The Block Island Times

Sand Surfing down State Beach

By Daniel West | Apr 04, 2011

It seems that right around this time of year, through the fog banks and curtains of sleet, a beautiful sunny weekend peeks through to give the island a preview of the pleasant weather to come.

Over the weekend the temperature held steady in the mid-50s, there was barely a cloud in the sky and it seemed that the entire island had spring fever. Clammers were all over the pond; dogs and owners traversed the beaches while others took walks around town.

As for me, I am starting to get the itch to jump back into the ocean. The water temperature is still in the 40s and, despite the warm weather, I chickened out.

That doesn’t mean I stayed away from the beach though. A few months ago I got some used equipment in order to learn how to kite surf, but I haven't had the right conditions to try it out yet.

Being that it was warm and there was a good steady 15 mph breeze blowing, I took a seven-meter kite to town beach to fly on the sand. I inflated the kite struts, which gives it its shape, and hooked up the lines.

I nice passer-by offered to help me launch the kite and after a few miscommunications and a good deal of shouting over the wind, it was airborne (note to beach walkers: if you see a kite flying, try to walk behind the person flying it and out of the of the kite's aptly named “kill zone.”)

I learned to fly these bigger kites in high school, starting out with a small two-meter “trainer” kite and slowly moving to bigger kites. People sometimes ask if it's difficult to hold on, or tiring, to fly the kites; it really isn’t.

By using a harness and lines your body weight takes almost all the effort from your arms, leaving them to simply steer the kite; however, being that you are inexorably attached to a giant flying sail, the power of the kite can literally fling you into the air if you make a wrong move.

If you know what you are doing, though, you can harness that power to pull you over the top of the water on a board or — as I did on Sunday — along the beach on your feet. “Sand surfing” is a way to practice controlling the kite while it pulls you along the beach.

Basically you dig your heels in, dive the kite and use its power to skid along the beach leaving two parallel ruts snaking in the sand behind you. I spent about 90 minutes doing this; letting the kite drag me down Crescent Beach then walking back again.

It was definitely fun and gave me enough of an adrenaline fix to tide me over until the next nice weekend we get, although I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to stay out of the water.

Eventually I decided to pack up; I lowered the kite to the ground, deflated and packed it in its bag. Walking with my gear out to the parking lot, I sat down and emptied a few cubic yards of sand from my shoes — all these sports have their downsides.

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