Friday, November 11, 2011

Kite Surfing the Ottawa River in November! The wind shifts, a kite goes into the trees!

WOW! The first week of November I saw 18 kite surfers negotiating the 15-18 knot wind from Parc des Cedres on the Lac Deschenes section of the Ottawa, River just off the Aylmer Marina in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada.

It was an awesome sight! It was 17 degrees Celsius, about 63 degrees Fahrenheit, which is really warm and nice around here as long as you are geared up in a good wet suit with a layer of insulation or a dry suit with ditto.
I've seen the kite surfers out in much bigger wind, but never in such great numbers. I couldn't understand how they managed not to run into each other or get tangled in each other's lines. Kite surfing is an extreme sport. You've got to trust who's out there in the water with you right? Or hope you can.

I didn't have my camera with me. It was 3:00 p.m. With the time change set back one hour, I knew if I went home to fetch my camera, they'd probably be off the water by the time I got back at 4:00 p.m. And, when the wind dies down, they're off the water relaxing, calming down from the adrenaline rush, and enjoying the setting sun before packing up. Sorry, I failed you here. They were off the water when I got back. Motto: "Always carry a camera!" But it's still a nice shot.
What's that commotion in the trees?

I caught up with the kite surfers again in the same location on Lac Deschenes on the Ottawa River the second week in November when a kite was caught in the trees. It caught my eye. I've never seen that before.

This time my camera was with me. I decided to talk to some of them for the very first time to get some insight on the sport and a little bit of kite surfer news! You can only catch up with them when they're on the ground!
Kite surf and lines caught in the trees, Lac Deschenes, Ottawa River. Gatineau, Quebec, Canada.
Me: "Hi there! Bummer. So what happened? New at the sport or the wind wasn't your friend?"

Kite surfer's buddie: "A little bit of both I think. The wind shifted."

Me: "What were the wind speeds today?"

Kite surfer's buddie: "About 15 knots."

Me: "How long are the kite lines?"

Kite surfer's buddie: "100 feet long."

Me: "Are you guys with a club?"

Kite surfer's buddie: "No, we're just a bunch of crazy maniacs who come out here when the wind picks up! But there is a local forum on Yahoo where we communicate."

Me: "There's a big tear in the kite. How much do you think it will cost to fix?"
Kite surfer's buddie: "About $300."
Me: "How much does a kite cost?"

Kite surfer's buddie: "About $1,000."

Ok, let's have a moment of quiet silence for the kite surfer. He wasn't injured and got his kite and lines down from the tree and was lucky to have some good buddies to help him, but he'll be off the water until the kite gets fixed, unless he has a spare.

I shot some video of the kite surfers that day, and may post it here later. In the video, I could see how easy it is for a kite with 100 foot long lines to get caught in trees along a shoreline when the wind is blowing hard or suddenly shifts.

The guys here were taking it all in stride and all working together.

I talked to another kite surfer who was enjoying the early sunset and in no hurry to pack up!

Me: "It looks like it's all guys doing this sport. Are there any girls around here who kite surf too?"

Ottawa kite surfer: "There are about four girls in the area doing it too."

Me: "Has the kite surfing been good around the Ottawa area this year?"

Ottawa kite surfer: "The wind wasn't that good this summer. But November has been great! Today (Monday, November 7), we had a good consistent wind around 15 knots. It's sunny, and it's fairly warm for November at 17 degress Celsius!"

Me: "How long have you been kite surfing?"

Ottawa kite surfer: "Two years now. It's replaced golf!"

Me: "How do you know when the wind conditions are right?"

Ottawa kite sufer: "We check the hourly forecast at Environment Canada."

Me: "So when the wind picks up and conditions are right, everyone just shows up? What about work and other things?"

Ottawa kite surfer: "I've got a few Get-out-of-jail-free cards!"

Me: "What are the favourite spots around here for kite surfing?"

Ottawa kite surfer: "Haydon Park and Britannia Bay in Ottawa, and where we are now at Lac Deschenes, Gatineau, Quebec."

Me: "I've seen some of these guys jump pretty high in the air. How high do they go?"

Ottawa kite surfer: "Some can go 20 to 30 feet in the air."

For Paddlers

When the wind is up off the Aylmer Marina on the big Lac Deschenes section of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, I sometimes head out with one of my sea kayaks to play in the water in the little bay next to the Aylmer Marina to see if I can catch waves big enough to surf a bit.

You need the right kind of wind that makes big enough and fast enough waves to do this. Sometimes the wind is blowing hard, but the waves are too small to surf.  It's what I call annoyance wind that just makes paddling a pain or dangerous! (If you know what this type of wind is called, please let me know.) But it can still be good wind for a kite surfer. They prefer consistent wind. Like us in sea kayaks, gusty winds and unpredictable wind shifts can be dangerous and hard to manage.

When the kite surfers are out, I never paddle in to the area that they are kite surfing. They are moving at great speeds with high winds in their kites and are managing kite lines that are 100 feet long. I don't want to tangle with them or get in their way. It's the same for beach goers and bystanders.

If I go in to the water, I stay in an area I know that the kite surfers don't go in to, that I already know fairly well from paddling during calmer days and doesn't have shallow rock patches that the wind and waves will throw me in to.  

Some windy days are perfect for me to play in my Boreal Baffin or Maelstrom Vital 166. Other times I realize, I'd just be dumped over in a second. But at least on days when I show up with one of my kayaks and the kite surfers are out and I know that I can't manage the conditions in a sea kayak, I can enjoy watching the extreme sport of kite surfing from the shore!

If you're a paddler, you may want to learn more about kite surfers and kite surfing. It's an awesome sport!

Enjoy the November images below of kite surfing on the Ottawa River!
More Information about Kite Surfing
Happy paddles and kite surfing!
The BaffinPaddler

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