Even my beloved kiteboarding, my sanctuary, my lazy man’s Zen is new and complicated and confusing. Kiting at Crissy I feel like the frog in Frogger. There can be one current going one direction and another going the complete opposite at the same time. The wind is light and swirly on shore and nukin’ in the middle. There are huge shipping container ships rolling through bringing all the plastic crap from China to fill our stores and eventually our landfills. There are sail boats, tourist boats, crazy yachting boats going every which way. The prospect of kiting Crissy scares me because almost every story I ever heard ends in “and I got picked up by the Coast Guard”.
When I kite I like to just go out and lose myself in it. I can be two hours on the water and not even realize it. But that was at my old beach where the wind turned on and stayed on. Where all we had were big fun – usually predictable waves and great white sharks to worry about.
I must confess. I’ve been avoiding going out. I’ve been here almost 3 weeks and today was the first day I actually made it out. I used several of the avoidance techniques I’ve seen with coaching clients. Confusion: Oh, was that good wind today? I couldn’t tell. Avoidance: Oh darn, I got your text that it was good too late. Dragging my feet: Awww, it shut down just as I got here.
With every thing else in life requiring so 3x more effort I just haven’t had the necessary energy and confidence and chillness to tackle kiting Crissy.
But there is only so long one can make those excuses without putting one’s credentials as a kiter at risk. So today I decided I was going to make friends with Crissy.
The crew is awesome. I’ve met a few people before. Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful and explained about things to watch out for. They helped me launch and promised to make sure I made it back in.
I had a few good tacks – first thing I need to do is adjust my foot straps. They are so hard set for my goofy foot wave riding that I can’t even ride the board the other way. The tacks are long and over choppy water – a tough ride toe side.
On one tack I thought, “I should go in, I don’t want to push my luck”. Instead I decided on one more tack out. This time I couldn’t get above “Anita Rock” a buoy just off shore I guess marking a rock named Anita. I wonder how a rock came to be named Anita. They had told me to come in above that. I was coming in below it. I took another tack out. Still too low. I took another long, long tack. At least it seemed long to me and went back. Still too low and now the wind was backing off. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of the wind just cutting off at Crissy.
I decided to go for “Last Chance Beach”. Then my kite fell. I couldn’t get it back up. Ok, I’d swim for the beach. I did a horrible job of wrapping up my lines. I haven’t done that since I had to do it during my lessons 6 years ago.
Fortunately I listened to everyone and threw and extra leash on my harness to attach my board in case things went wrong. Board and kite under control. Concentrating on swimming for shore. I had a small moment of panic as Last Chance beach slipped past.
Ok, my last, last chance was the harbor with the slippery barnacley steps, but at least leading to dry ground. I kicked. I swam. I was breathing hard. The harbor was slipping by. I was caught in a flood current and the wind was off shore so using my kite as a sail would have been counter productive. Though it would have put me on a course for Alcatraz. Then maybe I could’ve caught a ride back with the Alcatraz tourist boat. Instead I waved to shore for help. Some friendly fishermen waved back. Fortunately others thought to call for help.
Usually the bay is filled with boats whizzing about like the cars and trucks of Frogger. Today, not even one slightly intoxicated yachter.
Soon sirens split the air. I knew they were probably for me. Relief knowing people knew I was there and that they were coming for me. And I then “No, no! I’m fine! I don’t need 3 trucks and the hook and ladder! Just a little boat will do.
Then there was a low buzz, two jetskiis bouncing across the water heading my way. My whole body relaxed and I realized how tense I had been. I was a mess, tangled in my lines in my board leash. I flopped up on the sled in the back of the ski and we started in. Then the boat arrived. Their efficiency was amazing. One person grabbed my board, another held the kite while I deflated it and four powerful arms hauled me in like a big bag of potatoes. All the fire fighters were super nice and they made very sure I didn’t need any medical attention. Really there was nothing wrong with me that a good shot of tequila wouldn’t fix.
As we pulled into the harbor I threw up my arms in victory to the crowd that had gathered on the pier to watch my rescue. A little cheer drifted across the water as they threw their hands up as well.
The firefighters had me sit and get myself together in the harbor. Two of the people who called me in came to talk to me. It turns out they had been watching me for some time and about the time I gave up and signaled for help was when they had decided to call for help anyway. My options for getting to shore had run out.
Jordan, a photographer who has a boat in the Marina and who called me in gave me a ride back to Crissy. Yep, I came back the conquering hero in the gold mini-van. Jake greeted me with a cold beer and another kiter greeted me with the comment “Is this how they do it in Santa Cruz”. A cold beer and a heckle – the two signs of acceptance among kiting tribes.
It wasn’t exactly the rock star entrance I would have liked to have had for my debut on the Crissy Field kiteboarding scene. But it did reflect what I actually more truly deeply value – Community. That’s one of the things I loved about the Santa Cruz kiting scene.
Connection ran deep. With my little mishap I felt sucked right up into the community. The people cheering on the rock, the fire fighters, Jordan, Tim another kiter out riding his bike instead who came to check on me while I recuperated at the harbor. The kiters who greeted me with beer and heckles and assurance it happens to every one.
I had been so worried about having to be rescued it’s probably best I got it out of the way early. I swear it wasn’t just because I’ve heard that the rescue guys tend to be hot.