Friday I traded some hours with Mark at the shop, scoring myself a three-hour lunch break that I split between eating and kiteboarding. The eating was good and the kiteboarding was okay… the wind was really light, and I only managed a few reaches before deciding it was best to come back in, and avoid getting stuck out in the middle of the river if the wind decided to die completely. It was the kind of session that we typically describe with a shrug and the line, “At least I got wet.”
Fortunately the wind had picked up by the time Bea and I closed the shop for the night, so we jammed down to the beach for an evening kite session. Bea tinkered in the shallows while I spent my time upwind playing in the swell, working on my toeside carves. After the session Topher gave me a ride to the parking lot in the back of his truck, and I headed back home for the late night that was to be.
Before they left, Jake and his gang of crag rats got me a growler as a “thanks for letting us turn your living room into a base camp, sleep on your floor, use your shower, and keep really weird hours” gift, sixty-four delicious ounces of Full Sail’s Son of Spot IPA. That night I invited some friends over, and before I knew it my house had filled up with ten people or so, many whom I did not know. I put everyone on a strict regimen of Full Sail and homebrew, and when that dried up we switched to Rainier and cigarettes.
While checking out my digs Jeff discovered I had a Wii, so the closing hours of the night were dedicated to some serious Wii Bowling. I could hardly keep my balance and lost to all my opponents by a scant handful of points, even losing the game where Wyatt and I bowled straight spares on all but one frame. Our party dissolved its little self at around 2:00 in the morning.
Saturday I was hung over. All day. I went to the Sandbar in the afternoon, hoping that the wind and sun would pull me out of my spinning fog and I could get myself in a mood to go kiting. No deal. I stood at the edge of the parking lot for fifteen minutes watching the action from the hill, and all I felt were pangs of jealousy for all the people who were out on the water and didn’t have headaches. I went home and slept some more.
Feeling much better on Sunday I went back to the Sandbar, hiked out to the launch spot and started pumping up my nine meter kite. In the time it took me to do that the wind had picked up, and before long I was hiking back to my car to trade the nine for my seven. By the time I got back to the launch spot the wind had calmed down again, all the way back to solid nine meter conditions, but I said fuck it and rigged my seven anyway.
I went out for half an hour until deciding that it was too light to risk going any longer, and on my way back in I got caught in a lull and dropped my kite. After a bit of swimming I made it back to my launch spot, and spent some time just hanging out with other kiters, shooting the shit and helping launch and land people. All the while we were watching a band of clouds and rain make their way up the Gorge, and we wondered what sort of wind they would bring with them.
And then we knew. Almost instantly the river turned into a surly, boiling cauldron of whitecaps. In the distance we could see the dust from the Hook being whipped from the ground, a devouring orange cloud that consumed our view. Gear went pin-wheeling when the wind finally hit the Sandbar, and everyone scrambled to protect their kites from the squall.
I piled all my stuff on my kite to keep it in place, and shoveled so much sand onto it I nearly buried it from view. The wind did the rest. Before long we were in a full-on sandstorm, and I had to pull my wetsuit back on to temper its rage against my flesh. So much sand was blowing that when you looked downwind across the Delta, all you could see was a solid grey cloud.
However, whatever we were experiencing on the Sandbar was nothing compared to what was happening out on the water. There were about ten or fifteen kiters out, and they were all fighting the wind and trying to limp back to the beach. We helped people with landing their kites as soon as they got in range, and while many seemed a bit brow-beaten it didn’t look like anyone had actually gotten injured out there.
Gear did not fair quite so well, and there were many tales of ripped kites and lost boards. One kite actually abandoned its owner, flying overhead along the far side of the sandbar with surprising beauty and danger.
The storm eventually subsided and it seemed that everyone had made it back to shore, so I excavated my kite, packed up my belongings and headed back to my car. Calm had returned to the Sandbar, but most of us were too gun-shy to get back on the water again. Sirens blaring in the distance suggested that there were other stories to this day.