I was hoping I would be able to paste the whole article but New Yorker became protective of its digital content so I can only post the front page. Still, interesting. West, Jerry, you might know this guy.http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013 ... ct_specter
INHERIT THE WIND A kiteboarder’s alternative-energy plan.
BY MICHAEL SPECTER
MAY 20, 2013
One day in 1993, while sitting on a beach in Maui, Don Montague watched as a friend strapped on a pair of water skis, harnessed himself to a kite, and tried to surf. It didn’t work, but Montague was intrigued. He was thirty at the time, and had established himself as one of the nation’s best windsurfers, winning World Cup races throughout the nineteen-eighties. As the sport began to boom, Montague also became one of its principal technicians, designing sails used by leading professional racers and by tens of thousands of amateurs. Between prize money and profits from sails that he had manufactured in China, he was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
The idea of surfing with a kite instead of a sail captivated Montague, though, so he bought one—a lightweight Flexifoil called a Skytiger. To make the kite float, he filled it with inflated condoms. “I used condoms because they were cheap and made of polyurethane,’’ he told me recently, over breakfast at his house in Los Altos. Instead of water skis, Montague used a surfboard, along with a chest harness, which helped transfer the kite’s power and lessen the strain on his arms. “I started practicing every day, and things worked pretty well until the kite would fall in the water. Then it would be a big wet mess of spaghetti.” He tried another approach: “I went to the local Kmart, bought four inflatable pool mattresses, cut them apart, and then sewed them back together.” It took some tinkering, but before long Montague had helped to establish a new sport: kiteboarding. The activity has become so popular that it almost replaced windsurfing in the 2016 Olympics. People who think of kites as toys probably haven’t seen one lately; they have become precision instruments capable of pulling a rider across water at more than forty miles an hour and, with a quick jerk, launching him twenty-five feet into the air.
Montague has the engaging, wind-sheared look of a man who has spent his life on a raft. His tousled brown hair and surf-blue eyes have appeared on the covers of aquatic magazines from the Pacific Coast to the Mediterranean Sea. For years he spent the bulk of his days on the water, travelling wherever the wind was good enough to race. Still, he felt as if something was missing. “I’m a joiner,’’ he said. “Kiteboarding is a solitary sport. I couldn’t figure out a way to do it with other people.’’ Then, one day in the mid-nineties, he was struck by what, in retrospect, seems obvious: racing boats need crews. “That was when the idea of building a competitive kite boat came to me,’’ he said. “It was the logical extension of all that I had done. And a way to get some people together and form a team.” . . .