The Long Walk

December 30, 2017
December 30, 2017 Andrew Spidahl

The Long Walk

Twice I made the long walk. Both times for me it happened when I was playing in the bigger waves, 400 meters out. The first time I was on our Cabrinha Switchblade 7m. The winds were strong and the day was waning, but there was still enough light on the water to kite–almost glowing. I tried a to launch off a ramp of a wave and got turned around in mid air, accidentally diving my kite into the water as I followed. Smack! Splash! When I got my bearings and tried to relaunch, the kite bucked wildly in the wind and I could see it was losing air. “Time for self-rescue,” I thought. I pulled the safety loop and wound up my lines. When I got to the kite it was mostly deflated. I folded it up the best I could and with my board in one hand and the kite in the other, turned toward the shore, now with lights twinkling. It probably took me most of ten minutes to go 400 meters, and when I neared shore I saw a dark figure was coming out to meet me. It was Kallie. “Hey, you okay?” I was fine; it was good to be met in the dusk and water by my wife.

The second time was in the daylight, but the winds were stronger. In fact, I was borrowing a 5m kite from JF and Annemilie, and I revisited almost the exact same scenario. Up I went off a wave, maybe 12 feet in the air, and zoom–BAM! I hit the water hard. It’s a bit disorienting when you hit the water–you try to determine where your kite is, where your board is, if you still have your hat and sunglasses, and if you are coming up to breath any time soon or if the next wave will douse and roll you. Usually everything is sorted within a few seconds. But this time, again, the kite flapped helplessly on the water, flipping over once or twice in the spray. I didn’t want it to get rolled by a wave, because that can either damage the kite or pull a person under, depending on the force of the wave. So I quickly pulled what’s known as the chicken loop to de-power the kite, and I wound up the lines. Another kiter came by and signaled that he could bring my board in, which made it easier. Still another offered to tow me in on a body drag, but I was doing fine and the water was only waist deep. It was slow going, but this way I could hold the kite mostly above water. Since this wasn’t my kite, I was a bit more anxious about it’s welfare, and as I neared shore I saw Annemilie snapping a few photos with a big smile on her face.

Thankfully, both times the kite was a relatively easy fix–just a blown strut tube or a popped-open deflate valve. We had to drain some water out of the 5m. When we reattached all the tubes, we found the glue was leaking around the strut mount, so we had to do an overnight fix to make sure the glue set. But both kites flew again. Jean Francois and Annemilie where gracious about their kite, as usual, reassuring me that it would have happened to one of them if not to me.

And I was grateful that both of these were long walks, and not swims. I was wearing my foot protection, which gave me a bit more confidence walking slowly that distance over coral and occasional fishing gear and who knows what else–maybe somebody’s GoPro! I could always stand and I never felt panicked. Not panicked, but maybe sheepish. And for that emotion I had plenty of time to reflect on my long walks in.

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