Words cannot accurately convey the majesty and awe that the Magdalen Islands inspire.
I launched the kayak as the sun turned red on the horizon. Strapping a headlamp on I jumped into my 14′ sea kayak and tightly gripped my favorite paddle and forced my way out through the surf. The beach was tiny, only about 20 feet wide and was the only beach for miles in either direction. The swell caused the giant kayak to tip and sway more than I ever thought possible in a sea kayak. A few feet away the waves pounded the rocks and cliff face. The lighthouse shot up from the cliff. As I paddled away I felt like I had found the edge of the earth. Here the land abruptly ended and sheer sandstone cliffs that would easily give way under your feet shot up hundreds of feet into the air. There were caves everywhere that were easily carved out by the forceful action of the waves. The surging tides would trap air in the holes and they would build up pressure and blow out air, sometimes high up into the air. The noise and the surging water struck a nerve somewhere deep inside me. I plunged the paddle into the water stroke after stroke and mile melted into mile. Before I knew it the sun had disappeared and the lighthouse was miles behind me, completely gone from view.
I had to check out one of the caves before I turned around so I cautiously turned on my headlamp and started paddling into one that looked creepy. The water was rising and falling quickly and the cave went on for a long way. After several hundred yards there was no light left except the light from my headlamp with no end to the cave in sight. As the swell surged up and down little holes in the walls would blow out water, sometimes with surprising force. It was exhilarating and frightening all at the same time, I decided to slowly back paddle my way out again.
Paddling back under a full moon was totally unreal. I could see the waves crash against the rocks and the cliff face rose up hundreds of feet with the moon peaking over the top. I paddled with a furious intensity for miles until I reached the lighthouse again. I left a flashlight on my car so I could find it on the cliff face, the two red LEDs stared out at me in the water like some kind of hideous beast waiting to devour me.
For hours I biked along tiny goat trails overlooking huge cliffs with the ocean waves crashing below.
I would spend the days cliff jumping with the kids into the ocean, then swimming along the cliffs and crawling into and around some really amazing caves that had been eaten away by the waves.
The winds were awesome and we kiteboarded almost every day. There were two days with 15′ high waves and massive amounts of wind. It was an amazing feeling racing along, as the water would start to smooth out and a giant wave would build behind you. It would get taller and taller, blocking out the whole world from view. Before you knew it this 15′ high wave would be standing up ready to munch you if you made any mistake. The wave starts to break and you hit the gas and pull away from the deadly whitewater as thousands of pounds of liquid come crashing down, just a few feet from you. Then you jump over the whitewater and do it all again.
Hour after hour of epic kiting recharged my batteries like they are rarely ever charged. One day the winds were gusting at 45 mph and I ended up riding Norman’s 6 meter Psycho 3 kite all day long. My smallest kite is a 10 meter Psycho 4 and it does pretty well up to about 35mph, but I couldn’t make it work when it was gusting over 40, I was too overpowered too much of the time.
Norman brought his Hydrofoil board again this year only this time he was telling me how much fun it was to ride it strapless. 10 years ago when they started riding Hydrofoils with kites they used bindings because it was so hard and because your foot position and weight were so critical the kiters at the time were pretty convinced that you couldn’t really do it without bindings. When I first saw Norman’s hydrofoil board I was surprised that it had footstraps instead of bindings but they seemed to work pretty well. Although I have over 3000 hours on the water with kites, riding the Hydrofoil put me right back to beginner. After about 20 hours of flailing around and beating myself up pretty bad I learned to ride the Hydrofoil with straps. When you rid the Hydrofoil you rise up out of the water about 3 feet in the air and you have to carefully balance while you are cutting through the waves (which you can’t feel at all) and ever little tiny bit of pressure causes drastic changes in the position of your board. Too far forward and you dive into the water. Too far back and you porpoise out of the water and crash. Without straps if your feet are out of position or slip even by a centimeter you quickly fall off. It reminded me a lot of riding a unicycle … in the woods … blindfolded. Not that I’ve ever done it blindfolded.
Every night we played games with Norman’s kids, every day we spent kiting, kayaking, hiking or cliff jumping on the beach.
Thilde had bought me a book called ‘Have a New Teenager by Friday’. Orion seemed quite interested in it and much to my chagrin he read it cover to cover on his own volition. I asked him why he would do such a strange thing and he truthfully replied ‘I’m trying to learn how to be a better son’. I am quickly learning that the teen years do not have to be turbulent and traumatizing. I like talking to Orion about things that really matter, I like feeling like he can lean on me for support and that I’ll be there if he wants to talk. Instead of dreading these teenage years I’m learning to look at them as an amazing opportunity to be a better father than I ever thought I could be.
And that’s what this travel through life is really all about, understanding ourselves and learning to be better people than we ever imagined we could be.