Click on any photo to enlarge. Photos courtesy of “flashtestdummy”
One of the things we do here at nwyachting.com is highlight the varied and amazing type of boating activity throughout the Northwest.
It’s no surprise that kiteboarding has exploded in the Northwest, with Hood River being the epicenter of wind-driven excitement. But one relatively unknown gathering is Windfest on Vancouver Island. It’s not easy to get to, but from Luke Acker’s description below and these photos, it’s worth the trip for serious kiteboarders, or anybody who just likes to sail off the beaten track.
And if you think kiteboarding has nothing to do with “traditional” boating, consider that Windfest is put on by the venerable Royal Victoria Yacht Club. –KH
By Luke Acker
Two hours down bumpy logging roads, in deep Vancouver Island wilderness, kiters at Nitnat are far outnumbered by bears. Here a community of stoke has grown, with each generation contributing to Nitnat’s windy story. The lake is a magic place, with a small and direct opening to the open ocean.
So naturally, there’s a 30 ft grey whale in lake. Windfesters found the giant sleeping in the shallows just off the beach. Piercing the early morning calm, the whale sprayed lake water and fish breath into the air. Bystanders exploded into giddy hoots “DID YOU SEE….WHAT THE…..HOOOOLY”. as the whale dove back into the 500ft lake depths, remaining unseen the rest of the event.
Windfest 2014 brought together an eclectic family Kiters under one event. On the water foil board champion, Johnny Heinken seared across the lake at speeds over 33 knots to a victory, closely followed by French pro Nico Landauer. “The angles these guys are sailing are just ridiculous” Said Dwayne Strong of Strong Kiteboarding School, event safety director. “We can’t hold their events them in the same part of the lake as twin tips, because foils go straight upwind, and straight downwind at warp speed”; A fact kiters are reminded as foil boards and lines whistle through the wind. A huge variety of freestyle events took place dominated by Billie Kipling and Mark Bavis.
Windfest has always been more than the competition. The Ditidaht First Nation opened the event with a traditional prayer, and put on an bountiful crab and sockeye salmon feast. House and Reggae DJ’s spun beats deep into the night. Finally, a giant beach bonfire lit up the wild darkness while pro and amateur kiters danced into the early morning.
On Sunday bleary eyed campers awoke to a strong wind line forming on the horizon, Nitnat’s legendary thermals blew away hangovers and launched Windfest into the final day of competition.