Yeah, you never know what you're gonna find on the Big Lake; it can always blow your mind....passed thru the rain at the bottom and arrived at South Haven to a sight oh so familiar; the flag flapping wildly in the wind, and sand blowing hurriedly thru the parking lot. And as I cruised down the hill, a surfer catching a wave off the end of the pier, going down the line on an overhead peeling wave...IT WAS ON like DONKEY KONG!!!!!!!!
Matt, Big T, Lynch and I rigged 7's and then ol Red Legs pulled into Da Haven as well....5 Bros rolling down the coast to St Jo; it was lit 7ms on the launch, and since the wind had just switched from NNE to N, the waves were baby-ass smooth and hinging....first wave I caught off the end of the lighthouse was well overhead, I set up for the bottom turn, came off the bottom with a little too much power, headed up to smack the lip, and BAM, the lip smacked me; I went head over heels up then down and all around, came up and thought I had separated my shoulder. Came into the beach, asked everyone if they had enough de-power, lengthened my back lines, checked my arm and shoulder sighed, took a deep breath and got back up on the horse and headed back out...(Ol Mother Michigan said she don't give a damn about how many stinkin' waves I shredded on MAUI)!!
ALWAYS gotta respect Lake Michigan, always!!!! I was to repeat that statement about a dozen times over the course of the next couple of hours...I had hoped to see clean WAIST high waves building to a little over head by the time we hit St Jo. They were a little overhead already in Da Haven, clean and smooth; although they were sectioned out, they were not closing out and the peaks were cavernous.
As we headed down following Big T, it was cool seeing the 5 kites scattered on down the coast with the shoreline and dunes being covered periodically with the fog and mist, kites swaying back and forth in the springtime wintry breeze...the water at 48 was bout 10 degrees warmer than the air, and the lake was emitting a soft greyish white fog that hung delicately to it's surface. Our downwinders create a great deal of responsibility amongst the bros; it is one for all, and all for one!!!! Although it may appear as though we are going willy-nilly down the coast with absolutely no care in the world, hooting and hollering, saluting and high-fiving like a group of schoolyard kids; (while that is inpart true) we are actually constantly on the lookout for one another, and continually scanning our playground for any potential disastrous circumstances. At any given time, it can turn from a joyride to a rescue maneuver; one that could be or could become life-threatening....like I always like to remind myself and the bros; it ain't Disneyland out there!!!!! In all seriousness, it is imperative that when doing downwinders on Lake Michigan, especially in colder temperatures, you absolutely need to know your kiting ability and rescue skills, and those of ALL your compadres. IF you are not aware of those, you are being ignorant of the inherent dangers involved with doing downwinders on the Big Lake... don't be an ignoramus!!
Safety Lecture aside, on down the coast the train kept rollin'....As we passed the drainpipe below the blue stairs, the waves were breaking on the outer sandbars and jacking up like they always do down there; I dug down deep for an extra bottom turn and screamed out, "that one was for TG" as I came lip-sliding off the top (DW was delivering a boat in Florida). We continued on down the coast as the mishaps began....the wind had began turning a bit onshore, and with the size of the waves increasing as we headed South, the riding instantly became more demanding. Lynch's kite went down and got tumbled in the surf, the kite came up, but the lines were twisted; so Lynch headed to shore and I followed and landed his kite on a small piece of beach with just enough room for him to "run" the lines and relaunch his kite. As we headed back out and caught up with the crew, several tacks later Matt's kite hit the water. His kite got wrapped with the lines and would have blown up if it relaunched. He was getting dragged toward the shore which was lined with rocks for bout half a mile; there was no where to safely land except past the rocks. Greg and I came over and evaluated the sitch...luckily Matt was able to stand on a sandbar that was couple hundred feet offshore, and he kept tension on an outside line to direct the kite to the edge of the window. He was able to get the kite past the rocks and Greg swooped in and grabbed the kite...disaster averted. We had just enough room on the beach that was surrounded by rocks and trees to untangle the lines, and get everyone re-launched and off we went again.
By this time T and Lynch had "buddied up" and put the hammer down for St Jo....we never saw their kites again, but we knew they were together. We passed the power plant, and of course there we found the biggest waves of the day, easily double overhead and THUMPIN'!! The outer sandbars their input/output system creates always makes for some bigger waves. The wind had dropped a notch and with the direction of the wind turning more onshore with the corresponding change in shoreline, our tacks were more parallel to shore. The beauty of that was that when my lines snapped, I was being pushed into shore relatively easily...
My sesh had instantly ended; I gathered my board and swam toward the shore. Greg came by to check on me and realized that I was "done", and said they would look for me on the road on the way back; he and Matt continued on down the coast.
I made it to shore, wrapped up my gear and started up the nearest staircase to head up and out...I was now a "mariner in distress". I hiked out Fireroad 7 ( a winding, winding road thru the dunes to road). I knew it would be well over an hour before the bus heading back to the Haven would be passing by, so I started walking and thumbing....after several miles and many license plates passed by, I began to jog cause I was getting a bit chilled...jogged for another mile or so and then got picked up by a yachtsman in a BMW with leather seats; he was stoked to give a kiter a ride, and to hear my story. Once back in Da Haven, I texted the boyz to let 'em know where I was and began to de-tangle my lines and string up some new ones.
Greg and Matt made it down the coast a bit more but the wind let up too much before Silver Beach. After coming in somewhere before Hagar Park, they waited on the road by the buffalo on the surfboard....T and Lynch tacked out well before Tiscornia and were able to make it around the jetty and into Silver, no small feat I might add!!! They pilfered the cooler of ginger ales, and coldies and celebrated briefly before beginning the search for the missing crew members. They picked up Mr. Suds and Shocktop and headed back North, and came into the parking lot to the sight of diminished wind and me with a kitebar that looked like an octopus....we smiled, laughed, talked story, enjoyed some of Matt's homebrew, a gargantuan tuna sandwich and drank in the sunlight that was reflecting off the Big Lake in the mid afternoon.
You never quite know what you are gonna get on Lake Michigan....sometimes surprising, often uplifting, always memorable!!! But one thing I do know is that if I go on a downwinder with my bros, I ain't doin it alone...one for all, and all for one...remember that the next time you go cruising down the coast with some fellow kiters all willy-nilly; know your limits, and those of your compadres, cause one of these days......