Friday, December 24, 2010

Snow season

Second set of snow this season so far and it's only December!

Since the return of the snow last Friday I've been out on the snowboard either in the garden or on the hills every day at least twice. Due to the travel chaos I haven't been attempting to make the trip to work, so I've had early starts working from home which facilitate two hour long lunches. My father-in-law has very graciously lent us the quad, so the kids and I load it up with snowboard and sleds and head out to the fields each lunchtime.

We also went out for a couple of hours one evening when the light of the full moon was like daylight.

As for progress, I have been steadily improving, still sometimes struggling with basic stuff, but riding pretty solid now.

Got my regular riding going well, and linked turns no problem. Still scared like mad of any jumps though - they're a lot higher when you're going over them!! As for my switch side, I can ride ok, as long as nothing out of the ordinary happens, getting good enough to ride sections and do a sliding turn.

I have also been working on my 180s, but I think I'm just a bit too lazy to jump around. I started working on them on a small kicker in the garden, and managed to pull one off. However after watching youtube videos it seems that the best thing to do is learn gradually, and work up to jumps, so I have been practising the sliding change from regular to switch and back. Sometimes frontside and sometimes back.

Its all coming together, the biggest problem I have now is the short length of any run, they are just not long enough to get any real practice in. Need to head to the proper slopes. Penny saving has started :)

Now Christmas is upon us, which means no boarding tomorrow, or Boxing day, and then the forecast is for thaw :(

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Linking turns

Tonight I got another chance to use my own private nursery slope. I first of all started to work on my toeside falling leaf, which I have to say went surprisingly well!

After this I spent the rest of the evening trying to link my turns, and sometimes was more successful than others. However, by the end of my time I was doing not too bad, maybe not very beautiful, but not too bad :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heelside falling leaf

More practice, about another hour tonight. Have my heelside falling leaf working out well for me now, still no idea about toeside, will need to work more on that.

Also, no new snow, so the snow that is there is getting icy, and not that great for control, but still better than wet sticky, or even worse - none!

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Snowboarding Winter 2010

I was really surprised when I arrived home from work to see that there was a good coating of snow all over our grass. We have not had as much snow as lots of other places. The best thing was that it was all really good grainy powder.

After we had tea I headed out to my very own private nursery slope :)

I pretty much started off from where I had left off last season, I was riding reasonably well, but couldn't ride switch at all. So after a few full length, normal runs, I decided to work on the switch. After a good few slow short runs I was starting to get it, and ventured to the top. From there I would start off switch, ride across the slope to the edge and change to regular. Then zig-zagging down the hill I got lots of practice in, including stopping and changing directions.

By the end of the evenings, after a few quite hard falls, I was doing pretty well, riding fast in switch, and flipping round to toeside, then carving (a little) round to regular, and flipping back to switch at the other side. Some of the runs felt really fluid, and quick. Other times I just fell. I think its like the kitesurfing - what I need is just more practice. Oh, and a ski lift :)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Another lunchtime session

Today I was working from home, so took advantage of the moderate NE winds. Curiously the road from Downhill to Benone is currently closed due to a rock fall, so rather that going the mad round trip I just went a few miles along the beach :)

Got there, got set up, strong wind, so pumped up the 9, and got into the water. The winter gear is fantastic, today I was booted, gloved, and hooded, and roasting! It was about 6 or7 degrees outside, and I was quite cold on the beach while setting up.

When I got into the water it was one disaster after another. First I wasn't well enough powered up, and was letting it out little by little. I should just have let it the whole way out to start. Next on a right to left turn I think I turned too far downwind and went towards the kite, it dropped into the water and inverted. I could have pulled the safety straight away, but with the reride that can take about 1/2 hr to get untangled, so I fought with it for a while. After a few minutes I had it flying again, but the lines were inverted, so it flew ok, but not great. I tried a few tacks to work upwind to get back to the car, but it wasn't working, so I got out and walked.

Landed, untangled, and out again. Going a bit better, still struggling on the right to left turns, and on the left to right into the waves. Sort of stalling when I go over a wave, I think I need to go downwind more as I go over the wave to keep speed. Also suspect the line lengths aren't the same for both sides of the kite, seems to fly a bit better one way than the other. Blue is too long.

Came back in to meet Maris, who I had bumped into at the start of the summer. Had a chat and gave him a launch before heading out for a last quick 5 minutes. This last run was the best of the day, in fact it turned a pretty bad session into a pretty worthwhile one. Fully powered up, I seemed to be doing a lot better, and staying upwind too.

I really don't enjoy the East wind. More NW please.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ice Skating

Ever since Kate got her inline skates she always rhymes about going to the ice rink. The nearest to us is over an hour away, so it's a bit of a project just visiting the place.

We went at the start of the year as a family, and we each had varying degrees of success, Kate of course walked out onto the ice as if it was as easy as walking, and I struggled a bit, but got on reasonably by the end.

Today we decided to go again, just the two of us. Kate again had no problems from the outset, but I took a few circuits to get going. By the end of 3 1/2 hours I was getting on pretty well, although I'm sure like the kitesurfing it looks a lot better to me than any spectators.

I can go pretty well in a straight line, striding nicely, and round the corners still could do with a bit of work, but getting there. No way of coming to an unplanned stop yet, just aim for the side. Getting a bit better at skating around obstacles, but still able to crash into them if they are completely unexpected.

Clothing - couldn't quite remember from the last time, but my recommended clothing would be jeans, tshirt, light top, gloves and a hat. It's a pretty warm activity, but its cold on the hands and head.

Felt it in my legs today too, although not too bad now, sore ankles where the skates were rubbing a bit, and my Achilles on my left is really sore, a super workout for the legs. Also, not nearly as risky injury-wise as I would expect. I saw some people falling pretty hard, and nothing bad to report. Far more likely to get far worse injuries on the water :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lunchtime Kitesurf - new wetsuit

Today the forecast looked good, so I arranged to work from home.

About 12 I set out to the beach, and was pleased to see the wind was blowing nicely, cross on, which is perfect for me.

Today was a bit different to any time before as I got a new wetsuit at the weekend. I bought an O'Neill Psycho 2 winter suit from Troggs. It certainly seemed snug in the shop, it was time to see if it made much of a difference at the beach.

Set up the 9 and went out and the difference in the wetsuit was immediately noticeable. Much warmer straight away. After a while I switched to the 12 as I was a little underpowered on the 12.

Didn't really do much today, just back and forth, trying to jump a little over the waves, and trying not to let the waves on the way in put me down. Only fell a couple of times in about 2 hours.

Definitely a worthwhile trip.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Benone Thursday 16th Sept

As the nights draw in this evening was probably one of the last chances to have an after work session. A short, but good session with Alan, although when I got there he had already broken a line, and spent quite a while swimming - not ideal.

Wind was good, quite nicely cross-on (NW), and the waves were huge and white with long flats in between, just how I like it.

I was working on little jumps over the waves on the way out, some toeside on the way in with a toeside to heelside carve to turn. Still struggling to do nice turns on the way out, especially with the approaching wall of water if I miss.

Alan was trying to get me to do a grab when I jump to keep my arms under control, I was trying but wasn't getting on very well, judging by Alan's incessant shouting at me :) Like my teachers said "could do better". More practice required.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dooey, Sat 11th Sept

I decided to make a day of it today, and head to the west coast, over to Dooey in Co Donegal.

When I got there I found I was on my own, so for safety I decided to go with the 9. It was good decision as the wind picked up considerably, although I was a little underpowered for most of the time. I was out for about an hour.

Today I was trying to work on riding toe-side, but I just kept sinking as I was underpowered.

Just as some of the others arrived the wind dropped off, so I had my lunch.

I changed to the 12 and was nicely powered. I had mixed success on the toeside, sometimes going really far downwind, and other times just crashing. It's like learning all over again, falling over waves etc, but after a bit of practice I was doing much better. Still shaky, but then so is my normal riding. Oh, and it's worth mentioning that I can only do it in one direction, no hope in the other way at all. That'll be for another day :) stayed out for just over two hours in the afternoon

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday 29th August

As always with Sunday kitesurfing is not a priority, but will get fitted in around the important stuff if possible. We managed to get to the beach in the late afternoon. Today there were a couple of kids out, apparently around 10-11, and they were fantastic, even doing kiteloops etc.

After messing around with the 9 I set up the 12 and had a really good session, the wind was a perfect direction, nicely cross-on (more on) and the waves had huge flats in between. Actually got some useful practice in, working on my carving turn, managed a couple, probably didn't look very beautiful, but just need more practice. It's amazing how much difference it makes carrying a bit of speed out of the turn.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday 28th August

I intended to get to the beach early today as the forcast was showing good cross-on all day, but didn't manage to get there until after lunch. I called at the White Rocks in Portrush where some of the forum guys said they'd be, and there were two there, and another couple setting up. I really didn't like the look of the beach, and told the guys it didn't look safe enough to please me; obviously they are more expericenced and were having a great time. I called at the East Strand on the way past and there were two guys out there too, having a great time, getting some big floaty air. Again this is a dangerous location, no place for a beginner like me.

I travelled on around the coast to Benone where I was glad to see a number of kites already on the water. I got set up, it was very gusty, and quite a lot of surf, very hard to stay upwind, so some of the lads decided to do a downwinder, which was great.

Good practice riding some big waves, learning how to ride over waves at different stages of the break, all good experience. I did fall in more than I would have liked, I fell really hard a couple of times and its a real pain in the face when that happens. Quite a short session, but I was completely done after it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Downwinder (on purpose)

I made an early escape from work today, was at the beach and ready to fly before 5:30, but although the wind cross - cross-on, it was poor strength wise. To top that out where the waves were breaking they were huge, like about 6-8 feet - so big that a proper jump was inevitable. I wasn't having a good run at all, it was too difficult to stay upwind with the waves and the light wind.

However all was not lost. Sean turned up, and suggested we use his jeep to do a downwinder, so off we set. It was quite a strange experience to not be worried about losing ground to the wind as I zig-zagged down the shore. It was actually quite difficult to ride sometimes, as you get lazy and don't bother edging, which makes for much worse riding.

When we landed down the beach Sean reset the mileage and measured exactly a mile back to my car. In that mile I think I fell properly three times, each time bodydragging back to the board, and getting up on it ok. I'm getting better at it, and more confident. Hopefully get out again at the weekend.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Final visit to Benone - for the holidays

Today officially finished my time off work, back to Letterkenny on Monday.

The wind report wasn't showing great, but I decided to give it a go anyway. Arriving at the beach I saw another kite in the air, always a good sign. While I got set up it was clear the other guy was a learner, and struggling a bit in the onshore wind.

It proved to be a bit of a waste of time, the wind was very light, but I persevered knowing that the experience would do me good, and also that it was pretty safe with an empty beach and onshore wind. Short session, glad I went, but definitely not a great finish to the holiday kiting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Benone AM

While the kids were at holiday Bible club today I took the opportunity to get to Benone. Once I got set up, and went to change into my wetsuit, I discovered it wasn't there! I had to phone for backup, and my wetsuit arrived after a short delay...

Wind was blowing ok, 12m weather, and quite onshore, probably NW to NNW, which suits me really well for now. When the wind is in this direction I don't seem to need to do any walking at all.

Today was just a relatively short session, probably on the water for about 1.5 hrs.

Once again I was working on my sliding turns and my upwind riding. I was also having a bit of fun using the waves for ramps to do some small jumps when riding towards the sea. I am also reliably informed that it looked a lot better from my perspective than from the bystanders perspective.

A good, short session, riding for good long distances in both directions. I'm making about 95% of turns, but probably only 25% (or less) are really good turns where I manage to keep the speed up through it. Lots of times I struggle to get up to speed coming out of the turn.

Once or twice I tried to turn toe-side and carve around the turn, but it was very shaky. I think I need to work on my general balance before going much further down that road.

My one handed riding is also coming along quite nicely. Struggling a bit with some wave landings, sometimes landing on the nose, and going under. Getting a bit better every time out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Benone Kitesurfing

Today was another cross-on day for Benone beach. I went and got set up, the launch area was completely vacant, although I was joined by another kiter before I started in the water. The sea was really nice, with long stretches of flat water between the waves, and the waves weren't powerful.

It was another day of walking back up the beach, but that's all part of it.

I was riding well again, until my usual problem occurred, in the deep water I lost my board and really struggled to get back to it. This time I had fallen and the kite had went into the water. By the time I got the kite relaunched I was far away from the board. Fortunately one of the other guys there was able to recover my board, and we were able to sail safely into the beach. After that I took a break. I really need to practice my body-dragging!

I went back out determined not to get into that difficulty again, so I decided to practice my turns. I am just doing sliding turns, but on my left to right I struggle in general, and right to left sometimes I have trouble gaining speed out of the turn.

I ended up working on these turns and also good up-wind riding for the rest of the time, which turned out to be about another two hours. I completely lost track of time, left home just after 1pm, and stayed at the beach until almost 7pm.

Once again I feel I made a significant improvement today, riding quite consistently in both directions, and with reasonable turns at each end. Maybe more practice tomorrow, if all my aches go away!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Afternoon at Benone

The forecast for today was showing marginal wind, and that is what actually happened. When I got to the beach the water was cresting, and there were a couple of other guys already set up, but not on the water.

I went a bit further up and got all set up. The biggest problem was the number of other people there on the beach, I stood for a few minutes trying to find a safe spot to enter the water.

There were too many bathers, surfers etc, all because of the sunshine. Also, the waves were quite big, and my first hour was disappointing and very off-putting. I also lost the board a couple of times, and really struggled to get back to it. I just can't do a left to right turn consistently enough yet.

However as the afternoon wore on I started to get on really well. I stopped doing left to right turns, just dipping into the water, stopping and restarting instead. I also picked my turn spot carefully, so it wasn't in the breaking waves, either first break or second break.

By my third hour in the water I was having a fantastic time, riding really well over the waves, and the best thing was that there were very few other people in the water.

Lots of good practice, another great day. Managed to keep the kite dry too, until just close to the end when I was practising my turns, the wind dropped and the kite flagged and flopped into the water. I knew it was going too well before that :)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Benone, second choice

I had planned to go to Dooey beach again today, but unfortunately couldn't make the trip to Donegal. So I had to settle for second best, our local beach at Benone.

After arriving and setting up around 3pm I was on the water pretty much until about 6pm. Still progressing well, struggling to stay consistently upwind, but that is mainly because of losing ground while falling or turning rather than riding. I need to work on my turns, although I was turning quite well right to left, and reasonably well in the other direction, but I think that was due to confidence in the deep water. It's a bit scary losing your board way out there, where the beach people look so small.

The other thing I really need to work on is riding over waves. As one of the other guys put it I was more going through them than over them.

The best thing today was also the worst thing - the waves. Every once in a while they were huge (for me) and this caused all sorts of problems, like trying to get back on the board, out of my depth while these things were breaking over me. On the other hand the best ride of the day was when I just launched in front of one, and managed to ride it the whole way in, that was great!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dooey Beach, Donegal

Today the guys from NI Kite Forum were travelling to Dooey Beach as the wind was forecast from the West or South-West. I got my sat nav out and put in the nearest location I could find and set off. I was curious as to why it was estimating such a long time for the last few miles, but I found out when I got there. The roads there made our road look like a motorway!

Descending from the hills into the beach area I could already see a few kites in the air, which is always a welcome sight.

I arrived, and got set up, and just as I was ready to go the wind dropped and people started coming in from the water! After a while it picked up again and we were out again, although it was a bit busy for my liking. I hadn't been out for long when my kite flopped down - a burst bladder. What a pain. That was my day over. I packed it up, but some of the other guys suggested that I should try my smaller kite.

What a great suggestion it was! It was definitely underpowered for the day, took a bit of work to get it going, but when up to speed it was pulling nicely. I spent over another hour on the water before it was time to stop.

All in all a great day. Now I just need to dry and fix my big kite...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another visit to the beach

The forecast for today was a bit marginal, but we hoped it would be surfable, so I made the usual detour to Benone on the way home from work.

The wind was pretty bad when I arrived, but I set up and had a bit of a fly on the beach. I was joined on the beach by Stephen, another learner, and we noticed a bit of rain about to blow in. Rain usually brings wind, so by the time we were suited up the wind was blowing strong.

Headed out into the water, and it was easy to get going. On my first run out I was just about to turn when I noticed a porpoise in the water - well I assume thats what it was, I just saw the fin about 20ft in front of me.

It turned out to be a good evening, got a good few runs in, spent less windy time bodyboarding and flying on the beach. Lost the board a couple of times, thats when I'm glad it is bright yellow. First time I was able to very easily bodydrag back to get it. Second time the wind had dropped, the kite was pulling me downwind, and I was scared of the kite landing in the water, and so I went to the beach, landed it, took off the harness, and swam back out for the board. Thats a bit scary, swimming directly out into the sea. At least when I got out to the board and turned I discovered I could still stand on the sand. It's just a cautionary note about the potential danger of going out when there is not quite enough wind.

Also managed a couple of turns tonight, that's the first time I've done that without dunking.

Cant wait for next time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fantastic Benone wind

This evening I was out for a couple of hours on the 9m at Benone. It was blowing somewhere between 20-30mph, which is really nice power on the 9. It was a bit gusty, but pleasantly it was almost straight onshore. I am still struggling a bit with the water start, and in an onshore this means a lot of walking backwards into the sea, trying, failing, drifting in and repeat.

I did have a few really good runs, working hard on stance to try to improve the balance, and my upwind tack. Another thing I was working on was riding over waves, previously I was surviving about 25% of big waves, today I probably managed 75%. Using your legs as suspension is key, and also rising the kite a bit to pull up over them is helpful too.

One thing that was unusual for me today was the fact that there were a few other people on the water. Most of the time they turned before they got to me, but a couple of times I managed to pass safely, I hope, both with the other rider upwind, and sometimes downwind, pretty scary the first time.

It was an excellent evenings riding, and has shown me that what I really need is time on the water. It's really nice to be at the stage where I can see quite a bit of progress each time I'm out. All we need now is more North wind....

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I have just had a great day kitesurfing at benone beach. Best day yet, riding reasonable distances in both directions, although still quite inconsistent. Just need more practice. More north winds please. And strong :)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Google streetview

Just noticed the streetview has been updated for the local area. Not completed yet, but a good coverage of the Magilligan area

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


For years we enjoyed XBMC running on several networked softmodded XBOX consoles around the house, delivering SD and HD content to our televisions.

Since then the TiVo/XBMC solution was retired in favour of Vista Media Center, which provides a simple solution for media to TV, including dual tuners, and playing divx and xvid etc. It also acts as a server to the very clever media center extenders, which provide the same functionality to other TVs around the house.

Recently I upgraded to Windows 7, which adds some functionality, but is altogether nicer and a more modern experience. Also includes xvid and divx out of the box. However, it doesn't support MKV files, and although a codec can be obtained I fought for several hours to get it to pass Dolby directly to the optical output.

I gave up, and decided to try the XBMC for windows download. Fantastic piece of software, runs straight out of the box, easy to add media folders, and plays everything! The people at microsoft could learn a bit from XBMC - the options to change to digital audio output and other simple changes are right on the screen. There is a slider to correct audio/video sync issues. There is also the option to automatically set the display to 50 or 60 Hz depending on the source. Very clever stuff. And simple. Pay attention Microsoft.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

No fuel

Went out to start the car, but it just turned and turned, without a kick. I hadn't noticed the whirr of the fuel pump, so I decided to check to see if there was petrol getting to the front, and when I disconnected the hose, there was none.

As this happened before, just a few months ago, I knew exactly where to look. Jobs are always easier the second time.

This meant I couldn't make the journey to work, so I split the day between working from home, and car maintenance.

A quick post to the forum told me I could pick up a brand new one in Magherafelt, so I set off before lunchtime. Of course this journey was made much more difficult by last nights snow - although there was only a few centimetres it was freezing hard, and it lay, making even main roads treacherous.

I picked up the pump, and later on got it fitted. It is quite a relief when you turn the key and the engine starts.

Later on this evening I tidied everything up, screwed the seats back in etc, and that's the job done. Wonder what the next component to fail will be.....