Kite-Crazed Dudes

This wet, hot extreme sport combines the thrill of flying with the threat of grievous bodily harm

"It was funny because I actually had put a patch on. I'm not that prone to getting seasick or anything. And Oliver, the night before -- we're staying in the same room -- said, 'What are you doing?' He's Austrian, kind of a macho guy, and I said, 'Oh, I'm putting on this little seasick patch.' And he said, 'Oh, what, you get seasick?' And I said, 'No, but the only thing worse than me not making it down there is me sitting on a boat for ten hours and puking the whole time. What do you think?' He said, 'Oh, no.' He sat on the boat and puked for ten hours.

"Paul Menta had just gotten back from Venezuela and was sick as a dog. Totally dehydrated. He went and got rehydrated with IVs at the hospital the day before, which he didn't really tell anybody about, and I remember we were kiting along, and everybody was kiting kind of far away from each other, you found your groove a little bit, and you couldn't even see the other guys ever because the waves were so big. You could see where their kite was, but you could never see any guys. I surfed one wave for an hour and a half! I mean one wave! It was awesome. And I looked over and saw Paul just getting huge airs. And I said, 'What's he doing?' Because the last thing you want to do is break something. And we had a long way left. Then I noticed his hands weren't even on his bar. And he was just like out, just getting launched by his kite out there. And a boat raced over, caught him, jumped in the water, got his kite, pulled him on the boat. He had passed out. I guess his kidney had some sort of a shutdown or something, knocked him out....

"The doctor went to work on him [under the deck], but Paul was still passed out. We ran into an area where the catamaran stuffed both hulls, because we were going really broad off the wind; the only guy left standing was [the catamaran captain] Dave Calbert hanging onto the tiller as the cat was on its way to pitch-pulling. Everybody went flying forward, and Paul went flying from his bed up to the front bulkhead and dislocated his shoulder. So when he woke up he was worse than he went to sleep. And he did get to take a plane ride home. It was pretty funny when he woke up, because he was all bandaged up, he's already messed up, and then he wakes up and he's like, 'What did you beat me with a baseball bat when I was out?' It was pretty interesting.

"Fabrice, myself, and Neil ended up making it. We were on the water for ten and a half hours. It ended up being longer than anybody kind of expected. It was like twelve- to fifteen-foot waves all the way across for the entire time. We got in after dark actually because it was two or three days before Christmas, which was like the shortest day of the year. And it was cold and it got dark on us and waves were crashing and the whole thing started going bad kind of right at the end. I was like, 'All right, how are we going to get the kites down?' So I got up next to a boat and it was dark and two boats had to leave because they had to run this pretty dangerous channel into Veradero, which you're not even supposed to attempt in heavy seas, because it's a narrow channel. It says 'Do Not Attempt in Heavy Seas' on all the charts. That's your first sign. It was windy, it was dark, I was cold, everybody's grumpy. I talked to the boat [crew] and I said, 'I'm going to throw my kite. You're going to come and pick me up. And then I'll get on the boat, we'll go get my kite, and then I'll go and catch everybody else's kites.' They were tired on the boat too. All my glowsticks were in my back[pack], so I couldn't get my glowsticks. I got a black and dark blue top on over my black suit. Dark. You could see kites in the air but you couldn't necessarily see riders. I throw my kite. They go cracking off downwind after my kite. I'm sitting in the water, I'm like, 'I can't believe I'm going to die right here!' I was like, 'God!' I was screaming explicatives [sic]. Fortunately I had an impact vest that gave me some flotation. I think there was a little scuffle in the boat between the captain of the Contender and one of the marketing guys about what they should do, and the right guy won. They turned back around and picked me up. I was screaming at these guys. We went down and got my kite. And then we came back and I caught the other two guys' kites and we pulled into the docks in Cuba and then we had to go through the longest customs.

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