Friday, December 26, 2008

Lucky Seven Run

We'll call it the Lucky Seven miles from Nags Head Pier to the Outer Banks Pier in South Nags Head. Santa left a holiday treat on the OBX day after Christmas. Über smooth ENE winds averaging 12 mph - perfect for buggy runs on the beach.

The onshore breeze was an easy upwind reach. Only one portion gave us trouble, avoiding a large drainage pipe near Nags Head Pier that put us through soft sand on the upwind. Riding fast along the dynamic contour water edge, the tide was low leaving smooth hardpack. The downwind runs were awesome! Some of the finest beach buggy I have ever had(Sorry Galveston). I logged upwards of 30 miles today, making the full run from pier to pier twice. Amazing to see the number of cottages and beach front properties suffering from erosion. We even caught a glimpse of beach decay evidenced by some graffiti.

Click here for more pictures

Friday, December 12, 2008

Catch the drift

Bring a good book, a full charge on you ipod and all the patience you can muster before attempting international travel. My flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was delayed over seven hours after we were forced to change planes when a problem with the cargo hatch arose. This was followed by flight cancellations in Frankfurt due to heavy fog, creating an eleven hour delay before I could catch a flight to Bremen.

The next day I met with many of good folks at Invento HQ that I have been working with via email and Skype. It is always great to put a name to a face. The offices and warehouses are located in a beautiful, old world setting on the edge of town that oozes charm.

The next day we loaded up the HQ Powerkite Ford Transporter at 5 am on the Invento campus and prepared for the twelve hour journey to Lago Bianco. Jan Hendrick leads the adventure, hitting speeds of 160 kph as we ride north on the autobahn towards the Swiss Alps. On board are team riders Gunnar Wiegers and Yannick Schwickert, along with Jan Rogge, a new apprentice at Invento. The media department, consisting of Vanessa, Jorg, and Frauke follow in a hatchback.

With only a few stops for fuel and tolls, we pass the rolling German countryside, through Bavaria and Austria, before reaching Switzerland. It looks like a winter wonderland. So much snow, in fact, that there is a possibility Bernina Pass will be closed, delaying our arrival to the lodge that overlooks the lake. As we reach the popular resort of St. Moritz, the weather looks foreboding. Snow is falling and visibility is limited. We stop to put on tire chains. Plows are clearing the road, but the further we travel up the mountain the larger the drifts become. We hear the pass is officially closed, but it is decided to send Jorg ahead in the car to test the road. After a few minutes he calls and reports it is passable. Avalanche potential is high along the valley. We reach the lodge without much delay, passing 4 meter drifts along the side of the road. The Ospizio Bernina lodge is nearly empty as the HQ team invades. More kiters will be arriving as the week progresses as we are here until Wednesday, December 17th.

The next morning we meet for breakfast at 8 am before wandering out in the Swiss white powder. Equipped with kites, snowboards and cameras, we have trouble navigating a path down to the lakebed. The 300 meters straight down the hill proves to be too deep to walk through without major effort, as we sink to our waists in certain places. We regroup and walk down the road toward the train depot, eventually reaching a spot near the tracks that is relatively easy to cross.

We find the lake has a meter of power on top in most places, in some spots the drifts are deeper. The wind blows from the north at around 15 mph. The crew begins to launch and ride. I grab a 7 meter Apex II and go for launch. Getting up on my board the first time was easy. Down wind I went. Visibility was limited with the falling snow and white overcast sky. It felt like flying in a cloud. You could hardly see the mountain on the edge of the lake as it was camouflaged in white. Only a few rocks gave a clue of its presence. I was halfway across the lake when the leading edge of board began to sink under the powder and dig in, perhaps due to my stance and being slightly underpowered. Before I knew it, I stopped sliding and my board was buried. When I brought the kite down into the power zone, I got yanked head first. Powder flew everywhere. I could see nothing but white. I lost awareness of the kite and was later told it did a few loops. I was dragged head first into the deep powder. Reflex was to breathe deeply, filling my mouth with powder. My face was covered. I could see nothing. So this is what being in an avalanche must be like. In that instance, I panicked, as it felt like suffocation. I wanted to rip everything off my head – hood, goggles, helmet, and beanie to find some air, but resisted. I must have hyperventilated because when I raised my head and rolled over on my back I could not catch my breath.

Then I remembered the survival rescue course I had taken at the Snowkite Summit last week in Utah. If you find yourself fallen into freezing water, remember a human can survive for up to 30 minutes – if you can control your breathing. Most people perish within minutes when they cannot retain control of their breathing, panic and drown.

So I lie on my back with the kite in the air and waited for the calm to return. The only way back to our launch site was to ride upwind. It was too far to walk in the deep snow. I tried to ride again and fell on my back a few times. But I was getting closer. Must keep the kite powered up to rise above the powder. Gunnar saw me floundering and rode over offering assistance. I told him my problem and he offered advice. Put more weight on the back leg and lift the front so your board edge rises. That helped. By the time I reached the launch site, my confidence was rising, and I was ready for another downwind run. But first I had to remove my goggles. They were only hurting my visibility.

Before too long, I was crusing the lake with no difficulty and riding along side my fellow team riders. What a relief. After an hour we began to pack up. Snow was falling heavier and the cold was taking its toll (-8 C). Some of the crew had already headed back before we wound up our lines.

Jake, team rider for Best, and Billy, team rider for Ozone, warned me back on Skyline Drive that riding in deep power presented its own challenges and was much more difficult than riding on snow pack. They were not kidding. I can’t wait till tomorrow to build on what I learned today.

As we walked back to the lodge we could see that the plows and snow blowers that were operating in the morning has ceased. Drifts and snow were accumulating on the road. We are snowed in after all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

(Nearly) Two-miles high

,At the Summit of scenic Skyline Drive you are nearly at 10,000 feet in elevation. For the first time I snowkited and rode a snowboard. Yippeeee! Apparently, snowkiting with skis is easier. But it recommended to go with the type of ride you are more comfortable with - Skis vs snowboard. As a kite surfer, I'm going with what I know.
Word for the day
def - noun - A snowmobiler. Some of whom have been know to invest upwards of $40k upgrading their ride with 3rd party parts and nitrous oxide.