E3: – My First MEGALOOP

Well let me just start by saying:

WOW.

Ok, i’m done.

Last weekend was the first really windy few days that we have had since well, last week, so, yeah, i’ve been pretty lucky with the wind recently.

Aside: “Before I continue I would just like to say to all of my students who didn’t get to ride last weekend, i’m really sorry, but I cancelled your lessons for good reason, 30+ Knots is NOT a productive learning environment (Unless you are trying to learn Mega Loops, in which case, Yay.”

How High?

So in my last few essays I talked about the Three Pillars of Riding and then I talked about my progression from wobbly middling jumps to powered controlled reasonably high jumps. I hit 9.6m off the flat the other day which I was pretty happy with but it’s still no 10m. Urrgh. Anyway the reason that I have been trying to hit 10m is that in order to MegaLoop safely you need to be able to boost high enough so that when you hit the free fall stage you don’t plummet into the water. The idea is that if you hit over 7m of height then you have enough height/time to drop like a stone and have the kite catch you before you hit the deck.

The theory I have been following is that anything below the 2m mark is a safe kiteloop. i.e you can fall at speed from 2m and take a beating but be fine. Once you get into the 2-7m height range the falls become increasingly more dangerous, hard on your knees and therefore generally not a good idea. So, in order to prepare myself for the MegaLoop I followed a few strategies.

  • Learn how to jump higher than 7m
  • Learn how to jump consistently high
  • Get really comfortable with low powered kite loops
  • Have strong Legs

Baby Go Loop Da Loop

Ive already talked about how I approached my jumping technique in Essay 2 so I won’t cover that again. I haven’t talked about Strength yet, but that’s a crazy long and involved journey in itself so i’ll do that another time. For now i’d like to talk about kiteloops.

First of all, let me just say that although kiteloops have been responsible for my most painful crashes, my scariest close calls and the most vicious back edge of my life, i still absolutely love them. Not only as a fun way to fly through the air but also as a tool for control, escape, power and turns. They make kitesurfing much more fun, much more versatile and make loads of new things possible. About 4 years ago I wrote an article on my first kiteloop, sadly lost, but in it I talked about doing my first kiteloop and feeling such a rush and then having a discussion with a veteran who told me that kiteloops were his favourite part of kitesurfing not because of the jumps but because of the versatility that they offer the rider, even when just riding about, they save knees on landings, they allow for quick escapes from collisions, riding in lower wind conditions and finally they allow the Jesus Walk to exist (Something that is definitely on the list!). At the end of that article I said that sadly all those things were out of my reach back then and that I was content with just doing a sweet powered down loop. Well, it’s nice to know that after such a long time I can finally appreciate what the guy was going on about. Long live the kiteloop.

Variation is a Strength

One of the frustrating, but in the end amazing things about riding in Cornwall is the variability of the conditions, some days its flat like butter, others its a 2.5m swell at 14 seconds smashing you to bits. One day you’re on an 8m the next a 17m. This makes learning specific skills very tricky as there is very little consistency, in other words because every time you try something it’s different it’s harder to learn. You can put this argument to kitesurfing in general, but out of all the places that I have ridden I have never experienced a place with such variation so regularly.

In the long run I know that this constant fight to re-learn the same trick in a new condition will make me a stronger and far better rider, but it in the near futures it can be frustrating, when you’ve almost got something dialled in, only to lose it for a month whilst you battle with more demanding conditions for whatever reason.

Anyway, what this has taught me is that whatever the condition you should try what you a learning, because:

If you don’t try you wont learn.

Even if all you learn is “When you unhook in 30+ and send the kite, it’s really really scary” You are now a better rider because of it. So when it came to practicing kiteloops wether I was underpowered on my 17m, Or Absolutely Lit (Another lesson: Sometimes when you see a person riding a 15m and think, “meh i could hold down my 17” and then it turns out he’s on a 10, don’t go out anyway just because the 17 is already set up.) or barely hanging on to my 8m I did all the kiteloops I could imagine, within the safety margins that I had set myself.

If you’re doing powered loops don’t go over 2m unless you’re going over 7m.

Pulling The Trigger

So over the last month I have been doing lots of Unhooked Kiteloops, Front and Down, I have been perfecting my Downloops from great heights, a skill which will come in highly useful later in the day. I have been learning the HeliLoop which is still if I admit a little awkward. I have been mixing Front and Back Rotations along with the loops in every way I could think of. Finally I have been learning all these things both ways, with varying success. I’ve done them in shallows and over Surf, in Sun and Rain, in Gales and the lightest of breezes and after many many hours of crashing and front edges I finally got bored.

Boredom can be a dangerous thing in kitesurfing, it’s that little niggle at the back of your head, the little devil that says “Go on then….”

And then you’re left with a choice.

You either do

Or you don’t

Now i’ve ben dealing with this devil for a few years, and I would lying if I said that  it’s constrained to kitesurfing, it’s not. It’s got me into a lot of trouble in the past, lots of injuries, lots of mistakes, but in general if you make your pre-flight checks that little devil is usually very rewarding, but if you jump too soon, well, it can be a bit of a shocker.

Okay so were at that point where you’re like.

“Dude FFS, get to the point. Clearly you have prepared as much as you can”

“Can you jump jump over 7m every time?” Yes

“Are you comfortable with KiteLoops?” Yes

“Strong Legs?” Yep

“Then Jump already.”

Into The Shallows

This was why I wasn’t sleeping well last week. I was dreaming about. The little devils voice was taunting me. The logical side of my voice was taunting me. Even my girlfriend told me that at some point you need to shit or get off the pot.

The Bluff on Friday was shallow, like less than a foot of water at some points. I saw Craig Smith out there doing some small Mega Loops and thought yeah, I can do this. I rode around boosted big and after 45mins went home with my tail between my legs. “Too Shallow” I told myself. Friday night I din’t sleep, Saturday morning I got straight out of bed and tried to ignore the voice that was getting louder and louder, DO IT.

I jumped in the van and went up to the bluff again, even shallower. Damn. I met a Maori in the car park “You going out?” he asked. The wind was howling, the estuary almost empty with just two kites out at the river mouth. “I’m a bit scared, I said.”

“Whys that?” He Asked.

“Gotta do a Mega Loop today” I replied.

He Grinned, Nodded and wished me luck. I headed out and set up, cruising about thin river pretending like I was checking something, anything, call me Mr Procrastinator. After tacking up to the river mouth I decided to do some powered loops and see what was what. There was plenty of power as I catapulted down wind almost hitting the bank at the other side. I stopped to test the depth, about a foot or so. DO IT.

The scariest thing about the unknown is exactly that, it’s unknown, and the thing that was really worrying me today was not, how high I needed to go, I knew that, it was how far from the shore I needed to be. With basically onshore winds the choice was between a rock and a high place.

Stay lose in, where the water is flat, which ensures a good jump, but also means a very shallow landing and possibly hitting the land if I go too far downwind.

Or go further out into the breaking waves, more depth, more space, but also the chance of landing on a wave, a great way to blow out a knee.

The logical side of my brain said wait, wait until its cross shore, wait until there’s more depth, wait for another day.

The other side of my brain said…

DO IT.

Attempt No1. I tacked out to the left of the estuary, a bit more space, still too shallow, but at least I would probably miss the shore. I sent the kite and just after the peak of my jump initiated the loop, bottled it. I got a lovely soft landing curtesy of my down loop.

Attempt No2. I sent the kite and initiate the kite too early, lots of power, maybe 4-5m up, squealed like a girl, landed super heavily, butt checking the bottom as i came out alive. Broke the rule, Dickhead.

Attempt No3. I tacked back out and made sure I had a bit more space. I sent the kite and was ripped off the water. I looked at the ground, I was definitely high enough so without thinking I pulled the trigger. I kept going up, oh @£$%!. In this split second I knew why I had taken my time doing so many small powered loops. The immediate response to initiating a MegaLoop is to try and stop it from happening. You go up, the kite goes down, not cool at all, not when you’re this high. I hesitated for a second but luckily the muscles memory knew the drill, it was a do or die moment and lucky for me my fight or flight reflexes took over and before I knew what was happening I had re-pinned the bar to my side, as far in as it would go. I started to move forward with an explosion of speed unlike anything I have ever felt before, I know understand why riders let their boards come out behind them, they can’y help it. Kite goes up, rider follows, kite goes down, rider still goes up, kite goes round, rider knows what it feels like to be superman, kite comes back up, rider now understand what free fall feels like. The kite just catches me before I hit the water, everything goes tight, I slam into the sea, but no butt check, i ride away clean, my kite completing the downloop I must have asked it to do. I exhaled, my heart in my mouth.

Back up in the car park the Maori asked my how my session was,

“Good” I said, “I did it.”

He smiled. I missed it he said. So did the others.

Nobody saw, maybe I dreamt it.