Getting Past the Break
Last weekend, we were blessed with A LOT of wind from the Northeast. While it isn’t ideal for teaching, it can be a lot of fun. We were getting gusty wind in the high 30’s Saturday and Sunday. On this wind direction, I prefer “Crescent Beach” on our Island (basically just the north end of Tybee). There are several spots to ride based on what you want, but I like the shape of the beach there even if it is straight onshore. The difficulty with conditions like this is the combination of the shore break and the current. I went kiting with a friend of mine who was in town for a few weeks and he had never been in conditions like this. It made me remember the first time I experienced it and how different (and overwhelming) it can really be!
The first thing you should do when faced with high winds and/or heavy shore break is evaluate the situation. How comfortable do you feel? You should feel a little intimidated and scared the first time you do this (and maybe the second or third)! The key here is that you keep those stressors at a healthy level. If you are so fearful that you don’t want to get into the water…don’t. Always trust your instincts. There will be other days for you to kite and it is best to progress at a pace you are comfortable with rather than getting a kitemare.
Before you try to just jump on and head out, take a moment to see the timing between the waves. You will need to body drag with your board away from the shore and the break. Make sure that you have a good hold on to your board because if you don’t, you may end up getting tossed around more than you had planned. Keep your kite a little higher than normal so you don’t drop it into the waves. No matter what happens, don’t forget about your kite! A wave can hold you down, you could lose your board…whatever…but focus on flying the kite through all of that. The progress getting past a nasty shore break can be slow, but be patient and you will make it through. Once you are away from the break, out on your board and go!
OK, so now I am past the break…but these waves are still HUGE! How do I ride in this? The BEST advice anyone ever gave me was “If you can’t make it over the wave, go around it”. Getting up over a wave changes a lot depending on how much speed you have. Killing your speed will allow you to go up and down the wave quite gently…but not enough power could end up the wave tossing you around! Charging a wave with more speed can be quite fun as you can use it as a natural “kicker”. Be prepared though, even little waves can give you a lot of air!
So what about when you lose your board? Well, if you aren’t comfortable with retrieving a board that gets away from you, don’t go out into these conditions. First, relax. It is more difficult to retrieve a board in these conditions because of the visibility. You see it one moment and it is gone the next (and if you have a strong current in your area like we have at Tybee, that adds an additional “fun” element). Keep your eyes open for it and you will be able to get back to it-be patient. Whatever you do, don’t use a board leash. Board leashes are dangerous for a few reasons, the biggest being that the board could snap back and hit you in the head. A board on a leash can also increase your hold down time…and you can still get held down when you are on the kite.
Test your limits, but be safe about it. Kiting in strong winds and big break can be rewarding and fun. It is a nice break from flat water riding if that is what you ride most of the time!