"We are Sarah Sylvester and Richard Boughton, the UK importers for Jochum and Nesler, JN Kites. We sell and repair kitesurfing equipment in the UK, take part in competitions and travel the globe kitesurfing. Read all about our adventures here!"

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Festive Shredtown 2012

Normally Christmas for us is spent with family up in the Midlands, and revolves around food, booze, sofa, TV, perhaps the pub, and more food. This year we thought we would bring the party down to Devon for more of a clotted cream and fudge centred affair. Little did we know what a good idea this would be. It's not often you feel physically fitter after Christmas than beforehand.
Nukin' Cliff Richard
Wind and waves pumped from the 22nd through to the 30th of December and we kited every day. The temperature didn't drop below 12 degrees in the daytime. I was comfortably toasty in a 4/3mm spring suit for a few sessions. It also got really windy for a period, which was great as there hasn't been many of the 6m clinging on days that we often get over autumn and winter down here. This let us test some small kites back to back for various conditions.
Out on small kites with the Doris.
Boxing day was a highlight, just Sarah and I out from the spit at Burgh island. As we arrived, there was a lone windsurfer getting some massive rides in the middle of the bay. I cranked upwind to Challaborough to get in on the action.

Three wise men
Normally Chally breaks close in on the beach, meaning with a kite you end up a bit close to the cliff, but when we have been out fishing from time to time, you can see the swell builds over a reef much further out. Turns out it needs approx 4m @12 seconds (Windguru forecast) swell to make it peak/break out there for safe-ish kitesurfing. It turned into a thick and very ridable right hander (tasty). Photo evidence is scarce of this monumentous event unfortunately as we were far too busy enjoying it, but the couple of snaps here give you an idea. The Cornish lads said that Porthleven was un-ridable on this day, which is interesting.

Mistletoe and double over head
In Santa's Grotto
Back to the Chestnuts/fire/ mulled cider
On the 30th, Bantham was firing on all cylinders, and it was a bit onshore as it always is on a SW, but there were some fun tow-ins to be had out by the island on the 8m, and the swell was the chunkiest of the season and of the sort of size/period where it's very clean in between.

I had some great rides, but got a bit cocky/tired (day 8 on the water) towards the end of the session, and went for one last turn on a biggun' and got munched, and everything went very slack, my bowel included. By the time I popped up (quite a long time) and got a well-earned breath, the kite was down and a wave hit it instantly although I didn't see this happen in the trough behind, I more 'felt' it as it took me on a trip to Neptune's lair. I was drinking Baileys from a shoe, and no mistake.

I managed to pull the quick release whilst being dragged underwater, that's a testament to the functionality of the new QR. I popped up again and got some more sweet oxygen and flapped about for 10 seconds, before calming down and assessing the situation. I was more or less 100m behind where the 10 knot buoys usually go, in line with the middle of the Island and right in the impact zone. A fair old swim ahead with no board, and a big fat spring tide pumping out of the river. Here's some advice from my experience if it happens to you, which will apply to most 'Oops, I am in the sh!t' situations:

1. Stay calm and control your breathing - even if you are panicking, slow it all down. Take a deep breath before the set hits. Being able to hold your breath for a long while is very useful.

2. Conserve your energy, concentrate on paced/efficient swimming back. Not flapping/struggling.

3. Know where the currents are, and don't swim against them, if possible use them to your advantage.

4. Keep an eye behind you, and turn, duck dive / swim down when the waves creep up behind you. Don't let them hit you and tumble you/pull you underwater, although body surfing can make your swim shorter.

5. If you are tumbled and you are potentially over rocks, cover your head with your arms. Being unconscious in water is a bad plan.

6. Pick some landmarks on the coast and make sure you are moving forwards. This is reassuring as you know you are making progress and helps you work out if you are in current or not.

I am sure there is more you could add to this, but this is what sticks out particularly from my recent mega swims. I normally have one or two a year. There is also just not putting yourself in the situation in the first place.

There's an argument (and a solid one) that if you can't surf (i.e paddle) a wave you shouldn't be out kiting in it. Not all of us are from surfing backgrounds, and a kite can tow you into stuff you couldn't dream of paddling into. I ride waves surfers don't ride/can't access all the time. We all like to push ourselves, and take risks in big conditions which is what keeps the sport fresh for me, so the situation is going to happen. I think it's more about water confidence, swimming ability, local knowledge, a decent level of fitness and knowing what to do/expect if the proverbial hits the fan. If a surfer snaps a leash they are in the same situation.

A great training exercise (with a rescue boat/ski on hand) would be to make people kite offshore where they usually ride waves, fire off their safety on purpose and see how they cope with getting back to shore.

Anyway, I swam in, it took about 20 minutes perhaps and once I knew I was moving forward I actually quite enjoyed it. I came in with a big grin, gathered up my kit which some friends had scooped up on the beach and called it quits. A slightly dicey end to a fantastic festive period, but good to feel alive, and lesson learnt (again).