Lake Calhoun- Jan. 12
If ever there were to be a “gathering” of winter sailing devices, the conditions forecast for this past Sunday were nearly perfect. After extreme cold, the forecast was for moderating temps in the mid-20’s and 15-25MPH winds out of the southwest. I checked Windancing.com’s chat and read a post from Tighe that Calhoun would be the spot. Loaded with my snowboard, Skimbat and several kites, I was on my way by about 1pm. When I pulled up it was a sea of color with every type of contraption you could think of. There seemed to be a kite launching area 100m offshore, the windsurfer devices seemed to be staying more upwind, ice fisherman had all congregated a half-mile off shore and there were walkers and skaters all over the place. There was more action than I’d seen on a lake for months and it was a very, very cool scene.
I knew I was a little self-conscious with all this activity when I forgot some key components in my truck. That’s usually an indication that I’m not “all” present. Yet, when the wind hit my sail and I started sharing rides with everyone else, all cares seemed to disappear and I was back in the saddle 100%. The winds were shifting from SW to NW throughout the afternoon and were gustier than anything I had played in for some time. I could feel my body and mind fatiguing as the afternoon went on. I’d often pause in the middle of the lake just to admire all the beautiful motion, a unique wind dance in harmony with the day. The talent on the ice was astounding given the demanding conditions.
The winds seemed to be dying down. I thought I could now give my kite a try with the snowboard. I asked Joey if he thought the wind had cleaned up at all and he said it was still pretty junky. It’s funny how hard it is to identify people in our winter garb. It’s like we should all have big name tags on our backs or photos of our unprotected face. It’s pretty funny, “______, is that you?” as we grope to know who else is out there. Fortunately, Frank’s on shore and agrees to help me launch my B5. By this time it’s about 3pm and I’m beat. Yet, it’s too irresistible…this urge to join in the kite party. Just as I’m laying out my lines a gorgeous young lady goes skating by with a radiating smile that steals my kite attention down to 20%. Ooops, this is a kite….focus, Randy, focus. I experience an uneventful launch, but soon realize the wind is very flukey. First the kite’s falling out of the sky, then bam…I’m being yanked out of the saddle. In the meantime, I’m watching all the dedicated kiters deal with the conditions with no worries. I drop the kite a couple times and relaunch, but on the third attempt my ram air kite gets all tangled. It’s time to just sit back and soak up the scene. Joey and Alex and a few others are still out, but these guys are poetry in motion. We were all taken with their relaxed, graceful maneuvers as I looked around the lake and saw spectators stunned with their performance.
I packed up my gear and started the walk of shame back to the shore when all of a sudden the sirens go off and I see an ambulance screaming down the biker path toward the boathouse. At that time I thought maybe someone had a heart attack and didn’t notice that Joey and Alex no longer had their kites in the air. I loaded my gear in my truck, walked down to the shore to bid my leave and gratitude to friends for sharing the wind when Tighe asks if I had seen what happened to Joey or Alex. Fearing one of them was the injured party I drove over to the boathouse to see all gathered together giving me the thumbs up…all’s ok. A remaining cop clearly lets me know I’m in a no stopping area and I head home unaware of the spectacular Alex experience.
After reading the post Monday, I think we’re all living on Cloud 9 energy in gratitude that no one was injured. The one thing I hate about winter sailing is the inability to see wind coming. At least on water, when a frontal wind comes, you can see the white spray marching across the lake. I had similar experiences on Calhoun the previous Friday. One second there was no wind and then, bam, I was socked with a 30MPH gust. In Maui, I’m always on the look out for that rogue wave. I’ve been sailing along in flat water thinking all’s easy when all of a sudden a fifteen-foot face raises up right in front of me. I hadn’t been that aware of this from winter sailing on Forest Lake and White Bear where the fetch is much longer. Yet, to sky from 5-15’ jumps to 30-40’, there was a rogue frontal wind that commanded 100% attention for survival.
Alex, again, you’re poetry in motion with that kite. You’ve created some of the more beautiful riding images I’ve ever seen. You know the entire wind community is so grateful you weren’t injured and that you had the consciousness to release your kite. I think we’ve all learned a lot from this and I’m hoping you’ll put pen to paper on what you’ve learned. For me, cameras are dangerous. I had many close calls with ice boaters last Friday because a stupid camera seemed to make us all drunk to the present moment demands of riding. I suspect the man with the camera had some impact on stealing your full attention to the moment. I had sailed a good hour before they even made it out, so I was fatigued. I know it’s dangerous to push the window at the end of the day. If you want to hear the best from a band, it’s usually near the beginning of the second set. If you think their third set was best, you’ve probably been drinking your share of beer. Finally, micrometeorolgy is extremely complex in a passing frontal system. A change in wind direction has to be a strong indicator that something’s brewing. Perhaps we should have given up our attachment to the NW corner of the lake and headed downwind for steadier wind once it had clocked NW. I may be all wet on this, too. But it doesn’t hurt to dig deep into this because we all know what could have happened and I know no one wants to even think about it, but it’s the only way we’re all going to keep on riding for many years to come.
In summary, January 12 was a beautiful day on Lake Calhoun. It was in stark contrast to the occasional glance I get from an ice fisherman on Forest Lake. It truly had all the stuff movies are made of…too bad the TV crew wasn’t inconspicuously filming it all from the shoreline.
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