Living on the Edge of Cultural Trends

 Photo credit @flash_bros_kiel

 

San Francisco has always been on the leading edge of cultural trends, and in the 70s and 80s, it was a common sight to see stunt kites flown over Marina Green. As kids my brothers and I would lie prone under the kites, begging to be dive-bombed, screaming with joy and fear. Competitive kite flying may not have taken the world by storm, but kiteboarding certainly caught on. A quick scan of mainstream advertising shows the sport used to sell everything from cars to chewing gum... Hang out by Crissy Field, and you’ll see rangy athletes wrestling with their kiteboarding equipment, clambering in and out of the cold water. Ungainly on land, kiteboarders and their rigs become wickedly graceful on the water, and San Francisco Bay is blessed with strong, consistent winds that these athletes crave. In fact, this stretch of beach is a world-class destination for the sport, which is on track to finally be recognized as an Olympic event in 2020.

As kids my brothers and I would lie prone under the kites, begging to be dive-bombed, screaming with joy and fear. Competitive kite flying may not have taken the world by storm, but kiteboarding certainly caught on.

 
 

Kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) debuted as a sport 28 years ago, when the first competition was held on Maui in 1996. Renowned big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton helped pioneer the sport, as he did with windsurfing and paddle boarding. Wind-obsessed sailors adapted parachuting and paragliding “foil” technology for use in water, complete with inflatable leading edges (for flotation and water starts) and long wires. A cousin of windsurfing, kiteboarding also makes use of foot straps, but the boards are multi-directional. Disciplines range from freeride and freestyle to wave riding and course racing. Surfers and kiteboarders have been known to clash for space in the water, but the beach at Crissy Field has no waves, and the surfers at Fort Point—though known for being territorial—are not impacted.

Laird Hamilton - Kitesurfing pioneer

Laird Hamilton - Kitesurfing pioneer

 

Yes, it wasn’t that long ago that container ships and ferries did not have to dodge kiteboarders when passing under the Golden Gate. Now ubiquitous sights on windy days, kiteboarders zip across the bay with ferocious speed and acrobatic aerials. San Francisco can unequivocally lay claim to the development and widespread popularity of this spectator-friendly sport. I love looking out to the Bay and seeing the brightly colored kites dancing in the wind. They add a touch of adventure in my life as I catch glimpses of the Bay in my daily dealings. 


Some resources:

 

Shop, lessons and rentals

Bay area Kite spots

Map via: bayareakiteboarding.com

 

Calikites School/Shop Location:
1336 Van Ness Ave #2
San Francisco, CA 94109
Call: 415.922.5483
Text: 619.208.7018
Email: info@calikites.com
www.calikites.com

If you prefer to just watch:

The history of kiteboarding in 4K goodness by EyeForce 
The creators of 'Hidden Lines' bring you the first 4K feature length kiteboarding movie in history. Shot in breathtaking locations - Fiji, Hawaii, Necker Island, Brazil, and Cape Town, 'Chapter One' unites kiteboarding legends, today's champions, and future talent as they chase the toughest storms, ride the biggest waves, and perform thrilling stunts.

 
Zoe Winter