Well after receiving my Prism lines from KitePower, I've been busting to get out and try the el-cheapo Aldi stunt kite. Yesterday it was blowing at about 25kph from the SE so I headed out to Nobby's Beach. Not nearly as many PPL on the beach this time (last time I went was a Sunday), so no worries about decapitating anyone.
After a particularly stressful afternoon discussing whether plasma or LCD TV's were better with a couple of neighbours, the LAST thing I was expecting was for my kite to stress me, but it did. Well, not actually the kite, but the lines. Everything that COULD have gone wrong, DID go wrong, it seems. As soon as I undid the rubber bungee tie-down on the winder, the handles dropped by about a foot, and so did the pigtails... and in the cool afternoon breeze, started spinning around each other violently. So instead of just setting it all up and off I go, as was expected, for the next 15 minutes my blood pressure goes thru the roof as I sit and undo a complete bird's nest mess.
I can say quite assuredly that I really didn't need that.. ! Kinda funny in hindsight, I guess, but man.. I was fuming at the time...
Well I finally get the mess sorted (note for future reference - DON'T just let the flying straps flap in the breeze when preparing to lay out your lines !) and lay everything out.. and I'm ready to go. With the kite on it's belly, first thing was to practice dead launching (which I learned from some video tutorial I found online). Took me a couple of goes (being a cheapie kite with solid glass rods) but I got it in the end. The kite gets air and I'm immediately impressed by how much better it feels with the decent lines. Much more responsive !
Now, I should mention here that the other thing I was really looking forward to was seeing the change in performance of the kite after I'd measured and adjusted the bridle correctly (out of the bag from Aldi, the bridle was horribly out of balance !) So anyway, I get to cruise around for a few minutes, and happily found that I'd fixed the problem of the kite turning much better in one direction than the other. The breeze was great, nice and smooth, and I knew I was in for an enjoyable afternoon of trying/practicing my first basic tricks (I was planning to learn a fade, side slipping and the dead launches). Little did I know that my relative inexperience was about to bite me on the arse..
All in all I got to fly for only about 5 minutes before this very nice lady comes up to me and compliments me on how well I was flying, and that it looks like a lot of fun. She was perhaps in her 50's and was clearly a very friendly person, so it just felt right when I turned to her and asked "Would you like a go ?". Perhaps you've been there yourself. Perhaps you've been so naive as to think that, well... it's easy enough for ME to keep this thing off the ground.. of course everyone ELSE should be able to do the same thing.. right ? Right ? Oh dear.. Well, I'm sure you've at least SEEN it before. With the kite's nose turning towards the ground, the arms are immediately outstretched, thrown above the head, hands flailing in all directions like a nutter, and the usual associated running backwards when at all other times their feet are encased in a large cement block, my kite is driven into the sand from on high, under almost full power, a grand total of 3 times.
Of course you know what's coming next, don't you. Yep, SHE BROKE IT ! "Oh no, I haven't damaged it, have I ?", she yells from the flying straps. "Ahhh... ehhh... yup, just a little, but it's OK... nothing major." The bungee that retains the spine had torn free with the impacts. There was no way I was going to let this kindly woman know how bitterly disappointed I was. It was only 3.30pm or so and I was REEEEEALLY looking forward to learning those tricks. I'd been waiting for a couple of weeks to get out... and here it was, all over. Inside my head was wall-to-wall "FFFUUUU&&^%$%^*(#@||+*&%$#@!!!#%^&*$#$%&^&%##%^*&()))(&%$##@#*^&&^^$#@^^(**&%*$%#*&)*&*%^$$(&(*%&^%*^%&*)*CK". She offered to pay for it, but since I'd told her it was only a $10 kite, it felt ridiculous to even consider taking any money from her, so I declined as graciously as I could. I also reasoned that it was only this bungee cord that needed re-attaching, so I'm sure I can handle that (how the hell, I don't know, but I'll think of something).
So at that point it I packed up the stunt kite, holding back the tears Then it was out with the cheapie Aldi parafoil, attached the new lines to it and we're off again. That's right, I said WE. Even tho she tried to skulk away in embarassment, I decreed "You don't think you're gonna get off THAT easily, do you ? No spars in this one... you can't really break it !".
Suffice to say, after numerous more hefty contacts with the ground, and about half an hour later, she finally was able to keep the thing airborne, albeit with lots of instruction. Setting aside the embarassment, I think she geniunely had a bit of fun as she wanted to know where she could go to get started. I gave her the KitePower URL and suggested a decent beginner's kite (eg Prism Jazz), explained it already comes with good lines, carry bag, etc.. much better than the Aldi cheapies which, now from experience, can't survive too well the incidents associated with raw beginners. And she wandered off to rejoin her family who were watching and waiting patiently nearby.
I was left cruising around the sky with the backup kite.. the parafoil. If only the wind was a bit stronger, I would have been a whole lot more fun, but as it was, I flew until dark.. sore as I was (literally and figuratively). There were actually stars out by the time I packed up. During the afternoon there was a couple of other folks who came down, one with a couple of teenage girls who were learning to power kite... and the other with a buggy who spent the afternoon lazily zipping up and down the beach with his kid in his lap grinning from ear to ear. I didn't get a chance to speak to ANY of them, unfortunately, but all in all, it seemed like everyone had a fantastic afternoon... 'cept me..
(Hit the post button, and just realised what an essay this was... sorry about that.. !)