Ken Smith/Turnagain Times
Troy Henkels catches a strong wind while kiteboarding on Turnagain Arm off Bird Point. Henkels and some of his fellow kiteboarders rode the bore tide this summer, the first such successful attempt by kiteboarders.
By Troy Henkels
Special to the Turnagain Times
This past summer three Alaskan kiters (Dave Calkins, Mark Whizdorf, and Troy Henkels) took on the challenge to attempt to kite Alaska’s epic Bore Tide. Relying on local surfers knowledge and trial and error, the team finally put one kiter on this epic Bore.
Kiteboarding is a somewhat new sport on Turnagain Arm. Just in the past four years have kiters started showing up on the Arm. For many years windsurfers and surfers have dominated the extreme sport scene on Turnagain Arm braving the cold waters, mud flats, and wild currents. When kiting started appearing in Hawaii, it wasn’t long before a few early pioneers of the sport in Alaska started to tempt the waters of Cook Inlet.
The problem with kiting in Alaska and on Turnagain Arm in particular, is you need a big area to set up and launch the kite, which is often difficult to find on the rocky shorelines of the Arm. But about a half dozen kiters have blazed the trail for this sport in Alaska and discover new spots to kite on the Arm each summer. Favorites are McHugh Creek, Slime Creek, 20 mile, and most recently Bird Point.
Several locals took on the challenge this summer to try to kite the notorious bore wave/tide near Bird Point. Pulling this off is not without difficulty. Not even considering the opposing currents and gain/loss of relative wind as the current passes, there are few safe landing areas along the rocky shoreline with power lines and the Seward Highway not offering any safe landing spots. The first two attempts resulted in a lost board (gotta have a leash in current).
Finally on the third attempt this season, on a beautiful fall day, it all came together. One rider (the author) was able to catch the wave and ride it. Engrossed in a mass of turbulent water and amazed at how quickly this wall of water was moving. I was overtaken and ‘washing machined’ for over a minute. Bobbing around in the aftermath of the wave, I realized there was still enough wind to still ride, despite the change in current. I powered up and caught back up to the wave and got out in front of it again and rode it for several miles towards Girdwood, before it changes directions and the channel becomes too shallow.
And with that, it was done; the Bore had been conquered. With the tide rising, several of us rode for over three hours (unheard of in Alaska) to the delight of sightseers on shore. Or maybe they were gawking at the pod of Beluga whales close by. None the less, I took one look around and realized only in Alaska can this combination of things happen; snow capped peaks, fall colors, whales, and riding an epic Bore Wave. Kiting on Turnagain Arm doesn’t get any better than that.