Imagine gliding along a
frozen lake at high speeds on a snowboard. Now consider never having to
pay a lift fee again to get your snowboarding fix.
There's a new sport in town. It's called by many different names, including skimbat, kitewing or wingsurfing, and can be done in any season.
Much like snowkiting, wingsurfing is completely wind powered but much, much safer, according to Dr. Ted Fogarty.
Fogarty has been wingsurfing since 2001.
"I have three kitesails (for snowkiting) actually, but it is much more complicated, much more dangerous. Really, if you're going to get into that extreme sport where you have the ability to be lifted into the air and not have much control for direction, you really need to go and do a training course," Fogarty said.
Wingsurfing is much easier to learn. Kitewing.com boasts that most users can learn the basics in about 30 minutes.
The kitewing is a handheld device that looks something like a mini-hang glider. When held in the right position, it can propel a rider across most surfaces on a variety of devices, such as a snowboard, mountain board, inline skates, skateboard or almost anything that moves.
According to Kitewing.com, riders have been known to reach speeds of up to 62 mph and make 131-foot jumps.
"This is a sail that you can turn into a horizontal wing-like device and you can really get some air if you want," Fogarty said.
Fogarty was first introduced to wingsurfing during his residency in Nebraska.
"I just started thinking, 'Someone has got to have taken this idea of windsurfing and somehow figured out how to do it on snow,'" Fogarty said.
He's been an avid windsurfer since high school.
"So I just did an Internet search and typed in 'windsurfing' and 'snowboarding,' and I came across this site for the kitewing," Fogarty said.
Fogarty bought a kitewing and taught himself to wingsurf through trial and error. He admits to being a little frustrated in the beginning as he recalled his first attempt.
He had waited for a good snow and when the powder was perfect for snowboarding, he went out to a field and pretty much stood there, holding on to his kitewing and wearing out his arms.
It wasn't until a co-worker suggested it that he realized the kitewing's ideal surface is ice.
"The most exhilarating conditions for doing this is on a thick slab of ice in March on a 40-degree day with 25 mph winds and a slick of water on top of the ice," Fogarty said.
Kitewing.com attributes the invention of the kitewing to Sami Tuurna and Carl-Magnus Fogelholm. It was originally invented for ice but by the end of the '90s was found to be just as fun on snow or virtually any other surface.
For beginners, Fogarty suggests getting a smaller sized kitewing and using a rougher surface to start out.
Kitewings can be hard to find. There are places on the Internet where they can be ordered.
Kitewings can get expensive. They range from $800 to $1,600 but, as Fogarty points out, consumers could think of that like purchasing a season ticket at a ski resort.
"This wing is a way of taking the gravitational force and putting it into your hand. In a wintertime environment, on a flat plane of ice, you turn the wind into your mountain," Fogarty said.
While Fogarty recommends a frozen lake for the best ride, anyplace with a little wind and the right riding equipment will do.
"One of the good places to do this around here is Lake Isabel," Fogarty said.
For more information on wingsurfing, visit www.kitewing.com.
(James Ziegler is a Bismarck State College student. He can be reached at 302-0822.)