About 5 years ago I was first introduced to Hydrofoiling with a kite by my good friend Norman McGuire (forum name kiterider) from Montreal, Quebec. He didn’t know me well enough to know what a risk he was taking to let me use his fancy carbon fiber Carafino hydrofoils as I pretty much destroy everything I touch. I first tried it at the Magdalen Islands which is about 15 hours of driving and then a very long 6-hour ferry ride that costs more than most plane tickets I’ve bought. Over the years, I have been to the Magdalen Islands for about 2 weeks in the summer at least 5 times, and each time Norman would show up with a new hydrofoil to try. One year he told me it was time to go strapless. I thought he was nuts, no one is riding these things strapless. After a few hours of flailing around in the water like a Noob, I finally figured it out. I was hooked.
Love has taken me a lot of places in this world. You could add Denmark as another country that I’ve visited for love, and then afterwards fell in love with. So often in the US I feel that my life is so good and that I am so blessed that I find it hard to imagine that things could be even better. The two weeks I spent in Denmark with Thilde made me feel even better than that, which I didn’t really think was actually possible.
A year ago Thilde and I committed to each other in a beautiful ceremony in the middle of Cayuga Lake with 150 other kayakers and standup paddle boarders in attendance. It was an amazing ceremony which was attended by no less than 6 Danes who crossed the pond simply to support Thilde. They were great company and seemed to laugh and smile a lot more than your standard American. I was more than a little curious to find out if Denmark really was as great as people kept making it out to be. Free universal healthcare for all, 50% of the urban population bike commutes, you get paid $1000/mth to go to college and new mothers can get 3 years of paid vacation time to take care of their babies. It sounded like a fantastic fantasyland that was too good to be true. Although I was skeptical, after spending 2 weeks there I can confirm that it is a real place and the Danes really do live that way. No wonder they are consistently polled as the happiest people on the planet although they were recently surpassed by Costa Rica probably because they have unmolested rain-forests and Denmark doesn’t. Not liking to be 2nd in anything I’m sure the Danes will buckle down and redouble their happiness efforts to beat the Costa Ricans again.
I have a lot of quirks about my personality. One of the strangest quirks is my preference for flying oversized high aspect ratio race kites in overhead surf. It’s clearly ‘the wrong tool for the job’ so why would I risk life, limb and overpriced kites by not flying a nice tiny inflatable kite that turns and maneuvers much faster in the surf?
Tug Hill Kite Festival 2014 was the best day of snow kiting in my entire life. I had made plans to spend the weekend at The Flurry Festival, a 3 day dance festival in Saratoga Springs, but I decided to cancel at the last-minute because of an impending snowstorm. Instead I packed the van with 6 kites, 2 Snowboards, 3 pairs of Micro skis, XC skis, Ski, XC and snowboard boots, some food, my portable heater and camping gear and a couple sleeping bags and started on my personal Mecca to Tug Hill, the promised land for snowkiting.
As the 8′ high waves came and crashed on my head the only thing I could think was “Get back in your kayak and get out of here or you will die”. I frantically splashed around in the water while the most powerful current I had ever experienced thrashed me around uncontrollably. The boat hit me in the face giving me a black eye, I tried time and again to get myself into the swamped sea kayak and roll it up but to no avail. Eventually I gave up and grabbed my 500lb sea kayak filled with water and started swimming toward the vacant beach.
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 got to see over 30 stingrays flying through the water while kiting
I was stung by a couple of jellyfish
The stray dogs ate through my nice tent twice to eat my food
The same dog broke into the bathhouse and ate my soap twice, yuk!
On the last day I was there I broke the rear window of a very nice $500,000 helicopter and caused over $1500 in damage
My last day out on the water has ended and I am remarkably sad to leave. I miss my son and his mother’s family and my family as well so I know that its time to return home. A big part of me wishes I was a beach bum that could just live somewhere for as long as I wanted to just kiting every day. I realize that I have a lot of responsibilities to my son, my customers and my family. The place we stayed while we were here is an ultra nice ultra new condo that Laurel Eastman purchased with a friend of hers Karen. It’s very cush and everything is very expensive, but there is still the constant reminders that you are in the DR. The power goes out at regular intervals and the water goes off as well. The first 3 days we had no hot water. Anytime Kevin and I got home and there was water, hot water and electricity all at the same time we were thankful and amazed. The people here steal electricity by wiring up their businesses and homes when the power is out. The only problem is that if they are messing with the cables when the power goes back on they get fried. The people here in the DR are just as friendly as I remember them. There are a few bad apples but for the most part people here are very easy-going and pretty friendly. I like the place we’re staying halfway between Kite Beach and Cabarete. Its a little beach called Bozo beach and the people here are super friendly. It’s also far less crowded than kite beach and there is little or no attitude. It’s only a 5-minute walk into the heart of Cabarete or to Kite Beach, which is nice.
My trip to Switzerland in 2006 was amazing. It was interesting to see the vast startling contrast between America and the Swiss, which was exaggerated by my choice for departure from JFK. JFK is in a serious state of disrepair, it always feels like a war zone down there. The people who work there have seriously negative attitudes and I can only imagine what most of the airlines that fly through there think. Case in point our departing plane had been at the gate all day, but no one had some to clean it so we were 30 minutes late in boarding. Once we boarded there was no ground crew to see us off, so there was another hour we had to wait. This was a huge international flight as well with maybe 200 people on it, not just a puddle jumper. Everything in Switzerland was very nice and new and clean. The public transportation was amazing, I never found myself waiting more than 10 minutes for a train or a bus and the buses were all free. When I got back to NYC and had to get in my car and drive through rush hour NYC traffic you really start to appreciate how different America is from other countries in the world.