Gotta love those blue skies, warm FALL weather, and those Southerly winds..........while most were enjoying a day of Turkey and stuffing, a few of the bros were slashing there way up the Lake Michigan coastline from Da HAVEN to Saugatuck with the sun shining off the shoreline dunes and the waves standing up to greet us. Greg, Ivo and myself left the pier at South Haven and the peeling shoulder high waves, and headed North as the clouds were parting....riding 9's and an 11 we weaved in and out of each others' tracks with grins from ear to ear. It's something else to behold the shoreline as it passes on the way; the sand formations and the rock spires a few miles up the coast just shining in the sunlight, with the narrow sand beach like a ribbon between the dunes and the Ol Mother Michigan. The waves would build at times on the outside sandbars, to head high, often offering a smooth face to carve up like a perfectly baked Turkey!! Every once in a while, a wave would peel for a bit, and you would help yourself to an off da lip and a side of railslide.......mighty nice day to give Thanks for the wonderful bounty the Big Lake serves up, and the buddies you share it with!!!!!!! We jumped, turned, and hollered for miles upon miles as the wind slowly turned more Southerly and backed off a bit, glassing off the waves and honing your light wind wave riding skills as the waves continued to build........I started to lose some air from a few beach grass punctures and began racing towards Oval, still carving bottom turns and screaming down the line, with Ivo and Greg ripping it up in my rearview...... my kite began to jellyfish and when I had milked as much as I could, I rode one more wave to shore and watched as the boyz cruised on down that mystical coastline with their kites crisscrossing the sky. I hitched a ride from Harry, who had a hula girl on his van dashboard and was sporting a grey ponytail and a smile as big as MICHIGAN....he dropped me off at Oval after a few stories of his families' 100 year old lakeside farm, and much to my delight TG was already there to pick us up. As Todd was walking the beach, I waited on the lifeguard stand and watched as my two bros came into sight around the last bend....the winds had picked up due to the "saugatuck punch" which the high dunes there provide, and the biggest waves of the day were pumping on the outside sandbars. I grinned with pleasure at their fortune, and enjoyed the "lit-up" turns they were laying down as if I was on their shoulders; the spray flying off their boards while they smacked a few more. They saw me as I stood with outstretched arms in the speckeled sunlight on the stand, and proceeded to throw a few more "crowdpleasing" jumps in my honor. Of course, TG had some iced-down "sodas" for us and we watched another glorious Lake Michigan sunset from the parking lot before heading back for a nice hot tub soak, and dreams of the day ahead.
We awoke to cloudless skies and the trees moving.......met some more of our bros at the Kalico: Big T, and John Lynch; and fueled up on eggs, biscuits, pork chops, and KARMA. We heard of each other's Thanksgiving feasts' menus, and planned our next downwind wave assault. Since we expected more than a truckworth's of kiters, we dropped two trucks at Grand Haven, and headed back to Holland. The wind was blowing sand through the parking lot as we hit the beach and I saw Jimbo and Pier with BIG RED in the background. The waves were beginning to break out by the end of the pier as we rigged 7's and 9's and waited on Blueberry Bob. The sun was shining and the weather was sweet!!! We caught a few overhead waves peeling at the pier; the first one I caught was in the Madtown Ripper's honor...as everyone began to hit the water, and began our trek down the coast....9 strong, and kites a weavin'; the train was arollin'. What a sight it is to watch as your buddies are jumping and carving all around you as you cruise the coast. With no particular order we traverse each others' tracks and tag-up with one another to share a few rides. At times just a few arm lengths away, with just a glance of recognition and a wave of a hand, a fist pump, or a wailing cry. Someone on a wave, another in the air; toeside turns off the shore, a railgrab here and there. A moving painting of colorful kites, and flashing smiles!! White foam, green waters, blue skies, yellow dunes..........kites like butterflies flitting every where you look, just skirting the shoreline. Although forcast to remain strong all day, and expected to build as we headed towards Port Sheldon, the wind didn't get the memo. It held for a bit, and slowly diminished as we continued...but that's one of the beauties of the downwinders, you just never know what's in store....it aint a Great America roller coaster ride!!! There may be a breakdown, the wind might die, you may get tremendously overpowered, the waves may be perfect, they may be jumbled, they may build, they could recede, you may have to walk the beach for miles, you might have to ditch, you might have to hitch, you may have to wait roadside, it could be uttterly perfect...the beach is wide, it is narrow, it is sandy, it's covered with rocks......that's life, that's the downwinder, it's up, it's down, it's continuous, it's sunny, it's cloudy, it's rainy, the leaves are in full color, the trees are leafless, the dunes are grassy, they are bald, the birds are soaring the ridges, they are frozen in flight, it's onshore, it's offshore, it could be supreme side-shore, it's glassy, it's rough, it's always different, and yet it's always the same for me...WHY, cause I run 'em with my compadres...shoreline zippin', mile after mile with your buddies; you accept that when you depart, there is joy in it all if that is your attitude; you feed off of your buddies' attitudes, your buddies' energy, your buddies' smiles, your buddies' acceptance of taking it all in stride, and your buddies' knowledge that you will be there when they need you, and they will be there just the same.....at times, you will pass a bro who is sitting on the sand along the way, taking it all in, resting, gathering his thoughts, just being, existing, nothing but existing, something special about that.....then you fall back into the rotating train of kites that just keeps moving along the shoreline, zippping in and out, crisscrossing through time, across waves, into the memory bank, searing the brain!!!!!!!! As we neared the jetty at Port Sheldon there was a brief span when all 9 were within several hundred yards of each other, just hootin' and a hollerin', shoutin' to the heavens and beyond; I had miraculously passed the understood leader of our ventures, TG, who always leads us when we are zippin' and a sippin' that PURE MICHIGAN downwinder, I came bout 3 feet downwind of him as he was bodydraggin' for his board and lit one up, grabbed rail, looked back in his eyes and just smiled, he let out a resounding shout of approval, and I proceeded to hug the shore and carve off the sand, toeside off the beach foam, heelside off the sand, toeside off the beach foam, heelside off the sand, toeside off the beach foam, as close as I could be without getting a mouthful....for about half a mile, just watching the spectacle behind me....8 kites, zigzagging their way into the mystic, one after another just cruising, and a carvin', jumpin' and a slashin' on towards the jetty.....it was a brief span, a few got "penned" in at the jetty, a kite went down and we began dispersing, some rode around the jetty, others stayed to help, we slowly scattered. We never all flocked together again, but we paired off and kept an eye on one another. The wind was waning, but the waves were still pumping; we cruised on towards Grand Haven, 3 here, 4 there, 2 behind....a bee line for the destination; the trucks, "sodas", cheese and crackers!! We all made it, limping the last bit, but exhilirated none the less....another one for the "Rocking Chair". ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!
After de-rigging and heading back to Holland, we gathered in the parking lot and brought out the food and drinks and laid 'em on the tailgate and proceeded to have a feast of friends....nuts, cheese, jalapeno chips, homemade cake, venison jerky and sausage, orange sodas, iced tea, and BELLS galore........and of course we watched as the orange sun lightly colored the clouds and reluctantly slipped behind BIG RED.....we finished up with all 9 stopping at Wally's in Saugatuck to eat the best perch dinner around, and to see our buddy Eroc who was setting up his gear to jam into the night.....smiles round the table, stories floating through the air....it's not the individual waves you catch, or the spectacular jumps you throw; it's the downwinder experience you share that reverbrates in the soul!!!!!!!! As we were leaving town, I stopped by the White House to see if Harry was there so I could buy him a drink for the Thanksgiving ride he so generously gave me....he wasn't in the house that night, but the owner knew him and informed that his drink of choice was a mix of Merlot and diet Coke....one day I will sit at the bar with him, have the bartender pour two of his outrageous drinks, and toast the Thanksgivin' downwinder from Da Haven to Saugatuck...until then I will just sway here and there, on occasion, to the memory of the movements of the skirt on the hulagirl that graced the dashboard of the old van that the grey haired pony-tailed grinnin' hippie was driving!!