Category Archives: Kiteboarding

Fine Dining in Bingen

Question: Which of the following dinners would win in a fight?

A. Ranch Corn Nuts and a hot and spicy beef stick.
B. Dasani raspberry-flavored bottled water and Chex Mix.
C. Spicy chicken burrito, a forty of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and a Swisher Sweet.

The answer is C. The answer is always the forty.


So. My kiteboarding photography is going to be featured in the next issue of Sports Northwest magazine, perhaps even on the cover. I must say, however, that the current cover will be a tough act to follow:

Maybe I can convince Mike to get a bikini wax and pose with his new kites.


Yesterday: Kiteboarding. Beer. Late night with friends.
Today: Kiteboarding. Beer. Late night with friends.

More like this, please.

Cool Down

The sun still feels hot but the air has taken on a distinct chill. The Cascades are whispering, and once again the cold breath from the upper elevations is winding its way through town, carrying with it the taste of nameless forest groves. Hood River has all but emptied out, and while we certainly appreciate the great attention doted upon us during the summer months, there’s definitely a feeling of shared relief among those of us left behind.

Out on the water the wind continues to blow, but it now follows a fall schedule of unpredictable nuclear winds and random easterlies. Yesterday evening it was gusting to 42 mph at Swell City. Today it was so windy that someone was actually kiteboarding on a trainer kite. I had a good session on my seven meter kite after work on Wednesday, suddenly realizing how much more power I could handle when I stand up straight and actually use good posture while riding.

I took my Omega out of its mushy 2:1 pulley configuration and now ride it in 1:1, which makes it a much more fun, but ultimately less forgiving kite. The stock 1:1 configuration recommended by Cabrinha is awesome in that it’s incredibly reactive and completely eliminates bar pressure, but it destroys the range of depower to such a degree that by the end of one of my sessions I found my waist harness up around my armpits.

I’ve since rigged my bar and kites in the unofficial 1:1 configuration, which increases bar pressure and reduces responsiveness when compared to the stock 1:1, but grants a much wider range of depower. Seeing as how I’m typically riding in conditions that range from 13-30 mph, I’ll take the added depower range any day.

Last weekend I got out to the Oregon Coast for the first time in years, camping at Oswald with Kelly, Jason and their friends from Beaverton. The drive out was full of firsts for me, including visiting Trader Joe’s and eating at Jack in the Box. Kelly and I ordered our food to go, stole a bag of Jack in the Box sauces to complement our Trader Joe’s “snausages” that we eventually devoured at the Coast, and ate our questionable meals ghetto-style, sitting on the curb under the florescent lights of the parking lot.

There was a family at Jack in the Box who was treating their foreign exchange student to a fine meal out on the town, and in recognition of this occasion the husband wore his cleanest Hooter’s t-shirt.

At the Coast I tried surfing for the first time in my life, and I managed to keep it together for some time out at Short Sands, despite the fact that I found the water to be unbelievably cold at 49 degrees. I’d paddle and ride until I found myself absolutely gnarled by a wave, at which point I would hand the board over to Kelly so she could do the same.

We kept up this pattern until the sun fell into the ocean.


I’ve been going full-throttle for so long that it’s hard to believe the summer is almost over. In two weeks the tourons will go their separate ways and we’ll get our quiet little town back, for better or worse. Then in two months the rains will sock us in and even amongst us “locals” we won’t see each other until next summer.

I say “locals” because while I’ve lived here since October, and while I’ve survived one whole and two half winters here, I still remember nearly getting in a fight with a “true local” in a bar, a fellow who was born here and took offense by anyone who was not born here and called themselves “locals.” You see, it’s a polarizing issue. An issue that would never again present itself if I had my mohawk and beard, but an issue nevertheless.

As for my kiteboarding, I’m pretty much out of control by this point. I’ve got my heelside carves completely dialed, and I’m almost there with my toeside carves. I’m slashing back and forth in the swell and getting huge air off waves, and my control is such that the kite is increasingly becoming an extension of my body. I’m sure Justin, an awesome surfer hippie fellow who lives in the woods and is the only person I know who can speak entire sentences in English that I find absolutely captivating but utterly incomprehensible, would have something eloquent to say about this.

A few days ago I tried out a directional kiteboard from North Pacific Surfboards, a local custom surf shop that’s run by an awesome fellow named Art. A directional kiteboard is like a miniature surfboard, ranging in size from five to six feet long. We’ve been selling Art’s works of art at our shop all season and he’s got quite the fan club, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve been solid enough with my kiteboarding to know what all the fuss is about.

Holy. Shit. Wow.

There’s no way around it. Art’s boards are fucking incredible and they have totally changed the way I kiteboard. The day after I tried his 5’8″ round squash board I was already at his shop, placing an order for my own custom board. Sean let me borrow his 5’3″ board for the last few days, with the suggestion that the smaller board would be a better match for my size and the conditions I typically ride in.

I’ve been out on the 5’3″ the last two days in a row, and damn if he didn’t call that size perfectly! Art is off to Japan for the next two weeks, but as soon as he gets back I’m going to have him shape a 5’3″ to add to the Burgs’ ol’ quiver.

In contrast to the twin tip kiteboards that I’ve ridden since taking up kiteboarding (and the boards ridden by nearly every kiteboarder out there), directional boards have a super loose feel when you ride. You can effortlessly carve back and forth from toeside to heelside, and completely shred the hell out of swell and waves. They edge upwind like crazy, opening up an incredible third dimension to your riding.

When I was on the 5’8″ I reached the White Salmon Bridge in two reaches, completing in five minutes a trip that usually takes me half an hour. By the time I tried out the 5’3″ I was confident enough with my riding that I would do a toeside carve at the end of my normal reach, and then do an entire reach riding toeside. Toeside is typically associated with riding downwind at an incredible clip, but these boards ride so efficiently and edge so well that I can actually edge upwind while riding toeside.

What’s more, as I became increasingly comfortable with slashing the board I felt my snowboard skills start bubbling to the surface, which only enlivened my desire to push it to the limit. On a single reach I’d carve back and forth like a madman, grab some huge air off a wave, edge upwind a little it, throw into a toeside carve…

…and completely eat it. I would ride so hard that my sessions with the directional never lasted long, and I’d soon cruise back to the beach smiling but completely worked. This morning I found myself awkwardly stumbling around the house, and it dawned on me that it wasn’t because I was drunk (unlikely as my honey lager isn’t done fermenting yet) but because there was so much of the Columbia stuck in my ears that it was affecting my balance.

So really, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Loads of kiteboarding, punctuated with the occasional web design binge, a bit of writing, lots of photography, a smattering of web advertising, and personal drunkedness inventioning.


From Minneapolis to Hood River, everyone I know is safe. I emerged this evening from The Simpsons Movie to stinging eyes and the taste of smoke thick on the air. At 4:00 this afternoon a wildfire started in someone’s backyard up near Country Club Road and Frankton Road, on the west side of Hood River. Helped by the awesome winds that made my afternoon on the water so much fun, by 8:00 tonight the fire had burned to 50 acres and they’ve been evacuating homes in the area.

This fire is completely unrelated to the twelve acre fire that popped up on the east side of Hood River last week, which started when a trailer lost a wheel and threw sparks into the grass. That one struck as I was out kiteboarding last Friday, and it was a bit scary to have this huge kite in the air as all these low-flying planes and helicopters were swooping about. I know they only look close, and they’re still probably 500 feet or more in the air, but there’s just something about a crowded airspace that puts one’s nerves on edge.

My session that evening came to a graceless end as I was sitting on the beach packing up my kite. All I remember is my friend Jason yelling “Oh shit!” and diving for the ground, as I was suddenly enveloped in someone’s kite lines. I cursed like a sailor at the offending person as the lines raked across my skin, one of them wrapping itself around my ear. I freed myself from the lines as they ascended with the kite, but I was caught off-guard when they immediately swung back for a second round. We made contact again, and by the third passing I had finally rolled off to the side and out of harm’s way.

The next thing I saw was a gal being dragged head first on her stomach across the sandbar, and Jason running to grab the handle on the back of her harness. As it turns out, a complete moron was teaching her to kite, and he had opted to teach her directly upwind of Jason and I, upwind of the only two people on the fucking sandbar. She had lost control of the kite and had put it into “death spirals”, where the kite loops repeatedly in the same direction, crossing the lines and making control nearly impossible.

After watching me go toe-to-toe with the kite lines, the guy had the sense to see how I was doing once his girlfriend had been rescued from her kite. I asked him to look at my ear, and he told me it was scratched up but otherwise it looked fine. I pressed him, insisting that he tell me whether it was still attached to my head. He chuckled, and assured me it was still attached.

He chuckled. At the time I wasn’t in the mood for confrontation, but it made me realize something startling. The fact that he laughed at my question suggests that he totally did not understand the gravity of what he had just done. Those kite lines could very well have taken my ear off, possibly more. They use string to cut clay, and the spectra line used for kiting is good to 700 pounds before it will break.

This guy’s sheer stupidity could have killed two people. He should not have been teaching his girlfriend so close to land, he should not have been teaching her directly upwind of people, and most of all, he should not have been teaching her in the first place. This is the reason we have certified, professional kite instructors. Please use them, people.

As it is, I now have rope burns across the back of my ear, my forearm, and four long gashes under my arm. They didn’t look like much the night they happened, just grazes through the first layer of skin, but man have they ever scabbed impressively over the last few days. I look like I’ve been whipped.

As for the girl, she emerged from the fray considerably shaken, but otherwise unharmed. She told her boyfriend that she had had enough, that she was frightened, that she wanted to be done with kiting for the evening. It sounded like a reasonable and intelligent request. Instead, the guy relaunched her kite, took her back upwind, and made her keep practicing.

Jason and I made a quick exit from the beach.

Just Take A Freakin’ Lesson, People

Yeah, I’m still here. Just with more scars than usual.

This time around it wasn’t my fault.


Friday at the shop I was helping a gal with some windsurfing harnesses. Unfortunately we were sold out of the model that she really wanted, and none of the ones that we had in-stock fit her as well as she would have liked. She was especially bummed as she had lost her harness a few days ago, and was now trying to shop for a replacement.

Regrettably shopping for an item when you had a perfectly good one until just recently, and especially when it went missing unwillingly, is absolutely no fun. Just tell me about it. I offered her some words of comfort:

“That’s a total bummer about your harness. If it eases your frustration at all, I lost my kiteboard last Thursday. That’s going to be a bit more painful to replace.”

“Really? You lost your board on Thursday?”

“Yup. Sure did.”

“Did you lose it by the White Salmon Bridge?”

“Heh, yeah.”

“Was it a white board?”

“What? Are you kidding?”

“My friend was trying to rescue someone else’s board, and he had attached it to his board with his leash so he could tow it in. It didn’t work so well, and he ended up losing both boards. I came up to him in the water and he asked me if he saw the boards anywhere, but I couldn’t find them. It was really windy and I was overpowered, so it was impossible for me to do a good search the area.”

“Okay, whoa. Wow. Whoa. Wow.”

She gave me the fellow’s phone number, and I called him and left a message on his voicemail. The other night I heard back from him, and without a doubt it was my board that he was trying to rescue. He described it perfectly, even down to where I wrote my name and phone number on it.

The world is smaller than you could ever imagine.

He had found the board 200 yards upwind of the White Salmon Bridge, which is significant as I had lost it about 100 yards downwind of the bridge. He was rather perplexed by the whole thing as there was no one in sight who appeared to be missing a board, otherwise he would have tried to reunite the board with its owner. Judging by the distance the board had traveled downstream by the time he had found it, I was probably well on my way back to the beach by then.

I thanked him profusely for his recovery efforts, and apologized for my board’s unfortunate act of cannibalization. He said not to worry, and sighed that no good deed goes unpunished. He was optimistic, though. Six weeks ago he lost a kite down in the San Francisco Bay, and just the other day he got a phone call that his kite had been found.

Somewhere between here and the Bonneville Dam are two kiteboards leashed together, with names and phone numbers to match. With any luck they won’t get jammed in a turbine, won’t shut down the dam, and we won’t be sent $100,000 repair bills.


After a couple weeks of 90-degree temperatures, and four days in the 100s, I finally installed my air conditioner today. This was all thanks to the expert consultation of my neighbor, who introduced me to the “ghetto fab” method of using cardboard and duct tape. It ain’t pretty, and it introduces an unfortunate second-rate motel room vibe to my bedroom, but at least it works.

The air conditioner itself is a nice piece of work that I got from my friend Leslie while she was moving last fall. It even has a remote, and while it only gets one channel it’s the only one with anything worth watching. Cold.

Today I lost my kiteboard. Maybe I’ll see it again. Maybe I won’t. I’m pretty bitter about the whole thing, because I had thought I was a better kiter than this. I was on my first reach from The Spit, lit up on my seven meter and headed towards the Washington side. I made it a super long reach and got all up in Washington’s grill, as the most consistent wind and best swell is over on that side. When it came time to head back to Oregon I missed my turn (this has been a theme as of late) and dropped my kite.

Somewhere in the whole deal my lines got twisted, and because I was bobbing in five-foot swell it was difficult to get a complete visual on my bar and lines to isolate the problem. Finally I realized that one of my control lines had wrapped around my bar, and after correcting that I was able to launch the kite without a problem.

The whole ordeal took about five minutes, by which point I was certain my board was long gone. Luckily I saw it nearby, back towards the Washington side, and I started body dragging in that direction. However, all it took was the passing of a few large swells and my board disappeared from view. I spent the next twenty minutes body dragging back and forth, both upwind and downwind, in desperate search but to no avail. I even boosted myself a couple times to get a better view, but the board was nowhere to be seen.

Somewhat exhausted by this point, I decided it would be best to begin my long slog back to Oregon, rather than keep bobbing around waiting for a new disaster to strike. I was just about as far from The Spit as I could get, and all told I probably had to do about two miles of body dragging to get myself back to the beach. I made it back safely, only managing to swallow a small portion of the Columbia.

While my session weighed in at about ten tons of suck, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt during the whole episode. While I may be a pretty shitty kiter, at least the sport doesn’t scare the shit out of me anymore. I suppose that’s worth something.

Hopefully it’s worth as much as a new board.


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.