Kitesurfing cameras

My on the water kitesurfing self portraits were made with several different cameras. The earlier photographs with the silver kiteboard in view were made around 2005 to 2007 using a custom one of a kind waterproof fish eye camera system. At that time, this type of photography was not common. By 2009, a low cost commercial waterproof fisheye camera, the GoPro, followed later by the GoPro HD camera became available. The GoPro and competitive Contour cameras have now opened up this type of photography to everyone.

The first kitesurfing self portraits were made with a one of a kind camera. This camera used a special dual mode fisheye lens that provided a very wide 188 degree field of view. The advantage of this fisheye lens is that the rider, board and kite can all be in the same photograph. The disadvantage is that there can be considerable distortion in the image, the reason that I look so different in the different photos. This kitesurfing camera used a compact Casio Exlim S3 digital camera mounted within in a very compact and rugged Aluminum Oceanhaus underwater housing. A custom dual mode water contact wide angle lens increased the camera field of view to 188 degrees when used above water. This fisheye lens was optically designed by me and then manufactured by Oceanhaus. The very wide 188 degree field of view makes it possible to have the kite, board and rider all in the same photo. The camera is attached to a spare kite leash wrist strap which is then attached to my wrist. I flip the camera into my hand to use it. This camera and lens can also be used underwater to a depth of 600 ft. For underwater use, I designed the dual mode fisheye lens to automatically convert to a fully water corrected 105 degree field of view.

In 2014 I wrote a technical paper describing this camera and lens: Dan Slater, "Afocal viewport optics for underwater imaging", Proc. SPIE 9192, Current Developments in Lens Design and Optical Engineering XV, 91920P (September 25, 2014); doi:10.1117/12.2061445

The camera is attached to a very short wrist strap so that it is easily available.
The button on the left is power and the right button takes the photo.

Optical ray trace showing the very wide 188 degree field of view.
With this lens, the kite, rider and board can all be in the same view.

Using the camera while kitesurfing proved to be somewhat challenging. You need to be flying the kite, edging properly and watching for other riders, waves, etc., all of this while also making sure the camera is secure, correctly setup, the lens clean, the shot correctly framed and the rider and kite properly posed. Water droplets on the lens surface are a constant problem, but I have had some luck with Rainex and even with cleaning the lens while actively kitesurfing.

This was followed by a second camera, the helmet mounted Pentax W30. I started using this in 2008. It takes a photo every 10 seconds using an intervalometer. This is the same camera that I mount onto the kite for aerial photography.

Self portrait

In the late Summer of 2009 I purchased a Hero GoPro wide angle camera. This inexpensive (< $150) camera is similar to the Casio camera but with a significantly reduced cost. I stopped using the Casio at this time primarily due to the risk of loss of this one of a kind camera while on the water. The Casio still has an advantage of providing a significantly wider field of view and more ruggedness. Good features of the GoPro include a wide 160 degree field of view, a built in intervalometer (2&5 second intervals), video capability, very small size and a wide variety of mounting hardware. The camera can be readily mounted onto the kite, helmet, board or control bar. The main disadvantage relative to the Casio is the reduced field of view and lesser image quality.

In 2010, GoPro released a second generation version of this camera costing $250. This camera provides significantly improved image quality (now better than the Casio) and high definition video capability in a variety of formats including 1080P.

GoPro wide angle camera mounting options
 Mounting position
 Modified Camrig housing
 Kite lines
 GoPro handlebar mount
 Clamps to 0.75" to 1.4" tube diameter
 GoPro vented helmet strap
 Fits Protec helmet
 Head mount
 GoPro headlamp style head strap
 Add secondary safety line
 GoPro chest mount harness
 GoPro vented helmet strap (modified)
 Original strap replaced with double wrap velcro strap 
 See below

Although GoPro sells a surf board mount I decided to make my own. My mount allows the camera to be easily mounted at any fin location without requiring board modifications. The design is specific to boards such as the Slingshot Glide that use fins mounted using two 10-24 screws separated by 1.5 inches. No tools are required other than a Phillips screwdriver to remove the original fin retention screws. This simple and reliable mount is self locking using a dual redundant clamp design, insuring that the camera can not fall off in the waves. The plastic GoPro camera mount is somewhat weak so a safety leash to the camera is still recommended.

Two cameras mounted onto a 2008 Slingshot Glide board (photo 2009/10/9)

Kite board camera (photo 2009/9/14)

Kite board camera mount parts
 Part #
 Fin eye bolt
 3/16" x 2" - 10-24 - stainless steel
 Replaces fin mounting screws
 Fin wing nut
 10-24 - stainless steel
 Fin washers
 1" diameter - #10 hole - stainless steel
 Camera bolt
 1/4-20 x 2" slotted oval bolt - stainless steel 

 Camera bolt wing nuts
 1/4-20 - stainless steel

 Camera bolt washers
 5/8" diameter - 1/4" hole - stainless steel

 Camera tripod mounting adapter 
 GoPro tripod mount
 5 mm / 0.8 mm pitch thread - stainless steel
 Replaces original nut in GoPro tripod mounting adapter 
 Fin removal tool
 Phillips screwdriver

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