Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Pure Magic kiting over the waves

Every now and then I get to mix work with sport. I have a piece in this week's FIT magazine about kite-surfing, and spoke to Catherine Etienne, one of the few female riders in Ireland. That's Etienne in the pic below, with her part of the article underneath that again. 

And this is what I learned from her: 

On Dollymount Strand in Dublin, Frenchwoman Catherine Etienne explains the kite has to be at 12’clock on that semi-circle shape when you start. The kite hangs there – parked as Roche says – and only picks up power when you drop it down. Into the ‘power zone’, obviously.

The next lesson is just called ‘body-dragging’. Etienne says the key to having fun here is keeping warm.

“There are different thickness of wetsuit but generally people wear the 5mm all year round and in the winter add a neoprene vest underneath. In the summer the water can be quite warm so when it’s eight degrees like now, you don’t feel the cold as much as you think in the water,” she says.

Eight degrees – yes, welcome to an Irish summer. But she says the wind always blows and that’s what counts.

Etienne came to Ireland on Erasmus six years ago but fell in love with the winds on Dollymount and never left.

“It’s probably not the image of the Caribbean but it’s actually the perfect spot. Flat water, shallow water, good wind all year round and a very good community,’ she says, in the Pure Magic shop which doubles up as a meeting-place for Dublin’s riders and wanna-be riders.

One of the sports unwritten commandments is talking to other riders to find out about wind currents or water hazards. This gives a real communal feel to the sport says Etienne.

The third lesson is when you get introduced to the board. And this is where it gets fun.

Yes, lots of fun but lots of hard work too. Holding the kite upright requires solid core-strength, instructors tell you to relax your shoulders so the power comes from your core.

Your legs are working as hard as on a surf-board to stay balanced while your arms are at full-stretch against the wind. But don’t rush to the gym to load up on weights as Mother Nature expects high levels of flexibility.

And like most sports, the more you do the more you will build up the physical skills you need. Swimming is pretty important for beginners as you do spend a lot of time rescuing the kite and starting over … and over and over. 



Lisa Creech Bledsoe said...

Great post. I love the feeling of flying a really powerful kite, and have been dragged about by both a quadrafoil and several sturdy dual-line power kites, though not on water. The notion of having to reset after dumping the kite in the water definitely sounds like a workout!

niamh said...

@Lisa - you power-kite too?! really? might have to talk to you about that - how do you find the time to do that as well as your own training?