Posts Tagged ‘Ronny Finsaas’

A Viking thrashing

16/03/2010

So we’re all safely back from Norway, and I’m finally getting to take 5 minutes to pause, relax, and reflect on what we’ve learnt there, and what we’ve gained in knowledge and training.  A hell of a lot is the quick answer.

We went there having had a couple of kite-surfing lessons each (without much wind, so not actually getting to actually surf…), and played around with our 3.5m Imp trainer kites from Ozone.  Despite the fact that the Imp’s are miniscule in comparison to the big brother’s we were playing with last week, I think training with them was pretty damn invaluable to this last week, it meant that we picked up the big kites with an already inbuilt feel for it.  We trained with I think all three of the top kiting systems: both bar and handle kites from Ozone, and with para-wings or sails, hand-made by a guy called Wolf Beringer in Germany.  I was prepared to be all snobbish about the latter, and be staunchly loyal to long-line kites, but actually, I don’t think I’ve had more fun with wind than when it was howling and Si and I had a couple of hours on the lake jumping a block of ice and occasionally properly taking off.  They are brilliant in really high-wind situations.

Tim and Simon using sails across the lake

Ripping it up

Fitness-wise, I’ve gained two things.  First, a goodly amount of leg-strength and endurance.  I am surprised at how much just one week of kite-skiing has done for me.  The first couple of days were agony going cross-wind (it’s like doing a really hard parallel turn downhill, but instead of changing legs and going the other way, you just have to keep holding it till you get to the other side of the lake…).  By the end of the week, I was loving every second of it, and the more I had to edge the better it felt.  I guess a fair degree of that is a skill gain, becoming more efficient, being a better skier (not hard to be better than my skiing at the start of the week!); but I also think a lot of it was about the body’s ability to adapt to the situation and change the muscles’ energy burn so that less lactic acid is produced, and thus endurance is enhanced.

Tim preparing to stand after yet another wipeout

See? Gods amongst men

The second thing I’ve gained about our fitness, is a good deal more confidence in it.  I was worried before this week that we wouldn’t be able to get to the kind of level that people like Ronny Finsaas (who kite-skis nearly every day there is snow, and some days there isn’t) are at, and that we would always be playing second best.  Now, I think that after a month in Greenland, the issue isn’t going to be about getting fit, it’s going to be about keeping the level of very specialist fitness we’ll have gained by then up over the summer.  However, I know now exactly which muscle groups we need to be focussing on, and I know just how strong and durable they need to be made.

All in all, a fantastically successful week from my perspective; we’ve gained fitness, confidence, and new friends.  We are also now kite-skiing Gods.  (…see what I mean about the confidence bit?)

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Update from Finse.

12/03/2010

It’s day six here in Finse, Norway, where we have been learning to harness the wind using various forms of kite in order to pull ourselves and our pulks across the snowy, windswept landscape. Well…..at least that’s the idea! There have been a lot of comedy crashes but we are pleased with our progress.

We’ve been a given a (sometimes literally) crash course in parasailing and kite-skiing by Ronny Finsaas, local kite-skiing legend and holder of most polar kiting records that exist. His phlegmatic approach to teaching has been much appreciated by the team; when Paddy’s first attempt to launch a kite resulted in a face plant Ronny just grinned, “well I guess it is a crash course”.

Mike and Si kiting across the lake

Acres of space for the occasional wipeout

Parasails are basically kites with short lines that are controlled via a bar held vertically. They are useful in high winds (and also for going off jumps!) due to their ease of control and the fact that its pretty easy to quickly de-power them in case things get out of control – quite a common occurance for the team!

I won’t insult the reader’s intelligence by describing what a kite is! However, what we are using is slightly different to your average kite. For propulsion in lower wind conditions (below around 40 kph) we are using foil snow kites made by Ozone in various sizes; controlled by handle and bar control systems. The kites range from beginner versions which are fairly easy to handle and stable to more advanced versions which react quickly (sometimes unpredictably) and develop a huge amount of power for their size. The most advanced version we are using is called the Yakuza GT. Being Ronny’s favourite kite he had us trying it on day 2. To a man we were pretty much controlled by it, rather than vice versa, and as such ended up being rescued by Ronny from the downwind end of the lake.

As a result, the team has developed a healthy respect for the Yakuza GT, in addition to a desire to “master” it. The latter is especially necessary as it will be the principal kite we intend to use in Greenland and Antartica, mainly due to its exceptional power / weight ratio. During a session yesterday with this kite I was practicing with this kite and made the mistake of not de-powering it enough before initiating a turn. As a result the 5.5m2 kite picked me up around 10ft in the air and deposited me in the snow amongst a pretty much unresolvable mess of skis, skis boots, kites lines, handles and the kite itself. And this was in a fairly moderate wind!

Despite the hiccups we are pleased with progress here and feel we have kept up with the steep learning curve. We have learnt to control parasails of various constructions and sizes in addition to many handle-controlled and bar-controlled kites. We have also completed two day trips downwind, during the longest of which we covered 60km in a variety of terrain and wind conditions.

Lastly on this post, I’d like to offer a big thanks to Ronnie Finsaas, who not only has taught us to kite but has also given us a huge amount of indispensable advice on kite travel in Greenland and Antartica. Thanks a lot Ronnie!

Simon, Finse