Thought I'd write something about my first day using a raceboard yesterday. It might be of use to someone else?
Turns out that whole, "It's like staring again" thing is kind of true. I started kiteboarding when the thought was the you should start on a directional and then move to a twin so I have some old time experience of riding big boards with fins (although in those days the boards were more like big surf boards with largish 20cm fins). These days I usually ride an Underground freewave, although I've had a couple of years off after burning out on kiting for a while. Basically I've got a little directional board experience but not a whole lot lately and I while I thought a raceboard would be different I probably underestimated just how different they are.
My raceboard is a North proto that was left here for sale after the North Americans last June. It's box rule size, 69cm wide and I bit the bullet and got some Rista fins for it. I've also just got some RRD Addictions too, having a forward pulling max de-power kites felt a lot better than using my older kites (a rev and a cult).
Firstly, when you read around the internet and people say, "Go down a size, or two in kites" they're not kidding. I had a hard time believing that I'd be overpowered in 15-17 (or whatever Sherman was yesterday) on a 13m, but I was. More on that later. I rode for about a hour before switching to a 9m, much better and really nicely powered. the board should be doing the work, I think, and not the kite.
The biggest difference to other boards was getting started. I'm so glad I read somewhere the tip about not trying to start with your back foot in the strap. Start with in on the edge of board but be ready to get it at onto the center line once you're standing. Trying not to edge is a hard habit to break, but you really want to go through something like: Power stroke to get you out of the water, up onto plane slightly downwind, back foot on center line to push board flat, front foot pressure to start heading upwind, back foot toward windward rail. If you just try and head upwind straight away you'll just send a huge spray of water out in front of you, followed by your butt plonking back into the water. If you're too agressive trying to stand you'll find the fins won't go sideway but you'l happily get yanked across the other side of the board and ping off into the distance.Good body dragging practice though. I spent the first 20 minutes getting up and trying to get my back foot in the back strap. After a while I gave up and just left it on the rail forward of the strap, my upwind wasn't as good, but I could control the fins. Later on I started getting into the strap but it's still kind of a wild ride. It's also helpful to keep the kite up higher that you would on a twin tip. Use those awesome fins. Going upwind is so easy that you don't need to try too hard, going downwind is the tricky bit. I started that by just trying to do really long drawn out gybes, which worked okay. Later on I was able to gybe while underlooping, which actually made it easier as the lower down pull kind of helps pull the gybe around without the line going slack. Being less powered helped commit to that too. Gybing felt easier than my Ungerground, the raceboard has so much volume that you can kind of stand there with your feet parallel, work out where you need to be and shuffle around for a while without anything too drastic happening. That did mean I ened up heading the new direction for a while without either foot in a strap, having some strapless session helped there, plus being in relatively flat water was huge. I tried a few tacks, almost made one, but getting the nose of the board all the way through the wind was tricky. The board was either pointing head to wind and I could get it to keep going once I switched feet, or I'd really try and push it with my back foot and it would end up shooting 10 feet upwind of me. More practice needed there, obviously. Later on I started trying to get my back foot in the rear strap. Once it's in there everything changes, the fins come to life and drive upwind like crazy. This also means the leeward (upwind rail) is trying to lift out and upwind and tries to trow you over the toe side/downwind rail. I guess having the 4:1 race bar thingy would help here. Anyone done that with the RRD bar? It looks like it should be fairly easy as the center line thingy is so long so there's a lot to work with. Once I got home I moved the rear strap to the most forward position and made them all a little wider. It felt really hard to get started when my toes where only just getting into the straps, and my heels kept getting lifted when the board did it's bucking bronco thing. Moving the back strap forward is probably "cheating", but I'll work on moving it back as I progress. I don't have chicken straps (there are holes but I bought all the straps Live2Kite had ) yet but when I try going downwind fast in the flat water my back foot was on the center line of the board but way forward so I'm not too worried about them yet, sounds like proper fast downwind is a whole new set of skills anyway.
It was a fun day of learning for sure, and I'm keen to get out a few more times in some flatish water (Sherman was great) before heading out at Crissy. It also made me realize my wet suit is probably too big, every body drag (and there where a lot) had me filling up with a new dousing of water. Thanks to the Sherman locals for showing me around the launch and putting my kites up. Now if someone could remind me not to back into the camp site marker poles it would be much appreciated. The pole is fine by the way. The rear quater panel on the car? Not so much :S
See you out on the water.