Woodman's Point is a spit of land dotted with a curious mix of factories and recreational parks. It may be a favourite of Perth's flat-water spots, but there is a problem for me; its prevailing breeze is offshore. Perry (my partner) and I were there to shoot local wonder-kid, Daniel Anderson, for sponsors, Underground. I tried to ignore Woodies' allure. Within half an hour, the seduction all but complete, I decided to take the plunge. Words of caution from Perry warned me not to go out too far; '?in these conditions, your mistakes are magnified.' I was motivated, my edging upwind was second nature but my gybing was still suspect. Nevertheless, I felt I was ready to take the next step and play with the big boys.
While Daniel sailed overhead, roaring off downwind, inverted and unhooked, I floundered to a halt. Like a toddler, my eyes were glued to my feet, not sure yet which foot to push forward. Amidst the sinking window of opportunity, the kite wrenched me from my indecision and hauled my body around the corner. I repeated this process several times, then came in for a break and an elated moment of reflection. Was I satisfied? I goaded myself with 'just one more run'. The wind was cross-off when I headed out again, and after a couple of nice tacks it seemed to be turning more directly off. I started towards the shore to call it a day, but stopped for a second to give way to a kiter upwind of me.
Once clear, I dived the kite, but caught the tip on the water's surface. The kite slowed and I promptly overtook it, planing past at speed before tripping my rail, leaving the board behind and sailing through the air.
All this culminated in a violent swan dive. Gathering my wits, I swam to take out the slack in the lines and relaunched. I had to make a decision; body drag quite some distance (downwind and out to sea) to my board as it bobbed precariously on the edge of oblivion, or get back to shore and worry about it then. This internal dialogue was swayed by the amount of water I had swallowed. Still gasping for a decent amount of air, I went into selfrescue mode. My body dragging form was pretty good, but with the wind now being more direct-off, I soon realised there was a chance I wouldn't make it into shore before getting uncomfortably close to a rather large pier. My confidence was telling me I could do it, but at the same time, my pessimistic side was screaming, 'Caution!'.
Meanwhile, Perry was frantically dancing on the beach, running back and forth. He too seemed to be consumed with indecision, but appeared to be gesturing that I go around the pier. I was now three hundred feet off-shore and coughing up a greeny-grey mixture of cement dust and seawater. I didn't fancy being snagged by the wire fencing that adorned the perimeter of the pier, and, reluctant to squander the ground I had already made upwind, I assessed my options with new interest. It seemed at the end of the pier lay the answer. Shallow water! From my perspective, it looked like a sand bank about two feet deep.
Panic rampaged through my mind: visions of my body being torn between one power above the water and another below now seemed a very real possibility. I furiously pumped the kite in the window, navigated safely beyond the big sucker, and aimed for the shoreline that curved distantly around me. The new threat was the several small boats moored in my path. I reassessed my priorities. As with the pier, I could go further downwind andavoid them, but by now I had been in the water, body dragging for over half an hour, and was getting tired. I chose to cut upwind of them. The wind was light and I was conscious of keeping the kite moving.
All was looking good when the pier dealt yet another blow. Despite all my efforts, the kite suddenly dropped, lifeless, from the sky. I could do nothing to keep it flying. The breeze was obstructed by the enormous cement factory at the other end of the pier. Aware of the option of setting the kite free, but now very tired, I favoured my chances with it attached to me and possibly relaunching rather than swimming the rest of the way in. The desperate thoughts that enter your mind at moments like this need to be banished immediately. I eventually wrestled the kite into the air and limped into the shallows. The last few metres, as my toes stretched out and scraped at the sand, longing for a decent footing, seemed to last forever. With the kite secured, I collapsed in the sand exhausted and turned to see another boardless kiter dragging towards me, soaking up my fading wake. It was then that I realised why the locals, including the pump operator on the pier, hadn't demonstrated any visible concern at my predicament. It seemed that my deathdefying ordeal was, to them, akin to a waiter watching yet another tourist passing out in an Amsterdam café.
If they came to the aid of every person in trouble, it would indeed become a full time job, and ultimately, I was responsible for my situation. I waited to greet my follower, secured their kite and began the two-mile trek back to Woodies. It had been some time since the last sighting of my board. Over an hour had passed by the time I returned, Daniel had called it a day and it seemed my precious 142 had floated, lonely and forgotten, out to sea. The local kite instructor kindly mounted a mini-search and rescue in his safety boat, but returned empty handed. Consumed with grief I began a futile dawn to dusk vigil. For two days I walked the vast shoreline, I harassed the police and the coast guard every morning for a week and spent a month trawling the local kite forum? nothing.
I noticed dozens of boards were reported missing from this spot alone, and with only a low percentage found, I'm more convincedthan ever that Woodies has a Bermuda Triangle-ike quality to it; a forbidden fruit of which I had bitten off far more than I could chew. So if you ever spot a 142 Underground tanned, battered, alone and unclaimed? yeah, I know? let it go! I was looking forward to going down a size anyway.
|This column is in issue #22|