I didn’t know the definition of overpowered until I tried kiting at Rufus today.

The wind in the Gorge has been absolutely nuking solid for the past week. It’s been windier than stink, and being a kiteboarder I’ve been sadly beached for the last couple days as the windsurfers have ripped it up. Oh well. They deserve a chance for some fun… I’ve been kiting nearly four days a week for the entire summer while they have been sitting on the beach waiting for the wind to pick up, so I suppose I can allow them a week of the good stuff.

A couple days ago I jammed across the bridge after work to take some pictures at The Hatchery of riders practicing for the Freestyle Frenzy competition. The place was a mad house, and it took me nearly an hour just to find a parking spot. Cars were double and even triple parked, and the lot scene, with its haphazard fashion and people scattered about in lawn chairs clutching cans of Rainier, reminded me of a Phish concert more than anything else.

I had been shooting photos at The Hatch for over an hour until I had finally gotten warmed up, and was dismayed when I realized that I had already shot through my 2GB card. Yup. I had shot 400 pictures, 99% of them rejects, and it wasn’t until that point that I felt like I was finally hitting my stride. For my final hour I traded off between deleting and shooting, which while being terribly inefficient was completely necessary to grab some more decent shots.

Next week my Canon L lenses show up, which while greatly improving my ability to take kick-ass photos will also certainly increase my stress associated with exposing my camera to the elements. Blazing sun and 100 degree temperatures, coupled with 30 mph of blowing sand and river, don’t necessarily create the ideal studio environment.

The wind at the Event Site has been so wonky the last few days that today I drove out east in search of some more consistent wind. I ended up at Rufus and proceeded to spend two hours on the beach, hemming and hawing about whether to put a kite in the air and go out on the water. The question was a valid one. The wind was blowing at a constant 30 mph, and there were fellows who had a good 40 pounds on me who were completely lit up on five meter kites. The smallest I had was a seven.

Finally a fellow I had met two years ago down in Los Barriles showed up, and after some deliberation he went out on his ten meter North Rhino. Now, even though this guy had a good 100 pounds on me and was built like a meat tree, his was sufficient inspiration for me to get my ass in gear and go kiting. I decided that I would take a single reach out, and if the conditions were truly uncontrollable I would come back and land my kite.

And that’s exactly what I did.

The story being that I made it back. These were some seriously crazy conditions at Rufus today, and two weeks ago they would have chewed me up something fierce. I had my seven meter kite completely depowered and completely sheeted out, and yet was still totally lit the fuck up. While nothing bad happened during my short session, I realized while I was out there that all of my energy and concentration was focused merely on kiting. If anything extraneous were to come along, from a freak gust to a rogue wave to a grain barge to a lost board to a dropped kite, I would have been fucked. Not only that, I would have been fucked in five foot swell, which is a new category entirely.

So that was that. I went out and I came back. All in all, I’m glad that I at least tried kiting today at Rufus, if only for an opportunity to experience those conditions and give myself a yardstick for measuring future sessions. It’s important to find and test these limits on occasion, for without knowing them it would be easy to develop a false sense of confidence in your abilities. It’s humbling sessions like this that keep you real.

After getting back from Rufus this afternoon I rigged up and went kiting at The Spit, and had a ton of fun in not-so-life-threatening conditions. Afterwards I rode my bike downtown and met Jason, Kelly and some friends at Double Mountain for beer. We alternated our activities between drinking microbrews, pulling hair out of a yellow labrador from Alaska, and laughing at a malamute that sounded like one of the Three Stooges.