Dance with the wind
Hooked to power kiting: Josef Wirsching (left) holds forth on the attractions of the sport.
Fed up with working for a private firm in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Josef Wirsching, a 30-year-old German revitalised himself by discovering a fresh passion: Power kiting. He finds time for his great love alongside working as a project manager in Bangalore. He shares his thoughts on what power kiting did for him and what it could do for others in India.
WHAT exactly is power kiting?
Power kiting takes the traditional sport of kiting to the next level. With ordinary kites it's usually a single line and the kites are much smaller up to a foot and a half across. In power kiting the size of the kite is three metres across on the small training kites (roughly the wingspan of an albatross). Two lines govern the kite in small ones and four lines as the size increases. With traditional kiting, the line can go on depending on how much of line you deal. With power kiting the lines are fixed at 30 metres and sometimes at 50 metres. Your window of flight is 30-50 metres in at a 180-degree plane around you.
How did you get involved in this?
I got involved in power kiting through my master, Ranjith Gabriel who originally taught me martial arts. He got into kiting in 1999 in Germany. Ranji is now considered the professor of power kiting in Kerela where he stays and organises camps. I got into it on a nice breezy day in Chennai and from the time I held the handles and saw what it could pull, I was hooked.
Has it dramatically changed your life?
It has. There was a time when I was 96 kg overweight. I started kiting during the windy season. I flew three hours a day and felt the difference. I lost 21 kilos in a month, much to the surprise of my friends who knew me to be a beached whale. I don't expect anyone to do the same unless they are dedicated and have the wind to do it. It hurts but after the threshold of pain has been overcome, it becomes an addiction.
Is power kiting just a sport or something more than that?
It is more than just a sport; it's like a dance, where the power of the wind is your partner, even the avian world rejoices to see a bird bigger than them and will dance in concert with you. Hawks, kites and even eagles have joined me on several occasions and flown alongside the kite or circling around. That gives me immense gratification dancing with the eagles. They are part of my totem and I feel at one with them.
Do you plan to attract a sponsor in India and how?
Right now, I am being supported by Red Bull, a energy drink and have been actively working with them to promote power kiting around India. Slowly I intend to hook up with a few other sponsors for a tour of India during the windy seasons next year. Any company that would like to sponsor me can get in touch and we can take it from there.
For how long can you handle a power kite in one session?
My personal best has been close to two hours in five-knot wind. What kept me up that long were good wind and a whole bunch of eagles that would not leave me and kept on circling and swooping and doing their acrobatics.
How physically fit do you have to be?
Having focus is more important and not suffering from any physical ailments. Then no matter how overweight you are or even if you are reasonably fit you can fly. But power kiting can be a very dangerous sport if you do not know how to handle the kite. It does lift you off your feet and if you do not know how to hang on you could plough the ground with your face.
What area of the body does power kiting benefit?
Every muscle in your body gets exercised and toned. It's not like going to the gym where you concentrate only on one set of muscles. This is overall stretching for the entire body. And when combined with chi breathing, your stamina increases and you can overcome fatigue very quickly.
Is Bangalore a more likely place to endorse power kiting because it is less conservative compared to Chennai?
Bangalore does have its pros but there is a paucity of very good winds and the most important thing is space to fly in. I need an acre of land that is flat and open. Chennai has the potential to break into the next level of power kiting, which is kite boarding and kite surfing. I have plans along with Red Bull to start that as well once we have created a base of power kiters in Chennai. That requires a lot of discipline as it is very dangerous and holds a huge amount of risk. So training in basic power kiting is essential to move to that level. I am now waiting for Red Bull to give me the go ahead for starting the power kiting academy in Bangalore and Chennai.
What environment is best for this sport?
Wide open spaces with good wind speeds from four to eight knots (only for the brave and the proficient).
How do you teach someone power kiting? what are the basic steps?
You have to understand the basics of tying your knots, understanding the window that you can fly in, launching, stance and, above all, hanging on. To learn all this takes about an hour; after that it is all fine-tuning.
Are there any naturally gifted kite flyers? If so, how do you know?
Women are naturally born to fly as they are very flexible and pick up the dynamics part very quickly. The stance is important; dancing with your feet in a triangle and your hands in circles. Men are very stiff and usually get the dynamics part after loosening up. Anyone who has trained in Tai Chi, Aikido or Kung Fu will find kiting like second nature.
What is the science behind power kiting?
Power kiting is about understanding the wind, its effects, your capabilities and how to overcome your fears. In design there is a science when it comes to aspect ratio and weight to wingspan.
Is power kiting the `new thing' to be interested in because it is cool?
Power kiting has been around for quite a bit. It may be cool to those that want to use it to impress others. But in essence it is more than that and only when you pick up the handles and launch your kite do you feel the deeper connection that it holds. It becomes a living thing in your hands where the wind gives it life.
Send this article to Friends by