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Kite Zen and The Georgian Bay Jan 29th 2010
Posted by: Chris Hess


Saturday, January 30th 2010 I awoke with the excitement of the kiting day ahead. We are kitting the majestic Georgian Bay, in my old stomping ground of Dillon Ontario, near Parry Sound. It was one of the coldest mornings yet this year with the temperatures dipping close to the –25. Way colder once you add the wind chill bringing the temps to likely – 35. It was very cold. Cars would not start. The smoke from woodstoves came out of the chimney to immediately fall to the ground … the trees were cracking… the deep snow on the ground absorbing all sound like acoustic panels in a recording studio. Very quiet very cold …

This is the perfect kite day for me … My brother Patrick and girlfriend Rachel are here as well, on the farm preparing and layering up for the cold fun that lays ahead. Bear the dog is coming along for the fun of the day. I feel bad for him that he is locked up all day while I am @ work so this is a treat for him. He can run free between the Islands that he knows as his backyard.

The wind was blowing the snow off the 70-foot evergreens that surround the first house on the farm property as we pack up for our adventure. A 10-minute drive and we are at our landing, the place where our fun begins. I get the last of my gear on while the wind and snow blows across the vehicle turnaround right beside the frozen lake.

We make our way out onto the lake and start to walk past the rock cliff that is blocking our needed wind. The wind gave us our perfect day, greeting us with a blast of cold that would freeze a person solid if they were not prepared. I set up a 2.5 m trainer kite for Rachel so she can get the hang of it … and set up a 4.5m kite for Pat … I take the 4.5m out for a ride in the big wind and have a little fun with it in our small Bay. This is going to be a very good kite day as all the right parameters are in place. Wind, good solid ice and kiting gear ... and very warm clothes that ice climbers use to top out on the coldest peaks of K2 or Everest. I am prepared.

I give Pat my 4.5 M kite so he can go and take a spin … and give Rachel a few kitting tips from which she masters the kite in seconds. Like a pro, Pat has his game on and gets out taking a few runs … I set up my big 10.5m kite in the hopes that its not too large and that I will not be carried away to the other side of the bay.

The Smart 10.5m Kite is actually the perfect kite for these conditions. I make my way out of the Bay, Bear the dog following behind … This is my dogs backyard and he knows the lay of the land very well … We have explored these landscapes many times in Winter, summer spring and fall … so I have no worries about letting him run free. He keeps an eye on me as he sniffs from one island to another, following the faded footprints and scent of wildlife like wolves and rabbit, foxes and other animals scouring the land in search of precious nutrition that is scarce out here this time of year.

The perfect wind brings me up to a nice cruising speed as I make my way out to the big outside forum where you can see forever. This is Georgian Bay. As I fly past the last multi million dollar cottage on its very own private island (this one owned by Irwin toys family) I get hit by a massive wind … this is there the wind is unbroken, undisturbed by the landscape … I am out in Zen land now. I make a turn slightly upwind towards Red Rock Light house about 7 km offshore. As I skim along the perfect ice I can see a very wide dark spot, a pressure crack ahead of me and I slow myself down from the 80-90 km per hour to a dead standstill about 30 feet away from this dark abyss… Hum. Its about 5 feet wide and dark and wet … this must be open water. Very disappointing … I must get past this pressure crack. But I am alone out here and if I happen to fall thru it’s going to take all my energy to get me out of this cold and watery grave. Plus I am about 7 km from the comfort of a warm woodstove. A mighty risk to take on my own … I decide to make my way back to our bay and collect my friend Andrew… I tell him the conditions are perfect. But fail to mention the big wet gap of the pressure crack …

Well in no time Andrew and I are out in the big white expanse and make our way out to the dark ominous crack on the ice shelf …We both are hitting well over 60-70 km per hour on our journey to this point …… We look at each other and contemplate the negatives of falling thru the ice on this very cold and windy day … but we decide to venture on. I have complete trust that my bud would fish me out if I ever fell thru and he the same confidence in me. I decide to make a run for it across this 5 foot gap … I get about 500 feet away from it. And start to gather speed as to have enough velocity to skim across … as I approach I get a little nervous, but a split second latter I am on the dark spot. The water grabbing onto my skis like the strong hands of a frozen devil from below, instantly slowing me down … from mach speed to stall … I can feel the back of my skis start to sink as I think … OK. Here we go for a swim … in minus 20. Miles offshore … crap!!… All of a sudden my back skis hit hard solid ice below the water and I am thru the watery pressure crack onto the other ice floe. Wow. My heart beating ferociously, I stop and Watch as Andrew is coming full force to join me … he crosses with ease but I am sure with the same thoughts of how cold this water would be against our skin.

We are both over this cold obstacle and decide we cannot slow down or fall, as we don’t know how thick the ice is below our feet. One only needs about 2 –3 inches of ice to support a kilter, but if that kiter falls and impacts the ice. They risk falling thru. It does happen on thin ice on occasion ...One does not want to put them selves in this position … but here we are Andrew and I build up speed with our fast high end Concept Air kites reaching speeds of over 60-80km per hour – going like a frozen bat out of frozen hell … I look at him and know below the face mask and layers of frost bite protection that he is smiling ear to ear. Because I am as well …this is where, if your passion is this, that you realize Heaven is on this frozen earth. Well temporarily this time of year. We start to make our way to the Red Rock lighthouse at very fast paces, gliding effortlessly. The ice and wind are so perfect that the kite flies itself and the sport becomes an so relaxed that you can enjoy your surroundings … We are miles offshore now and zip out here for a long while … the sun just about to set on the westerly horizon, giving the landscape a special glory hour glow that makes every snow crystal sparkle like a diamond. Wow so much to take in. this is my Zen. After what seemed to be hours of time we decide to head back before the day’s light expired on us making our return journey even more challenging… … We could not leave this spot and kept kitting till our feet literally fell off. The winds, ice and scenery were so majestic that I could not stop …… more time past and at this point we decide to get back to the security of our little bay, nestled along the dark shore that seems to be one mass of land from our perspective. Time stands still out here. It’s a desolate place that if someone were to drop you off in it. One would think there would be no escape from this place … this is where I am most happy and relaxed and at peace with myself …all other life challenges seem so insignificant once you are out here, in this position and mind frame having to rely on your core power and skills to let you live another day to get out and do it all over again. Because this is where you find peace, and discover the beauty of this landscape, in this disposable, socio-economical world that we frequent for a very short time. In the great picture of things, we are only here for a blink of an eye as far as out planet is concerned and then we are gone for others to follow in our footsteps till their blink has come and gone … and our planet turns on with or without us …

So go enjoy your time now, because tomorrow, it may be someone else’s time to blink …

Written by Chris Hess Jan 30th 2010 for www.speedkiter.com