Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why I want to learn the Kono

I am a lawnmower sailor - back and forth, back and forth. I put on a GPS and call it "speedsurfing", but you only need to look at my speeds to see that's just an illusion. Only when the winds are too light to plane do I do freestyle. Ok, I love light wind freestyle. I sometimes even do a little bit of freestyle in high wind. I never really committed to learning new school tricks, though. Now I think I want to learn the Switch Kono:
Kiri Thode mid-Kono in Bonaire
Here are my reasons:
  1. It's one of the coolest looking new school moves. In Bonaire, I have often been absolutely amazed how much air Kiri, Taty, Tonky, and the other pros get in Konos.
  2. Tricktionary states "As soon as you learned how to duck the sail properly it is not that difficult".
  3. Andy Brandt says you do not have to duck the sail! You just start a downwind 360. With enough speed, you end up switch stance backwinded after turning through downwind.
I had almost forgotten Andy's statement until I tried 360s a couple of days ago. In one of the wet tries, I fell backwards, and the board shot up in the air, as if I was doing a jump jibe. That's when it occurred to me - hey, is that not similar to the 360 entry into the Kono? Looking at the Kono in the Tricktionary quickly confirmed that.

This got me excited. My favorite trick is the jump jibe:
I love the way you kick the board vertically in the air. I also love that you are allowed to fall into the water, as long as you get the clew first waterstart to get going again. I do it sometimes just for fun, or when space is tight, and have a reasonably good success rate. Now look at this movie of a Switch Kono:

Ignore that he enters the regular way, going switch and then ducking the sail. You can also get into the position he has 5 seconds into the movie by doing a downwind 360 in the straps. Then, it looks like the sail is powering up and pushing him backwards. That's a very typical fall when learning the 360! The difference here is that he also jumps the board:
The board is almost vertical, but barely out of the water, and the sailor is falling towards the water. Very similar to a jump jibe!

There are, of course, some important differences which I don't fully understand yet. In a jump jibe, we kick the tail of the board through the wind; in a Kono, the nose turns through the wind.  I'm not even sure if the sail is actually powering up backwinded, or if this is more of a neutral slicing of the sail. But there are a few important things here:
  • The entry is very similar to a trick I already do (I mean the downwind 360 entry; I can do light wind duck tacks, but not planing switch ducks).
  • Jumping the board is very similar to a trick I already do (the jump/fall jibe)
  • The falls while working on the move seem very safe: they are either similar to typical 360 falls, or you are hanging under the sail and falling backwards into the water.
All this reduces the "entry barrier" to trying to learn a new trick. The typical first new school move is the Vulcan, but the Vulcan has very high entry barriers. Right away, you need to learn (1) how to pop the board, (2) how to initiate the 180 degree rotation, and (3) how to flip the sail right after takeoff. That's a lot of things to learn! Watching those who learn the Vulcan, the crashes seem sometimes quite violent. Why spend hundreds or thousands of tries on something where the end product is not even that cool? A Kono looks 100 times cooler than a Vulcan. At least one freestyler has reported that he got the Switch Kono during the first session that he tried - but he clearly had quite excellent skills and already knew how to go switch and duck the sail. 

I am not saying that learning the Switch Kono as the first new school freestyle trick is for everyone. The traditional entry (go switch and duck) is not easy, perhaps even harder to learn than the Vulcan. The 360 entry may be a bit easier if you already worked a lot on the 360, as I have. But it is imperative that you turn through downwind on a plane, which requires very good entry speed, good carving speed, and enough wind. Here, for once, my obsession with speedsurfing and perfecting my jibes works in my favor - I can often carry plenty of speed through a turn. Nevertheless, working on this at Kalmus will be a bit a challenge: as soon as the wind gets strong enough, the chop builds up, which makes it a lot harder to carry speed through downwind. But it's only two more weeks until the summer season is over and all flat water strips are available again, and just three more weeks until the ABK clinic in Hyannis. For once, I know exactly what I want to work on if we get enough wind!
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A few hours after writing this post, I found a couple of references to this move. Royn Bartholdi describes it on his move pages here. He is using the Gorge waves to keep the speed up through the carve. A discussion on the UK boards forum points out that Robby Naish was probably the first one to do this move in the waves, years before Kiri got credit for inventing the Kono (but Kiri does it on flat water, and starting switch and ducking the sail). Robby can be seen doing this trick at about 3:20 in this video. Then in 2009, Kai Lenny "invented" the move again, and in all modesty called it the "Kaino". I think I'll stick with 360 into Kono, though. I like the pointers about using waves or swell to keep the speed up. Seems like the move to try on a SSW day in Kalmus near low tide!

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