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Old 09-07-2007, 12:01 PM
Posts: n/a
Default 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.
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