Alex reports on a kite canoe experiment on Lake Annecy in France this weekend.You can kite surf and kite buggy, so why not kite canoe? We weren’t the first, and won’t be the last, but there was precious little information for us draw on when we decided that taking a kite to power Ed’s beautiful canadian canoe was something we had to try. Some other videos had made canoe kiting look effortless (and epic), so armed with a landfoil, a climbing harness, a smattering of kitesurfing experience, some decent canoe skills and a strong breeze we headed to lake Annecy to see if we could make it work. We went in blind on a trial-and-error mission, with a far from ideal set up, but sure it was worth a go to test the water! Hell, if Bear Grills can make it work with an old parapente in a leaking boat, why couldn’t we? Attempt 1: An unmitigated disaster. Annecy lake shore is packed at weekends, with no great places to take off, and a howling onshore wind (hmm, is this a bit much for a first attempt?) The only option seemed to be paddling out into the centre of the lake, bringing the kite with us. To be perfectly honest it was all a bit much, and we never really got the kite airborn before it became a tangled mess of boat, paddles and strings!Attempt 2: By the time the lines were untangled, the wind had dropped slightly – maybe too much, switched to be less onshore, and crowds had thinned. This time there was to be no faffing about paddling out first, we would ‘launch and go’ in one swift movement. A perfect launch and a cheering crowd (well, it felt like it anyway) quickly turned to bemusement as the second we moved forward the canoe seemed to out-run the kite, we lost tension in the strings, and down she fluttered. Has anyone else had this problem? Land kites don’t relaunch, so another tangled mess followed as we retreated to shore. There wasn’t even time for a photo!Attempt 3: ‘We are not leaving until this works’ declared Ed. With wind dropping further still, the final attempt would see Ed at the stern facing the wrong way to start with, so he could paddle hard against the wind to get the kite launched, or if we needed to regain tension in the lines. Yes, that hardly seems right, but hey, it seemed the only option at the time. We were going back out to the middle of the lake this time to get the best wind, and taking a launch canoe with us. After a good bit of mid lake confusion that culminated in the brilliant site of Nick (our faithful launcher) being wrapped in the flapping kite, we finally got it airborn. The hull rose out of the water, we skipped across the surface, let out high pitched screams of excitment and then felt the tension die in the lines again. ‘Paddle for your life’ scream I at Ed, who is doing just that. Some frantic tugging on the strings, a glimpse of redemption, and then nothing. The kite folds in on itself and limps into the water. 30 seconds that lasted, 4 hours we tried.

A failure maybe? Perhaps, but was it worth it? Oh yeah! Now we know we can make it work. Now we just need a bigger kite, more wind and to work out how to navigate up and down wind! Perhaps we need someone to write a ‘how to guide to canoe kiting’. Though maybe that would take the fun out of it?

Lessons learnt:- Clip the kite to the boat. Ok it seems logical, but without a conventional power kite and control bar set up, it was easier said than done. We suspect not doing this is responsible for continually losing power. Anyone got any other ideas?- Kite canoeing requires a huge amount of team work and coordination. Get a proper session going and I think a lot of things would start to become much clearer.- Get it right and kite canoeing could be awesome! The guys in this kite canoe video prove that.For an idea of how much more extreme kite canoeing can go than our fairly tame first attempt, this kite canoe blog from some Hawaii chargers sets the standard. – Oh, and check your kite lines before you head to launch zone and discover they were last packed away by someone determined to tangle them as much as possible!

Have you been kite canoeing? Can you put us out of our misery by sharing some tips and ideas?!

Inspired by our attempts? Want your own canoe or kayak adventure? Have a look at our canoe and kayak holidays page!

  1. Tom
    Jul 20, 2010

    Hehe sounds like a day well spent to me, nice pics – beautiful lake. Next time film it… Now that would be funny! 🙂

  2. James
    Jul 20, 2010

    Good work getting the photos!

    I think I know why you were losing tension.

    The kite needs resistance on it’s lines to keep it’s shape and keep it in the air. If the boat moves towards the kite it can’t provide resistance.

    You need to point the canoe across the wind and stop it from travelling downwind too quickly next time.

  3. Ed
    Jul 20, 2010

    Thats a great shout James, I think you might be right…

  4. Mark
    Apr 28, 2011

    A sea-anchor in the form of a tin cup, with some styrofoam to keep it floating, hanging from the back of your canoe would also do the trick and create enough drag to keep the kite up.