Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kiteboarding Sherman Island - with May Yam & the Big Dog

It's literally been YEARS since I made my way up to Sherman Island - historically a Mecca for windsurfers willing to make the 90 minute (from the bay area) trek up the Delta. It is one of those rare places where its windy almost the entire day - two sessions for most of the season, one from 6AM till 12 noon and another from 3PM til 8 PM... every day.

May Yam tearin' it up.. My friend May Yam, a wakeboarder turned kiter, invited Austin, Young and me to visit her on "the Big Dog" last weekend - a 70 foot houseboat, stocked with water toys, a kayak and a ski boat. The house boat is phenominal - what a way to travel!

the Big DogAmong the cool water toys on board were a (hydro) foil board and a foil chair they use with the ski boat. I'll be excited to see those toys in action with a kite.

The launch area we travelled to is called 'kitopia' and it definitely IS one... lots of room, solid wind, a nice launch area, and not crowded.

View of Kitopia from up windIt's nice and warm there - the air temperature mid day is much warmer than that of 3rd Av, but the water temperature is comparable. It also was definitely a nice change of pace to kite on fresh, flat water compared to the brackish chop at 3rd. There's a little bit of river current that flows in the same direction as the wind, so I rigged as if it were flood tide at crissy or 3rd and went out on a 14 torch.

The winds at Sherman were defintely strong in the afternoon - and while not excessively gusty, they ramp up and down throughout the day. We were on the water from around 4:30 to 7:30 -the wind started in the high teens and ended up close to 30 Mph in the space of 3 hours. I managed to hold down a torch 14 the entire session but it was definitely 'lit' toward the end of the day. May mentioned that earlier in the week, WITHIN a single day, she started on an 18, switched to a 12 and ended the day on a 7.

One note - the entry gate to the park says 'CLOSED AT 9:00 PM, reopens at 6:00 AM'. If you stay late, be prepared to either stay a while or to figure out who in the park you need to wake up to get a key to the lock on the park gate - which is what we did at 11:30 PM when we woke someone up to let us go home.. :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

GPS Map -- Coast Guard Kiteboarding Rescue

Yesterday I spoke to John Gomes to thank him for coordinating my rescue; he provided some interesting data that I have posted below in the picture. This is a map generated by the GPS positioning unit he was wearing during his kite session - the triangular portion to the right of, and up to, the Golden Gate bridge is the area where SF kiteboarders normally kiteboard. The patch of dense red lines next to, and paralleling the Golden Gate Bridge (HWY 1) is where all the 'activity' started .....
Kiteboarding outside the Golden Gate Bridge -- This is where Young's board broke loose, and subsequently where my kite went down.

The interesting piece here is the very long arc that starts at the bridge and heads west / south west -- that's the distance I drifted in 15 minutes after my kite went down. The bridge looks small when viewed from Crissy field. This distance is further, and was travelled a LOT faster. John's GPS unit shows the point where he noticed my equipment failure was terminal, and his zig zag path to get upwind to come to my aid as I drifted out to sea, followed by a downwind run to get back in the mouth of the Golden Gate and back to Crissy starting at the point where the Coast Guard pulled me out of the water to save my ass...

The force of the ebb was amazing. Here are the Tide and Wind Conditions during the rescue. Even with wind pulling my kite toward the gate, I just kept movin' on out (west). With my kite providing some resistance to the current flowing out of the Gate, the water rushing past me had enough pressure to cause it to 'spout' off my neck. The other element I would not have predicted was the effect of eddys. The closer I got to the south shore, the more I could feel my self and my gear getting pulled in counter clockwise circles - deflating my kite as the wind rotated me into the wind. Likely, in another 5 minutes, the ebb tide might have shot me past that last point --- Buh Bye SF, and Hello Captain Whitey !! Fresh, wet toast for the sharks at the Farallons!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Saved by the Coast Guard (and John Gomes)

Yesterday, I DID get my chance to test my waterproof camera - in the water, as well as on the coast guard rescue boat. First, many many thanks to John Gomes who kites out of the St. Francis Yacht club for coming to my aid when my kite inverted and twisted inside out under the golden gate bridge.

He's the man... with a waterproof VHF radio tuned to emergency channel 16. Kiting around one handed, he radioed the coast guard and directed them to me, all the while kiting back and forth around me to make sure I was OK as I was getting pulled out to sea.
Kiteboarding outside the Golden Gate Bridge My fellow kiter Austin Stewart was taking pictures from Crissy Field - here's a shot of Aaron Gershenberg, Young Sohn and I kiting outside the GG bridge at the north tower.

Kite Under the Golden GateAs I was kiting, I managed to get a shot of my kite passing under the bridge. This is the last shot I took on the water before I dropped my kite trying to salvage Young's board, which blew apart when he was lifted by a gust and the leash tore the grab handle off his board. Young washed up at the South tower construction site , and managed to hitch a ride from the Park Service back to Crissy Field :)

After trying several times to relaunch with my inside and outside kite lines (on both sides) twisted together, the kite finally took off, and immediately smacked the water, hard enough to pop my center strut. After that, the kite was completely unstable, and I knew I was toast (while in the water for 30 minutes - I kept wondering if Great Whites like toast) so I attempted a self rescue. Amazingly, even with the kite full of wind trying to pull me back into the Bay, the currents were so strong (the Bay is BIG, and when it empties, it ALL goes through the golden gate) that I went straight west out to sea gulping water in a losing battle to hold my own against the current. Without the additional help from my 'sail', I would have drifted a half mile & out of sight (5 Mph current = 1 mile in 12 minutes) in 5 or 6 minutes.

Boat to the Rescue The coast guard from Station Golden Gate came within 15 minutes. After a ride back to Crissy, they dropped me and my gear in the water 20 yards out and I swam it back in. The Coast Guard folks said they rescue 10- 15 kiters per week - we water people all owe them a big thanks. Without them we would be shrinking in numbers daily. Here's the crew that saved my ass.... Im sure they though I was nuts when I took out my camera and started snapping pictures on the boat. :)

And here is the crew - to whom I owe a big THANKS!!!
Coast Guard Rescue Party

Coast Guard Rescue Party

Coast Guard Rescue Party

Coast Guard Rescue Party

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Kiteboarding with a waterproof camera

I finally tested my new Pentax Optio W10 Waterproof (up to 10 feet) Camera. This camera was recommended to me by Rob Born and Chris Moore. Rob dropped his first one in Kanaha Bay - and it sank -- so I rigged up a 'floating leash' for mine. The leash consistes of a 3 foot long piece of vinyl tubing with a shoelace run through it and a couple of pieces of heat shrink tubing at the knot where the camera is attached.
Waterproof camera with floating leash I spray painted the inside of the tube bright yellow so that when I inevitably drop it in the water -- hopefully purposefully to hand it off to a friend -- the weight of the camera will trap the air inside the tube and the whole setup will both float and be visible for retrieval. Here's a clip I took on the water at 3rd Avenue with the camera in "movie mode" - I was kiting one handed (so the clip is shaky) behind my friend Chris Moore. Quality is pretty good.
This video file was then uploaded to VideoEgg for display in this blog. click here : Pentax Optio Test Video for the video...