These people FLY over the water (and other stuff!).

Have you ever seen someone shooting over the surface of the water only to hit a wave and go 20 feet or more up into the air before landing again? Does the idea of participating in an exciting wind powered sport connect with your internal circuitry? If you have never experienced the sport of kite surfing in person, then you might want to wander out to the beach at Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon for a closer look.
Seeing kite surfing on television is great, but it is nothing compared to a live demonstration. We went out to the kite festival in Grand Haven last month and discovered that the winds were too powerful on the last day for the kites to fly. While the wind was too much for stunt kite teams, there was a group of wet suit clad people making the most of it over by the pier. Hudsonville resident Brad Knoth was putting on a show that day that left us slack jawed in amazement.
He is known in kite boarding circles as “BK” or by the moniker “Big Air” and he was living up to the latter nickname in the 30 plus mile per hour winds. BK would come zooming down the edge of the pier towards shore in the relatively calm waters, sort of like a surfer shooting the pier, and then head downwind and launch himself off the tops of waves to astonishing heights. While in the air he would spin and twist, recovering his balance just in time to land on the surface of the water and do it all over again.
BK has been kite surfing for seven years and he was a windsurfer for 18 years before that. He identifies himself as a “semi-professional” because while he is a team rider for Cabrinha, a manufacturer of kites, controls, and boards for the sport, he also holds down a day job as the president of Advantage Label and Packaging in Kentwood.
When asked about making the transition from windsurfing to kite surfing, his answer was simple.
“Windsurfing was two dimensional and kiting is three dimensional,” BK explained. “Also, you can have a riot in a lot less wind than it takes for windsurfing. And I can fit all my gear into the trunk of my car”.
BK and many others involved in the sport do not limit themselves to being pulled over the water by their kites. He uses wind power to snowboard, flies over the sand on a wakeboard, zips over the ice on skates, and has even done some land surfing on a large skateboard outfitted with pneumatic wheels. Seems like the most logical method to make the most of the winds of West Michigan and the investment in a kite.
Nothing makes BK happier than putting up a small kite in gale force winds and shooting down the coastline for 15 to 20 miles. He did admit to having some ugly moments when wiping out on a monster wave and being pushed to the bottom of the lake.
All things considered, BK is a vocal proponent of the sport. He assured us that just about anyone with a desire can get involved in the sport. While he encourages newbies of all ages to give kite surfing a try, he is also an advocate of learning the proper methods and getting acquainted with the importance of safety before jumping into Lake Michigan to zip over the waves. He strongly recommends proper schooling in the sport.
As luck would have it, the same day we watched BK catching major air, we met Carol Cooper from North Muskegon. Her enthusiasm for kites and kite surfing was very evident from the outset of our conversation. She just started last year, but she has taken a two day learning camp from Mackinaw Kite Company. Like BK, Carol has been windsurfing since the 80’s and she wants to take it to the next level. She started out flying stunt kites and then saw some people kite surfing and was hooked.
“I am always looking for a better adrenaline rush,” Carol told us. “I don’t think people realize how much power the kites have until they hold one in their hands.”
Because she is a relative newcomer to the sport, Carol was not out in the water in the heavy winds that day in Grand Haven. She told us that earlier she had been practicing with her trainer kite on shore, but the winds were so powerful the kite put her on her backside, flipper her over and started dragging her across the sand before she could bring it under control, (and this is the same wind BK and others were surfing in!).
Carol is also an advocate of proper training, but she is adamant that anyone with the desire can have fun with the sport. She mentioned that there is a Tuesday night kite fly at the State Park in Grand Haven from 6:30 to 8:30 pm during June, July, and August. It is a good way to become acquainted with kites and kite boarding before making the investment in equipment.
Carol is full of compliments for the kiting community. She related that the veteran kite surfers are forthcoming with advice and encouragement for beginners. She is a little surprised that more women are not involved in the sport and encourages them to check it out.
Carol is a free lance photographer and she took the picture of BK getting major air. More of her kite surfing pictures can be seen at http://www.studiophotos.net/ and choose “photobear photography” from the list.
The best beach on which to find kite surfers is at the Pere Marquette Park. Muskegon has made this a very kite friendly beach and both Carol and BK assured us that anytime the wind speed is over 15 knots you are likely to find kite surfers in the water there.
BK did have some stern words of caution about his favorite sport and the dangers of getting involved.
“I can’t recommend it,” he joked. “Because it is so amazing and addictive that it will take over your life.”
From the smile on Brad Knoth’s face he is happy with his addiction.
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