Chasing the Wind

BY Paul Pastorini

Blaine Daniel seeks wind and water for an activity that keeps him coming back assembling his kiting equipment year-round. While onlookers are dazzled by his vibrant kites and aerial transitions Daniel says he and other local kiters must draw strength from within to address the mental and physical challenges of the sport. An understanding of how to control the kite in different wind patterns and directions is crucial as are physical strength balance and agility to maintain control of the kite in heavy winds.

Kitesurfers can reach 30 miles per hour on the water which is roughly equivalent to 60 mph on land. But speed is only half the thrill the other being air time. A kiteboarding jump requires intense concentration exact timing and kite placement. The payoff is huge.

A kiteboarder looking to increase his or her air time must practice holding the kite at a 45 degree angle and making sure the kite is directly overhead at the time of the jump. Once the skill of jumping is mastered board grabs and midair turns are next. Huge jumps are generally considered to be anything above 15 feet.

There are competitions for these types of activities on kiteboards as well as distance and speed records to be broken but the adrenaline rush when accomplishing these feats on the water is enough for most boarders to improve their skills for their own personal thrill.

Blaine Daniel has been kitesurfing for five summers maybe six.

You lose track he says laughing.

Daniel took lessons first learning the kite mechanics and how to harness the wind. He trained for an entire summer before purchasing any of the gear required to hit the water.

Daniel and his friends check surfing sites and local beach cams. They watch the Weather Channel and wait for the right time to strike.

That along with the challenges and adrenaline rushes that come with the sport keep Daniel and his crew returning to the water.

We chase wind he says.

A clean source of wind for Wrightsville Beach is south/southeastern winds of 15 to 20 mph. This wind pattern is part of what improves the safety aspect for the kiters: It keeps them near shore and eliminates the possibility of being dragged out to sea.

Everyone is texting each other over the weekend Daniel says. We like to ride together.

Whats ideal about good kitesurfing conditions is that they make for poor surfing conditions he says.

This way the water is never too crowded. Daniels group can easily be seen from the shore either riding for speed or riding for air but the tricks are hidden in the mechanics of the sport.

A kiter is attached to a kite with a harness that has a handlebar. The handlebar operates like a steering wheel. Some kiteboards have foot attachments while other boards are strapless.

Like any adventure sport people wanting to give it a try will have a much better experience if they take a lesson with a qualified instructional service Daniel says. The difference between kitesurfing and other water sports like surfing and standup paddleboarding is that the equipment must be borrowed or purchased at a cost of about $1 500. It cannot be rented due to safety and liability issues.

Assessing which type of board and kite one needs is dependent on the style of boarding a person chooses to pursue: There is racing wave riding freestyle wakestyle and many more.

A professional like Dimitri Maramenides can help when having to make these decisions.

Maramenides once a professional windsurfer is a world-renowned kitesurfer and owner of Epic Kites which sells its equipment internationally. For Maramenides taking lessons is a necessary pre-requisite to handling kitesurfing equipment on the water.

Kitesurfing is an extreme sport he says. Kitesurfing is a dangerous sport. And thats the reason we get some of the beaches closing us down. People watch us and they think Oh I can do this. Let me purchase the equipment on eBay. Sometimes they buy used equipment. They try to set [the equipment] up. They try to launch it at public access points where people are and then they start getting in trouble. They can even hurt someone else.

Maramenides says trying to attempt the sport without lessons would be like trying to fly an airplane without proper instruction.

Kiteboarding while certainly not in its infancy is a relatively new sport to the majority of the world Daniel says.

The town of Wrightsville Beach has restrictions on kitesurfing so beachgoers will mainly see kiters on the north and south ends of the island. Kiters are required to follow the same laws as surfers regarding beach safety.

The goals of kitesurfers are the same as those of other ocean enthusiasts: to have fun and be safe Daniel says. Its this idea that Daniel and Maramenides hope to instill in others as well as their passion for kiteboarding.

Kitesurfing requires a significant amount of time considering the time spent just waiting for the correct conditions. But its worth it says Daniel.

Men and women of all ages and all walks of life [are kiters] he says. From Topsail Island and Wrightsville Beach to Bald Head Island the Cape Fear coast offers a multitude of riding opportunities and numerous instructors.

What the kitesurfing community needs is an organization to promote understanding.

Ultimately a sanctioned local organization that helps support the surrounding community and the sport could benefit both kiters and the community Daniel says.

The sport has gained more worldwide recognition than it had but that might not mean the Olympics will be having kitesurfing competitions just yet. First communities must embrace the sport and there needs to be education for children who want to devote the time necessary to learning it.

In order to embrace something people need to understand it Daniel says. We all share a similar concern and passion: to keep our riding areas open and keep our image as adventure sports enthusiasts a good one in our community.