Introduction: Traditional Polynesian Ice Canoe (Ice Proa) - How to Kite Ice Sail

Once it's too cold to kitesurf in the water, it's time to find a frozen lake and kite on top of the water. Build a "traditional" Polynesian ice canoe using aluminum extrusion or whatever material you have at hand. If the water ever froze in Polynesia, I'm sure this is what their ice kite/sail craft would look like.

Step 1: Ice Kite Buggy Didn't Work So Well

Initially, I cut some ice skates out of steel, sharpened them on a belt sander, and bolted them onto Saul's old sand buggy. This ice buggy moved fast, but I felt like I was always being pulled out of the seat by the kite.

Step 2: A Brief Introduction to Kites

All kites fly and generate force within some quarter sphere defined by the kite itself, the pilot, and the conditions. The homemade 9 m2 nasawing, shown here flying above Quaboag pond, flies in an angle a bit greater than 135 degrees; some very efficient foils can push that angle much further.

Step 3: It's All About the Edge

To get going on the ice buggy, you edge against the pull of the kite and use only the component of force that points in the direction you want to go. Rarely do you want to be pointed directly at the kite, so the pull of the kite is almost always to the side. Since your feet are used to steer, there isn't much to hold you in the buggy. (Some more advanced buggies have specially designed seat to counteract this problem.)

Step 4: Turn to Leeward!

After a full day of ice kiting left me with a sore back and bruised hips (especially after a couple of crashes where I was actually pulled completely out of the ice buggy), it seemed clear I needed a proa type vehicle - something which has a constant windward and leeward side. I wanted to sit with the wind to my back and use my feet to steer and to hold my position in the vehicle.

Step 5: Use Scrap Material and Expensive Machine Downtime

With a bit of CAD, some leftover 8020 structural aluminum, a few jet machined connectors and blades ...

(download the zip file full of all the CAD drawings)

I designed it to use abrasive jet machined aluminum connectors and extruded aluminum bars. The blades were also jet machined from stainless steel and sharpened to a 90 degree angle by hand. The flexure is polycarbonate. You could accomplish the same thing with scrap steel from a bed frame welded together.

Step 6: It's Fast

Behold! The Ice Proa!

The plastic beam on the leeward side is a flexture that turns the two skates. Push out in the center at the footstrap to go upwind, pull in to go downwind. The flexture is rigidly attached on one side and slides on the other.

Step 7: Action!

Here's video of me explaining how the ice proa works and zooming over Quaboag pond - part of the "3 Mustkiteers go ice kiting" video.

Step 8: More Details

Here I explain the difference between the ice buggy and ice proa as part of a quick tour through MITERS (where the kites and toys were built).

Step 9: Improve

After bending the rear blade, I made a much wider rear blade from 1/4 inch stainless steel. I also put a foot rest on the outside of the steering connectors.

Step 10: If You Do Nothing Else, Watch This One

The canonical ice kite buttboarding video:

starring all your favorite characters:
Saul, and

Step 11: Safety Equipment

You'll want all manner of safety equipment to play on frozen lakes. The best thing to do is to find some ice fisherman and ask them about the thickness of the ice and if there are any thin areas. In New England there's an ice report website from NEIYA.

Check out the image notes for specific safety gear. More information here.

Step 12: Freeze

Enjoy freezing temperatures like never before.


burnerjack01 (author)2014-11-27

I think adapting a pair of old hockey skate blades might make this easier to accomplish for those without access to a water jet machine. Making the frame out of 3/4" EMT would be much cheaper. EMT, a hacksaw, nuts and bolts and some intelligent triangulation should get it done. Cut the EMT to desired length, use hammer to flatten ends, drill holes for nuts and bolts (or pop rivets or whatever fasteners you choose).

All that being said, the design shown is very clean and professional looking. Looks great.

burnerjack01 (author)2014-11-27

I think adapting a pair of old hockey skate blades might make this easier to accomplish for those without access to a water jet machine. Making the frame out of 3/4" EMT would be much cheaper. EMT, a hacksaw, nuts and bolts and some intelligent triangulation should get it done. Cut the EMT to desired length, use hammer to flatten ends, drill holes for nuts and bolts (or pop rivets or whatever fasteners you choose).

All that being said, the design shown is very clean and professional looking. Looks great.

AlternateLives (author)2009-07-29

How do you stop once you get going?

volock (author)AlternateLives2014-10-19

As long as you're not going directly down wind or the wind hasn't died... You use the kite to stop, same as you do for most kite sports. You simply get it powered up in the opposite direction of your momentum, and let it slowly pull you to a stop, then you depower/land... or you end up going that way for a bit and try the same move again.

Foaly7 (author)AlternateLives2011-01-02

Well we know that if you hit something you'll definitely stop. Short of that, jump off the board.

AlternateLives (author)Foaly72011-01-04

Let me rephrase: how do you stop and survive the process?

Foaly7 (author)AlternateLives2011-01-04

Will you let me know when you find out? :P

ewilhelm (author)AlternateLives2009-07-29

I haven't figured it out yet! I'm still going!!

n8man (author)ewilhelm2010-01-21

 You seem to be pretty good at ice sailing during the summer and posting on Instructables at the same time.

Jodex (author)n8man2010-01-22

See what it says right before his name PRO. That's something that professionals can do.

AudioMaximus (author)2012-02-01

I live in a place where there isn't that many accessible large bodies of water that get thick ice in the winter (northern NJ). Any way I could possibly replace the skate mechanisms for something like wheels, giving the device land-compatible?

xrobevansx (author)2006-08-31

When I think "polynesia" I think Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, etc...where is there ice in these parts of the world?

Foaly7 (author)xrobevansx2011-01-04

There isn't, he just used the design of a Polynesian proa and added blades to the bottom for the ice. The design is traditional, the blades and the application are not.

xrobevansx (author)Foaly72011-01-04

Wow. a comment on mine 4.5 years later. That's pretty cool.

Foaly7 (author)xrobevansx2011-01-05

I just thought that since the comment was so lonely for four & a half years, my reply would cheer it up.

xrobevansx (author)Foaly72011-01-05


popewill (author)xrobevansx2012-01-28

Greetings from the future!

xrobevansx (author)popewill2012-01-28

Another year, another comment. Nice!

popewill (author)xrobevansx2012-01-28

See ya in 2013!

Wazzupdoc (author)2011-10-29

It would be sweet to have an ice-auger holder and a rack for tip-ups. You would then have the Lamborghini of ice-fishing rigs! maybe a fish net to hold the catches?

bujo0 (author)2008-02-01

that is awesome, too bad where i live, when its cold enough for the ice, the ice is covered in snow, and i'm way to lazy to shovel that much snow, lol

Foaly7 (author)bujo02011-01-04

Live somewhere else.

AlternateLives (author)bujo02009-07-29

Bolt some skis on instead!

wow-amazing (author)bujo02008-03-28

Get a snow blower.

notyouraveragejoe (author)2010-09-10

dude, thats hot

gregr (author)2010-01-21

Ice awl?

erke (author)2010-02-03
I am a polynesian an i find the name of your project is disrespectful to my culture . This is not traditional to polynesia at all . We have sleds that are traditional in hawaii they are called papaholua . 
ewilhelm (author)erke2010-02-04

Could you post a picture of the papaholua?  Or even better, how to make one?

Myself (author)2006-08-29

Am I the only one who thought "Dugout canoe made from a solid block of ice!" after reading the title? Don't get me wrong, iceboats are awesome (living on the great lakes, I've seen my share), but an actual ice hull would be even awesomer. (It's a word, just for today, because I said so.)

crickle321 (author)Myself2007-05-13

This instructable still looks pretty nifty but I thought the same thing.

The title gave me a great mental image one of those "PYKRETE" boats made from a mixture of ice and sawdust.

To think they were going to make aircraft carriers out of the stuff.

hondagofast (author)crickle3212007-10-26

They British Royal Navy was going to make a massive aircraft carrier out of pykrete during WWII. For some reason, even though a ship of such immense size was perfectly feasible, the project was scrapped after a small prototype was built and tested. Pykrete is bullet proof (to an extent) and resists melting much more than regular ice.

ak49er (author)hondagofast2008-05-15

The reason they did not make it was because the Allies simply did not need the aircraft carrier. The war in Europe was winding down by the time they were through the inital design phase.

Geoffrito (author)crickle3212007-07-17

may bave been difficult to make, but quite a fabulous idea!

GorillazMiko (author)2008-04-23

You guys are crazy, but this is awesome.

I so want to try this with my skateboard, though I would get injured. Badly.
+1 rating.
(added to favorites)

Noodle93 (author)2008-04-05

Awesome, but where I live it never gets cold enough for ice or snow. Ever. ;(

buildingteen (author)2008-02-01

Even cheaper is PANSH!!!!! YAY PANSH!!!!!! I am designing a buggy for someone who wants a buggy for a paraplegic and I was thinking something along these lines but with a pivoting back rest that had lines going to the footboard and leaning back and forth on the rest would pull and push the board and turning the bug. Any one have any incite? Thanks, NPW i c k

rogers236 (author)2008-01-22

Awesome idea. I'm thinking of making my own, possibly with a sail instead. How did you create and sharpen the blades? What are they made out of?

ewilhelm (author)rogers2362008-01-22

The blades were jet machined from stainless steel, and hand-ground to a 90 degree edge. Others have made blades with jigsaws. See step 5.

ewilhelm (author)2007-04-25

For this vehicle, I was using a 3M Ozone, which cost around $300.

Check out the Zeroprestige group for info on building your own kites for just the cost of materials.

jueston (author)2007-04-08

where do you buy one of these kites...? i must try this immediatly...

ewilhelm (author)jueston2007-04-10

I was using a 3 sq m Ozone in the video.

Wade Tarzia (author)2006-12-19

Wonderful. Can you beat or close-reach into the wind witgh a kite? Your diagram suggests you can only reach 90 degrees to wind.

ewilhelm (author)Wade Tarzia2007-03-29

Depends on the kite. Some kites can go upwind quite quickly. My diagram is more conceptual, than actual.

1dot21gigaflops (author)2007-03-29

awesome. Wish I had ice in Hawaii...

huckuba (author)2006-08-27

Way! Cool!!

Leon Close (author)2006-08-20

Thats the second best thing I've seen all day. One with wheels would be awesome.

radiorental (author)Leon Close2006-08-21

with wheels:
inspired by the butt board

gsport george (author)2006-08-19


MaClay (author)2006-08-18

That is absolutely bitching. Nicely done presentation.

About This Instructable




Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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