Kiteboarding along the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore

Kiteboarding in Empire, Michigan

The wind forecast didn’t look like much for labor day weekend but luckily I was not disappointed.  I went camping with my folks in Empire and we got to the beach around noon on Saturday.  The wind was light out of the northeast but by 1: 30 it had shifted north and picked up steam.

If you’ve ever been to Empire beach during the holidays you know that the public beach gets packed leaving little room for launching safely.  However the residents of the private beach to the North are very cool and let me setup on their property.  It’s always a good idea to ask before setting up on a private beach.


I put up my 15 and it felt a little light near  shore but once I got 100 yards out it was blasting.  I took a few tacks and it felt a

Dunes to the south in Empire

little gusty but not too bad so I decided to try boosting. I got a nice floaty jump but then it felt like the bottom dropped out and I sunk into the water. My kite Hindenburg’d into Lake Michigan and inverted itself at the same time. I got the kite back up and the front lines were twisted over the rear ones so I had to bring it in. By the time I got my kite back up the wind was even sketchier so I decided to wait and see if it would smooth out.

I took my dad’s new stand up paddle out for a cruise. It is a “Three Brothers” SUP and looks like a wooden board but is

The Lighthouse in Empire

very light and stable.  This board really flew through the water especially compared to the windsurfing board we had been using that moved like a tank.  The waves weren’t big enough to catch a ride but they gave me a little speed on the way into shore.After riding the SUP it seemed as though the wind had smoothed out.  Another kiter was on the water too so I decided to go out again.  The wind was still very gusty and at times my arms were fully extended trying to depower the kite and I still felt like I was going to be picked up out of the water.  Near shore however I had to really work the kite in the sky in order to keep from sinking into the water.  In the end my kite dropped during another lull and that’s when I called it a day.

I setup on the private beach just North of the boat ramp

Empire was a great location for a kiteboarding session and I would definitely go there again on a more westerdly wind.  Sleeping Bear Dunes are to the North and so is South Manitou Island.  To the South is Point Betsie so Empire is surrounded by a lot of land that could cause some turbulence on a North or South wind.  Outside of kiteboarding Empire is a fun small town to be in during the holidays and I enjoyed camping and hanging out with the family.  If you need to gear up or rent an SUP there is even a local surf shop.