Myers Park kitesurfers chase the adrenaline rush in Cayuga | Lansing
When Wing Eng, a resident of Ithaca and kitesurf enthusiast, helped set up a weather station at Myers Park in Lansing, he didn’t expect it to have a negative impact on his working life.
“The weather information constantly encourages me to leave my desk, put on my wetsuit and get out on the water,” Eng said with a laugh.
On almost every windy day, even in winter, several kitesurfers (aka kiters) can be seen enjoying themselves off the coast of Myers.
Considered a high intensity sport, kitesurfing involves harnessing wind power using a large kite attached to fly lines and a control bar. The kiter is strapped into a harness and usually wears a wetsuit and rides on a two-way board with foot straps.
“It’s an adrenaline rush to feel the acceleration and to jump through the air,” Eng said. “Somehow the acceleration makes me happy.” He moved to the area in 2003 and has been in a boarding school since 2004.
“It’s a Zen experience,” echoed Jennifer Wells, another active Myers kiter. “When I kitesurf, there is no notion of time.” Wells teaches at Ithaca College and also owns Paddle-N-More. One of the few female kiters in the region, she first learned the sport six years ago in Sicily.
Local enthusiasts prefer Myers to other parks, such as Long Point or Stewart Park. “It’s open, treeless and with a shallow area which makes the launch more efficient,” said Suan Hsi Yong, another local who tried kitesurfing but now windsurfing. Eng also favors Myers. “The water is cleaner, the prevailing northwesterly wind is perfect and there is a large grassy area to develop,” he said.
Despite the park’s popularity, Steven Southworth, a certified instructor and regular kiter, doesn’t think Myers is a friendly place for beginners. “The wind is not constant, which makes it difficult to learn and teach,” Southworth said. All kiters suggest learning in a place with a smoother and more predictable wind, like Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.
Standard equipment starts around $ 5,000. Most kiters will have three or more wing sizes and styles to accommodate a range of wind speeds. Other equipment includes flight lines, control bar, harness, kitesurf board, wetsuit and helmet. Wells said she had five kites, three harnesses and three boards.
Kitesurfing is not easy. Beginner kiters should acquire basic skills including kite and line handling, concepts of wind, navigation and launching, relaunching and landing. “It’s an extreme sport that takes a lot of practice,” Wells said. “Kiters were thrown into trees, dragged over rocks and smashed kites on park visitors.”
“When you first learn you have a hard time going upwind so you get stuck and have to go back,” Eng said. “We call it ‘the walk of shame.'”
The kiter and spectators must be careful. “When the winds are strong it can be scary to land alone,” Eng said. “People get curious and rush to the wing and it would be easy to wrap it around them and cause injury.”
“The safety aspect is an integral part of the local community,” Yong said. “They take this very seriously.”
The weather is obviously a critical factor. In 2017, several kiters organized a GoFundMe to raise funds for a high-end weather station in Myers. The successful program brought in nearly $ 5,000 and the group worked with the City of Lansing to set it up.
“The weather station is a fantastic resource,” said Eng. “It traces the wind throughout the day and helps provide forecasts.” The station uses the park’s Wi-Fi to upload data to sites such as WindAlert and Weather Underground.
Eng, along with Southworth and others, regularly kitesurfing in Myers in the winter. He wears a heavy wetsuit and, depending on the temperature, up to three layers underneath, plus a jacket and life jacket. “It takes me half an hour to get dressed for winter kitesurfing,” he said. “And another half an hour to undress.”