Red flags, beach hazard, warnings all over the news of high waves and dangerous currents. Most people stay away from beach during these conditions and for good reason. Lake Michigan can be treacherous and needs to be respected but for some of us all of these warnings are a call to prepare kiteboarding and surfing gear and figure out where the best conditions will be. When others are walking away this group of hardy watermen walk towards the howling wind and spitting waves. Seeking the thrill of the next great ride is a never ending obsession.
Yesterday Matt and I were both in Northern lower Michigan. The forecast was calling for strong Northwest winds. My favorite spot, Manistee, would have too much on shore wind and chop to get a really great ride so we settled on meeting up at the Platte River Outlet, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
We originally planned on meeting around 4PM. At 2PM my wife and I met up with some friends at Arcadia Bluffs for lunch. The view was beautiful, company was great, and food was good but I was getting anxious because there was no wind in sight and the lake was calm. You never know if the forecast is going to play out like you expect it to. By 3:30 I noticed a slight breeze coming in off the lake and shortly thereafter I saw whitecaps on Lake Michigan. I said goodbye to everyone at our table and headed north to meet Matt at the Platte.
When I arrived in the parking lot I could see a green Ocean Rodeo kite ripping up and down the shoreline. I knew that was Matt’s 10m so I grabbed my 12m and 8m just in case the forecast lived up to the hype. Matt brought in his 10m and patted his head signaling to land. The wind was picking up so I decided to use his 10m and he used my 8.
Riding at the Platte river outlet was fun! The wind was pretty steady and the WNW to NW wind direction was just about perfect. It allowed us to ride up the mouth of the river to the parking lot and back. We had a lot of fun jumping over the short strip of land separating the river and Lake Michigan.
The waves on the big lake were 3-5′. Big enough to do a little surfing down the face and have some fun carving in and out. At the mouth of the river and further south there was a lot of chop but further to the north the waves smoothed out and were more rideable.
Around 6 PM a dark cloud approached and we decided it was best to take a break. Rain starting pouring down drenching our gear and I started to get a little cold. I sought relief in the Platte River which had to be around 75 degrees. After 15 minutes the rain stopped and since we didn’t want to pack up wet gear we headed out again. This time the wind had picked up another 3-5 knots and we were both on the edge of being overpowered during gusts. The wind had shifted more Northwest as well and the waves continued to smooth out. We kept riding until the setting sun started making visibility difficult. I rode up the river taking in the beautiful surroundings a final time before landing after one of the more satisfying rides I’ve had this season.
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