George Overpeck and Trace Carlos live for extreme sports in Alaska, but it’s not snow they crave — but wind and water.
This year they are organizing and instructing kiteboarding at Homer KiteFest 2013. It’s been six years since Homer’s first kite festival, and each year more and more kite enthusiasts show up.
“We started the event, to promote our hobby and get all the kiteboarders in the state together,” said Carlos.
This year’s KiteFest will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Mariner Park on the Homer Spit. Activities start at 10 a.m. each day, with flying starting about 3 p.m. — depending on the weather.
Kiters and beginners interested in the sport, from Alaska and further, are welcome to attend.
Overpeck, a local instructor, started kiteboarding on snow eight years ago.
“It was slow and expensive to teach myself,” he said. “It took me years to kite at any level worth looking at.”
Now, because the sport has gained popularity in the state, the equipment and advice has improved. The KiteFest is a great place to learn to ride safely, said Overpeck. This year’s festival is targeted to beginner and intermediate kitesurfers, so anyone can get on the water whether they have experience or not.
“We want everyone to feel welcome to attend the KiteFest,” Carlos said. “Even little kids can fly trainer kites, so the sport isn’t limited to anyone. Though on the water and flying full-sized kites, it will likely be adults and intermediate kitesurfers, for safety reasons.”
While some may not generally associate Alaska and kitesurfing, event organizers consider Kachemak Bay a perfect match for the sport. Beginner and intermediate kiteboarders need plenty of sandy beach and shallow water for safe landings. As the tide comes in, the bay provides small waves breaking over a sandbar one minute and acres of glassy, flat water the next. Alaska’s huge tides and low user conflicts are prime for kitesurfing.
For perfect kite weather, Overpeck said, 9-20 knots of wind and high pressure is needed. Dependent on the day breeze, the event will kick off in the afternoon as the crisp wind settles in. “It’s not a gusty wind, but the consistent west wind around 15 knots that is perfect for beginners,” said Overpeck.
The exciting thing about kitesurfing in Alaska is that the conditions change all the time. In the winter, sport enthusiasts can attend the Thompson Pass Snow Kite Festival, in the summer they can participate at Homer’s KiteFest. There are diverse environments to kite in. Where else could you kite past snow-capped mountains, battle below freezing conditions and share the water with orca whales to pursue a kiting adventure?
What happens if there is no wind?
“We will sit around listening to good music, enjoying a bonfire and swapping kiting stories,” said Carlos.
Last year, approximately 50 people attended. Other year’s attendance has soared to 100, with people from all over Alaska and as far away as New Zealand and Australia.
The weekend’s events include kitesurfing competitions, kite clinics, a gear swap, a potluck and lessons on safety, technique tips and places to go in Alaska to kite. Ozone Kites, Alaska Kiteboarding Adventures and Kite Surf Alaska sponsor the event.
“Even if you don’t want to kite, come down and watch the instructors and participants boost tricks in the early afternoon this weekend,” said Carlos.
Puffins float the waves and salmon jump in the ocean, as kiter pass by. Alaska kitesurfing is serene in one of the world’s most beautiful places.
“It is art in motion,” says Carlos. “Alaska is the best place for appreciating the beauty and kitesurfing.”
The sixth-annual KiteFest will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a participation cost of $20 for the weekend, which includes a free poster and demo gear.
Participants should dress for the weather and bring a set of XtraTufs, a helmet and an enthusiastic self.
For more information, call Trace Carlos at 299-0105.