Strong winds this past week attracted a few kiteboarders to Useless Bay.
Three adrenaline junkies donned wetsuits and strapped in their harnesses to charge the waters from the morning into the afternoon on Dec. 28 near Double Bluff Beach Park.
Waves reached as high as four feet while wind gusts peaked at 26 miles per hour. The riders battled the waves as they attempted to get into a riding stance. Once they managed to do so, the wind swept them back and forth across the bay.
One of the riders was Useless Bay resident Steve Boyle, a longtime kiteboarder. He said the adrenaline rush keeps him coming back to the sport.
“Take water skiing and snow skiing without a boat having to tow you,” Boyle said. “You’re just out there on your own. It’s a total rush.”
The sport isn’t without its dangers, Boyle said. Tangling up with buoys or breaking a line are just a couple possible hazards. Boyle considers himself an “OK” swimmer but is confident he could make his way to the shore if he needed to.
He added that Useless Bay is a safe place to ride because it prevents riders from drifting out into Puget Sound.
“That’s why this place is so good,” Boyle said. “You’re always going to drift back to the shore.”
Boyle regularly keeps an eye on weather services to get an idea of the type of winds he has to work with.
The wind and waves were a bit too strong for Seattle resident EJ Gong, who watched Boyle’s launch. Gong, 52, was inspired to take up the sport, also known as kitesurfing, about two years ago when he lived on Shore Avenue in Useless Bay.
“We used to watch the guys out on Useless and it looked so fun and exciting that I wanted to try it,” Gong said.
It wasn’t easy learning the ropes of kitesurfing, Gong said. Flying a kite and riding a surf board at the same time can be difficult to master.
“It’s the steepest learning curve of any event that I’ve ever done,” Gong said. “But then once you break through, then it gets a little bit easier. But, it’s just incredibly difficult.”
Gong said local riders like Boyle have taken him under their wing to help show him the ropes.
“The community of kiters here is really supportive,” Gong said.
Not far from where the kite surfers were riding, a sailboat was having a tough go. South Whidbey Fire/EMS received a call from a homeowner on Shore Avenue just before noon that the boat was not making any headway as it attempted to move south out of the bay. Winds kept blowing it back near the shore, according to Deputy Chief Mike Cotton.
The fire district prepared to launch its emergency rescue boat, but by that time, the sailboat had dropped its anchor and was stable. It also had a dinghy that would allowed the occupants to abandon ship if it had been necessary.
“It was really windy,” Cotton said. “…It looked like the ocean.”
“To me, it looked like they were riding out the storm,” he added.