Chris Gatewood, owner of Kite Naked in nearby Benicia, can be found riding at Sherman most weekends. “Every time I drive up the levee, I get these excited butterflies in my stomach,” said Chris. “It’s kind of like the anticipation of a big roller coaster at an amusement park. You could say Sherman is a wind powered amusement park with the occasional freak show in the parking lot at night. I wonder if they lock the gate at night to keep us in?”
By Friday evening, more vehicles and trailers were streaming into the park to get ready for the weekend. While the wind forecast looked dismal for the rest of the Bay Area, the wind was cranking at Sherman, so this was gearing up to be a busy weekend.
Also, a barbeque and party were being planned for Saturday night for Suave’s and Yuri’s (another Sherman regular) birthdays. Among kiteboarders in California, the Sherman Island barbeques have taken on an almost legendary status.
The man usually behind these meals is Maui Mike, whose name has almost become synonymous with Sherman. “Maui Mike has been the biggest host of the island,” said Suave. “He’s the best guy I’ve ever met here. There’s just no word for him. If he asks us to do something, we’ve got his back. He just needs to say the word because he’s such a giver. I think sometimes people take advantage of that and just assume that the parties and barbeques just happen here, but there’s a lot of work that goes into them.”
By mid day on Saturday, the parking lot in the park was nearly full and the launch site became amazingly hectic. The wind had been blowing strong for days and most riders were on 7-9m kites. As the launch site became more crowded, tensions were raised a little and there were a few confrontations. So many kites launch and land from such a small area that one person leaving their lines out or standing still with their kite in the air can affect a lot of other riders.
“Everyone’s concerned about safety here, but different people have different ways of voicing it,” said Maui Mike. “People’s feelings can get ruffled and some of them walk away with a bad first impression, but there have been some bad kiting accidents here, and we’re just concerned. We’re trying to keep accidents at an all-time low. The launch is pretty difficult, and everything is structured here. Simply walking down the wrong trail can really mess up the program on a busy day. The best thing to do is to talk to the locals. We also have really strong ebbs and floods here, and if you don’t know what the current is doing you could find yourself washed downwind. You should always have a plan B and a plan C when you come to Sherman.”
On Saturday, the wind never let up as it often does in the middle of the day and it continued to blow long after the sun went down. As Suave said, the party doesn’t start until the gate closes, and shortly after sunset the barbeque was going and resident kiteboarder and DJ Guacamole DeeJay was spinning. A keg was tapped and the party went on late into the night. Sometime around midnight, the wind was still up, so Jeff Kafka launched his kite in the parking lot and rode in the flat water next to the boat ramp with a large crowd of kiteboarders in various states of soberness cheering him on.
The moon wasn’t out, so at times we could only see a vague shape flying around in the darkness. More than an hour later, my night was brought to an end by an impromptu limbo contest. Midway through seeing how low I could go, I felt a pop in my right knee and fell to the ground. I got up, limped around for a few minutes, and decided it was time for bed.
The next morning, I woke up feeling fine, but realized quickly that something was not right with my knee. As soon as I started moving around, my knee swelled up and the pain increased. My first reaction was denial. There was no way I had been kiteboarding for four days only to injure myself on the limbo. I made my way to Maui Mike’s trailer and soon had a small crowd around me asking if there was anything they could do.
Phone calls were made and Walt, a kiteboarder who is also a doctor, was lined up to take a look at my knee when he arrived at Sherman to kiteboard. His guess (which was confirmed later by an MRI) was that I tore my MCL. Yes, I tore a ligament doing the limbo. As far as I can tell, this is the first kiteboarding-related limbo injury in the world. Since I couldn’t drive, arrangements were made to store my truck and get me part of the way towards Santa Barbara for my wife to pick me up.
Over the past few days, I had realized how friendly and tight-knit the Sherman kiteboarding community was, but the care I received after injuring myself showed me just how caring and supportive the kiteboarders here are. My gear and I were loaded into the car and the wind was still blowing as we pulled out of the parking lot. It hadn’t let up for more than 72 hours.
For More Info:
SIKO: Search for the S.I.K.O Group on Facebook
Rio Vista Info: http://www.riovista.org/
Sheldon Kiteboarding: http://www.sheldonkiteboarding.com/
Edge Kiteboarding: http://edgekiteboarding.com/