This is the English translation of my blog on Lake Michigan area. I originally write in Japanese, but I make the English version as well so that my non-Japanese friends will be able to read it. Voila! Hope you will enjoy it.
On windy days, Lake Michigan becomes a great place for surfing.
Often winds blow from west to east. This means the beaches on the east side of Lake Michigan, i.e. the beaches in Michigan become great places for surfing.
Did you even know that people surf in Great Lakes?
I knew that people surf in North Carolina, Florida, and New England, needless to say in Hawaii and California, but never thought Lake Michigan is an addition to the list. Of course Lake Michigan will never be in the same league as Hawaii and California, but surfing in Lake Michigan is getting pretty popular, because it is so big and has waves just like oceans. When windy, waves are pretty big. I bet it will be much more popular ten years from now.
Somebody was surfing.
According to my husband who loves surfing, waves were not good for surfing that day. There are good waves and bad waves – I could never tell what waves are good or bad.
This is Silver Beach of St. Joseph, Michigan, on a very windy and chilly day late April.
The same surfer standing in the shallow water
It was getting very cold that we got back in our car and kept watching him from inside the car. The surfer was in the water for a long time but I am sure he was warm in a wetsuit.
Then a small flying object appears above the horizon.
There is another one in the direction of the pier. They are kites!
Three people in wetsuits on the beach – they don’t look like they are just flying the kites.
They are kitesurfers!
Wow! With the kite, one of the surfers jumped high into the air from the water surface.
I see… This is kitesurfing. Awesome…
According to Wikipedia:
Kitesurfing is an adventure surface water sport that has been described as combining wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, and gymnastics into one extreme sport. Kitesurfing harnesses the power of the wind to propel a rider across the water on a small surfboard or a kiteboard (similar to a wakeboard).
These kitesurfers looked very experienced and skilled.
They were doing it for a long time.
And we watched them for a long time from inside the car.
It was probably after 7 pm. The kitesurfers probably decided today was a good day and must have come here after work. They may belong to a kitesurfing club.
I wished I had a better camera with a big powerful zoom lense. Somebody was taking pictures of them from inside his car with a professional-looking camera with a huge zoom lense. I really felt my compact camera was inadquate.
Until very recently, the only kites I knew about were Japanese kites (like the photo right). Those kites used in water sports are quite different from them. I am a little in culture shock (forgive me, I am a middle-age Asian woman who is not most informed of the latest trends).
When and where was kitesurfing invented? I did internet research. It seems it was somewhere in Europe – I expected it to be California as so many other sports had been invented in California.
They glide on the water pretty fast. As it’s open water with no lanes, don’t they ever crash each other or crash into a boat? Kitesurfing is considered to be an extreme sport. I read there is a number of deaths and serious injuries every year.
Despite that, kitesurfing is becoming increasingly popular. Back in 2006, the number of kitesurfers was already estimated to be 210,000. The number must be a lot higher now (in 2012). It has become pretty popular also in the Great Lakes area – on both the Chicago and the Michigan sides.
From curiosity, I google searched kitesurfing in my home country, Japan. Yes! There is a good number of websites on kitesurfing. It seems to be gaining some popularity there. In general, whatever new sport is invented in the U.S., it becomes popular in Japan, too.
If you want to start kitesurfing, you will need to purchase all kinds of gear which are not cheap:
- An inflatable kite
- Kite control bar
- Fling lines
- A kite harness
- A wetsuit, a helmet, a life jacket, etc.
If you are interested in kitesurfing in Lake Michigan, I found a good website:
You are advised to take lessons taught by a certified instructor. Lessons will take for several weeks. It’s no joke – if you fail in landing properly, for example, I can easily imagine you will be in bad shape.
If you think kitesurfing is too difficult for you, you may want to try bodysurfing and/or stand up paddle (SUP).
SUP is becoming very popular, as it is quite easy to do – that’s what I heard. I will write about SUP sometime later.
If you want to see more images and videos of kitesurfing:
Kitesurfing (Google Images)
The red mark in the map below is St. Joseph, Michigan, where we saw the kitesurfers.
Chicago is across Lake Michigan from St. Joseph. I am sure you will find kitesurfers on beaches on the Chicago side, too.