Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Aqua Kids" TV Show Taping at my Work

There's a nationally-syndicated kids' tv show about marine and aquatic science called "Aqua Kids". It seems to be a pretty good one that features some real scientists, aquarists, and conservationists. On Friday the hosts and crew were in Fort Pierce to film an episode at the Smithsonian Marine Station where I work, and the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit (a small aquarium and education center) across the street.

Earlier in the week my coworker Laura had told me they were coming and that I ought to look sharp and wear my Smithsonian-Logo shirt in case they wanted to film me working in the lab. I didn't take her warning as seriously as I should have, and I showed up at work unshaven and wearing my favorite "Alice in Chains" t-shirt. Whoops.

It was clear that they were really going to film me, though, so I scrambled to set up a fake seagrass-sorting workspace in the lab across the hall, which has more room and better lighting than the cluttered office where I actually work. Pretty soon I was mic'd-up in front of a tray of seagrass with all kinds of lights and cameras everywhere, and young, professional tv actors running around.


Molly, the main adult host of the show, and Jen, one of the kid hosts of the show, asked me a couple questions for the camera that I tried to answer in a brief, entertaining, kids-show kind of way. I was kind of nervous, partly because Molly was SUPER HOT with HYPNOTIZING EYES, but I think I faked pretty well that I was cool and collected.


After the interview the hosts left but the cameramen stayed for a while to get some close-up shots of the seagrass and stuff as I was picking through it. I don't know if any of the material in my segment was tv-worthy, or if my dumb-ass Alice in Chains t-shirt spoiled it all, but I guess we'll see in a while if it makes the cut.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Something Big and Amazing, in Windsurfing

I think there's something big and amazing going on with the sport of windsurfing now. It has to do with good competitions and events being organized at all levels around the world, and the collective stoke of the windsurfers involved being creatively channeled and magnified through a maturing "new media" network of photographers and filmmakers, bloggers, websites, etc. What it amounts to is that the wonders of windsurfing, which had languished for a decade or two in isolated pockets of knowledge and stoke, are rising again into the light.

There are lots of ways you can tap-in to the flow of what's going on in the sport, but here I'm just going to recommend two main ones: "DaNews" and the Professional Windsurfing Association Website.

DaNews is run by a Floridian guy named Clyde who is really good at collecting and collating all the freshest internet-published news and videos about windsurfing stuff happening everywhere. Like me, his blog also has a sidebar of links to other blogs with interesting windsurfing content, so DaNews is kind of like one-stop-shopping for your windsurfing information buzz.

The PWA world tour website is less broad in scope, but it covers all the elite level competitions that take place around the world, and features really good photography, nice play-by-play journalism, and classy action videos. I am particularly digging their coverage of the "slalom" racing discipline. It's kind of like the heavyweight boxing of windsurfing, with big tough veteran windsurfer dudes like Bjorn Dunkerbeck, Antoine Albeau, and Finian Maynard duking it out for glory. There's a series of videos from the current competition in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands that captures the action better than any other slalom videos I have seen so far. I've reposted them here for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dumb Stuff Good Kiters Do + Weekend Videos

Windsurfing has a slow learning curve in which bravery and athletic talent alone are not enough to get you beyond the kooky beginner phase. To progress in windsurfing you must also mentally tune in to the nuances of wind and water conditions and learn the technical aspects of gear and rigging. Therefore, by the time you make it to an intermediate level in the sport of windsurfing, you are probably well rounded in terms of understanding, ability, and common sense. If that's you, give yourself a pat on the back.

Kiteboarding is a little different because it has a quicker learning curve in which either bravery/athleticism OR tuning/technique can get you going. So there are two kinds of intermediate level kiters; the ones who rely predominantly on their bravery and athleticism, whom we'll call the Brats, and the ones who take a more cautious and deliberate approach to gear tuning and technique, whom we'll call the Tutes. Generally, younger kiters and those with a surfing or wakeboarding background are more likely to be Brats, and older kiters and those with a sailing or windsurfing background are more likely to be Tutes. The best kiters have the good qualities of both Brats and Tutes.

As you might guess, I'm more of a Tute. As such, I feel it is my duty to share some unsolicited advice with all the talented Brats out there by pointing out the dumb things they do and how they could fix them to become much better kiters that I'll ever be.

Dumb Things That Good Kiters Do
by James Douglass, a bad kiter

1. Struggle with inappropriate sized kites for their weight and the wind conditions.
A Brat will usually go to the beach, see what size kites the other guys are using, and rig about that, regardless of whether he is 125 lbs or 250 lbs. Dumb. Kite size for a given wind strength is directly proportional to body weight, so a 125 lb person should use a kite half the size that the 250 lb person is using. For more specific kite size advice, check the chart I made here.

2. Ride too small a twintip or a surfboard with too much rocker.
Brats usually do well in powered or overpowered conditions that freak out Tutes, but they often have trouble in the light winds where Tutes flourish. This happens for several reasons including Brats' tendency to try to ride the same, small board all the time, or to dumbly consider a sinky little surfboard with tons of tail rocker to be a good light wind board. It doesn't matter how skilled a rider is; a small twintip (anything < 150 cm) just doesn't work very well in light wind, even when paired with a big kite. And a dinky, rockered-out surfboard will not get going and stay upwind nearly as well as a big flat twintip.

3. Oversheet (choking the kite) and over-edge (forcing the kite to the edge of the wind window).
This is another reason why Brats suffer in light wind. They aggressively sheet and sine their kites for power, while burying the rail of their board as hard as they can in the water. This often stalls or partially stalls the kite, slows them down, and prevents them from going upwind. Then they walk back up the beach and pack up, complaining that it's not windy enough and dammit when are we going to get some REAL wind. It would work better if they flattened out and finessed their boards to create less drag, more speed, and more apparent wind in the kite so they wouldn't have to sine it for power. And then they could sheet out and edge just a bit to have the kite pull them effectively upwind.

4. Don't put upwind "in the bank" on the way out or at the beginning of a session.
Just like what goes up must come down, what goes downwind must somehow come back upwind. Brats often gleefully zoom off downwind without realizing it, maybe because they didn't pay attention to the wind or current direction, and then have to struggle to make it back upwind to where they started from. It's better to go upwind as much as a possible when you first start out, to make sure you can maintain ground, and to build up some buffer space downwind in case the wind dies.

5. Launch in a ridiculous way.
Some Brats feel that to be a good kiter they need to do one of those lame, show-off starts where you slide your board down the sand of the beach, pop off an embankment, or hop into the footstraps when your board is floating in ankle deep water. It beats up your gear when you do it right, and it beats up your body AND your gear when you do it wrong, and it's tacky. Just wade or body drag out away from shore and launch like a normal person.

6. Jump too close to the beach or over super shallow water.
Just because you can usually jump, land, and turn around in about 100 feet doesn't mean the 100 feet remaining between you and the shoreline is a good place to try to jump, land and turn around. And just because you usually land softly doesn't mean you will land softly when you do a big air over 6 inches of water. Even if you do everything super skillfully, shit can happen with the wind that makes you go a little further, higher or faster than you expected, and then you crash and hurt yourself or some other people.

OK, that's it. Now here's my videos from the weekend, both shot Sunday. I started out kiteboarding, then when it got windier I went windsurfing, so that's the order the videos are in.

Kiteboard Jumping Session 7-25-10 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Midsummer Windsurf 7-25-10 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bonnie Slideshow

After work Friday I went down to the beach and took some pictures of my buddies kiting the lingering winds from Tropical Storm Bonnie. It was high tide and the wind had shifted from NE to SE since my windsurfing session in the morning, so the conditions were kind of ugly with lots of closely-spaced windswell and shorebreak. The ugliness was compounded by the fact that the jetty had collected tons of drifting seaweed into a swirling stew along the shore. But wind is wind, I guess. Here's the slideshow:

Brush with Bonnie

Tropical storm Bonnie was pretty mellow as far as tropical storms go, but it brought some fun windsurfing conditions to Fort Pierce, Florida yesterday. I caught a session in the morning when the wind was from the Northeast. It was averaging 20-25 mph, but there were some serious ups and down associated with squalls passing through, as you can see in the wind record from the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant, about 10 miles South of where I was riding.


A bunch of kiters were out but I was the only guy windsurfing. I used my small 83 liter waveboard and a 5.5 sail rigged with plenty of downhaul. I would have preferred a smaller sail in the puffs, but the 5.5 handled them ok and was nice to have in the lulls. I wasn't quite feeling my sea legs so I didn't try any big jumps or tricks, but the scary looking clouds and rain and a leaping shark added a bit of drama to the helmet camera video. The music is "My Electric Eye" by the Chemical Brothers.

Windsurfing Wind from TS Bonnie from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Righteous Redemption Session from the Sky


After work yesterday I had a kiteboarding session that was so fun it totally made up for my frustrating session the other day. It ended up being a solo sesh because my buddy who showed up was grounded with air bladder leaks. Being by myself was actually ok for a change because it helped me concentrate and relax and notice the fish and bugs and birds and things like that.

It was also a cool session because I did some line-mounted camera experiments that worked pretty well. (See videos.) The song in the first video is "River in the Road" by Queens of the Stone Age, and the song in the second video is "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse.

Sky View 7-21-10 raceboard from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sky View 7-21-10 twintip from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Not Ready For Prime Time; Foil Kites

I had a great windsurfing session early today, blasting around the Indian River Lagoon on my cool-looking black and red slalom board with its matching red and black 8.4 meters squared sail. I felt pretty "dialed in", and enjoyed passing my kite friend John like he was standing still. Heh heh. I quit, contented, around 2pm.

Unfortunately, I got a "second wind" after a refreshing fast-food lunch of fat, sugar, and caffeine, and decided to join a different set of buddies at the same spot for a kiteboarding session. I have a love-hate relationship with kiteboarding. The act is beautiful when it works out, but the gear is horrendously finicky and unreliable. If you use an inflatable kite, your bladders and valves are likely to malfunction, or at least weigh your kite down in light winds, and if you use a foil kite, the bridles are likely to tangle, the fabric to wick wetness, and the chambers to fill with water such that you can't relaunch it if it crashes. Basically, all kite gear SUCKS in one way or another.

There's a diehard camp of foil-kite advocates, however, who will tirelessly espouse the flawless wonders of foil kites. Here are their common claims, with my critical evaluations of those claims based on my preliminary experiences with a foil kite.

Claim #1- "Foil kites are more powerful and efficient and fly better in lighter winds than inflatable kites."
Status = Partially true. If it is tuned correctly and flown skillfully, a foil kite will fly and stay aloft in wind slightly lighter than what it takes to keep a bladder-inflated kite in the air. And because it weighs less, it will rise faster and give more power on the "upstroke" when you are getting going. Once you're up to speed, the 3d airfoil shape of a foil kite pulls more for its size and goes upwind at a better angle than an inflatable kite. But foil kites have a tendency to "overfly" the wind window, "front-stall", and collapse, especially if the wind is gusty or shifting in direction, whereas bladder-inflated kites hold their shape much better and respond to wind changes better.

Claim #2- "Foil kites are more convenient and less of a hassle than inflatable kites."
Status = Partially true. It is definitely nice not having to pump up your kite and worry about bladders and valves leaking. Also, the foil kites pack up nice and small and you don't have to lug a pump around. However, it takes a longer for a foil kite to recover from a crash, because it gets really heavy with wetness and sand and there are complex bridles that take a long time to get untangled. Further, foil kites require "tuning" to keep them performing properly after their lines stretch with use. You need a PhD in aerodynamics and fluency in German to figure out how to tune them in a way that will make them fly better and not worse.

Claim #3- "Modern, closed-cell foil kites relaunch from the water as well, if not better, than inflatable kites."
Status = Total bullshit. IF you are standing in shallow water, and IF there is lots of good wind, and IF your foil kite just happened to crash in the perfect, untangled position at the center of the wind window, then it will relaunch about as easily as an inflatable kite... except that it will yank you downwind with crazy force because you're relaunching it in the "hot zone" instead of at the edge of the wind window. Of course, if your foil kite crashes anywhere other than at the center of the wind window, if it does any folds or inversions when it's falling out of the sky (which it will), if you're in water where you can't touch, if the wind is less than a steady 12 knots, if your feet are in a floaty directional board that doesn't provide much resistance against the kite, if the kite happens to get a little water in it when it crashes, or if a wave washes over the kite, it will be next to impossible to relaunch. I have only been able to do a deep water relaunch 1 out of the 5 times I have accidentally crashed my Flysurfer Speed 2 in deep water. And I ain't no kite kook, neither.

Claim #4- " Foil kites let you jump high and get major airtime in relatively light winds."
Status- True. I am not a very good jumper, but I have had some really nice, floaty airs while riding my foil kite. The only thing is that jumping makes you susceptible to getting in a position relative to the kite and the wind wherein the kite will collapse on itself and crash out of the sky. The difficulty and hassle of relaunching a crashed foil kite tends to make one more conservative about jumping.

Claim #5- "Foil kites turn fast."
Status- Not mine. My 12 meter Flysurfer Speed 2 foil kite turns at about the same speed as my 14 meter inflatable kite, if not slightly slower. When I have to turn the kite for jumps and transitions I need to plan ahead and get the timing right so I don't sink while waiting for the kite to turn. At least the bar pressure required to turn the kite is relatively light.

Claim #6- "Foil kites are safe and easy, especially for self-launching and landing"
Status- Mostly false. It's easy to self-launch a foil kite in most winds, and it's easy to self-land a foil kite in light wind, but it's extremely sketchy to self-land a foil kite in strong wind. Also, because of their powerful, lofty pull, their propensity to fold, tangle, and re-power in gusts and wind shifts, mediocre de-power systems, and their sometimes sluggish steering responses, they probably increase you're likelihood of having a serious accident. I chose not to fly my inflatable kite in wind over 20 mph, and I'll definitely excercise the same caution with my foil kite.

Conclusion- Foil kites may be better now than when they were first invented, and maybe even a little better than my 2-year old Flysurfer Speed 2, but they still have a long way to go before they are as safe, convenient, and dependable as inflatable kites for use on the water by average kiters. I would say that at this point in time, foil kites are most appropriate for good, technically-minded kiters who rarely crash the kite and who sail "door" style twintips close to shore in flat, shallow water and steady, light to moderate winds.

Specific areas for improvement- My Flysurfer Speed 2 would be improved if: 1) It flew with more stability slightly further back in the wind window, 2) It didn't have so many long, fine bridle lines, 3) It had water-repellent fabric and didn't get water in it so easily, 4) It had one-way drains all along the trailing edge that would let the water out when you were trying to relaunch it, 5) It had a users' manual with better pictures and better English translation, 6) The bar had bigger scoops for winding up the lines and stronger bungees on each end that would really lash the line-bundles down well, 7) The chicken loop line and emergency depower line were made of strong spectra or something that wouldn't get moldy and wear through and have to be waxed with a candle and stuff, 8) It had the ability to relaunch at the edge of the wind window like an inflatable kite.

That was a lot of words, now here's the video. The main words it has are angry swear words coming from me when the kite is resisting my attempts to relaunch it. The swear words are pretty bad, aggressive, blasphemous and scatological, so if you don't want to see that ugly, bad-tempered side of your favorite blogger / son / nephew / friend / whatever then turn the video off right after I crash the kite.

Losing my temper with a foil kite, 7-18-10 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scuba Diving in Fort Pierce Inlet + LIONFISH!

"Ghost Fishing" is what they call it when lost or discarded fishing gear continues capturing and killing marine life. It's a big problem where I went to grad school on Chesapeake Bay, where thousands of stray crab traps litter the mud bottom.

Here in Fort Pierce, Florida, the local scuba shop organizes special dives where volunteers help clean up the derelict recreational fishing gear and other trash in Ft. Pierce inlet near the popular fishing jetty. They have to do the dives right at slack tide because the current honks through the inlet at high speed all other times. They also have to get city police to temporarily shut down fishing on the inlet side of the jetty, which is a major achievement, since there are usually dozens of lines in the water along the jetty at all hours of the day and night.

I have mixed feelings about recreational fishing. I like it because it gets people out from in front of their televisions and interacting with nature, which I reckon is a prerequisite for knowing and caring about nature. Fishing as a kid certainly played a big role in developing my interest in marine biology. But fishing also puts a strain on the environment by killing a lot of fish (even the ones that are released often die later), burning a lot of boat fuel, and introducing a lot of non-biodegradable plastic trash into the water, which can kill other animals.

Anyway, today my buddy Scott and I joined one of the clean-up dives. It was not a totally selfless act, because we really wanted to see what was down in the deep mysterious inlet where no one normally dives. What was down there was a shit-ton of fishing line and other trash. Way too much to even make a dent in with our pick-up. You would pull on one line, and realize it was connected to 100 others in a web of monofilament nastiness spreading across the seafloor. I filmed a little bit of the clean-up with my GoPro camera, but then I got tired of the awkward buoyancy of wearing a padded helmet underwater, and I figured the GoPro was fogged up anyway (it was), so I put it back on the boat.

Fort Pierce Inlet Scuba Cleanup from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Of course, as soon as I put the camera back, Scott led me on a cool underwater exploring trip to the deeper part of the inlet where a really cool rock ledge drops off to 40+ feet depth. The rock is totally covered with filter-feeding invertebrates like sponges, sea-squirts, feather-duster-worms, and Oculina corals. I think the strong tides and the plankton-rich lagoon water fuel the abundant growth of sessile invertebrates. There were also lots of big sheepshead fish, plus wrasses, blennies, spiny lobsters, and snook. We even saw (gasp) LIONFISH, the beautiful, deadly, non-native species that was recently introduced to the Atlantic from the Indo-Pacific and is now screwing up the Atlantic ecosystems by eating all the smaller fishes and being inedible to all the bigger fishes.

My friend Jean is an aspiring TV news reporter who put together this cool video on the lionfish invasion...

Lionfish Invasion from Jean Montgomery on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Making the Most of It

My life isn't perfect, but one thing I've definitely got going for me is that I enjoy the HECK out of my windsports hobbies.

Yep, I really do love all aspects of windsurfing and kiteboarding. There's the thrill of motion, the athletic challenge, the bonding with nature, the wetness, the geeky technology, the technology geeks, the catching air, the blogging and filming, the buddies, the teaching and sharing, the exploring new places, the shopping, the infinite variety of weather and the gamble of predicting and harnessing it, and the showing off the for the hot babes you imagine are watching and who you imagine care.

Wednesday we got some atypical wind for summer in Florida; a fair Northeast breeze flirting with 15 knots. Yes! Of course it required dropping everything around 3pm and windsurfing and kiting like crazy until sunset. :)

My first priority was to get a long overdue windsurf session on my favorite board, an Exocet Cross 106, and there was juuuust enough wind do make it work with a 6.8 sail and lots of pumping. The ride itself was nothing to write home about, but my buddy Brandon was out on similar windsurfing gear so the same-sport camaraderie multiplied the fun. I also had fun making the video, experimenting with a super-speeded-up take on the rigging process (WARNING- buns).

Windsurfing - Always on my Mind 7-7-10 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The wind had kind of a wheezy, panting dog quality to it, and it continued to lighten up to the point that I wasn't able to plane much on the windsurf. So I busted out my 12 meter Flysurfer Speed 2 foil kite and rode that with various boards- First my small twintip, then my big twintip, then my buddy's "Airush Sector 60" directional as the wind got lighter. When I first went out on the little twintip I dropped the kite and had to relaunch it from the water. First time I've relaunched the foil kite successfully from deep water. Kind of sketchy because it launches in the hot zone and really yanks you downwind.

Big and Small Twintip Kiteboard Sesh from James Douglass on Vimeo.

And here's the video of the Airush Sector, which is a pretty cool board. Similar concept to my Mike Gebhardt freeride raceboard.

Airush Sector 60 Demo from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Another Post on Light Wind Kiteboarding

Yeah, I know, it's getting old. But the only other thing I've been doing lately is working in the lab, and I doubt y'all want to hear about me entering hundreds of pages of crustacean counts into spreadsheets. So anyway, on to the light wind kiteboarding...

I like my new foil kite, sort-of, I guess, so I'm going to go ahead and sell my inflatable kites, which are both currently in working order. One is a 2006 Cabrinha Crossbow 12 for $200 with no bar and lines, and the other is a 2008 Cabrinha Contra 14 for $500 with bar and lines. The same bar will work for both, and I'll knock $50 off the total price if someone wants it all. There's video of the 12 here and the 14 here.

I'm still ending about half of my foil kite sessions in disaster, but the magnitude of the disasters has decreased because I haven't been going so far offshore. I think both the frequency and the severity of the disasters will decrease soon because I'm learning some important lessons from my mistakes. Lesson #1- If there's not enough wind for the kite to fly steadily, don't go out. Lesson #2- Come back in immediately if you suspect the wind might be dropping. Lesson #3, if you crash the kite more than a lines' length away from the beach and can't relaunch, wind up your lines and roll the kite up completely before swimming in. Because if you swim in with the kite dragging behind you it will suck 100 tons of water in through the air intakes and be too heavy to pull up on the beach. #5- You can empty water out through hidden velcro openings in the wingtips. Wish I knew that yesterday.

While managing the kite in light wind continues to be challenging, I feel like I'm getting a pretty good understanding of the nuances of light wind boards. Check out the four in the pictures below. From left to right they are: 1) The Airush Sector 60 that my buddy Marc has on loan from the dealer for demos. 2) My custom freeride-raceboard designed by Mike Gebhardt. 3) Marc's Litewave Wing 153, a stiff, flat-rockered "door" style twintip. 4) My Litewave Freeride 179, a more old-school twintip with a longer, narrower shape and moderate flex and rocker.


Here's what's up with the boards, starting with the twintips. Marc's square-shaped "wing 153" gets planing slightly earlier, stays upwind better, and is faster in smooth-water conditions than my "freeride 179". But it annoyingly splashes water in your eyes when you ride, it tires out your back leg, and the nose tends to catch in chop. By comparison the freeride 179 needs a teensy bit more wind to stay upwind, but is a gentler ride that is comfortable carving and stays smooth in choppy water and waves. Now the directionals: My "Gebi" board took me a time or two to dial in, but it is wonderfully smooth, fast, and efficient upwind with its straight outline and relatively small but powerful asymmetrically-foiled fins. It's narrow enough that you can jump it and still land softly. I've only had one session on Marc's Sector, but it's pretty great, too. Despite its longer fins it felt "looser" and more turnable than the Gebi board, maybe because of the rounded outline. It was pretty easy to get going, it really liked to ride upwind when sailed flat, and it stayed floating well through slow jibes. It seemed a little slow and de-tuned compared to the Gebi board, though, like maybe the forward rear footstrap position made it harder to kick into high gear. Hoping for a chance to ride it a bit more before Marc has to give it back. When comparing both directionals versus both twintips, the twintips win for overall ease of use since they're easier to jump, you don't have to jibe them, and they make it easier to maintain line tension to keep your kite in the air or relaunch it when it goes down. But the directionals win for absolute earliest planing and staying upwind, and for having a nice, windsurf-like riding sensation where you can let the fins do the work and don't have to grind the edge of the board into the water like crazy.

ANYWAY, here's two videos of foil kite sessions corresponding with the green-circled periods of wind on the iWindsurf wind graphs from Friday and Saturday. I think the wind at my spot Friday was actually a bit lighter than down the road at the wind sensor, but the trend was about the same.


This first one was nice because I kept my kite dry. This is also the session where I tried out the Sector, but I didn't film that. The music is "Big Brother" by David Bowie.

2 July 2010 Foil Kiting with Directional from James Douglass on Vimeo.

This second was also nice, because it was with my buddies Antonio and Marc. But it sucked at the end because we all got caught out at the same time when the wind died and had to swim in with our gear. The music is "Frontier Psychiatrist" by The Avalanches.

Foil Kite Ugliness 3 July 2010 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wax and Feathers

In comparison to windsurfing, kiteboarding is like cheating and gambling.

It's like cheating because:
1. You can plane in light wind without a big board, heavy rig and arduous sail pumping.
2. You can jump high and do a variety of easy tricks and transitions without strong wind, waves or expert skills.
3. You can ride in shallow or weedy water without worrying about your fin catching.
4. You can get out through breaking waves relatively easily.

But it's like gambling because:
1. You have a greater chance of missing sessions because of gear troubles, e.g. leaky valves and air bladders.
2. You're more likely to get stuck out on the water and less able to get back in on your own.
3. If the wind is too light you can't do ANYTHING, versus with windsurfing where you can at least shlog and stay upwind.
4. Sometimes you can't go even when it's windy because the wind is inconsistent or there isn't a suitable launch site.
5. There's a very good possibility that you'll have an embarrassing, expensive, and / or life-threatening accident.

The Lament for Icarus, Herbert Draper, 1898, a clear enough visual metaphor for the follies of kiteboarding. At least the nymphs dig it.
The Lament for Icarus

Anyway, since I started cheating with kiteboarding a year ago I've tried to maximize the benefits and minimize the negatives, with mixed success. Recently I thought that by switching to a wind-inflated "foil kite" I would be able to avoid the durability and heaviness problems of "wax and feathers" inflatable bladder kites. I like how the foil kite flies, and I like not having to pump it up and pray that it holds air, but it still drops out of the sky when the wind falls below about 8 knots, and it's more of a hassle to get back in the air than an inflatable, especially when it gets all wet, tangled with seaweed, sandy, and full of water. Here's a video of me using it in just-barely-rideable conditions. (Notice my new GoPro camera arrived.) The song is by the French band "Air".

Very Light Wind Foil Kite Session from James Douglass on Vimeo.