Hurricane Riding, A Story
A version of the following story less images appeared in The Kiteboarder Magazine ( http://www.kbmag.com/ ), in 2004. It was written on the eve of a major hurricane striking my area of Florida. Some of the uneasiness and uncertainty of that time came out in the account which follows.
"Hurricane Riding, A Story"
... or “normal” riding in Florida, these days. Four hurricanes hitting one state in a year, actually in less than 6 weeks, last time was only 118 years ago. I am writing on the eve of Hurricane Jeanne’s visit to Florida. Lots of us are wondering what tomorrow will bring and have tried to secure things as the best we can. Florida isn’t alone in this hurricane slam-fest, lots of others in the USA and Caribbean have had to deal with this season of devastation. And … it isn’t over yet.
Some of these hurricanes approached as Category V storms, like Ivan packing winds over 165 mph. That will get you thinking, if anything can. Confronting something that can erase your home, place of work and even your life can motivate some introspection. That is between exhausting bouts of preparing for, sitting out the raging of the storms, cleanup after, trying to restore normal living absent power and doing it all over again and again. Normal haunts are closed, phones don’t work, normal foods unavailable and finding widespread power and cool air nothing but a memory.
Ft. Pierce after Jeanne and Francis
So what does this have to do with kiteboarding?
Nothing and everything … for us “ducks in the shooting gallery” this year. Lots of us live to ride or at least crave the escape and release of ripping over water. In stressful times like these this applies only more so. We NEED to ride to recharge mind and spirit between attacks of Mother Nature.
So, with hurricanes you got LOTS of wind, right dude? No, not really much of the time. The winds may be too light before, after and even during the hurricane say if it passes to the east of you. Then again, hurricanes can vomit violent squalls that can loft you to China or at least to the ER, if you allow it to happen. Think of the dozen plus tornados spawned by Ivan in the Panhandle. Most hurricanes have the potential to do the same thing. I was nearly wacked by such a squall spewed out by a feeder band hundreds of miles from the hurricane years ago before we knew better.
Hurricane Jeanne heads toward Florida.
Yesterday, I landed my kite pronto before a squall moved in. Amazingly, several guys continued to ride with an evil black mass of clouds and rain raking over us. I unsuccessfully tried to call them to land. I asked a couple of the guys after, “you know that you can be lofted/dragged and potentially killed with a kite up in such conditions, right?” It was news to one guy and they other said “sure, I know that.” As long as you know and accept the risk so be it I guess.
Then again, there are times with hurricanes when it all comes together. We are talking intense on the edge shredding, big waves, wind and singular riding. We had an afternoon like that off SE Florida the day before Charley demolished Punta Gorda on the SW coast, Friday the 13th no less. We crave wind but sometimes there is a price to be paid, it is the way of the world and this too can get you thinking sometimes. Then again, what will happen, will happen regardless of some riders grabbing some stoke along the way.
I went off Delray Beach with an 11 m kite rigged flat to limit the power. Building wind got me thinking to rig the smaller kite that I had along. Being overpowered if something goes wrong can really trash your day. So, in 45 min. I went from an 11 m to a 5 m kite! I have never ridden a 5 m four line kite and hadn’t touched a two line 5 m in over 3 ˝ years. There was one other guy out, a fellow 40 lbs. heavier than me also on a 5 m. There were waves breaking over double head high about a mile off shore with two other breaker lines closer to shore. The wind was around 25 to 35 kts. much of the day and gusting higher later on when I was on the smaller kite.
Hurricane Charley coming ashore in SW Florida.
There were no hurricane feeder bands or squalls on the color radar or visible over the ocean during that session of fairly steady winds. This is unusual to say the least. The hazards of high wind kiting go up but if you are prepared by experience and use good procedures you can try to manage the risk.
You are out there reeling over chop, swells and roiling breakers hurtling through gusts and tasting the finer side of prime shredding. It is a unique, freeing experience and really can make you feel alive. We had some of the best winds in three years that afternoon, before Charley took the SW coast to task.
Punta Gorda after Charley
Life is for living, know your game, ride responsibly and savor the odd incredible session when it comes your way. For better or worse, hurricane riding seems to be here to stay for a while. Still, I am craving those clean, powerful fall cold front winds. The strong fronts “should” spell and end to this hurricane riding season. This season of hurricane riding has been a trip. See you in another 118 years, if we are lucky.
Last edited by RickI; 10-07-2016 at 03:55 AM.