The kite gently moves back and forth
propelling me on top of the water.
I flatten my board and play with the waves.
Sheeting in with a power stroke, I lean farther back,
my body almost parallel to the water.
A bigger wave comes.
The kite barely stays in the sky,
the wall of water desynchronizing the perfect balance of board, kite and body. A bigger power stroke,
I am above the water, rapidly picking up speed.
Piling on more force,
I start to catch back up to my brother,
slowly gaining on him as I come out of the shadow of a cloud. 7/2/18 Devon Baker-Berry
We arrived at Nananu-i-Rah around midday and organized kiteboarding gear first thing. On our quick anchorage hop we had seen a beach on a motu upwind of kite point that might be suitable for a kite launch. On the dinghy ride to the motu everyone got thoroughly soaked and cold. When we reached the miniature island, we found, as I had guessed before the thorough soaking and subsequent freezing wind, it was surrounded by coral! We virtually flew back to our usual launch spot, a beach at the tip of a small island that extended toward Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, called kite point, with the strong wind and waves at our stern. Anson got first dibs and spent an hour reaching back and forth, even performing some toe side. I had the next two runs, Dad generously allowing me to eat up the remainder of the day. My runs were nice and long with plenty of edging (adding pressure to my heels to make the board stand up on its edge and stop the kite from pulling me downwind). Unfortunately, the wind was light and I rapidly lost ground downwind. When we came back Kim had started on dinner (earlier in the cruise I had made a schedule for dishes and meals to equally distribute the galley work) and was eager to hear about my progress.
I started the second day of kiting with a downwind run (Dad felt the wind was too low for him to try), Anson and Mark following in the dinghy as I had still not mastered going upwind. Nevertheless, my runs were long and my sliding transitions working most of the time. I launched from kite point, then kited through the gap between Viti Levu and Nananu-i-Thake, before curving right, barely out of its lee. Dad’s turn was next and Anson and I followed in the dinghy, shouting advice after every couple of runs. At the end, he was able to get up on the board every second or third try and have 20 to 30 second runs. He was still having trouble pointing the board downwind for the launch, and occasionally got pulled over it.
Mark was wiped out after his two runs, but I was longing for another one. All three of us glanced at the setting sun over the rolling hills of Fiji’s largest island and gunned the dinghy engine. We rushed to kite point where we hurriedly set up the kite. I put my board on in the water, power stroked, and was up and flying. The wind had picked up, and I was edging the board, my heels taking most of my weight, the board close to perpendicular with the water. Thirty seconds later I was across the channel, performed a sliding transition and came back. To my utter surprise and delight I had lost no ground downwind! Back and forth I went, until… Crash! I had brought my kite too close to the sea, and the tip had been caught by the water. I got back up as fast as possible, but the crash had taken me downwind. Half an hour had gone by, and with several more crashes, I had only lost 100 feet downwind. Mark and Anson hurriedly brought my kite on board the dinghy, and we left for Anthea. The dinghy ride was mercifully short and dry. By the time it had ended, the sun was half behind the hills, creating a stark black outline against the red, pink, and gold sky.
The day before, Kim and Mark had arranged for Anson to have a downwind run with Safari Lodge, a kiteboarding resort just a mile away, and today I was to join him. Deepak, a worker at the resort, picked us up at 8:00 to set up our kites for a boat launch. We led the lines, deflating the leading edge of the kite but kept the struts pressurized and wrapped up the line on our bar. The whole bundle was rolled up with the bar in the center of the kite. Our harnesses wrapped around it all and kept it in a tidy bundle. Deepak steered us five kilometers upwind to a reef. We launched from the 25-foot dinghy and started to kiteboard downwind. Unfortunately, the wind was light and it was hard to keep out of the water. Thirty minutes later the wind picked up and we started to pick up speed. Anson and I crossed trails, followed each other and played with the waves, sometimes power stroking while heading dead down wind and flying over the bumpy water. All too soon (about 2 and a half hours later) we had to give Deepak our kites and head inshore on the yellow launch. The tide was low, so as we went through the shallow pass between Nananu-i-Thake and Nananu-i-Rah we scraped over the sand and dead coral. If it wasn’t for Deepak’s local knowledge of the waters, we would have been stuck in the hot sun until the tide rose.
Upon arriving on Anthea, we hurriedly got Dad on the water, where he continued to improve. The next day, Mark had a lesson while Anson and I had another thrilling down-winder. Afterwards we brought Mark out on the water, and his confidence with the kite improved dramatically. Soon he was getting consistent long runs and started to edge.
Thank you so much, Norm*, for getting us on the board. (*Our main kiteboarding instructor at Baja Kite and Surf, La Ventana, Mexico) Devon