Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Letter from Grand Bend

Hi Dwight – love the blog!

I am looking for some advice if you don’t mind giving it.

I am a windsurfer who sails Lake Huron, Ontario side (Grand Bend) – big messy waves with the prevailing nw wind. We have just bought a cottage here last year so I have had a year to windsurf. It is great sailing on the sw flatter water (perpetual intermediate sailor - I have many newer boards and sails (Hot Sails SF’s like you) ) but on a nw (onshore) or w the waves make it very difficult to enjoy or even get out. Your location looks similar conditions to your site from your pic’s. I have read or your blog that you used to windsurf, the kitesurf, then windsurf and now it looks like you are back to kitesurf.
My question is: Should I try kitesurfing?? At my spot there are many kitesurfers who seem to have no problem getting out through the waves and actually make sailing look somewhat effortless.
What are your pro / cons of windsurfing vs kitesurfing?
Please post on your blog if you would like – I’m sure there are others out there looking for similar information.

Thanks and good waves!
Joe Looby
Grand Bend, On Canada
Ps I sup too and love it.


Kitesurfing is easy compared to windsurfing, now. During the early years of the sport that was not true. Kite design has advanced tremendously in the last 12 years, surpassing sail design in range. One kite is all you need. 

The pros and cons and when I prefer one over the other.....

Pros and Cons of Kitesurfing-
1) People are still getting killed doing it. Just last month a guy died on the Canadian side near Buffalo.
2) You should never kite alone, especially during your first 2 years. You need to be around more experienced kitesurfers every time you go out. Learn from them. Take a lesson. It looks easy, but can kill you in an instant.
3) It's so easy to get out through big waves, it's like cheating to the extreme.

Pros and Cons of windsurfing-
1) It takes a lot of gear and money to cover the full range of conditions.
2) It's very challenging in waves and takes years to master.
3) Speed is more fun with a sail.
4) It feels more akin to SUP. 

When conditions are best for just cruising on the water, I enjoy the pure soul of windsurfing.
When the waves are huge, I prefer kitesurfing with my Firewire.

If you can devote the time to learn kitesurfing safely, and with other kiters, then go for it. If you're only able to kitesurf when on vacation at the lake, then it might not be a good idea. It takes some consistant time on the water to break past the stage where you're a danger to yourself. The guy who kites 3 times a year is a danger to himself. It's like the skier who pulls his skis out of the closet once a winter and then ends up riding the ski patrol sled down the mountain all busted up.


CB1 said...

Joe, remember in side-on or onshore conditions for windsurfing, you need to rig at a minimum a 1/2 size larger than you normally would. Also a floaty board is your friend in those conditions. At DW's home break, it is generally lighter winds on the inside, so the extra cloth and float help. With the kites being up higher, they don't usually feel the lighter winds like us windsurfers. Just my $0.02.

Joe Sail said...

Thanks Dwight,
Awesome information.
I will talk to some of the local kiters. I actually really like windsurfing; but in my now regular conditions I think kiting maybe the answer.

Andrew said...

Joe, I started kiting in 2000 and quit in 2006. I am alap from calgary, so actually kiting on snow is easier, safer and more accessible. You can start with the smaller kite and if the wind dies walk back to the "shore". If you manage to be out on the foot of fresh powder in descent wind you have a free heliskiing experience (even better, because it is non stop and you dont wait for others). Still as DW pointed out, it can kill you. Thats exactly the reason why I quit - I dont know when to stop, and when it is good I never stop (last weekend I had spent 8 hours in 60 to 85 km winds on 4.2 and 3.6 windsurfing). Plus DW is really good and he lives by the ocean thats why he can get away with one kite only. Every one I know owns here 3 to 4 kites. Yes it less than 7 sails, but you have to change them much more often (safety, bridles, lines), etc.