Green Baron

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Full Circle?

When I first started blogging I was living in Perth and working on a Fly In / Fly Out (FIFO) roster at a mine. I never had a television in my room and when I wasn’t reading books I was writing things for my blog. It is something of a flashback now to be nearing the end of seven nights on site and writing my thoughts down from my room to the light of the single dull bulb on the cold aluminium walls. Not as though I’d never left though, in the almost three years since that time a lot has happened in my life.

Some things are quite familiar though. Eroc have the underground contract here at the moment, there are staff and miners here that I worked with both at Cannington and Telfer. One shift boss I worked with at Gympie as well, we have now worked together on four different mine sites. Not unusual in the Australian mining industry, but not too bad considering I’ve only worked on six Australian mines and one of those was only for a couple of weeks. Add to that that I’ve worked for three different employers across those four encounters, and he has worked for two. A small, small world.

The room is probably the best I’ve ever been allocated. It must be almost a metre wider than the others and has a shared ensuite with the chap next door. That would have to be better than the ablutions blocks at the end of the rows of dongers. One would think. On the first night though, my neighbour left the inside lock to my door shut and the emergency opener on my side was broken beyond my powers to fix with anything I could find in my backpack. It still is. It was then that I missed the ablutions blocks horribly, the nearest communal showers and toilets are past the mess hall beside the gym. I left a note on his door, he hasn’t done it since.

I’ve already managed to catch up on some reading and writing in the past six nights, as well as working some decently long hours. Last Thursday 16+ hours. It’s a good way to crank out bulk results, working no less than 12 hours a day. Not much good for the social life though.

I finally finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think that’s the longest I’ve ever taken to read a book, 436 pages, including the afterword and readers guide, and I started it in January. That’s about 18 weeks. I met, dated and broke up with a girl in that time, and only covered a couple of chapters while I was at it.

I also have ‘When the Wind Blows’ by James Patterson out here. 468 pages and I started it about 24 hours ago. I’ve finished it now while still getting 6 hours sleep, a 12 hour shift, two meals and 500m in the pool in as well. It was a pretty pleasant read. Mum sent it through with a note suggesting someone should do biological experiments on kiteboarders. An interesting thought, I must see if I can find the note when I get back to Perth and read her exact wording now that I’ve read the book. I can certainly relate to a yearning to fly, and quite certainly hauling myself skywards from the lip of a wave with a giant kite gives quite a rush. I thought a fitting way to close my bit of creative writing practice back in a mine camp donger is to try and put it down again for those who haven’t read it too many times in the last three years scribblings. I think I am refining my perspective of boosting big air anyway, considering all the time I spent doing it in the season just gone, perhaps I can paint a different picture nowadays.

My favourite times are when the wind is solidly over 25 knots, closing in more on 30, and I’ve got my shortest board out to compensate for having out a slightly oversize kite. The shorter board helps me control the excess force the 10m kite is exerting on me, I can dig it in harder for more resistance. If I’m not careful with that kite in those winds I could accelerate out of control, start bearing off downwind and eventually crash from excess speed, it is so powerful.

I will kite at an open beach with waves rolling in, hopefully ones that form a nice big ramps for faces. Most of the time the wind is from the South, the beach is facing West, so I’m heading out from the beach left foot forward, my natural stance. I’ll come in on the starboard tack, get almost to the sand and check out what’s coming in behind me. If I time it right I can line up a wave out at the break that will be almost broken by the time I hit it. It’s more a matter of luck than management, unless you’re at a really consistently breaking beach in 30 knots, which is rare. If I get it right, I swoop the 10 down to port and wiggle it a bit to get some extra acceleration at the start. A small kite in strong winds compared to a big kite in moderate winds is like a KTM 950 compared to a 1982 Toyota Hilux. In between the broken waves the water is relatively flat and with the right line and trim I can work up some serious speed by the time I get to the breaking wave. No edging hard to control speed here, I need as much as possible. Then just before I hit the wave I edge hard to convert the kinetic energy into potential energy in the lever and springs that my board and legs become. As I hit it I turn the kite back sharply above my head and it generates extra force through the turn at the same time as its direction of pull changes to straight up. With the wave acting as a ramp I kick off the top of it and put every bit of energy available to me into propelling myself into the air.

I’ve done this a few times now, and occasionally get the timing so perfect that I boost into the air with acceleration I’m not familiar with. It feels like a normal boost, but when I get to the second stage of looking at the water after the first stage of checking where my kite ended up, I realize I’ve gone a whole lot higher than I thought. Several occasions stand out in my mind, once in Namibia (which I wrote about here at the time), and several times at Scarborough Beach, when I’ve become concerned about how high up I am. Well not how high up I am, but how far below me the water is. Landing these boosts isn’t as easy as it looks. Once you are not on the water you aren’t anchored against the wind and by the time 4 or 5 seconds passes you can be traveling at the same speed as it and dropping like a stone. From 10m in the air with a board on your feet this can be a bad thing. Many choose to kick their board out in front of them rather than try land if they are coming down too fast.

If you do it by the book though, the landing is as gentle as stepping off the bottom step of a staircase. When everything is under control the boost from start to finish is an experience in air that must be felt to be believed.

Well that wasn’t all that emotive, I didn’t feel the passion as I have in the past. Ahh well, another practice session at the nets. I don’t have anything left in me tonight, but I’ve got two and a half months left on site for more practice. Then a nice big holiday to stir the imagination.

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