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Old 10-03-2007, 08:59 PM
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latino latino is offline
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Post Kiteboard Distance Racing

By Jayson Orkins

When it comes to kite racing long distances there are several key factors that determine whether you finish in the front of the pack, back of the pack, or end up swimming home.
Following is a list of things I have found to be most important when you plan on conquering long distances on nothing more than a kite and board. Although some seem quite obvious, it is not until halfway thru the race that they become apparent.

1. Condition your body
a. This is probably the first thing everyone thinks of when they prepare for a distance race. “I gotta get in shape!” is what I hear most competitors say. Unfortunately if you do not train specifically for KITE DISTANCE RACING then you are probably doing more harm than good.
b. Anaerobic exercise (weight training) actually does very little in racing and can cause you to tire more quickly due to excess weight in muscle and the needs of those muscles. Large muscles require more water to hydrate and more oxygen to keep them from tiring. Aerobic (Cardio) exercises will help lean out excess body fat and enable you to ride longer distances without fatigue. Full body cardio workouts are the best for getting your body used to extended periods of exercise.
c. For Kite Distance racing I use the 150% RULE. You must be able to do cardio exercise non stop for 1 ˝ times as long as your expected race. An experienced racer will cover open water (gulf/ocean) at about 15 mph and will cover smoother water at approximately 20 mph. If your upcoming race is 30 miles in open water you should expect it to take 2 hours. Therefore you should be able to train for 3 hours without breaks. (There are no pit stops in the middle of the sea). Training should be at 150% 3 days a week.
d. THIGH DESTRUCTION… I learned this the hard way. Once you are able to do 150% three days a week you will feel like you are in GREAT shape and ready for ANY race. NO WAY! The one thing that will begin to slow you down somewhere during the race is thigh muscle cramping and fatigue. There are techniques to help with this (discussed further down) but the best exercise to overcome this is biking. Biking uses the exact same muscles as kiting and allows you to concentrate on isolating and improving this critical factor. Hop on your bike and find a spot where you can ride long straight distances without a lot of turns and stops. Now just start peddling and keep going until your thighs burn. Slow down a little to relax then keep pushing on. Continue riding another 30 minutes after your thighs feel like they are going to explode. Do this every day and you will be amazed at how far you will be able to go in only 2 weeks. I started with 4 miles (30 min) rides, now I can go for 3-4 hours without my legs dying.

2. Mental Preparation
a. Being mentally prepared for a race is as important as being physically ready. As with most sports, Kitesurfing is 90% mental and 10% physical. Make sure you spend as much time as possible visualizing what the actual race will be like. This becomes easier after you have several races under you belt. Visualizing the race and possible problems can keep you from being surprised when something goes wrong. You will already know how to react and will not have to waste time thinking. Visualize the start: you will be surrounded by dozens of other riders. Visualize where you expect to be in the middle of the race. When do you plan to make your final push. Do you plan on playing “tortoise and hare” or do you want to lead the entire race?
b. Set realistic expectations of yourself. Know your competitors. If you are a 2-year kite surfer with limited racing experience don’t expect to win your first race. It won’t happen. Expect yourself to do a little bit better than you thought you were capable of. Impressing yourself will push you to improve every race instead of being disappointed with not winning.
c. 1st Place isn’t everything. Enjoy the EXPERIENCE, that’s what you will remember in 20 years.

3. Equipment Selection
a. There are 4 things that determine your overall speed in a race: Kite, Board, Skill/Experience, and Conditioning.
b. Competing with the correct gear can make all the difference. Some riders think they can go out and carry the biggest kite in their quiver. Even with the new bow kites it is NOT a good idea to race overpowered. Your maximum speed is determined mostly by your board and ability to maintain a fast constant speed over choppy conditions. Being overpowered will only wear you out faster and cause you to make mental errors.
c. Kite Choice. Use the 5-15 KNOT RULE. For kite racing it is necessary to use a kite larger than normal because courses for long distance races are usually set up in a downwind position. The general rule is ride a kite size that you would normally ride in 5-15 knots more of wind. If the wind is side on to the race course only use a kite that is slightly larger (5 knots). If the wind is flowing directly downwind from the start line to finish line then rig using the 15 knot rule.
i. For example: Say the race course runs from North to South with the land on the east. Therefore the race would only be run on winds from the N, NW, or W. North winds would be directly downwind and required you to tack all the way thru the course. It is nearly impossible to sail directly downwind. If the wind is from the West then only a slightly larger kite is necessary because this is one long tack, right foot forward, or toe side left foot.
ii. Kite Choice: bow vs. traditional C. Is one better than the other? Not really. It all depends on the rider and their comfort. What is important is that the kite is in GREAT condition and will make it to the end. Fill up your kite the day before the race and make sure it holds air ALL day. Leaky bladders will quickly end your race. Check all pigtails. Check bar and lines. Closely analyze all spots where a break could occur. If you re-rig a new bar for the race be sure to spend a day using it before racing with it. A trusted older bar and lines is better than a brand new untested one.
d. Board Choice is critical! Board Choice is critical!
i. That needs to be said twice. There are many opinions as to what is better: surf boards, twin tips, wide boards, thin boards, directionals, hybrids, wakeboards, etc.
ii. Races have been won on nearly every type of board. What is most important is to ride what you are comfortable on. Do not change boards 2 weeks before a race because of someone else’s advice.
iii. What is important in a board is to realize that you are going to be on it for 1-5 hours non-stop. If your race is in open water with waves and chop then ride a board designed for this. If it’s a smooth race course then ride the appropriate board. Practice becoming skilled on several different boards so no matter the conditions, you will have the gear and skills to compete.
iv. Personally I prefer a larger (150cm+) that is light and fast. A larger board allows you to stand up straighter and balance your weight more evenly between front and back legs. This helps relieve the thigh fatigue mentioned above. A lightweight board is important because it does not require as much energy to control when you are flying over waves and chop.
v. CHECK YOUR FINS AND BINDINGS! If you lose one screw in your bindings or straps then your race is over. Loose fins are very inefficient and will slow you down. Tighten fins and bindings immediately before the start. Use stainless lock washers and Locktite thread goop.
e. Skill and Experience are things that you accumulate with each race and each down winder you do. No videos or books will improve this
f. Conditioning. You should have already taken care of this. If you are in proper conditioning and using the correct gear, and have mentally prepared for the race…. Then you have a 75% chance of finishing.

4. Accessorize
a. Board leash, losing your board and having to body surf back to it will cost valuable time and will require as much energy as 30 minutes worth of racing.
b. Helmet, to protect you from your board since you are wearing a board leash.
c. Camel pack, HYDRATION is KEY! If you feel thirsty then you are dehydrated. Expect to consume a minimum of 1 liter per hour.
d. Sunglasses / goggles. Salt and sun spray on a long race is nearly blinding. The windier it is, the worse the spray. Carry bottled water to rinse eyes.
e. Whistle, to notify others in case you need help.
f. Safety leash to kite, letting go of your kite miles offshore during a race sucks. Do not expect others to stop and get it for you. WEAR A LEASH.
g. Clothing. Wear proper gear to keep you warm. A 3/2 wetsuit should be the most you need in water over 60 degrees. Air temperatures above 60 degrees will feel quite warm after 30 minutes of hard core racing. Most heat loss is lost thru the head. A hoodie makes a huge difference. Wear gloves if the air is under 60.
i. REMEMBER: hypothermia can set in quickly in water. If there is any possibility that you could have to spend more than 30 minutes floating in the water, be sure to dress accordingly. Layer wetsuits and rash guards if possible. That way you can remove layers as you warm up.

5. Race Course and Possible Conditions
a. If it is an open water race, wear a waterproof watch to track your spot along the race.
b. Pick your line. Sometimes near shore (on a downwind race) seems like the fastest smoothest route. But, if you take one wipeout inside the shorebreak then you are going to spend the next 15 minutes trying to get your board back. REMEMBER.. Body dragging to the board takes 30 minutes of race energy even if it only take 5 minutes of actual time. Losing your board wears you out.. Period.
c. Know the race course. Is it open water? Are you following a boat? Is it down the shoreline? If so, which foot will you be riding forward. Practice riding that foot forward.
d. Learn to ride toeside comfortably. This will help to relieve your thighs when they start to burn.
e. Make practice runs. If you are lucky enough to live near the event then make practice runs beforehand. If you are traveling to an event try to come a few days early so you can run the course before the race. Locals have a huge advantage over riders unfamiliar with the waters.
f. Check weather for possible changes in wind speed or direction prior to race.

6. Follow the leader or follow the Boata. Find out who the best local riders are at the event site. Ask them what kites and boards they are riding (don’t expect them to always be honest though). Most likely they have run the course many times and know what works best. At the starting line, try to stay close to them. They know the best routes.
b. Keep eyes open and watch what works for others. In a shoreline race the wind can be very different from one spot to the next. Keep watching the kites in front of you. Is the guy near shore moving fast or is he working his kite. Watch for land points and sand bars that stick out, this usually means the tides will be different.
c. Open water races are usually run in teams with each team having their own support boat. Using the boat correctly is critical to succeeding. When you are riding behind the boat there is a spot 15-20 feet back, directly behind the prop wash, that is the fastest spot you can ride. There is really only room for one rider so the slower of the 2 riders needs to be locked into this spot for the entire race. The other rider needs to stay as close as possible behind the first rider.
d. Boat support crew is critical. Make sure the captain and helper/s are experienced with kiting. The captain needs to pick a course that allows the riders to maintain a fast comfortable pace but doesn’t wear them out from having to edge too hard.

7. Save some in the tank
a. Never push past your abilities until you can see the finish line. If you push yourself to exhaustion then you become easily susceptible to dangerous or deadly mistakes. The more tired you are the more times you will lose your board or crash your kite. Taking a large wave on the head is an exhausting experience. Taking a large wave on the head when you are completely spent can be deadly. Know your abilities and anticipate possible problems before they happen.

8. Continuing Education…After the Race
a. Observe what the top riders did and how it worked. Did they have better gear, were they in better shape, did they pick a better line. Learn from them.
b. Also, listen to what the slower riders and non-finishing riders say. Learn from their mistakes.

9. Safetya. Even the best riders in the world can become overwhelmed in open water racing. BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST
b. Know how to self rescue yourself and carry appropriate safety gear.
c. Life vests and flotation devices are a good idea if you are not a strong swimmer.
d. Stay with your kite if you go down in open water. It will make finding you by air much easier.

10. Appreciate and Thank the race coordinator and other officials.a. Although it is all over for you in a couple hours these events take months and months of hard work and stress. They also cost a lot of cash and are not money makers for those who do it. Please remember this before you bitch about this or that. Nothing in kitesurfing runs completely smooth so realize this before you criticize.
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Old 10-04-2007, 09:48 AM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Good stuff, thanks for reposting this Latino and Jayson for writing it. Still more good background in distance racing in the open ocean in that forum in the Events section and particularly in the post about the 60 mile prerace at:
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Old 04-10-2008, 05:27 AM
eetvblog eetvblog is offline
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Your post was worth reading. Kiteboarding is a safe sport only if you familiarize yourself with the safety aspects of the sport. Lessons are extremely important. It is important to note that kiteboarders can pose a danger to the public. Tensioned lines are razor sharp and can cause cuts to innocent bystanders.
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Old 07-24-2008, 09:28 PM
KiteworldUSA KiteworldUSA is offline
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When is the next distance race in FL?
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Old 07-24-2008, 09:41 PM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Good question. How about it race organizers? Want to wait for January through March or anyone for having a go in the fall?
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