Kite Skiing on Georgian Bay >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Andrew Manwaring can’t think of what he would rather do. Andrew’s wife, Colleen, feels exactly the same, but maybe not quite at that speed. The smiles on their faces and the glints in their eyes show how much they love the winter kite season.
Sliding on snow or ice with little or no resistance is a unique winter experience. Kite skiing offers adventurers another way to be in their element. Add an adrenaline rush and an appreciation and respect for Mother Nature, and it’s just plain fun too.
Andrew and Colleen have been doing this for about 15 years, Colleen started teaching water and kite buggy lessons. A kite buggy is a low-seated, three-wheeled contraption where the rider hooks onto the kite’s harness. (Imagine a GT Snowracer with big tires.) She switched to kite skiing almost full time.
“Andrew looks more like a pro. He goes very fast.
Andrew and Colleen met at the Salt Docks on the Big Sound in Ontario, when Andrew was kite-skiing and Colleen was kite-flying. They have a two-year-old son now, so dating is a bit trickier, but totally doable.
“I can go in all conditions, slush, deep snow, pure ice,” says Andrew. “I can cross everything in all wind conditions. I can get some air whenever I want or need it. Overcoming a pressure crack or small pieces of water, I can jump through. When you go up to 80, 90 kilometers per hour, I can cross it or jump a pressure crack.
Asked about “jumping in puddles” (as snowmobiles sometimes do over open water), Andrew says there isn’t enough consistent power to traverse longer stretches of water. ‘water.
Andrew sharpens his and Colleen’s edges on their skis so they get a better angle when leaning back – it’s a different angle than you would get on a regular ski. Colleen says she feels like she’s still a newbie. however, she definitely holds up. (Andrew added that she was more of a middleman.)
“I always have that good dose of fear before I launch my kite,” admits Colleen. “I want to make sure I’m strapped in with all my safety gear – I’m always checking. I don’t approach the shore like Andrew does – I can’t turn on a dime – and I don’t like getting up in the air like Andrew does. I still feel like a beginner with a lot to learn.
The ideal day for the couple involves westerly winds of 45 to 50 kilometers per hour (22 to 27 knots). The sun also helps.
“I prefer a nice hard crust on snow,” Colleen says, “while Andrew prefers dazzling ice.” (The ice is much faster.) “Andrew is flying at a much steeper angle than me. It can really catch its edges. There is more speed the lower the kite is off the ground, so angles and lean equal speed.
“Tacking in a crosswind is the same theory as sailing,” notes Andrew.
“The sport is all about patience and the weather,” says Colleen. “It changes so much every year. Some years we were able to start in December.
Andrew flies different kites depending on the wind. “You would think you would need a bigger kite to go faster, but in reality you need a bigger kite in smaller winds, to catch more of the available wind.
“In stronger winds you want to go with a smaller kite because it’s more controllable. In winds of 80-90 km/h (43-49 knots) I use a one meter square kite. A big kite in a strong wind can be dangerous.
Part of the science is knowing what size to fly. Colleen uses a Concept Air Kite, a Canadian brand. With this particular kite, she says, “you can change the size of the kite, because it can be controlled by pulling a certain string, expanding or contracting the size.” She likes its simplicity and it’s less material to carry.
Andrew has this type as well as a number of other kites. “You want the kite to do the work, not your body! I usually take two or three kites with me. If the tide is turning, it’s good to have options.
“Andrew brings ice climbing gear, ice screws, so you can secure your kite when the lines get twisted. When you’re in high winds, that’s a big deal; your kite is still running. An ice screw allows you to clip it on and then you can fix it. Power lines and brake lines control the kite. They also set up a portable ice shack to prepare.
For anyone who wants to learn, it’s probably best to take a lesson. Wearing a helmet is also essential. Kite, harness, skis and boots are all you need to get started. Gut strength is also required.
A bonus: you don’t have to pay for lift tickets!