Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Kansans can now hang ten without driving to the coasts and without the 6-foot swells typical of usual surf destinations.
With the new EXTREME sport kiteboarding, all you need is a little wind and a body of water - perfect for Kansas.
"People don't realize you can surf in Kansas," says Sean Beaver, 34, Kansas' resident kiteboarding expert. "In Lawrence, it's the fastest growing water sport there is."
In fact, he says, it's growing faster than jet-skiing did in the '90s. Beaver estimates the number of kiteboarders on Clinton Lake will triple by next summer.
Sort of a cross between windsurfing and paragliding, a kiteboarder can get going with 10 mph of wind. Beaver estimates about 35 individuals kiteboard at Clinton Lake on a regular basis.
After taking a lesson in Maui five years ago, Beaver came back to Kansas hooked. He invested in the basic supplies online, racking up several thousand dollars in equipment in no time.
"I lost all sense of fiscal reality for about 3 months," Beaver says.
Since start-up costs are high - usually somewhere in the $1,500 range - Beaver avails his equipment so people can learn on without breaking the bank. He offers lessons through the Kansas City Kite Club. Beaver gives all proceeds from the $250 lessons to the Kansas City Kite Club.
"I like to give someone a full day where they can make the decision if they want to get involved in it," Beaver says. "The nice thing about kiteboarding, unlike when I started, there are actually people to help you get started."
Sebastien Ramus said it's relatively easy to learn to kiteboard in comparison to other water sports.
Though Ramus started kiteboarding with a background in windsurfing and paragliding, experience isn't necessary to learn, said the former Lawrence resident.
"I don't think you need to be very athletic," Ramus says. "You have a harness, so that takes a lot of the effort. It's not like biking or rowing."
Beaver said because of the low amount of upper-body strength required, girls can do it, too. He believes that once a few girls start kiteboarding, a lot more will follow.
Unlike windsurfing, there are more options for riders - while Beaver and Ramus typically coast at high speeds, more extreme riders do tricks.
Lawrencian Blair Sutton, who has been kiteboarding for a year, prefers to take lofty jumps.
"You look up at the kite and you think you're high," Sutton says, "But you look down and you're higher than you thought. You're just floating along in amazement and then you get down and want to do it again."
While the sport has innovated itself, getting safer over the last few years, Beaver says that it's important to understand the wind and the basics of the sport before trying it by yourself.
Sutton, who took lessons from a friend, says that the first time he kiteboarded, he felt somewhat helpless.
"I felt completely overwhelmed by the fact that I was flying a kite big enough to tow me around," he says. "You can get tossed in the air like a ragdoll."
Ramus recommends taking up kiteboarding because it's the sport is fairly portable, given the ease of packing kiteboarding supplies. He taken his 4-foot board and kite with him to France, Argentina and Florida.
"With windsurfing, you couldn't do that," Ramus says.