Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lessons, Lessons, Who's Got Lessons?

A few weeks ago I took a kiteboarding lesson from Sandy at Ki'topia, a great outfit on Sherman Island. Because my car was stolen by a shady pair from Pisa, I've not been able to take another lesson & today I discovered that their lessons are almost full for the rest of the season. [They then head for S. Padre in Texas.] I was able to snag a lesson on the 14th, but that will be it for the year.
Panic :: What to do?
I found a useful local site with a posting about lessons for people in Marin. That pointed me to a couple places in Alameda. I've avoided Alameda because the beach is a bit zoo like because of too many people pretty much like me trying to learn. However, it turned out that one outfit has PWC supported lessons & sells Cabrinha's new Crossbow, which is the kite I'm really interested in. So I signed up for a lesson next Friday and put a deposit down on a kite.
Getting Ready :: The SF Plan
So now I have two lessons in the next 14 days & I'll be taking my very nice Ozone Frenzy (really a snow kite) out to practice, practice, practice. Skills from one kite are not totally transferable, but they are still useful. Plus, I'll always want my light Frenzy for backpacking in the snow and perhaps some beach areas -- perhaps I'll try it this weekend with a longboard in Tomales. [The Frenzy does not include an inflatable bladder to make starting in water easier -- flotation is not too important on snow -- so its much lighter and more compact for hiking into the high country.]
Getting Ready :: The Travel Plan(s)
Playa Copal in Costa Rica looks good. Some kite surfing locations are inexpensive. There may well be better nearby locations that don't cater to boarders.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Warning

Thin Ice
I'd hate to be misunderstood :: what's happening to people in the Gulf is terrible & there is nothing about the way I run my life that suggests I will always avoid a similar fate.
The news coverage is driving me crazy.
We, those who pay attention to science, those who think reality matters, have expected increasingly sever storms for 10 or 15 years. Guess what? We have been getting increasingly sever storms.
  • We should act on greenhouse gases, deforestation, etc. to limit climate shifts
  • We should keep our National Guard at home where it can guard the nation
  • We should not encourage people to live in flood plains
  • We should remember that its not a good idea to piss off your mother
Part of the problem I have with the news coverage, is how they categorize the disaster. Is it just bad luck or the result of negligence. I don't have a crystal ball & mother nature does not call me on the phone so I certainly can't say this storm would not have happened if...
But, we can say that storms like this are more likely because of greedy, short sighted policies.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Shredding the Delta

I had the best day today I've had in many years. [Be sure to read the disclaimer at the end of this post.]

I've avoided practicing my kite surfing much. I think it is quite dangerous while you are learning because:
  • the equipment has not been very well thought out & safety systems have been afterthoughts
  • your safety is always based upon the skills of the people on the same beach, if they are all beginners, then its like skiing Chamonix with a SF bike messenger as a partner.
  • things are most dangerous if you are on the beach, but in most areas a beginner must spend 90% of the time at the beach.
  • people keep getting electrocuted, bashing out their brains, and dying of hypothermia. The lucky ones only loose fingers & eyes. You may remember I saw a guy knock down a sement wall (bye, bye, leg), slam into a bigger wall (bye, bye, period), and one get lofted (10 year old DR helper still attached) into the top of a palm. I'm old enough to heal slowly if dismemberment or death comes my way.
I did spend a few days in Texas this year when the conditions were good, but the wind was very light. That was great training, but not great fun because in light winds you really must have great kite skills to power yourself. Therefore I was never able to get long rides and lever even able to practice going up wind. In addition while the location was great and the people at the school were nice, they did not provide a balanced plan of instruction. Skills like the ability to to up wind without your board were ignored. (You usually do this when your board has been blown off your feet & it is up wind of you. It is easy for this to be a 10-30 meters, although until to day, a kite even 3 feet was beyond my capacity to retrieve.)

Today I got the right combinations of location, equipment, and instruction & was able to get long rides, hold my own against a strong ebb current with pretty big waves, work my way up wind without the board, and handle the type of kite pros use 80% of the time. These give excellent up wind capacity, but require more skill to keep in the air & relaunch when they crash. The kite was fantastic, but when I buy a few I'll probably buy a newer model from a competitor, which is even safer. Next year: waves on the California coast!

So, I had more fun than a barrel of monkeys & got some wonderful runs. Because the kite gives you a lot of lift, it often feels like you are flying & just using the board as a rudder. The kite I was using was actually owned by one of the worlds top riders & he uses it for 80% of his riding. A little like learning to ride a horse a GG fields. [The kite was not a true high aspect kite, but these days most pros seem to be riding medium aspect kites for most purposes as they have greatly improved performance.]

If I can get a day like this in each of the next 4-6 weeks, I'll feel confident in a much larger set of locations, including Larkspur. I'll be able to ride over the hippos & terrorize the ferry passengers.

Since I've made one trip to the DR and one trip to Texas its been disappointing that I've not gotten real rides until today; sometimes I've really felt like the classic old fool. But, I've been confident that my kite skills are really pretty good and that I've had far from ideal conditions, although I've been in areas where the conditions are usually ideal. Its strange that I finally got the conditions I wanted near Antioch! My instructor was a real teacher & taught veterinary medicine for years. Encouragement from a young athletic blond never hurts.

So part of the excitement is the thrill of some nice rides & part is the confirmation that I'm really not past being able to handle the sport, which is the sport of the future. Next year Sardinia, which has the best wind in Europe & pecorino to boot!

Disclaimer: If you saw me riding, you would wonder why in the world I think I'm having any success at all. My body position is terrible, I'm never truly centered, I don't usually go anywhere after I get up, no intentional air, I ditch my board at the slightest hint of trouble, I'm still not ready to ride without backup. All the above was carried out with Jet Ski support. I was able to practice a long way from anyone else & I had someone who could cut lines and/or chase after me in an emergency.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hiroshima & Forward Bends [Yin Notes[

This week I was amazed at how tight I've become over the last few days. I was more active than usual this weekend, but still I'm surprised. There is some good news. I've been experimenting with my hamstrings and tonight I tried a variation of, I think, Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend).
I started from a position like the one in the photo, except I was on a thin bolster & had two thick bolsters between my legs. Then I moved into a forward bend over first the right, then the left, so it was a a twist, and since it was a Yin class held for about 5 minutes for each leg.

Both my hips and my hams got a deeper stretch than I normally get and by the end of the session I was almost back to where I'd been a week ago.

The instructor dedicated the class to the memory of Hiroshima.

Feynman on QM

"You don't understand quantum mechanics, you just get used to it."
-- attributed to Feynman, borrowed from von Neumann, and re-borrowed from J.Oppenheim.

If you have not done anything really worthwhile for a few months, read his account of negative information.