Challenging Mother Nature

Words By Jacob Hanson
Photos By Brett Watson

While it is a small community of athletes, it is a passionate community that craves what most others dread, the season of storms.

Its 7am and light hasn’t broken through the darkness of morning but the energy crackles. In the air is excitement like that of a child waiting for parental approval to open their Christmas presents. Vehicles navigate along Hawkins Road among eerily lit, towering Douglas Firs dancing erratically to the rhythm of the gusty winds from a powerful southeasterly storm. The road leads down toward the ocean, veers hard left and the first shadowed view of the lagoon is possible.

The kite boarders of the Comox Valley are storm chasers. Their passion for wind parallels an addiction. Once it has taken hold it is tough to go through a day without recognizing the rustle of branches, noticing the whitecaps on water or examining the weather forecast for impending storms. Work schedules, travel plans and yearly calendars are based upon where the wind is blowing. Luckily, the Valley is close to a plethora of options.

There is a concoction of emotions brewing within each kite boarder… two parts fear, three parts giddy excitement, one part trepidation and one binding dose of stoke.

The next two hundred meters of road lead directly into the raging winds. Waves pound against the South facing shore and sea foam is thrown across the road like snow in a blizzard. Enthusiasts congregate along the seaside. The energy is infectious and the whistle off the power lines accentuates the wind sounds.

As Mother Nature slowly raises the dimmer switch, the excitement escalates and kite boarders slide into their thick wetsuits. The beach becomes lit with vibrant colours as everyone emerges from the warmth of their vehicles. The faint hissing of kite inflation begins. Kite lines are run along what beach there is available amongst bull kelp, driftwood and lagoon grass.

The race to be first on the water is similar to being the first to drop into a favourite deep powder run. Calm waters hide in the leeward side of Goose Spit just waiting for the local kids to come out and play.

The first kite boarder is ready to go. The shudder of the small kite cracks like a whip as it catches the 50-80km an hour storm winds. The kite engages in a push-pull relationship with the elements until, as gracefully as a ballet dancer, that day’s first run is taken with a howl of exhilaration. Sole possession of the experience does not last long as the second, third and fourth kites climb into the air and join with a howl. Racing across the lagoon with elegance, edge hard against the pull of the wind; manipulated kites erupt off of the water. Vibrant colours soar birdlike before lowering gently down to the waiting waters.

The kite boarders consume as much of the experience as they can because the next opportunity is still a mystery. When will it come?

Yet another affair with Mother Nature comes to a close. Everything else is left behind for the rush of harnessing the natural energy and satiating one’s craving till the next storm blankets the south coast of British Columbia.

Until then, the Comox Valley kite boarders merge back into the regular flow of life and still find time to laugh over the stories of the last great storm.