Tybee Island - I am down for just about anything but when Mike Manhatton told me some guys were out on Tybee surfing with kites I was more than skeptical. When I got out there I met Tim Malin at his shop and still wasn't convinced. I guess I was looking for someone different. He didn't strike me as one of those "extreme" athletes. He was just a really down to earth, easy going kind of guy.
We did the interview and he told me about how he saw these guys in Hawaii on a tape and had to know more. It wasn't long before he and I were headed to the beach so I could get a first hand look at this sport. Once we got there it was obvious he was more than just a shop keeper. There must have been 10-20 people on the beach that came up, said hey and talked with him about all sorts of stuff. I found out later they were all disciples of his who were also into kiteboarding.
The kites were not really kites at all they were more big inflatable wings. The boards looked like small surf boards. We had the sun, the surf; there was only 1 thing that spoiled the day. No wind. We waited for about 2 hours but nothing came in. When it did kick up it was nowhere near what Tim said was needed to get pulled around on a board so we scrubbed it that day.
It took two weeks before we could finally get together again and when we did it was everything he said it would be. The contraption he strapped himself into looked a bit on the scary side but was nothing like the ancient device he said he used at first. Steering the kite was as simple as turning the stick he held on left or right. What amazed me the most was how much control he had over the kite. I had a hard enough time flying a normal kite but to get one to pull you in any direction was impressive. Let the tension out and the thing would stop pulling you along but still have enough power to stay in the air.
Once he hit the water it was just a matter of catching a breeze. The shots in the water were really cool with the spray that would kick up as he went along. I did get a little too close and got run over once but sometimes you have to get close and take a chance.
It sounds like it would be exhausting and tough on the body but Tim says it is fairly easy going. He has given lessons to kids as young as 12 and as old as 65. I didn't get to try it but the first chance I get I am headed back to Tybee and strapping in.