I met Norm at one of my many trips to Hatteras that I take whenever I just can’t get my kite fix in Ithaca. I was down in NC for a couple of days riding by myself and I pulled into kite point and saw their larger than life camper retrofitted greyhound bus and the Flysurfer kite and I immediately struck up a conversation with Norm. I knew from my paddling experiences that French Canadians in general are some of the friendliest people you will meet in all of North America. Norm and his crew did not disappoint. He invited me to sleep in the driveway of their overpriced rental home which I gladly took them up on. It is quite fatiguing when you poach a sleeping spot under these million dollar homes thinking you’ll get woken up by the cops at any minute, but I could not afford one of those nice $150 tickets for sleeping in my van and being a world-class kite bum.
After a while my buddy Gregg showed up and he camped in their driveway with his minivan too. It was heaven, kiting all day then warm showers and our own toilet by the pool. We made all the Canadian’s dinner one night to show our gratitude and they were incredibly hospitable for the entire week. Norm even let me fly his Speed 3 15 demo he had borrowed from Ted. That demo kite inspired me to buy 2 new Speed 3’s for my quiver. After I returned, Norm invited me to tag along with them to the Caribbean for a week so I bought a ticket to fly out of Montreal and join them for a week of kiting madness.
I drove up to Montreal several days early and got to spend time doing touristy stuff. I traded my P4 12 SA for a P4 15 SA with a nice woman named Jocelyn. My kite was far more pre-enjoyed than hers was so I got the better end of the deal. The larger sized P4 was much more suited to my large size and intense riding style. I parked at night and slept in Norm’s driveway for 3 nights, but being the end of November it was pretty darn cold. I got to check out some really cool contemporary art museums as well as the science center and the Jean Talon Market where I bought a bunch of purple and yellow carrots. For three days I spent a lot of time walking around and riding the super nice subway in Montreal, I even got to watch their Christmas parade. I was a little disappointed at how their French-speaking Santa was a little underweight, everything in the US is Super-sized, especially Santa who is the icon for conspicuous overconsumption. We went to Eric’s house one night for a genuine French Canadian dinner complete with wine and a 4 course meal which really gave me a glimpse into how the French culture is still strong in Quebec. It left me wishing I had learned French instead of Spanish in high school.
The resort we stayed at was super posh, they had an all you can eat buffet that was pretty good, but for vegetarians like me the pickings were slim. It was omelets for breakfast and pasta for lunch and dinner for 8 days straight. The beach was amazing, totally beautiful and it went on for miles in either direction. We would sit in the morning watching the tractors go back and forth picking up all the seaweed that had washed up on the shore.
One of the windless days I took a scooter that Stephane had rented and rode if for a couple of hours outside the resort. The level of poverty was pretty astounding and the roads were bad enough that after an hour of riding my ass was sore so I went back to the resort.
Frank took me out at night ‘deer hunting’ and as soon as you left the resort many prostitutes would come out from nowhere and accost you. The thought of paying money to have sex with a girl who looked like she was probably 14 was pretty repulsive to me. After that incident I began to realize that there were basically 3 kinds of people at the resort.
1) People that were there for the free booze. For about $40 a day this all-inclusive resort was tough to beat if you want a place to go to drink yourself to death. There were people sitting in the pool at the bar from 9 o clock in the morning till after I was ready to go to bed. I had never seen that kind of commitment in self-intoxication in my life.
2) Really old, really ugly guys were there to have sex with ridiculously attractive, ridiculously young girls. Once I realized what was going on I found it incredibly disturbing.
3) A small minority of people who were there were just there to kite. They didn’t care about the free booze or the cheap women, they would go to bed early and be up early riding every day.
The ironic thing was that every one of these three groups of people thought that the other two were completely nuts. Every non-French Canadian I talked to only wanted to talk about how much US Citizens suck. I could hardly disagree with them, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that with the exception of Quebec that all of Canada had already been assimilated by USA Walmart/McDonalds culture. The only way you could tell the US Citizens and English-speaking Canadians apart was their overuse of the word ‘Aye’ in almost every sentence. If I want to speak with a ‘canadian accent’ all I have to do is throw in a bunch of ‘Aye’s in my sentence and presto, I’m an instant Canadian.
One of the days I rode it was positively nuking. It was my first time out with my Speed 3 12 and I was hucking huge airs and having a hard time landing anything. That kite was wicked easy to do 720 front and back rolls and it dropped you a lot faster than the S2 did. I had to learn to redirect early and hard, like I do with the Psycho 4. I also got to ride the Psycho 4 15 SA a lot and I quickly fell in love with that kite.
On one of the light wind days Norm, Joanne and Eric took off on raceboards for a super long journey. I followed them with my 141 for over and hour on one tack but a little voice inside my head told me to turn around when it looked like if anything went wrong I would have to spend 7 or 8 hours walking to get back to the resort. Eric hit a reef and destroyed his $1100 raceboard which was a pretty sad thing to see. When I turned around Joanne and Norm were well beyond what I could see, when they finally headed back it took them over an hour to ride back to the resort even on race boards.
Jacques gave me a lesson on the Paraski Flex which is one of the most unusual kites out there. I really enjoyed learning to fly a kite with a totally different control system to what I was used to. It was amazing seeing these kites that are really designed for snowkiting being used on the water, often quite successfully. For more info on the paraski flex check out the website at www.flexlibre.com .
I rode for 6 of the 8 days, many days I got to ride for over 6 hours. All and all it was a very successful trip with lots of time logged on all 3 of the kites I brought. I got pretty good at Jibbing a Rouge Wave raceboard which at first I thought was downright impossible. The raceboards were really fantastic in light winds, even better than my Jimmy Lewis 6’8” Fish that I usually use. My lightest wind session it was averaging under 8 knots and although I couldn’t stay upwind on the S3 19, I was able to go out and ride.
Looking back on the trip it was a fantastic success, I got to ride in a new place and make some new friends. I’m really excited about learning French now, after a week of listening intently to it I found myself dreaming in French and understanding nothing of what was happening in my dreams. I hope to meet up again with Norm, Joanne, Frank, Alain, Eric, Nathalie, Stephane and Jacques and have more good times together. Even if I don’t ever see them again, I will always look back at my memories of this trip with fondness for all it’s craziness and the fun I had.