Thu, 11 February 2010

Charles Didcott is one of those hybrid surfer / kiters. He loves to surf, but he loves to kite. So what does he do when summer comes up with so much swell and wind at the same time? Photos of Charles by Deon Hug.

I like to go kiting when the surf options are not great. However, I am faced with a quandary when the surf and the wind are pumping. Sometimes it falls to which surfer or kiteboarder mate calls me first. Either way, this summer, it's been good. I’ve had epic sessions surfing and kiting. At the end of the day it is all about having fun in the waves, hopefully improving my skills at both and maximizing time in the water.

Surfing with a kite is a bit of a cheat if you compare it to paddling into a wave. With my kite, I can start the wave with something that looks like a round-house cutback. I can pop a twenty foot air on a backhand re-entry by pulling in the bar as I hit the top of the wave. If the section I am on closes out, I simply power around it and get back on the wave further down. This is all good fun but with all that power in the kite it doesn’t feel quite the same as regular surfing. I can get a bit closer to the real thing if the wind and the wave will allow me to kite downwind. I still have lots to learn here but the idea is to park the kite fairly low and let it simply drift in the same direction you are going while you surf the wave, using just the power of the wave.

I watched Kevin Langeree, the world no 1, doing this beautifully at Witsands in a (cross-offshore) Northerly last Saturday. He was carving backhand, pulling off bottom turns, going vertical, and coming nicely off the top, with his kite just drifting. I hope to get there in time.

The other thing I’m trying is the un-strapped option. I have just started going out on the smaller days with my regular 6,4 surfboard and learning how to keep my feet on the board all the time. This allows for a lot less cheating in the surf and your turns become closer to pure surfing. It is really satisfying pulling off a move or two without the aid of straps. Still early days and I need a stronger board before I kill my fiberglass friend.

So the quandary is always there, to kite or surf? But for me they are basically all part of the same thing. The rush of surviving a late drop and making a walled-up section at the Kom is hard to beat, I will always love that. The cool thing about kiting is that it is the same road, and the journey is a bundle of fun.

Aside from my angst at deciding how to spend my spare time, I’m one of the luckiest guys I know. I am kept well stocked with some of the best kites money can buy. I shoot photos for Ozone and so have to use their latest models. Yes, another quandary, do I take photos, or kite, or just say stuff it and go for a surf?

There is the odd day when I don’t have too much trouble deciding to stay on the beach comfortably sitting behind a long lens. The 11th of January was one of those. Wavescape and Windguru had good wind, and 5m swells with 17 second intervals predicted. What that produced was one of the most impressive summer swells at Witsands that I have seen. Patrice Hartmann is the local agent for Ozone kites and met me at the beach in the mid afternoon. The swell was peaking and the sets coming through in front of Misty Cliffs were scary.

Patrice went out on his new Ozone C4 7m at first but found that, once he got onto a wave, the increase in apparent wind speed resulted in getting frighteningly overpowered. He switched down to a 5m kite which made getting out a bit more of a challenge but, once on the wave, things were more manageable. He was hooking into some very big waves. Back on the beach for a brief rest he told me this was quite an “emotional” session for him. He is French after all.

Andre van Breda arrived after work and went out on my brand new C4 5m kite. It was straight out of the bag so we were both a little apprehensive. Now I had two subjects and they did not disappoint the camera or the small group of spectators who had gathered. The wind was a bit sketchy but they both survived the session (along with my new kite) and I got a few pics to make Ozone happy.

When I showed Patrice the shot that I called “Little Patrice” his comment was that he was so pleased he had not looked behind him on that one.

Anyway, back to the present. It is a beautiful day, there are two guys sitting at The Outer with the occasional six to eight footer coming through. There is a light South Easter starting to blow, predicted to pick up. I have had the odd day where I have surfed in the morning and kited in the afternoon.

So, what am I going to do today?


Sarah Didcott
0 #11 Sarah Didcott 2010-02-22 12:02
Hey Brother, what stunning pics and what a feeling the article gives...gotta love your life!!
0 #10 Patrice 2010-02-12 16:07
Hey Charles, really nice article. Really cool to get told by a surfer how kitesurfing feels like. Unfortunaltely, I can't surf without a kite, so I will never know how it feels like face a big set of waves and having to prepare to take it on the head when realizing I won't make it. As you said, when you have a kite you always make a plan ;)
Catching a big wave with a kite is easy. I have a profound respect for the surfers as I believe surfing 8ft waves probably requires to be twice as much couragous than kitesurfing 15+ ft waves!
Kayleigh Didcott
0 #9 Kayleigh Didcott 2010-02-11 20:16
Cool uncle :)
0 #8 Madmagoo 2010-02-11 19:57
Sweet Charles!
Great article and great kites!
Only the best right?
Tubular Swells
0 #7 Tubular Swells 2010-02-11 18:03
Well done Charles a great epic story.....we are so blessed to make this journey......and what a journey it was on the 11th Jan 2010.
Spoken like a true soul kite surfer.....keep it up. Have a swell day.
Di Havard
0 #6 Di Havard 2010-02-11 15:51
Hi Charles
I can't wait to show Sarah your photos and article, she will relate big-time. She is out coaching at the moment and is a surf addict. She has discussed kiting at times and when she has the money I think that is where it will go although I believe her passion for surfing will remain. Nice to catch up. Love to the family.
Regards, Di
Charles Didcott
0 #5 Charles Didcott 2010-02-11 14:51
In a Northwester you can downwind to Scarborough. Easy out on the beach.
0 #4 Fouf 2010-02-11 13:12
Awesome thanks
I saw some guys going quite far downwind
are just loosing ground or are they doing downwinders and if so where do they leave the second car, and how is it coming out there (i.e gusty , rocky etc ?)
Charles Didcott
0 #3 Charles Didcott 2010-02-11 13:07
I ride goofy foot all the time, no jibing. Getting out over the waves at Witsands on a big day can be a bit of a challenge toeside, I just have to know when to turn and run:) Many guys ride (right) waves at Witsands happily on their toeside too.
0 #2 Fouf 2010-02-11 12:06
Awesome Article
Watched the guys ripping on Saturday, we helped a german kiter on a North Kite out of the shore break on the rocks downwind from Witsand. He snapped three lines in one jump ... Crazy
His kite was trashed but he was ok. He still had a big smile on his face though. Do you feel being able to jibe your directional is a prerequisite to kiting witsand on a directional or can you go out heel side and ride back toe side ?
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