CG's Equipment Tips

1. FOOTSTRAP SCREW COMING LOOSE

When was the last time you tightened the screws holding your footstaps on your board? You should check them every few sessions. I have had a footstrap pop open several times and it is a most unwelcome surprise. Most boards use a single screw on each side of the footstrap and it can work loose by the twisting action of your foot. If it happens to you on the water, don't panic, you can quite easily ride strapless back to shore (even if you have never tried it before). Usually the screw is not lost and is still stuck in the strapping.

2. HARNESS BREAKING

Harnesses do not last forever. I have had my harness webbing and stitching fail more than once. If this happens† to you on the water, your spreader bar may still be attached on one side and it can assist you in getting back to shore. If you are unlucky and have no spreader bar, your arms will not last long kiting unhooked and at full power. Inspect your harness and repair or replace it when you see signs of wear. (..you reading this Matt?..)

On my harnesses, the first thing to wear is the strap that holds the spreader bar. I just cut out the worn part and then get a shoe shop to stitch the pieces of together. I have found that any shoe repair shop can stitch the thick webbing materials in a harness.

Incidentally, I have searched but never found appropriate strap material at places like MEC. Dakine does sell replacement straps for some of its harnesses.

3. LINES BREAKING

This rarely happens when your flying lines are in good condition. But it will happen if your lines are frayed or knotted. Inspect and replace worn lines. Most line damage occurs when lines contact solid objects ..like rocks. Lines will also be damaged if dragged long distances over sand. And one line can cut through another one if it rubs in one spot and creates friction (spectra actually has a very low melting point).

If you find a knot in your line, untie it. A simple overhand knot reduces the line strength by about 40% in† common hollow core braided spectra line. There is no easy way to remove a knot. here are some suggestions.

-soak the knot first
-chew on the knot (or hammer on it) to loosen it
-use small piers and/or a dental pic to untie it
-try to minimize damage to the line.

Investing in small pliers and a dental pic (from any pharmacy) is far less expensive than buying new lines.

4. PUMP JAMMING UP

Lubricate your pump shaft regularly with a silicon lubricant. Never use any oil based lubricant as it will degrade the internal rubber parts like the O ring seal around the shaft.

Silicon grease (available at plumbing stores) or silicon spray lubricant (hardware stores) work.

Do NOT use vegetable oil, suntan lotion, WD40, or any petroleum based lubricant. You will find they create black goop on your shaft (which is your O ring seal disolving).

Incidentally, the cheap pumps that you can buy at camping supply stores do not need lubrication because the plastic shafts are slippery. But they don't last (the plastic shafts break). All kite companies supply pumps with metal shafts these days.


5. CHICKEN LOOP, DEPOWER LINE, SAND

There is a lot of strain and wear on the chicken loop and the associated depower line. These parts do wear out which is why kite companies sell replacement parts. Inspect and replace if needed. I always dunk my bar and depower line in the water as I leave the beach to rinse any sand off ..so I get less wear on the chicken loop line than some kiters. Sand is a very strong abrasive.

Also, be sure your flying line loops are free of sand before you tie those larks head knots to connect them or you wil find your line ends get chewed up. I have seen flying line ends (loops) ruined by kiters who leave wet sand in place when they tie the knots. If there is sand around, I just blow on the line ends to clean them before I tie my flying lines to my kite.

And speaking of sand, when you are lauching someone's kite, try to lift it high as you flip it over so as to avoid dragging the tip on the ground.

6. KITE FABRIC RIPPING

New kites don't rip often unless you really slam it hard on the water or get it caught in a breaking wave. But when a kite gets older, the fabric and stitching may get damaged and lose strength. Inspect your kite carefully for small tears, abrasion, or loose stitching. Repair before the damage spreads.

Self adhesive kite repair tape is available or spinnaker repair tape is available from marine shops. Kites are made of rip-stop polyester in the canopy and dacron in the leading edge, and actually two different repair tapes are available for these areas. You should clean the area before applying a patch (rubbing alcohol works well). Apply the patch and then iron your patch with a warm clothes iron (this sets the adhesive). A short hot air blast from a hair dryer also works. The self adhesive patch material will not stick at all if applied in cold weather.

A good temporary repair tape is construction "Tuck" tape (the red stuff). Never used duck (or duct) tape, it is not strong and the glue is soft and gooey and difficult to remove.

Big tears should be professionally repaired. There is no rule as to how big a tear needs professional repair, it is up to you. Perhaps you should consider a professional repair for any tear over an inch, but I have seen kites with much bigger rips survive a long time with just tape patches. It is risky though. In your leading edge, if you have ANY significant rip , it should be professionally repaired.

A sure way to degrade your kite fabric is to regularly leave your kite in bright sunshine. UV ruins kites! Another way to weaken the fabric is to leave your kite on the beach flapping wildly in strong wind. And a quite common problem that I see is rips caused by kiters putting their boards their on their kites fins down. Never do this ..always turn your board upside down. And don't use sharp rocks to weight your kite down either (if you must use rocks, put them in inside your kite bag to create a softer weight bag).

7. BRIDLE LINES

SLE kites (aka flat or bow kites) have bridles with pulleys at the kite. The pulleys can get jammed with sand and this will then wear and break the bridle lines. I have had it happen but luckily my kite still seemed to fly well enough to get back to the beach, even with a partly broken bridle. Not all kites may do this.

Inspect the pulleys of your kite bridle regularly, especially if you kite where there is wet sand.

8. BLADDER LEAK

Bladders do not fail by themselves. Pinhole leaks are caused by things like thorns on the beach.

If your bladder has burst at its end, it is because it was not properly anchored at the end (this usually occurs after someone has reinstalled the bladder incorrectly). Bladders must be held in place inside the kite at both ends!

Small bladder holes can be easily repaired with bladder patch tape (Tear Aid type A). New kites often come with some of this in the included repair kit.

Many bladder leaks are caused by a grain of sand jammed where the plug fits inside the nipple. Before you remove your bladder from your kite, spray soapy water on all your plugs to check for leaks there (inflate your kite first and then spray and look for growing soap bubbles). Try also listening carefully for the leak, you can very often hear it.

If you still have a slow leak, remove your bladder and use the soapy water spray technique to find the leak. You must pump your bladder very firmly for small leaks to start bubbling.

There is a bladder repair article on this website on the Tips page. If your bladder is beyond repair, universal replacement bladders are manufactured by Airtime (the Hood River company). Most of the big kite companies now recommend these rather than trying to supply exact factory replacements.


9. LABEL YOUR GEAR

It is not unusual to get separated from your board. I remember one windy day when three different boards were lost at Jericho. If you have your name and phone number on it, it greatly increases your chances of getting it back. I recommend that you use a sticker for your label. If you write directly on the board with a marker pen, the ink can penetrate into the boards gel coat and become permanent and reduce your boards resale value.

Incidentally, most kiteboards and kites have serial numbers. I keep a record of all mine, although I am not sure when they might be useful.

Mark your pump and bar&line set with something that identifies them. At a place like Squamish I sometimes see several identical pumps and identical bar&line sets lying around. I use a few wraps of yellow electrical tape to identify mine ..so that's taken ..you have to think of your own color scheme.

10. LINES, STRETCH

Most kite flying line is made with a hollow core braid construction and rated at 600 lb breaking strength. The material is a ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber called Dyneema in Europe and Spectra in USA. It is an amazingly strong fiber and is equal or stronger than steel in many respects. But kite lines can stretch a bit over time. Your front lines take more strain than your back ones so they always stretch more. Periodically check your lines and reset them all equal length.

Hook the ends of all your flying lines to something like a nail in a fence. Then unroll them and hold your bar and pull all your lines tight. Your depower adjustment (or trim strap) should be set for maximum length (max power) and your chicken loop should be resting against the bar. Then all your lines should then be exactly equal length. If not, you can adjust them by moving knots on the leader lines (or by adding short pigtails to the ends if there is nowhere else to make this adjustment). This is a good thing to do on a no-wind day, not when it's windy and you want to get on the water.

Q Powerline is different type of kite line which is made with a continuous longitudinal filaments of Spectra. This construction makes it a bit more tolerant of knots, so it is popular as replacement line where you need to tie knots in the ends to form loops (but only figure-eight knots are recommended).


11. GET RID OF LOOSE ITEMS

These items may seem like safety equipment:

-lifejackets with big exposed plastic buckles
-reel leashes
-hook knives
-line managers
-water flasks or 'camel backs'

but if you have them dangling loosely from you, they can snag kite lines and get you tangled. Try to minimize all the crap that you attach loosely to yourself. I wear nothing that could snag kite lines. I have had to swim under/over/beside kite lines too many times ... I want nothing that could catch on them.

On a related note, I recommend using a harness with fabric coverings over the buckles. Most, but not all harnesses have these buckle covers.


12. WETSUIT

If your wetsuit has cracks at the shoulders and holes at the seams, get a new one. You will be amazed to rediscover how warm a wetsuit can be (and how useless an old leaky one is). Wetsuits do wear out! (..you reading this Dan?..)

Wetsuits are made of neoprene (the chemical name for the elastomer is polychloroprene, Neoprene being DuPontís trade name). It is a closed cell foam with bubbles of nitogen gas imbedded in it (nitogen gas has low thermal conductivity). The surface of the neoprene is often laminated with a fabric such as Nylon or Spandex for durability.

A Wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between the Wetsuit and your skin. Your body temperature heats this water giving a nice warm water blanket. This is why getting a Wetsuit that fits well is a must. Around here a 4/3 or 5/3 wetsuit are the most popular choices. (4/3 means 4mm thick in the torso and 3mm in the arms and legs). More expensive models (like the Oneill Psycho 2 which I wear) have more stretchy neoprene for comfort and better sealing of the seams.

Remember, even on hot days you must be prepared for the possibilty of some mishap that results in a long swim. Your wetsuit is your most important piece of safety gear!

If you want to stay a bit warmer inside your wetsuit, wear a fleece shirt underneath. ONeill makes an excellent one for just this purpose. I almost always wear one of these.

For cold weather, a drysuit is a good alternative, but many kiters around here use a wetsuit all year.


13. RINSING YOUR KITE

Don't bother. It isn't neccessary.

In fact, if you dry it in the sun after rinsing, you are damaging it (UV rays degrade kite fabric). Naturally, if there is sand or mud or seaweed, you may want to rinse this off, but otherwise don't ever bother rinsing it.

Do not put your kite away wet and leave it because the colors will bleed leaving ugly stains. Also mildew and mold can develope if it is stored wet for a long time.

There is a myth about salt crystals damaging kite fabric. It is a myth. There is another myth about the chlorine in tap water damaging your kite .. again not true. What most often actually damages kite fabric is† exposure to bright sunshine! I recall that Dave Ezzy (the windsurfing sail designer) told me once that sail fabric significantly degraded after about 300 hours in bright sunshine. Kite fabric is probably even more prone to UV damage.


14. STANCE, FOOTSTRAPS

Keep you back and body straight, don't ride like you are sitting on a chair. Visualize a water skier carving a turn with a totally straight body. Once you master this stance, kiteboarding is far more comfortable and less strain on your back (and you will look better ..which is what it's all about isn't it).

Bad stance is sometimes caused by reaching too far for your bar. Use your depower adjustment (cleat or trim strap) to position your bar a comfortable distance away from you for whatever the wind conditions are.

On most kiteboards you can set your footpads apart with at least two possible widths, narrow and wide. Often riders who are doing aggressive tricks with hot (fast) landings want a wide stance, but riders who are doing smooth balanced moves may like the narrow settings. Narrow is about 21 inches spacing between the footpads (center to center) while wide is at least two more inches. Your height and your personal preference will determine your setting. I personally prefer the narrow setting.

If you have a problem with your board splashing you with water as you ride, try moving your footpads wider or narrower. The problem will either get better or worse.

Most footstaps are mounted using metric M6 screws with a large Philips head. I recommend that you purchase a solid #3 Philips screwdriver (at any hardware store) ..there is a danger of damaging the screws and cross threading the inserts on your board if you do not use the proper tool. I have seen boards ruined this way.


15. HOODS, BOOTIES, AND MITTS

For cold weather kiting you first of all need to keep your head warm. There are many styles of hoods and caps for this. As the season get colder, I wear head covering long before I need to wear anything on my hands or feet. A bare head loses an enormous amont of heat.

Booties are available for kiters in 3mm or 5mm thickness. Some hardcore kiters prefer to ride barefoot claiming they can feel the board better ..of course their feet get so cold they actually can't feel anything but that's their prefence. Many of us prefer the 3mm booties because we can get in and out of our straps easily, but the 5mm ones are certainly warmer.

There are no perfect gloves or mitts for your hands. When choosing hand protection, remember:

-you cannot untie knots or tangles wearing either mitts or gloves so choose something that is easy to take on and off
-mitts are a warmer than gloves (your fingers share heat)
-choose ones that DO NOT have thick neoprene in the palm area or you hands will get tired compressing it.
-choose ones that are pre-curved to a grip position or your hands will get tired trying to curl your fingers.

The last points are important. Diving or surfing gloves with thick neprene everywhere are warm but don't work well for kiting where you have to grip a bar. Your fingers and forearms will tire from squeezing them. In fact, some mitts designed for kiting (and windsurfing) actually have the palm area completely cut open so you can directly grip the bar ...these open palm mitts actually work pretty well since it is mostly the wind chill not the water that makes your hands cold.

I have tried many and the Dakine Cold Water Mitt with a fabric palm is the best I have found so far, but others may have their own preferences. Whatever works for you.

©2007