Last Monday gale force winds summoned Great Lakes surfers and kiteboarders to battle the fierce waves of October. Big days on Lake Michigan are impressive and Monday was no different. The wind was out of the southwest in the 30 knot range when we arrived at North Shore in Grand Haven. Wind whipped over the water creating a constant fog like spray as waist to shoulder high rolling waves curled around the pier heads.
Back at the parking lot surfers and kiteboarders were gearing up to get on the water. I could feel the energy in the air as I rushed to get my wetsuit on. Blue sky was breaking through the clouds and for a minute I thought about how lucky I was to live on the lakeshore and have the ability to take advantage of days like this. Earlier in the week Jetty had convinced me(didn’t take much convincing!) to take the afternoon off from work to do a downwinder from North Shore to Pere Marquette. I’d never taken time off from work to go kiteboarding before but the forecast looked too good to miss.
With the high water levels this year there is just barely enough beach to rig and launch your kite at North Shore. Debris from erosion is a secondary problem and you have to be careful not to damage your lines on the dead dune grass laying in piles along the shoreline.
I launched first on Jetty’s 8M. I took a few tacks and felt great. The wind was steady and the waves were spaced out enough to find openings to get offshore fairly quickly. Jetty launched and we rode North Shore for a while before I saw Jetty signal to get going. The signal we agreed on to start the downwinder was to wail on the air guitar. I signaled back and we went north.
The great thing about a downwinder is that you are free to play around in the waves as much as you like since there’s no need to tack upwind when you are done. It’s also a nice way to enjoy the scenery along the shoreline. The red, orange, and yellow colors of fall lined the dunes as we made our way to Muskegon.
The only downside to a downwinder is that once you are at the mercy of mother nature to make it to your destination. We rounded Lake Harbor park and the wind started to drop to the low 20 knot range. I was under powered but doing okay on an 8m kite. Jetty was struggling on his 5.5m kite so he left me in his wake as he made a b-line for Pere Marquette. As the red lighthouse of the north pier came in to view so did other various water hazards. There are a series of small metal break walls between Pere Marquette beach and Lake Harbor Park. The waves were bigger near Muskegon and it was tricky to get past the break walls with the light wind and surf but I made it through without incident. An hour and a half and 12 miles later I arrived at Pere Marquette dehydrated and tired but also recharged to take on the rest of the week.
Michigan Dawn Patrol is a kiteboarding, surfing, and water sports photo and video blog focused on Michigan. This blog gives us something to do until the next wind blows! Comment, share, and subscribe if you enjoyed this post.