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Old 08-21-2009, 02:14 PM
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Default Toronto Star

"Kiteboards up, up and away!
Kiteboarding devotees say their sport mixes elements of surfing, wakeboarding, soaring and voodoo Some keep on flying in winter,

Wanted: Lightwind machine. Anything considered. Must be modern ...
Nadina Kaminer has read her share of ads like that one, sifting through the Internet for the latest she can find about kiteboarding.
At this moment, however, Kaminer is floating over the choppy waters of Lake Ontario, borne aloft by a kite, a prayer and some very strong lines.
It looks, for a second, like she's flying. Flying, floating, falling, sploosh.
Her board raises a spray as she briefly skims the surface of the choppy lake.
"I can go higher," she shouts toward shore.
The 30-year-old adjusts her "control bar," which operates four lines attached to the huge kite soaring nearly nine storeys overhead. Those lines make her appear almost like a marionette, except she's the one pulling the strings (most of the time). A subtle tug here and a quick adjustment there, and she's aloft once again, grabbing a couple of seconds of coveted "air time."
"I do it in the winter, too," she later explains on shore. Except in winter she uses a snowboard and flies over the ice and snow of frozen lakes.
"The landings hurt a lot more," she laughs.
Kaminer is one of a rapidly growing number of people hooked on the latest extreme sport: kiteboarding. Devotees say there's nothing else like it — an activity that combines elements of surfing, wakeboarding, soaring and voodoo.
(Okay, we're kidding about the voodoo thing, but there's something pretty mystical about a sport that allows you to defy gravity. There's also something potentially dangerous, but more on that later.)
A few years back there were only a few, hard-core practitioners in Ontario. Now, an estimated 200 to 300 are skipping off the waves (or doing the odd face-plant while practising on the beach) on a windy day.
"It's unbelievable how it's growing," says Dan Sheridan, one of Ontario's pioneers in the field. For years now, he's kiteboarded at some of the world's hottest spots and has been certified as an instructor by the U.S.-based PASA — the Professional Air Sports Association.
Sheridan says it was love at first sight.
"I saw it on one of those weird extreme TV channels years ago and I thought: `I'll try that.'"
Sheridan was wise enough to get good instruction. He says it's crucial.
"Some people have gone out with no instruction and quite a few people have been hurt. If you get dragged into a person downwind of you at 30, 50 kilometres an hour without knowing how the kite's working, you don't just hurt yourself."
"It's similar to hang-gliding and skydiving, in that it's a fun and exhilarating sport," explains American Christopher Nygard, chair of the PASA Kiteboarding Industry Council, which represents manufacturers.
"But the laws of physics can bear down heavily on you if you're not paying attention."
When things do go wrong, they can go wrong very quickly. Particularly, it seems, for those who ignore standard safety procedures. A number of Internet forums (such as and contain first-person accounts that sound like the latest Fox special: When Good Kites Go Bad.
People have been dragged down beaches, across streets, into trees and buildings — and more. Check out this story, taken from one of those Web sites. It tells of a Florida incident involving a professional kiteboarding competitor. He did not follow two of the cardinal rules of the sport: wear a helmet and ensure there are no obstacles for a considerable distance downwind when launching.
"Immediately following launch he was violently dragged into the truck, smashing in the grill and hood with his body.... He then plowed into the windshield, smashing it. He was then lofted up and over the vehicle to a height of 20 feet and violently landed upside down hitting his head and shoulder on the ground.
"Two bystanders rushed up and grabbed him, which re-powered the kite. ALL THREE people were then lofted onto some large boulders in the water. The two bystanders let go at this point. The rider was dragged at speed out over the water and into a `No Wake' manatee sign, bending/breaking the sign with his body."
Oh yes. He was then dragged on to a sandbar. In all, he had been pulled along the ground or involuntarily "lofted" through the sky a distance of more than 100 metres.
He survived. But his actions, which had threatened the safety of others, caused authorities to consider banning kiteboarding from this "launch site." In fact, safety concerns have led to several bans in the U.S.
And that's part of the reason there's a widespread emphasis within this upstart movement on greater safety and training. The man who posted the above story, founder and director of the Florida Kitesurfing Association, has been leading the industry in promoting safe kiteboarding.
"My message is to kiteboard responsibly," says Rick Iossi, whose top 10 suggestions for safer kiteboarding can be found at
"You'll be less likely to threaten bystanders accidentally and, in general, you'll preserve our access."
(Iossi tells De-classified you'll also preserve your noggin. He had his own epiphany a few years back that left him with a bout of amnesia and a very healthy respect for the power of the kites and the wind.)
In Toronto, the kiteboarding community says there have been no serious accidents, nor any run-ins with windsurfers or sailors. Most of those who take to the water at Ashbridge's Bay or Cherry Beach have already earned their chops at less populated locales. All of the kiteboarders De-Classified spoke with stressed the need for safe, graduated instruction.
"The main thing we teach is safety. Eighty per cent of kiteboarding is about controlling the power — and ensuring that spectators are safe," says Paul Peic (, another PASA certified instructor.
Despite the apparent risks, Peic also emphasizes that — providing you follow the rules — the sport itself is safe. Not only safe, but relatively easy to learn. Most people he teaches pick up the basics in anywhere from three to six hours.
"It looks complicated, but once you're comfortable with the kite, it's easy," he says.
And because the lines do all the heavy lifting through a harness that you're strapped into, you don't have to be superman (or Nadina Kaminer) to grab some airtime.
"It feels kind of like an anti-gravity machine — it's really amazing. You just float down to the water, similar to a parachute," Peic says.
On a recent windswept day, he was showing the ropes (and the safety mechanisms) to Philip Posgate, a 31-year-old software developer. Within half an hour or so, Posgate was demonstrating decent control over a training kite on the beach, including learning how to immediately render it harmless should the wind pick up.
Soon after that, he took his first tentative surges on the board. He loved it.
"I'm going to totally buy gear," he said after completing his lesson. He expects to pay about $3,000 to buy everything he needs. Including a good helmet."
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
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