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So.. it's been 5 years between posts...

posted Aug 8, 2019, 12:35 PM by Thomas DeMille   [ updated Aug 9, 2019, 10:55 AM ]
Wow...  I can't believe that I started kiteboarding ~20 years ago.   My first kite was a 1998 Wipika.  That was a great kite (NOT).   If you flew it over your head and stopped moving it constantly it would fly behind you, stall, and drop on top of you, usually spooling all of the kiteline around you as it came down, then predictably it would power back up once you had enough kiteline wrapped around your legs.  I LOVED it.   Every chance I had I was out there trying to figure it all out.  

I became interested in kiteboarding when my friend Paul mentioned he had 'seen a guy with a big kite on a surfboard' crossing an inland salt pond on Martha's Vineyard.  I had never heard of, or seen kiteboarding.  In fact, nobody had except for a few pioneers in Hawaii and few water sport enthusiast that had heard about them.  When I searched up 'big kite , ride on water' I was surprised to see that it was actually a sport and one could order equipment and have it shipped from Hawaii.  

My first kiteboard was a beast, it must have weighed ... 15 lbs.  I don't know, it was a really long, really heavy directional.  Can't find any pictures of old kiteboards, but it SOOOO heavy.

I learned a few days here, a few days there (as I lived near Boston and kite beaches were not.. present).   Martha's Vineyard is where I did the majority of my learning, and that included my kite getting hit by a truck (with me attached) on beach road near state beach, getting dragged through poison ivy, and going one way across a pond and ending up walking miles along a golf course to a place where I could borrow a phone and get a ride.

After 3 or 4 frustrating years a few things happened.  The gear started to improve and I took a visit to Rodanthe NC to the first or second year that Real Kiteboarding was open.  They were operating out of a house they had just bought from a farmer.  As the story was told to me, they came up with the idea, were scouting locations, found 'the slick' behind the last house for sale that a developer hadn't already bought, pressed 2000 dollars cash into the farmer's hands and made him promise not to sell it to anyone else until they could get financing.  I'm sure my memory of that story has some inaccuracies, but the point is.... they had just started, I was one of their early clients, and it made ALL the difference in the world.  I went from barely going downwind to trying backrolls (not successfully) in a few days.  I continued my journey, twice yearly if I could, until I ended up moving to SC at the end of 2005.  I only made one more trip to NC after that because... why bother if you live in Charleston!

The reason I chose Charleston was because I had randomly called Adam at Earth and Air kiteboarding when my wife and I were scouting a southern location to move to.  Adam told me that you could kiteboard about 100 days or more a year here.  I was ready to move the next day.  My wife needed some more convincing so I correlated my found kiteboarding spot to the newly opened Whole Foods market and told her.. hey, it has a Whole Foods, must be OK right?  Actually my wife loves the beach so much really I had her with 'beach', but that's another story.  In actuality it was her that convinced me to leave my friends and family in the Boston area and I have been grateful ever since.

When I first started kiteboarding here it was a very small and fairly close knit community.  I guess it still is to an extent, but in 2005 pretty much everyone knew everyone.  As the sport started to grow, and horror stories about kiteboarding circulated nationally (most exaggerated, incorrect, or based on bad equipment and poor choices),  the town's began to become concerned.  Especially Sullivan's Island.  There were some residents that had connections to board members and a police officer that were not big fans of kiteboarding.  We began to become concerned that if we didn't self-police we might end up getting banned or severely limited, like the place in FL that gave out tags.

That was the genesis of this site.   Around the time I launched this a number of us were also involved in speaking at town council meetings, printing flyers with the rules on them (I still have like 2000 Tyvek flyers somewhere), and generally trying to make sure that the town knew that we were responsible adults that could self police and not cause any harm.

Kiteboarders also were involved in a number of rescues or rescue assists around this time.  Personally I found 3 young children about a mile off shore, clinging to a lone boogie board, in front of breach inlet.  They got caught up in the current on the sandbar and their parents didn't notice.  I got a person with a boat to pick them up,  very scary to think what would have happened if I didn't chance upon them past the outer sandbar.    My friend Chris McCrae almost killed himself pulling in an older gentleman who lost a part on his sailboard and refused to let go of it.  Chris is a strong and fit dude and I swear it almost killed him dragging that entire setup in about a mile.   

There is a picture of Chris jumping with his dog barking at him to the left.  

Speaking about pictures to the left, that underground board with the crazy graphics on the bottom that I'm riding was an awesome board, the first one with quad channels, I still ride quad channels to this day.

So I'm rambling a bit now but I have a lot of awesome kiteboarding memories, especially here in Chucktown.    Personally my kiteboarding stoke is not what it was 10 years ago.  I kind of got as good as a guy my age was going to get and I'm on the downslope now.  I can still pull my favorite hooked in trick, a frontroll with a downloop (which pulls you like super-man downwind, very fun).  I'm not as good as I was but I still frigging love it when I get out there.    There was a time in my life where I thought about kiteboarding every day, I'm not there anymore but I cherish the memories and I still get out there more than many.

People still visit this site and I hope that the 10+ year old rules posted on this site (while perhaps not 100% up to date) act as a guide and help beginners start out in the right place, avoid swimmers, etc.

See you on the water, kite safely.

Tom DeMille


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