When Kite Meets Water Skis
American Kite Magazine - Summer 1988
Secrets of Kite Skiing, Revealed!
Give The Folks A Wave, Troy!
Designers have speculated. Flyers have ruminated. Listeners have laughed at the thought. But now someone has done it.
Troy Navarro is in the vanguard of flyer who ski across lakes. That's right. Using two standard water skis, a couple of ten-foot Flexifoil stunt kites and two 300-pound test Kevlar control lines, Navarro not only manages to stay up, he zooms across the lake with apparent ease. In fact, he insists that there's almost nothing to it!
Navarro, 26, is a Club Med water skiing instructor in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. A skier for six or seven years and a kite flyer for one and a half, he decided to combine the two hobbies while vacationing near the Sea of Cortez. The warm Mexican waters and the steady westerlies gave him optimal conditions for his first attempt. He remembers it thus:
"It was a snap. Actually it was easier than water skiing. When you try to get out of the water behind a power boat, you are being pulled through the water as the boat builds its own speed. But with kites, you're actually lifted out of the water as well as being pulled forward!"
Though he has perfected several variations, Navarro's advice for beginners is to launch your kites on the beach. He recommends Flexifoils for several reasons: first, they generated lots of pull in power dives and can be kept in those flight patterns as well as in a stall. Second, they tend to float if you crash in the water.
Once you're airborne, walk out about waist deep in the water and slip on your skis. Navarro does this by using padded wrist straps which free his hands when the kites are in an overhead stall. Next, bring your kites into the power slot (using such techniques as flying horizontal figure eights) and off you go. Once on the water, sinking is only a problem if your kites go into a stall.
Navarro absolutely recommends appropriate safety equipment, like life jackets. He also advises a wet suit for comfort as well as protection. And of course you need a friend in a power boat to follow you across the water and bring you back upwind.
"That's not so bad," says Navarro. "After all, when you go snow skiing, someone has to take you back up the slope. When you go bowling, you aren't expected to walk down and carry the ball back. It will become an expected part of the sport." That seems reasonable; using a follow boat is not only safer, it allows you to spend more time skiing and less time walking.
The amount of time one can spend on the water is limited not only by the wind conditions but also by shoulder strength. Navarro's friend and fellow kite skier, Bob Childs remembers his first kite ski: "It was so exciting that I didn't notice until I stopped how tired my shoulders and arms got." Both skiers agree that muscle strain on the water is not as bad as on land because you are moving with the kite, which lessens the pull.
Childs laughs, remembering that by the end of the first day his arms were so tired that he let the kites go up towards stall. Though he sank knee-deep in the water, he was still able to ski along just fine.
Navarro recommends two 10-foot Flexifoils for strong winds and three 10-footers for lighter air. Although you can combine six and ten footers, he doesn't believe they perform as well. And he thinks that 16-footers are too slow.
So much for the basics. When you've mastered standard skis, try a Skurfer. A cross between a surfboard and skis, "A Skurfer is easier to get up on," says Navarro, "and also allows you to do other stuff. With skis I can go about 45 degrees off the wind, but it's basically downwind skiing. With a Skurfer I can jump off waves. Depending on the wind, I can ride a wave in, hop off the back of it and go out for the next one."
"Skurfers are amazed." Says Navarro, "and windsurfers too. They scream and clap when I go whizzing past them. In fact, they're surprised how much faster I can go than they can. It's great. When I'm skiing I feel like I can fly as fast as the wind."