrow’s conditions will bring…

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Come down and get into the rhythm.  Work on your foilboarding, jumps, or anything that encourages your kitesurfing progression, including learning from the beginning.  With so many options, there’s something new to approach every day.  And the La Ventana Bay provides one of the best kiteboarding learning environments.

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Plan your Kitesurfer’s Retreat for next winter season in La Ventana.  Anytime between November and April is a great time.  Bring your gear or just use ours.  All kiteboarding sessions are either quad or jet ski supported.  Pina Coladas not included but recommended as tips for your instructor :)

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A Day on the Bay…

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Well, it’s been a busy summer on the water in San Francisco.  The wind has been non-stop and the kitesurfers are not the only ones getting in on the action.  America’s Cup has been racing for over a month now, and outside of the races, their 72ft, skeletal, space-age ships can be seen reaching across the bay-scapes.  And boy do they move!

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Today, Dymtro and I were out for an afternoon session and so was the Oracle Team.  Training on two identical boats, we watched the team work on their jibes, attempting to stay up on foil, keeping speed steady.  It’s such a remarkable feat to be able to maintain balance, sail trim, all while carrying 20-40 knots of speed!

It’s like learning how to ride a board, well, at least some of it…

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Dymtro got his session’s worth, working on board skills and learning about the equipment.   It’s one thing to able to kitesurf and another be able to set it up.  Now, we’re ready to hit the water with the Oracle boats!

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Like all good sailors, you have to have your exit strategy.  When the wind dies and your left on on the water, you are sometimes left to create your way back to land.  Handling your gear in and out of the water is a good way to prepare!

Expedition 5 Bridges; 58 miles, 3.5 hrs, YES!!!

Kitesufing through the San Francisco Bay has so far been an endless endeavor.  A 58 mile journey was completed that begins to bring a finite distance to the bay, one to be conquered by kite.  Along the way, variable conditions were encountered leading to spontaneous course changes and almost forced the expedition to a premature end.  Arriving at the destination, the journey connected 5 bridges in roughly 3.5 hrs.

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The 5 Bridges Expedition began in the central bay, launching from Crissy Beach.  The flood tide had started an hr ago.  If needed, I would rely on the tide to push me into the bay and then maybe I would find some wind.  A few guys were out 7m’s.  I rigged a 10m Cabrinha Switchblade and was riding a Mike’s Lab race board.  I was expecting to be overpowered heading upwind to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was not concerned as this was the start and I was fresh.

It was going through Raccoon Strait where the wind started to die off.  I was forced to follow the wind, looking for indicators like white caps, rippled waters, glassy waters, signs that kept me thinking this leg was possible, instead of leading me to a dead zone.  I was working the kite like mad, trying to get far enough east of Tiburon where the wind allowed me to begin heading north.  At this point, I was hugging the breakwall at Point Richmond but was finally in strong enough wind to get me planing, confidently heading for the 2nd bridge.

The was plenty of wind at the Richmond Bridge and I was momentarily lured to sail further north into the San Pablo Bay, but I re-focused on the intended southern destination point.  So I began heading south down towards the Bay Bridge.  It became, once again, a light-wind battle as I kept a SE course milking the shadowed wind behind Angel Island.  Once passed Angel, the clear wind gave me the much needed speed to complete a few upwind tacks to clear Treasure Island.  Then began the long, starboard, broad reach down into the south bay.

Passing under the Bay Bridge fully powered was comforting but I realized that the strong wind wasn’t getting light like it typically does, but increasing instead.   Afraid of getting worn out, I pinched upwind to hug the city and find lighter wind, but decided to put the kite down and break instead.  I ate a Nature Valley bar and drank some water.  I was overpowered and afraid I wasn’t able to able to hold a broad reach course for very long.  I considered landing at Alameda, in fact, that became my new destination.  But as I sat there, thinking about the effort I put into making to the Richmond Bridge, and the thought of the long daylight on my side, I replaced the Alameda option with the original plan.  I thought, “I got this!”

Getting up and riding again, the rest did me good.  I conjured up some of that wreckless kitesurfing “go for it!” mentality in my thoughts and got pumped!  I got focused on my technique and tried to limit my body’s movements and increase efficiency.  This included raising my kite a bit to hang from it, and bringing my left, rear foot forward, almost abeam with my front foot.  I was paying close attention to the waves, trying not let the nose of board pearl.  I was tossed forward a couple times, but still found the fun and relaxation in the wipeout.

Approaching the San Mateo Bridge, I put the kite down to let my pick-up guy, Erin Loscocco, know my ETA.  I texted him on my cell phone that I was about 40 minutes away.  At this point, the wind had gotten quite comfortable, perfect 10m conditions.  The journey was becoming a success in my mind.

Up and running again, I passed under the San Mateo Bridge.  This was new territory for me.  I was curious how the wind would hold up.  It had gotten lighter but I wasn’t afraid it was going to die.  The excessive volume of my board kept me planing.  Looking east, away from shore, it looked windier and this gave me comfort as well.  I hugged the west shore for a while but eventually had to tack out  to clear the land.

Eyeing the west end of the Dumbarton Bridge, I began honing in on the proposed landing spot.  I was expecting a shallow muddy walkthrough.  With the high tide peaking, I was able to kite right up shore and sit my strained body on the sea-grass shore.  Kite still flying and board still strapped to my feet, it was a perfect landing!

High five’n with the Dumbarton Bridge!

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Now time to go further…

Foiling Under The Gate

Ok, if kiteboarding wasn’t addicting enough, there’s a new way to heighten your enjoyment of the sport-Foilboarding!  The technology isn’t new but many kiters aren’t aware of it’s potential as yet another watercraft pulled with a kite.  Riding the MHL Lift foilboard without straps was a recent decision and is proving valuable in many ways.  Like riding a surfboard strapless, it allows for micro-adjustment in body weight displacement over the foil adjusting for various points of sail (direction changes).  Going downwind requires more forward weight, so a forward shuffle works out nice.

The overall feeling of carrying so little drag is the feeling that keeps me up at night thinking about the continuous S-turns to perform.  Adding kiteloops are a key element that allow for linking smooth transitions, carrying just enough speed to stay lifted on the Foil.  I’ve added the Jaybar Dynabar V7 (with the dyneema slider) and have discovered another level of fluidity.  Every session with the Lift Foilboard has been a breakthrough session and I thought those days were in the past!

It’s getting windy and I’m dying to get back out on the water and work out new, foiling, turns…!  Everyone needs to get out and feel the LIFT!

Bay Crossing: Treasure Island – 3rd Ave

On April 15th, 2013, conditions were right.  To guarantee the crossing, the wind must be blowing more from the north, so passing under the bay bridge and southward beyond Candlestick point is possible.  Or, there just needs to be an excessive amount of wind.  On this day, both elements were present.

Kiting out of the cove at Treasure Island was a false representation of the conditions that would lie ahead.  The 7m Cabrinha Switchblade was small but thankfully kept me planing and pointing upwind enough to round the northern edge of the island.  Now setting a broad reach on a starboard tack, board speed increased and the destination ahead seemed more assured.

Riding southward along the western shores of Treasure Island, the wind increased and erased any reservations about passing under and beyond the bay bridge.  As progress was made more south, the wind gusts were becoming more evident causing me to trim the kite down.  Anticipating the wind to increase south of Candlestick Point, I decided a break would be good before things got more intense.

Sitting on the board, with kite down, was not much of a break.  Watching the wind gust and the kite pulse on the water, I managed to eat and drink while my body somewhat rested.  Thoughts of me being pushed out into heavier seas and into more solids winds, made me get back up and head more towards land.  Continuing on a starboard course, I wondered if my other side would get a chance to do some work.

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The spontaneous trip did not allow for much planning so I was left responsible for making my own arrangements, including clothes and pick-up, once I was beached.  Of course, a few expected wipe-outs occurred and caused my carrying pack to rip a strap.  I had to stop and jerry-tie it to myself.  Otherwise, leaving it in the bay would have left me without dry clothes.

Spotting the high, tree covered ridge of Coyote Point gave me confirmation of progress and a point to aim for.  The winds were frequently forcing me to head downwind for the sake of easing, and my body was taking a more vertical position to keep balanced over the rototilled waters.  Still on a starboard tack with Coyote Point approaching, I became anxious to switch sides and ride on a port tack.  Once I did, I found that things really didn’t feel any easier and so tacked again in hopes of heading to my destination.  Turns out, one more tack was in order as I came in tight to Seal Point park.  With one more out-and-back, I landed at the lower beach at 3rd Ave.

Sonny, a bay area local legend, came out to catch my kite on the beach.  It was a great welcome to arrive at the familiar beach!

Less than 2 hrs and about 23 miles.  It’s going to be done again, soon…

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Riding Mini-Giants

It was a mid-winter day in January, and the offshore flow was in effect for another consecutive day.  The Maverick’s surf competition had gone off the previous day, making due with a lull-filled, big period yet subsiding swell.  The morning after the contest, the residual swell had diminished to 12ft at 14sec and with a decent offshore breeze reading 22-30 mph on the ocean buoy, it was a rare opportunity to get out for a session of open-ocean kitesurfing.

With a low tide in effect, we were aware of the potential for swells to break on Potato Patch Shoal.  We wouldn’t know for sure until we got out there.  At 11am, we boarded the Windseeker and headed outside the Gate and into the open Pacific.

Being so accustomed to the chill that comes along with the summer onshore push, it felt strange to be comfortable in just shorts and a sweatshirt so far out away from land.  The sun was shining bright while the east winds carried the dry, warm air out to sea.  Pushing against the energy of the ocean, the wind had a grooming effect creating a smooth water texture that helped define the giant, lumpy swells as they marched through.  The newly generated wind-chop was small and a welcoming sight compared to the usual size that exists with the opposite wind direction.   No swells were breaking, however, just rising and morphing into massive bulges as they passed over the shallow depths of the shoal.

The winds were gusty and becoming weaker during the gusts.  We put up a 14m Cabrinha Switchblade.  With the 14m up and flying, it still felt a little light.  After some delay, the wind got steadier, likely due to our offshore drift.  It felt strong enough for the session to begin.  Erin was first to go out.  He took a 5’7” Ocean Rodeo strapless surfboard.  I watch him glide into expansive troughs and disappear over the oncoming swells while the kite remained pinned in the sky.  He lined up and got a hold of a swell that had a semi-defined shape to it.  In my imagination, I envisioned it standing up, peaking, and cresting into a white-water lip.  Instead, the thick wave slowly bulged up then eventually distributed it’s mass into deeper water as it passed on.  It was nonetheless a great 10 second swell ride.

After some more swell rides, Erin came back to the Windseeker.  I hooked up to the 14m kite and rode a MHL Foil Board.  I navigated my way onto and around the swells, looking for extra acceleration from wave energy.  I constantly scanned the scene, in full 360, taking in the new location.  I’m thinking to myself -there’s a lot of change that can take place here in a small space, and there’s a lot of space.

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I came back to the Windseeker and boarded.  Erin looked satisfied and I felt the same.  We had ridden with mini-giants.

Foil Board Riding

Foil boards are truly a unique way of experiencing an already unique sport-kitesurfing. When the foil engages and lifts you off the water, the feeling is unbelievable, like that of flying! All bumps and spray disappear and you’re left with a pure form of lift.

It’s an opportunity to learn all over again and challenge your coordination as the board mechanics are quite different from typical twin-tip kite boards. To draw a comparison would be to snowboarding in deep powder but with a levitating component. Come out and experience a riding sensation you’ll never want to leave!

Foil Board Training

Learning how to ride the Foil Board starts with towing behind a boat. This way, one can isolate concentration on controlling the board. Important skills like managing the board in the water and wiping-out safely can be learned without have the distraction of the kite’s pull.

Once a rider can get up and ride comfortably lifted for short distances in both a goofy and regular stance, then it’s time to ride with a kite.

Foil Board Training from KiteTheBay on Vimeo.

Kite The Bay Student Testimonial

Captain John’s Kite the Bay wasn’t my first experience with kiteboarding. On a whim, I had taken a kiteboarding lesson last year on a vacation in Mexico. I thought it was an intriguing sport, but the instructor in Mexico was somewhat inattentive, and at the end of a few days I didn’t feel comfortable with kite control and wasn’t convinced the sport was right for me.

Over the course of the summer, however, I had friends pick up the sport who loved it. They made me rethink my initial conclusion, and this May I saw an advertisement for Captain John’s Kite the Bay. I liked the idea of taking lessons at a convenient location like Treasure Island. I was also attracted to starting the lessons in the water right away; during my Mexican vacation lessons I felt panicky as I bounced around on land with a powerful kite.

My first lesson with John gracefully eased me into the sport. He could sense that I was a little uneasy about safety, so he gave me the opportunity to fly the kite off of the back of the boat first. This way, I wasn’t connected to the kite and I could focus on controlling its responsive and agile characteristics without getting spooked by its power.

As additional training, John wanted me to feel what it was like to ride a board without the responsibility of flying the kite. He put me in a harness and attached me to kiteboarding lines strung from a pole off the side of his boat. Being hooked up to this kitepole produced a feeling similar to that of a kite, but I didn’t have to be in charge of steering it, so riding the board received my full attention. Breaking up the lessons of flying the kite and riding the board was a huge bonus.

With my newfound confidence in my control, I was ready to hook up and hop in. By the time I was in the water, body dragging with kite attached to me, I was thrilled and fully committed to getting up and riding. John used a headset so that he could speak to me directly through my helmet. I began to successfully guide myself around in the water with the power of the kite.

John’s lessons completely opened my eyes to the power of kiteboarding. I had never felt this type of freedom in a sport. Wakeboarding relies on a boat, and jet skiing and many other water sports bog down with excessive amounts of gear and fuel. But with kiteboarding, I can throw a kite in a backpack, grab a board and essentially just go—as long as the wind cooperates!

When I finally got in the water with the board and the kite, I realized the potential for an amazing experience. But there’s one last hurdle—the challenge of transitioning between being in the water with the kite to putting a board on, standing up and riding. This can be a tedious experience, especially listening to other friends’ stories. I have to admit I had my frustrating moments, I drank a lot of Bay water and crashed my kite a number of times, but Captain John gave me plenty of encouragement and remained patient and calm.

As for my lessons, if it was a rough day, we’d end on a high note. If the wind wasn’t just right, we’d take the time to change kite sizes, and make sure our gear matched the conditions. Having the boat offered protection from the winds during breaks, so I could regain my stamina before hopping back in for another run. And being within view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate was, as you might imagine, truly amazing. I am happy to say I am now riding and feeling great. I still have lots to learn and many seasons of practice ahead of me, but there is no feeling quite like that of combining the elements of wind and gliding on my board. I’m hooked!

Todd and John Kitesurfing the San Francisco Bay

This was a sweet day of kitesurfing! 12m the whole way. Todd started off under the Gate, getting his first taste of San Francisco summer wind. Halfway through, Todd came back and boarded the boat. Captain John hooked up and kept haulin! It got windier as we went past Alcatraz but then got too light to pass under the bay bridge. For a while, it was almost too much kite, but since we going downwind, the boosts-on-command were awesome! A great late summer day in the bay!