Begging for Breeze

Summer finally arrived here in Central Oregon but steady breezes are still being elusive. I have yet to be patient enough to wait to get out on the water after 3 PM when the wind is more dependable. By 3:00 I have already had a paddle and enough tries at winging to get my oldish bod pretty darn tired.

Just the same when the gusts arrive and my wing dances along impatiently I know that I am hooked on the Freewing Life (yay Starboard). The snow topped mountain in the background contrasts with the wonderful 88 degree temp in the air! Looking forward to my lesson with Cascade Kiteboarding in Hood River this coming Tuesday.

Leash Up for Safety

When I started SUP about 15 years ago it was a relatively new sport here in Bend and there was a very tight-knit SUP community of friends to paddle with and to learn with. The learning curve was very quick and the fun was huge. Now that I have been the only person with a wingboard winging around early season on local lakes I have missed that camaraderie. Once summer really arrives I’m sure I will find a welcoming group of people. I hear that most are on a foil – so it will be great to watch them fly!

For now, I have been reaching out to the team at Big Winds and to SUP friends who have added the wing to their quiver. Peggy King from Maui has been terrifically helpful. We met years ago at the few Ho’olaulea Maliko Run events I enjoyed and have stayed in touch across the ocean ever since. Peggy is one amazing force of life! The first article we shared was in April 2014: Pailolo Power! I also wrote about her back in July of 2014 – and as usual she had lots of good information to share.

In a recent e-mail I asked her about some winging basics. She offered some insight on leashes. You only need to fall once in the wind to realize what a life saver (literally) the leashes on board and wing are.

Peggy uses an 8-10’straight leash off the back of the board and a waist belt for the coiled wing leash(about 4’long). I had been using the wrist leash that came with my Freewing but wondered if there was a better solution. I still need to paddle back upwind and the wrist leash got in the way of paddling, and also I often found myself sort of tangled. (Beginner Blues).

Being in my 8th decade, I am particularly interested in any refinement that could reduce the chance of wear and tear or injury to joints etc. Peggy shared that she has known many people have hurt their shoulders using the wrist leash. In her experience she had a few close calls in the beginning.

Since I am “in the beginning” and may be for some time, I went to my go-to experts at Big Winds to learn more about leashes that attach to the waist. After looking over their many options, I selected the Armstrong A-Wing Ultimate Waist Leash.

(Cool video for a complete overview) This leash uses a non-chaffing bungee spectra rope, has a comfortable waist strap that won’t release, and there is a quick release just in case you get in trouble. The spectra bungee rope that Armstrong selected for this leash is super strong and won’t break or get stretched out like other wing leashes do.  Also this material does not chafe you when It wraps around your arm or side on transitions. There is also a quick release for safety:

No one wants to get tangled up in your board and wing leash.  The more I learn the more confident I feel.

A Woman Wishes to Fly

A wing and a prayer! The water is still bone-chilling COLD here in Central Oregon and the winds have ranged from 8kn to gusts in the 11-18kn range on the days I’ve been out with my Freewing AIR V2. The prayer – that I don’t fall in too often. I am noy a fan of wetsuits – call me crazy. Right now winging on my 32″ wide 4 in 1 board I have a super stable, agile base and falls have been rare.

That said, I see all the pictures of Freewing flyers on their foil and wonder, “Could I ever do that?”

Maybe so! It sure looks like a wishful flyer’s dream come true. Especially with Starboard’s newest inflatable foil, the Air Foil, which can easily travel with me to warmer waters and steadier breezes. But for now – I am solidly happy zooming along as a happy 73 year old wingboarder.

There have been those incredible moments when the wind, my wing, and the balance between power and speed align! Right now those moments are short-lived. But it’s enough for me to stay hungry for MORE “almost flying” good fun.

Playing at building some skills has been enhanced by watching lots of informative training videos. I am a visual learner and gain (maybe even subconsciously) new insights each time I view them. The Zero to Hero series has been my go-to! And thanks to my hubby and friends who take some pictures and video we can look at my current level and see all the room for improvement.

Yes! A lesson is in my future later this month and I cannot wait. The team at Big Winds is booking up as summer sets the stage for fun in the Columbia Gorge.

More of a Kite Than a Sail

I am a water fanatic – in it, on it, around it. If there is a way to move, soar, glide, surf or adventure on the water I am on happy kid! My daughter excels in many sports but around water she is happy simply relaxing on and around the ocean and lakes. Just the same, when she came to SUP while I kept on my wing learning journey she spotted a key flaw in my attempts!

I was using the wing more as a sail – as in windsurfing. But the wing flies best when overhead, more like a kite. This very basic video shows the position.

Kristy and I arrived at a lake (no, I won’t reveal its location) in a drizzly rain with a gusty, cold wind then dead calm frosty air. We almost called it a day. But since we had all our boards and gear we decided, “what the heck, let’s go.” It was a great decision. It’s such a truism, “You don’t know until you go.” Intermittently the sun came out and the gusty wind came in waves – dead calm then 2-3 minutes of breeze.

The lake was small, just a few acres of water and sheltered in a pocket among forest and mountains. The pattern was to wing the breeze when it came then wait around for the next minutes of wind. I had a ton of fun working to refine my tacks and jibes in a most forgiving situation.

Fluky Winds – Size Matters!

Being a newbie at any sport is always daunting – and taking lessons is the best way to improve. But I live in Central Oregon about 3 hours from my nearest lesson site (Big Winds in Hood River) so I am depending on online videos to get me started.

All was going well over the past few sessions when the winds were (frustratingly) light. I could experience, practice tacks and gybes, stay balanced and get from here to there fairly easily. I have been using the smaller of my two wings, the 4m Freewing AIR V2.

Earlier this week I drove on to Suttle Lake after looking at my “wind app.” I didn’t expect much because the prediction was for average winds of 6.5 mph. I arrived to find a glassy lake. In my mind it was going to be a SUP day rather than a wing day.

Things changed quickly as they tend to do on the water). After about 45 minutes of calm paddling the breeze began to nip at my heels. Excitedly I paddled back to the car. It was time to inflate the wing and have some flying fun.

In the few minutes it took to get ready and back on the water the wind had gotten even more brisk. WOW! Was I excited. Tacking out from shore I was thrilled at the acceleration and steady speed. After a tack and then a gybe I started to really concentrate on heading back upwind as the wind was coming directly from the point I needed to return to.

In the image below – my return point is in the upper right. While my tacks were not getting me closer to the shore – I was totally stoked at how fast I was going. I hadn’t gotten my feet into the foot straps and it was all I could do to stay planted on my board. It was impossible not to be stoked by the bow wave zooming along ahead of me. The wing soared and played overhead – seemingly with a mind f its own. Yes! I totally need some lessons – but the ride was over-the-top fun!!

I powered and un-powered the wing to the best of my abilities, all the while thinking, “How strong is this wind anyway?”

I later learned that it had been 10-15+. That’s not much for a seasoned wing-er, but it was a lot for me!!!!! This old lady needs to consider getting a smaller sail. I wonder if a 3m Freewing is in my future? I think it should be – at least until I train and learn A LOT more.