Man-made is a very small Lake just north of 5th avenue beach in Manistee. Really a pond that was created as a by product of the sand mining industry that decimated the once mile long “Maggie Thorpe” sand dunes. In the mid 80’s Man-Made connected to Lake Michigan for a brief period of time when water levels were up and the bluff between Man-Made and Lake Michigan was breached. The berm was rebuilt and the lake was closed off again when the Harbor Village condos went up. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what a great kiting spot Man-Made would have been in the mid 80’s. A large flat water cove adjacent to The Big Lake would have made for some incredible riding conditions. On Sunday, on the snow, I got a taste of what it would have been like.
Until this past Sunday I’ve considered snowkiting a second rate experience to kiting on the water. Inland lakes are often gusty and icy, open fields have added obstacles, and then there is the added strain your leg muscles. However the snow and wind conditions at Man-Made Lake in Manistee changed my mind about the winter variation of this sport. This session rivaled any that I’ve had on the water.
My dad has been interested in getting into kiteboarding for a couple years now and finally picked up a kite at the end of last year. Earlier in the week we had talked about trying Bear Lake or Hamlin but due to a time crunch on Sunday we decided to give Man-Made a try. At 1:00 PM the wind was blowing 17-22 knots and the skies were sunny so we headed out. Near record snowfall this year of 189″ made for an exhausting trip through the snow dunes to the lake(snowfall as of Feb 18th, record is 191″).
I helped my dad get a trainer kite up in the air and he put on his downhill skis. The wind was just enough to get him moving but he could have used another 10 knots with that kite. After watching him for a few minutes I setup the 12m kite, launched, and took off. I’d never snowkited in such steady wind conditions. With 4-5 inches of packed snow on top of the ice I was easily gliding along and it felt a lot like being on the water. After a couple tacks I decided to climb the small dune on the west side of the lake and I kept riding until I reached the Lake Michigan shoreline. The view was spectacular! The sun was out, the big lake was frozen, and ice glistened off the north pier and catwalk.
I rode for a while until my legs were on fire and then helped my dad work on his kite skills with the 12m kite. He is headed down to Florida in a couple weeks and wanted to get a head start on kiteboarding before taking lessons on the water. The wind had increased so I decided to take one more ride and was again impressed by how much it felt like kiteboarding on the water. I knew this was as close as I’d ever get to experiencing water kiteboarding Man-Made Lake as it was in the mid 80’s and as the temperatures start warming up this week I can only hope winter sticks around long enough for me to try it again. -DP