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E-Bone 09-07-2007 12:01 PM

The Skyway, aka the Highway to Hell
Reading all the recent comments about the Skyway, I imagine that new or visiting riders around here might get the false impression that the established local crew is just trying to keep the Skyway to itself.

I know I don't care to keep the spot to myself because, given that I can ride upwind at will and I can usually avoid getting blown downwind even if conditions get heavy, I have a ton of space to myself at the Skyway. When it gets crowded on the inside, I tend to go out to the sandbar and ride, well away from everyone, so I can throw some wack moves and drop my kite without getting in everyone's way or putting the kite on the beach.

There is so much space to ride at the Skyway, it is ridiculous, so the riding area itself is not going to be crowded unless everyone wants to ride just off of the beach to show off (which is a waste of time, given that I've never seen anyone get laid because they can throw a lame-ass backroll).

Also, the launch is tight and not recommended for beginners, but I have seen a lot worse. The launch in Cabarete in much worse, with 100 kites on the beach, lines everywhere, horses and dogs running by, chicks in butt floss distracting everybody, the local kids throwing handle passes 10 feet off of the sand, and plenty of fixed objects to get dragged into. So, while the Skyway launch is a negative factor for new riders, I am not sure that it is dispositive on the issue, even though new kiters should always be trending toward wide-open launches.

What is unavoidable at the Skyway, however, is what is downwind, namely rocks, mangroves, bridges, and an interstate highway. Most new riders would not considered launching, in a perfect sideshore breeze, 100 yards directly upwind of a jetty, exposed reef, or some other obvious hazard straight downwind. At the Skyway, however, the same rider might be inclined to go for it, thinking that the launch area itself affords a buffer. Unfortunately, such a conclusion is flawed.

If you get out on an onshore wind at the Skyway and tack upwind, you will find that the distance between the southern and northern ends of the sandy launch is quite short. It takes just several seconds to cover its entire length. After you are outside of that spot, you are directly upwind of rocky shores that are right next to the road. Keep going in either direction and you end up directly upwind of a bridge. Complicating matters, as soon as the launch site is no longer straight downwind, you are in water over your head, so if you put your kite down and you are getting dragged, you are unable to stop by planting your feet on the bottom. Instead, your kite is going to hit a bridge, a seawall, or rocks (if you are lucky and the kite is not in a death spiral 30 feet in the air).

The same analysis applies if the wind comes up and you are unable to hold your position and, at the Skyway, the wind is prone to come up suddenly and with significant force.

Also, when things go bad at the Skyway, your proximity to shore, even if you make a significant effort to tack upwind, will rob you of time to react to emergencies, making it more likely that you will panic when the crap hits the fan.

I was screwing around one day last season well outside the sandbar when I dug the nose of my 118 into a wave and got spun a few times as I wrecked. I got the bar turned around in my hands when this happened without realizing it, so although my kite was doing exactly what I was telling it to do with the bar, I did not realize why the kite was flying backwards all of a sudden. I ended up getting dragged several hundred yards back toward the launch, shitting bricks the entire way, fully lit on a crazed 12m before I was able to see through my panic and reverse the bar in my hands and solve the problem.

Hazards downwind can cause you to freeze, no matter your experience level. When you see that highway looming in the midst of a kitemare, you realize that you are on a Highway to Hell.

In kiteboarding, it is a great idea to take advantage of wisdom that was paid for with someone else's flesh. Save your body for learning wild tricks and don't trash yourself repeating stupid mistakes that others have already made. Learning anything the hard way in this sport is a waste of time, money, and health.

The bottom line is this--the Skyway is a cool kiteboarding spot that is fully integrated into the fabric of our local scene, but it is hardly the only game in town or even the best spot to ride in terms of conditions and natural beauty. Insisting on riding the Skyway as a beginning rider is like chasing a tattooed, nipple-ringed, whip-wielding heavy metal dominatrix when you are trying to lose your virginity. Yeah, you'll lose your cherry, just not the way you imagined you would.

The Skyway will be waiting for you once you progress to a certain level. Until you get to that level (and your progression should include facing a kitemare or two in safer waters), do yourself a favor and don't set yourself up for a real bad time.

Skyway Scott 09-07-2007 12:25 PM

Good post. I left the Skyway yesterday at 5pm to ride a better spot.
The spot I rode had one other rider (Donna), stronger wind, and was awesome.
I ride there all the time. Nope, if you don't know it... sorry.

The SW is the most over visited spot in our area and I personally will ride there less and less, despite the nickname Rob Hassle gave me 6 years ago, mainly due to crowding and the fact it is often a circus. As E-bone said, it's not exactly the only game in town.
It's my opinion that any level kiter is still going down when another lands on him or jumps right through his kite lines. Not only newbies will get hurt out there this year.

popeye 09-07-2007 12:53 PM

The skyway was entertaining yesterday. Kites banging together in the air, lines crossing, jumpers landing on shore, kites crashing hard on shore (at least 6 times yesterday just while I was there), people jumping on shore 6 feet off the ground and between other kites in the air so they can hi-5 their buddy standing by the cars, kites blowing away into people and cars, some arguments on the beach, etc. Saw all of those things in just 2 hours yesterday. Pretty interesting to just hang back and watch. Guess everyone was just excited to have wind.

You can ride by the sandbar all you want... but when you come in to land watch out...

BigR 09-07-2007 01:25 PM

yep, the carnaval was there yesterday all right, I heard the organ grinder playing......

bryanleighty 09-07-2007 03:02 PM

After yesterday I'm kinda in a "whats the point" mood.

The main message for the Skyway needs to be "no beginners at all". The core group of top riders were jumping all over the place.. just off shore.. on shore.. etc.. kites crashing on the beach line.. on the beach.. etc...

(the one SS kite that ended up on the cars was actually on the beach but just not secured enought for when the winds picked up..)

but that how the skyway has been.. and how its probably going to always be. guys love to stay and jump in that center to south side of the riding area.. I kept up to the northern side between the bridge and beach and rarely had a single kiter around me.

i caught myself jumping too close to shore a couple times.. but i noted my mistake and tried to get back further. I had a number of kiters fail to give me and others right of way as we were prepping to launch.. in fact i had to move my kite as a rider was cruising the beach line as I was about ready to send my kite for a waterstart only to have the guy to a jump-transition directly at me.. i had to swing the kite way out of the way to avoid getting hit.. wind was very light or that might have come to punches.

basically .. the rocks, bridges, interstate, mangroves, cars, etc are not the hazards that inexperienced riders need to worry about. they need to worry about our experienced riders.

two experienced riders crashing into each other or coming very close and they laugh it off... that is completely cool and I see it happen a lot. add an inexperienced rider to the situation and you have a very serious problem.

popeye 09-07-2007 03:25 PM

After yesterday I don't see the point of a sign at all at the skyway. I sort of feel like the sign movement is just a big waste of time altogether.

Maybe some more wind on Sat or Sun :)

Sean B 09-07-2007 03:34 PM

Sliced the leading edge on my 16m early yesterday to some barnacles....I hate light wind. Saw a wipika get shredded too. No mercy!! Unfortunately, my kite was down all day so I saw quite a few things as well. Got to ride late evening not a total waste. :cool:

On another note:
"Juvenile," is all I have to say. Name calling and everything. Not only directed at one individual but at our community here as well. Some people need to grow up. I thought we were all adults here. :rolleyes:

Tom- let's just say, after yesterday's garbage, the "safety movement" will probably not be getting passed around the skyway....for reasons not worth mentioning here.

A-Bomb 09-07-2007 05:40 PM

The light wind always seems to get the best of me too. A couple days ago I went out and cut my foot out there while screwing around in wind that I couldn't even stay up wind in.

Interesting posts... I wasn't able to get into the sign issue recently due to a new baby. I try to keep my kiteboarding as politics free as possible anyway. Sign or not, I do get the feeling that some good may come of all the talk about the Skyway riding spot. It seems like there's a new level awareness, at least when it comes to newbies anyway, that will hopefully keep all our spots a little safer. I've always told, and will continue to tell, people to never ride at the Skyway until you are consistent at going up wind. At least when experienced riders do stupid stuff, they can usually save themselves.

popeye 09-07-2007 07:19 PM

Problem is, the beginners usually emulate what the experienced riders are doing.

A-Bomb 09-07-2007 07:32 PM

True, good point. Yet another reason for us not to get too stupid out there. My first year or two of kiteboarding, before we had crowding issues, I would occasionally jump near shore. After learning my lesson the hard way, more times than I should have, I finally beat it into my head, and my holy wetsuit, that jumping near shore is generally not a good idea.

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