Brotherhood of the wind soars on Christmas day
KAPA‘A — Brisk onshore winds coupled with moderate surf kept the boarders out of the water.
“We come out in all kinds of weather, even in horizontal rain,” said Mike Joseph, one of a group of wind surfers whose colorful high-tech craft dotted the sand at Fuji Beach.
“The winds are dying out now. There’s barely enough wind to keep anyone out there, so the kiters are all coming in,” said Nick Moore, another of the enthusiasts for the sport that catches people’s eye due to the bright kites that power the riders.
But Chris White, one of the veteran riders, was not going to let that stop him from enjoying the sport. He picked up a board from a selection of boards, and following just a short adjustment, went skimming off, a spray of water announcing his departure into the winds.
“He’s lighter than most of us, and his kite is balanced for his weight so he can do this,” Moore said. “Additionally, he has several boards to choose from.”
White and Joseph are one of the two original kite surfers who started appearing on the island about six years ago.
“This (Fuji Beach) is where it all started, and it’s still the best place to do this,” Joseph said while watching White’s maneuvers out on the water. “We go to Wailua, but this is still the best place.”
Joseph estimates there are more than a 100 kite enthusiasts on the island currently.
“People come in and out all the time,” Joseph said. “Plus I get to meet people from all over who do kite surfing.”
Sonny Reser, at 66 years young, is considered one of the elder kiters.
“I’ve been doing it for about three years,” Reser said. “I was out wind surfing on Maui and I saw this French guy doing this. I just followed him to the beach and asked him, ‘What is this and how can I get started?’ I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Reser said kite surfing is one of the fastest growing sport in the nation.
But it wasn’t always that way, Moore said. At one point, there were no materials. With the advent of high-tech and space-age materials, the sport is now flourishing.
“The breakthrough came when the manufacturers figured out how to put air in the leading edge of the sail,” Reser said. “Up until then, if your kite went down in the water, there was no way to relaunch it. You were done.”
Kite surfing, or boarding, takes a special breed of athlete, Joseph said. “It’s more than a sport. It’s a brotherhood. As an example, you can’t launch or land by yourself. You need someone else to help you.”
The sport also has its dangers, and Joseph said there are many stories about people getting injured and sent to the hospital from crashes and burns in the sport.
He pointed out how one kiter was pulled off his feet, carried a distance and dumped into the boulders with his kite out of control.
But it didn’t end there. With the kite still out of control, the rider was lifted again and dumped into a nearby naupaka thicket.
The kiter was finally dumped into another naupaka thicket, his knee shot from the collision with the boulder. The out of control kite flew into the utility lines and crashed into a metal gate on the other side of the road, Joseph said.
“It’s just the pretty sport people see when they see the colorful kites playing in the wind,” he said. “There’s a lot of danger involved if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Joseph said you need to be a good waterman before you even think of becoming a kiter.
“If you get into trouble out in the water, you have to be able to dump $2,000 worth of equipment,” Moore said. “It takes a very special person to be a kiter.”