The plan fell together perfectly (as if we had planned it this way).. KT had to return to the states to pick up our visa’s for French Polynesia (a story in it’s self) and John Zilles was planning on going to La Ventana to do a little kite boarding. For a while it looked like we were going to miss him, a storm held us in Santa Maria a little longer than expected and we weren’t sure if there would be a good weather window to beat up around the corner to La Paz (it’s at the bottom of the Sea of Cortez and is famous for some nasty steep waves that build if there is a consistent North wind blowing). John’s trip got delayed and KT’s plan were set.. turns out they would be crossing paths both in and out of Mexico..
We had the perfect situation; a great place (Baja Joe’s) in La Ventana and a place in LaPaz, our choice of lodging would depend mostly in the forecasted wind. John arrived and we spent the first day hanging around in LaPaz. I have always felt that John Zilles and I have the same energy level (full of energy but spastic and unfocused), so it was interesting to see the effects of the real world slowly ebb out of John throughout the week as he blended into the Baja lifestyle. Once we got to La Ventana, he was go go go (in a good way) and I was more in a mindset of let it sink in, watch everyone, and focus myself at the task (of learning to kite board) ahead with my new found cruisers pace. The first couple of trips back and forth felt like we were racing in the baja 1000 (an off-road race). There were huge potholes all over, cows in the roads, and the Los Angeles road rage reactions were still fresh in John’s mind as he raced down the road (quite a shock from the 5-6 miles an hour I had become accustomed to). I’m sure he wasn’t trying to break the land speed record for a two seater 20 horsepower car filled to the gills with kite boarding junk, but it felt like it, he just wanted to get somewhere. At the end of his week here, it was nice to see him slowly driving down the road (I think the cows could have passed us), absorbing the scenery, smells and sounds around us, it had become about the journey .. NOT the destination. We had a great week, filled by sharing adventures and new friends.
La Ventana is a meca for kite boarding and windsurfing. There are tons of people whose main focus in life revolve around the wind. Some in the $3 a night campground (in tents or luxury busses with kite/sail sheds), some staying for free in camper vans in the arroyo or on the beach. Life styles were everything from executives to beach bums with ages ranging from 17 to 70. We were staying down the beach at Baja Joe’s ( www.bajajoes.com ). This is a FANTASTIC place, it’s rare that I feel so comfortable in a new place so soon. The people are extremely friendly, outgoing, and laid back. . Joe and his wife Angie have been in Baja for about 10 years, living a cruisers life style on land. Joe should be the poster boy for a laid back, down to earth guy.. he loves to sit around and “hold court” (answering questions and just plain old shooting the shit with the gang in the “sauna”), he kites with a relaxed style people try to emulate (with his hat on), helps everyone, and makes you feel welcome in his home. If you want to experience the speed and camaraderie of cruising with the comforts of stable roof over your head, this is the place. It has a community kitchen and common area, where people would sometimes get together, cook and hang out. The rooms are simple, but if you are there to hang out in the rooms, you’ve picked the wrong place. It has a very similar feel to an adventures lodge that I’d like to start someday, it attracts similar personalities who all seem to be able to get together and become quick friends. It feels like friendships made there will also last, I joked with KT that we had to be careful who we invited to visit us… because for sure they would!! So for all of you who got an invitation, know that we actually thought about it and really want you to come!! I loved it so much I took KT back there after she got back too ..
I have been wanting to Kite Board for at least a couple of years.. I’m not exactly sure what attracted me to the sport but I was hooked.. in fact my buddy Jayzo called me one day and exclaimed.. “Have I got the sport for you..” “Kite Boarding?” I asked.. He just laughed. Now maybe I am a little bit more cautious than the average person, but I like my limbs where they are and the fact that I can control them in a somewhat graceful manner (except while dancing). Kite Boarding can be a VERY dangerous sport, my doctor buddy Flipper has lots of stories of injuries and most people have a few “kitemares” of their own to share over beers. These kites are like winged parachutes, with an inflatable edge to help hold the shape and allow you to re-launch the kite if it ever (or always, depending on skill level) lands in the water. You control the kite by moving a bar attached to ~30 m control lines, which you attach to a seat harness around your waist. The kite has various amounts of power depending on its position in the “power zone” (relative to the wind), but it has the ability to launch you 30 feet in the air and 100 feet down wind.. some pretty powerful stuff.
I signed up for a kite boarding magazine to learn about the techniques and gear (since it’s relatively new things are changing rapidly). The good thing is most people involved in the promotion of the sport are extremely safety conscious. Everyone suggests lessons, most people won’t let you fly their kites without a basic training class, and everyone helps each other launch and land the kites. I spent most of the first two years watching people do it and trying to relate what I had read to what I was seeing on the beach. Yep sure enough one of the first days I saw a guy drop his kite and drag him down the beach like a rag doll. It’s kind of like the joke you know when a redneck is going to get into trouble when he/she says “Watch this”.. a kite boarder talks about his/her troubles by saying “I thought I could get the kite back under control”. I realized that the key to safety (and fun) would be kite control.
I flew a friends trainer kite until I felt like I had full control and I got a chance to try a body drag (where you drag your body through the water with no board) in Zihautinejo and a couple of beach drags (where you drag yourself across the sand) in Ventura. Unfortunately I never took the time to take lessons, gee maybe I was busy getting the boat ready.. but I knew I would have plenty of time on my hands (around the water and wind) so I thought I should get myself a kite. I thought I would get lessons once we returned to San Diego for our trip, but there was no winds.. GREAT.. I owned a kite and board but still didn’t feel comfortable, especially in remote places with scant medical care in a situation where both of our full body functions are necessary to control the boat!! I felt like a disaster waiting to happen. Needless to say I was ready to jump at the chance to get educated in La Ventana.
I signed up for some private lessons the next day with BJ of BJ’s Adventures ( www.bjsadventures.com ). I had heard that he was VERY safety orientated and a good instructor (some of the other instructors were out of commission with injuries.. yeah kite boarding related). I told him about my sailing plan and that I really needed to get the control and safety issues down as well as some self launching/landing techniques in case no one was around. He was great (I would HIGHLY recommend him), I told him everything I had done already and he quickly checked me out starting at the beginning. Trainer kite.. two line kite body drag.. four line kite body drag .. he provides radios so he talks you through the different things he wants you to do while you are out on the water. He picks you up down the beach on the ATV, tells you what you did right and wrong and brings you back up the beach to do it again. Phase 1 kite control completed!! A couple of days later, after the wind picked up again, I got to try the board. It was very natural to go to my left … I actually got up almost right away (“a natural” the instructor said ... maybe vying for a tip) . I felt like I got the basics down enough and just needed more time to master it (maybe 5 years will do it).
We had docked the boat at Marina Palmira while KT was gone so that I could leave it unattended. For some reason we got stuck on the power boat dock with no other sailboats. We would walk the other docks to get some contact with other “stick” boats, but KT gave me one instruction prior to leaving.. “If we are going to be stuck on this dock, you might as well schmooze them.. maybe we can get to know them and have dinner on board”.. I know she was just kidding but John and I met the crew of a 126 foot yacht called the “Big Easy” that was right next to us .. blocking the afternoon sun . They were great, we hung out with them for a crazy disco night and they actually came out to La Ventana so Adam could try kite boarding (with KT). At first KT didn’t believe me but I told her if she gives me an order … I do it!! Trueblood’s father was from Ventura, so John took some pictures of her holding signs up for her father, who he would visit on his return. We also learned that one of the hardest part of meeting new people is the goodbyes, but it’s a double edged sword.. you have to have shared some great moments together in order for the goodbyes to be difficult. As we said goodbye to an old friend and our new friends from Levantine and Big Easy.. it was on to the next sailing adventure with some new friends Dave and Anna.