Dan Gavere reporting…
Day One Mammoth Kite Daze
The REAL boys Seth Korbin and Jason Slezak took a 24 hour journey from the east coast to arrive at 4:30 in the morning. The final 30 miles of their drive was like driving by brail with zero visibility and ice covered, snow packed roads through the east side of the Sierras. Overnight brought a fresh layer of powder measuring up to 6 inches. With blue skies and a forecast for wind approx 60 people showed up for what turned out to be an epic day of kiteboarding, kiteskiing, and kite telemarking in a huge field just 10 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes. Many talented riders showed up to showcase their skills in an event that turned from competition to expression session with really no rules. Riders like Mark Doyle, James Brown, Kevin Delaney, Aaron Sails, and many more were on hand and ready to charge, but when we showed up there was no wind.
Several riders and spectators wasted no time getting to work building sliders, hits, and snowmen and after an hour their was a full on fun park with 3 rails and over 6 kickers. The PA system was rocking and grills were packed with burgers for the riders and spectators. Suddenly the wind started blowing the parked kites around and many had to act quick before their equipment got blown into the next county. "IT's ON!" I yelled as I caught Kevin Delaney’s kite, and just as quickly as the wind fill in, several big kites were launched. Aaron Sails and Alex Peterson on skis with the Rhino 2 20 meter were ripping with only about 7knots of wind. For an hour the guys with the massive kites got a great session and then the wind kicked up a notch and suddenly there were no less than 25 kites on the snow.
I was located at one of the kickers with 3 other photographers/filmers and the riders were sessioning this hit harder than Bob Marley with a Fatty. Kevin Delaney was throwing some sick floaty spins and stomping the landings. He looked like he was having a blast. Aaron Sails, James Brown and Mark Doyle were also killing it. Mark was stomping some killer handle pass 5's and James would come in hot and huck a floaty grabbing chicken salad air that was like 70 yards long. I was very impressed by the guy on the telemark skis who was also ripping and sticking some nice big iron crosses and even going blind. The wind held up all day as it went on more and more riders could be seen trying new tricks, hitting different rails, and setting new standards for brutal wipeouts. Jason Slezak riding the Flexifoil Storm2 20 meter on a pulley bar had some very smooth hits and looked to be getting into his groove when suddenly he ran his lines into a tree. Somehow he was able to get out of his board and with kite still in the air walk back upwind to free his lines from the giant fir tree. Truly an impressive move...
Seth was hitting the kicker with more rotation that I have ever seen looking for that back to revert. He found the kicker sweet but landing zone very choppy and rutted out. Seth was also on the Storm2, he opted for the 16m. James Brown took a mysto air from behind the photographers landing himself on Paul Ferguson and the snowmobile effectively scaring the shit out of everybody and further tweaking Paul’s already tweaked knee. As the sun lowered in the sky and temps falling quickly the riders were still out having a blast. The temps were now going down faster than the beers and most of the riders were packing it up and making plans for the big sushi dinner at Shogun. A few hard core riders could be seen in the distance, stilll hucking and speeding through the snow well after the sun had set. We loaded up our Subaru Outback complete with REAL packages and hand brake and headed back to Hidden Valley Condos for a hot tub and the elusive egg... All in all, day one of the Kite Daze event was a complete success and I can't wait for tomorrow where I am going to get out there and get litt. A big thanks goes out to Steve Klassen, Paul Ferguson, and the guys at Wave Rave and Steepwater Snowboards.
Day 2 Mammoth Kite Daze
Sore and sunburned I awoke to snow flurries and what looked to be a stormy day. Soon the sun was poking through the clouds and light snow fell through the air revealing a slight breeze. We hit the Breakfast Club for breakfast and filled our bellies to prepare for a long day of riding. When we arrived at the event site, kites could already be seen cruising across the huge fields of snow. We parked and loaded our coffin bags on the homemade trailer being towed by a snowmobile. When we got out there it was big kite time again. With variable winds we decided to pump the 16,18,and 20meter Flexi Storm 2's. Suddenly it picked up and I was off for my first session of the weekend. Jason and Seth were right on my heels and the 3 of us were ripping around doing our best to keep powered and not get too far away from the main stage of rails, hits, and photog's because kites would simply fall out of the sky between gusts. Jason broke out the Flexi proto “white kite” which is only an 11m and soon we realized the advantages of smaller, faster kites on the snow. They don't pull as hard but they are a lot easier to keep in the air because of their speed and lightness. The bigger heavier blimps just wouldn't stay up if it got really light. After some discussion and a serious tech session, Jason and a few others built the rail they said would separate the boys from the men. More like separate the men from their boys ! An A frame rail was set up with a 4ft gap from the uprail to the down rail. Several attempts by riders hooked in and even a guy on tele's were hitting the rail with some close calls, but no major incidents. Meanwhile Jason and Mark Doyle were solid. Jason, having some rail experience, really shined as he went 50/50 to boardslide, 50/50 to nose ride and 50/50 to backside slide. He was absolutely killing it with the most style and finesse of any I have seen hitting rails with a kite. James Brown had one of the larger jumps on his 12 Aero2 and nobody could figure that one out as the rest were strugging to keep much bigger kites in the air. With the wind still shifty and light it became obvious who the truly experienced kite fliers were.
The DJ had some great tunes flowing and the theme of the day was definitely rock and roll with a bit of metal on the side. Steve Klassen and Wave Rave had complimentary lunch in the way of grilled burgers and beers and all could be seen flocking to the grill at about 2:30 when the wind just died. Just as quickly as it died it pickup again and suddenly there were another 10 riders out there. Aaron Salles could be seen riding at every moment of opportunity as well as Alex, Doyle, and Jason S. The riding area was no all packed and very hard, but still riders were sending it and looking for anything to jib, launch or shred. Steve Lassen, Kevin Delaney, Chris Wyman and several others were spotted riding at some time during the day-and the cool thing about this event was that there were no fees, rules, heats, or waiting around-just a bunch of guys out riding having a great time because this is what they love to do and it showed. Everybody had a killer time and some incredible riding could be witnessed from riders from all over the country. Once the sun had set the tell tale ending of a session could be heard as the riders deflated their blimps and rolled up their foils.
Wave Rave hosted the awards party at their shop and riders were encouraged to cast silent votes for the riders they thought rode the most impressive. In the end it turned out to be Alex Peterson 1st place, Aaron Salles 2nd place and Mark Doyle 3rd. IMHO Honorable mentions should also include James Brown, Jason Slezak, and Kevin Delaney as I saw all of these guys riding with style and a passion. The Kite Daze event for 2003 turned out to be a great success and everybody involved had a chance to ride, watch, and shoot a sport that is picking up momentum with a tremendous pace. Special thanks goes out to Steve Klassen and Wave Rave!
STORM CHASERS is sponsored by REAL Kiteboarding, Flexifoil, Wipika, Smith Optics, Ultranectar and the Four Points Sheraton in Silverthorne Colorado.