Stuart and I have just got back (read: I’ve just finished writting this) from a few days wave-riding up north, which is one of the best kite trips I’ve been on. The weekend started entertainingly – on arrival at Fraserburgh I realised that I had left my bag with my clothes and camping gear in my flat so after some pasta and a few whiskeys and beers I crashed out in the van in a board bag and loads of Stuart’s warm clothes. We got up early and checked out the waves – they were looking lush, but there was sod all wind. I got changed into a wetsuit to go surfing but (thankfully) Stuart managed to convince me it was picking up so we just ate some crisps instead. The wind was indeed picking up and within 20 minutes it was cranking so we shot to the beach and started pumping.

I had wanted to kitesurf Fraserburgh for a long time, but that morning was the first time I saw just how good it was. The beach picks up any north swell going and westerly is just slightly offshore, the perfect direction for riding waves, and not too gusty. That morning the waves were nice: head high, maybe overhead in the sets, but dropping off – apparently the previous night some windsurfers were out in mast high (double overhead) (bastards).

Wind Things vs Fraserburgh, round 1

Disobeying the five minute rule (when the wind is changing, wait five minutes to see what it does), we put up 11m and 12m kites and headed out. Right enough, the wind kept picking up, Stuart’s kite ran off over the dunes and I was soon as powered up as a schemie’s car modification magazine. I discovered you can hold down shit loads of power on a 12m Storm III, but it was pretty hopeless for waves being that powered up and getting back upwind was becoming a real mission, so we headed in and got some bacon rolls.

Wind Things vs Fraserburgh, round 2

Back at the beach it looked like the wind had calmed down so back out we went. Never one to make life easy for myself, I rigged the 12m again and soon found I was too powered for waves. Potter was ripping on his 9m so I swapped over to an old 8m and eventually started to be able to enjoy the waves. The difference being able to plane quickly made was immeasurable, I started to remember how to really hit waves with a kite and caught a few really good long left handers. After a couple of wicked hours some of the local boys turned up, but the wind and swell were both dropping fast. Don’t you love being that guy on the beach who can say “You should have been here earlier?”. Great day.

The swell direction had moved to the west, so the north coast was the place to be. We headed up to Thurso via the rather beautiful Fochabers which had the added advantage that we could crash at my mate Peter’s house rather than me sleeping in the board bag again.

Storm force 10

The next day we woke to the sound of all the doors in the house rattling. We had already seen the forecast and written the day off as a rest day, but we were both secretly hoping it wouldn’t be as windy as they said. We spent the morning checking out some beaches and cursing the strength of the wind. There was loads of swell about, but it was nuclear windy. We had a look at the BSA surf comp at Thurso East – those guys are amazing surfers. Saw a particuarly huge triple – quadruple overhead set come through and they were still ripping despite the mental wind. Very impressive indeed.

Later on we stood on top of a small bank just to feel the wind. It was some of the strongest wind I’ve ever experienced, something around a sustained Storm force 10. Stuart, Peter and I spent the evening picking wild mushrooms, drinking and talking about all sorts of stuff, including the meaning of sport, hay bales and tautologies – great fun.

Wind Things vs Dunnet beach

The wind was forecast to be much more reasonable the next day, but drop off sometime in the afternoon, so it was another early start. When we got to the beach I wasn’t falling for the 12m trap again and stuck up the 8m straight away, but was immediately underpowered – bugger! The 12m was just how I like it.

Dunnet faces predominantly north-west, but curves quite a lot. The wind was from the west and was pretty onshore, which made getting out past the walls of whitewater a bit of a battle. The waves out back were chunky and I made a couple of big drops onto them, but overall it wasn’t really worth the effort of getting out back and we spent most of the day playing on the reform waves on the inside.

When there are waves, riding them is my focus, so I didn’t bother doing many jumps, but it would have been rude not to see how lifty the new Storm is. I whacked the de-power strap all the way out, and instantly felt super juiced up. The water was butter smooth and as I lined up for the jump I could just tell it was going to be a good one. I flew Wipika AMPs last year, which were excellent, but the acceleration when I popped this jump was unreal and it felt like a pretty huge jump, with enough time to move the kite around to get double lift. A few more jumps confirmed that this is one lifty kite. I might prefer wave-riding, but I’m looking forward to having a good session just jumping this kite at some time soon.

We found ourselves about a km down the beach and Stuart volunteered (sort of) to walk back to the van and pick me up at the caravan park about another 2km down the beach. Thanks mate, the downwinder was fun! :)

Windfarm fun

After ten minutes of the drive home we were already bored so screeched to a halt when Stuart spotted a windfarm that would make some pretty interesting photos. We spent a fun half hour playing on a mountain board with a 4.9m Blade that was on lines just a wee bit too long for comfort! What a great trip.