I have been thinking about this post for a few days and I think I have a few points. First, people should know that I have been gliding for three or four years now and it is pretty exhilarating.
1. The question we should be asking is not is gliding dangerous. It is. Why? Mainly because the current gear was not designed for flying. The question we should be asking is why haven't manufacturers embraced gliding/flying as a natural evolution of the sport we love? I see many dedicated snowkiters whom have been riding for years, become skilled enough to launch and land safely, but are putting themselves at risk because of the reality of gear failure. I say that it is time for someone to produce a kite designed specifically for this purpose. Speed wings are roughly the same size, why can't we develop a kite that has a bar/lines and canopy that is tested to these standards and put this topic to rest for good. (Pleeeese Robbie?) Snowkiting is a sport with limitless possibilities. With a tool like this, like minded individuals could push the limits of these possibilities. Imagine if you can, a two thousand foot face. A kiter drops in with his kite in the air and rips turns and then uses the power the kite to smear sideways over a cliff band. As the angle decreases, unhooks and throws a massive raley over a cliff band, charges for the last cliff band and flies out over the valley. Sounds far fetched right? Maybe to our generation, but what about the groms that are learning to ride right now. Do you think that they are not going to want to glide? Really?
2. I enjoy flying/gliding on a kite. But I minimize my risk by controlling as many variables as I can. I have a dedicated snowkite that I never use on the water. I buy a new kite every year. I backup my bar with a harness. I have a paragliding background so I understand rotor, turbulence and wind shadow. I don't fly if the conditions aren't perfect. It is very troubling to see people use the same kite that has been on the beach getting pelted with sand for a couple seasons to attempt bigger jumps. This greatly raises the possibility of gear failure as Wayne can attest to.
The bottom line is that gliding/flying is never going to go away in snowkiting. A kite is a form of wing no matter what you call it and there will always be kiters who want to fly that wing. Always. It will never go away. Let's create a kite for those who want to fly. Let's develop a database so interested kiters can learn to do it safely. Heck, let's develop an IKO approved certification course! I feel like denying gliding is fun and telling people not to do it, will ensure, without a doubt, that they will.
That video is amazing. What kind of set up is he using the steer it? It looks like something you'd use on a parachute? Is that a paragliding steering sytem attached to a flysurfer.
That is certainly extreme and certainly pretty dangerous indeed. Someone posted a percentage of deaths and paragliding was about 10 times higher than kiting. This would probably be 100 times. In any case, more power to you. Just make sure to take every precaution and make sure you have a good life insurance policy if you have a family. Rock on!
That spot does seem to be pretty ideally suited for what the kiter was doing. I don't think he was taking a huge chance but that is much different than jumping off a mountain like most paragliders do.
My perspective is that I like to glide on tube kites.
I don't like it when companies say that gliding isn't safe because of integrity. Then they should say don't jump high enough to get hurt, or climb steep hills that add torque to the kite, don't tow another rider, and don't go dangerously far off shore. I think any kite sold should be strong enough to pull me uphill in deep powder and make some powerful megaloops without the risk of breaking at any second. I put less stress on my kite while gliding than most of my normal riding situations. I don't want my kite to break while I'm in a glide just as much as I don't want it to break when I'm a mile off shore, climbing a steep hill, or doing any jump in general. Pascal was hurt while his kite broke doing a normal jump over some rocks. Wayne's leader broke at the bar.
I'm ok with companies saying "this kite isn't for gliding" since there's no distinct structure or understanding how one becomes proficient. Therefore it shouldn't be encouraged. However, I do think that every flying endevor in the history of man started like that. Therefore Companies should strive to be confident in their structural soundness. That is where there's room for improvement. Keep in mind that foils have many attachment points where a tubekite has less. The problem is tube or foil, there's just 2 at the bar and 2 or 3 at the chickenline and that's where I've witnessed problems. Never at the kite so far (gear negligence excluded). Flying with a tubekite is nothing like flying a foil, and the speed and smootheness through turbulence is like no other craft anywhere. I love it!
Let's push for a 30 KN rated hook that will rest open and lock closed for starters! Mystic!
Like said, it´s never going to be safe... I myself prefer staying a bit lower (with tubes) and safer and over powder, but sure respect for those craziest guys! But I agree we should not promote it, but I filming it and putting it on youtube does not mean everybody will fly off a mountain. I know people over here that custom make their bar with double lines for flying, but I guess no matter how good you are or how much precautions you take, it will always be extreme and dangerous. Know your gear and abilities!
Chasta has some sick ones like this one, and Best teamrider Oliver Palmers have this sick one from back in the days worth seeing:
Like Wayne, I have dropped out of the sky due to equipment failure. My bad for not carefully checking the bar for the rivets that hold the bar ends on the bar. I was fortunate to walk away with a badly bruised hip.
My comments: 1. There is no redundancy with a 4 line kite while gliding. If one line breaks or detaches, down you go. Same goes for the chickenloop, bar, bridle, bridle attachment. 2. What makes gliding so great is the ability to climb back up hill using the power of the kite. Speed flying is great if you have a lift and a huge hill. You can have fun gliding on a 300 - 500 foot hill. 3. Paragliders have short lines and redundancy built in, so if a line breaks it is not an automatic drop to the ground. However, on a kite If the lines are two short, your kite will drag on the snow when you are looping up the hill. Try to make the lines redundant and you add a lot of drag, hence the reason that designers have not come up with a good solution yet. Plus, kite makers still see gliding as a fringe sport. Perhaps, they are right. However, I see a whole lot more gliding know thn I did a couple years ago. 4. You also have the ability to get yourself in trouble quickly while gliding. It is easy to catch an edge at takeoff and go spinning wildly. Try steering your kite safely 100 feet off the ground while spinning like a top. 5. Gliding if simply the most fun I have ever had on a kite. The brief flights can be breath-taking. 6. I try to keep my flights lower, but sometimes I get tempted and fly high. I also use new gear and dedicated snowkites, harness, etc.
Flysurfer is working on a hybrid kite/paraglider. I am curious if they have come up with a solution that will make gliding safer. I personally would pay more for a safer setup. I worry about the guys that are using 5 year old kites and lines, both on water and snow.