September 29, 2016

Weather Masochism

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Some people wake up on a day like this–wind howling in turret and tree–and immediately call in sick, resolving to spend the day drinking chamomile tea and watching I, Claudius reruns with the cat in their lap. Better to hunker down and avoid reality than risk getting hit in the face with a flying fish trying to make it to the office in a nor’easter.

Some other people call in sick and think: I’m going to the beach!

I met an example of this latter type this a.m. when I was walking down the boardwalk around ten o’clock and noticed a young man in a blue wetsuit struggling with a large black sail of some kind. A kiteboarding rig, it turned out.

Winds were (I’m guessing) in the 30-40mph range and if I opened my mouth, it filled with sand. Before this morning, I never knew clam shells could take flight under the right conditions. The waves at Barnegat Light, admittedly some ways north of here, were allegedly eleven feet.

Who would go into the water in weather like this? I wondered.

Ian, it turned out.

Ian is a kiteboarder, or kite-surfer, depending on which rig he’s using. When I saw him my initial thought was to ask the name of his next of kin, so I’d know whom to call as I watched him sweep out to sea. But, it turned out, Ian’s quite a skilled kitesman and was totally fine, despite the rather severe wind and waves.

(If you look, in this video, you can sort of see him in the distance.)

For about ten, maybe fifteen minutes, he zipped in and out of the waves, with remarkable speed and dexterity. Then, at one point, he suddenly sprung about fifteen feet straight up into the air. Jesus creeping shit! I thought. He’s going to break his neck. But not to worry. Apparently this is par for the course as well.

Kiteboarders jump all the time. Some carry a little device called a Woo (!) that tracks hang-time, etc. The current record for a kiteboard leap is 81 feet, by Aaron Hadlow, in Cape Town, which seems utterly horrifying.

Ian’s personal best is a an only kind-of-terrifying 43 feet, achieved in Barnegat Bay.

In actual fact it was too windy today for ideal kiteboarding, which is why Ian cut his session short. With a smaller kite, say five cubic meters, it could have been “epic” (I think he said). But with 40mph winds at the end of the pier, a seven cubic-meter kite was too powerful.

Why do you do this? I asked him.

“Because…it’s the best?”

If you want to take up kiteboarding/surfing, Ian said to check out Green Hat Kiteboarding in Waretown.





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