Kiting and Australia, two words that conjure up images of sun, sea and beautiful beaches. People in board shorts and bikinis with sun kissed tans. A veritable kiters paradise. Well it is absolutely true – some of the time. What doesn’t get mentioned is the other half of the year. For many Aussies kiting is seasonal, the cold of winter avoided at all costs. When long summer days are just a memory, winter kiting in Australia is a very different beast.
Picture dragging yourself out of bed at 4 am, in the pitch dark. Australia is the country that a three hour drive to a quiet kite area is still considered a local kite spot. The car is loaded quickly, as it is always coldest before dawn. Double check the gear! Nothing is worse than a 3-4 hour drive to find out your sleep filled eyes left your pump behind. Crank the heater to maximum and head off into the dark. Checking the wind is imperative. A lot can change in 2 hours down under. Making sure you are still heading to the right spot is critical, winter storms here can be unpredictable. Wind direction and ferocity can change dramatically in the time it takes to drive few hundred miles.
If all goes to plan, you should arrive to watch the sun rise over the water. Psych yourself up big time and finish the last of the coffee. Its going to be extremely fresh getting changed. Unless you were smart and bought a van, then tease your mates before letting them in. Put on the big wetsuit; 4/3 minimum, gloves, boots and hood. If it is not raining, hitting water in the morning light will be a greatly rewarding experience. Better keep watch on the horizon though. It most likely wont be long before you see the entire sky change as clouds roll in. Tighten your grip on the bar and ride out the rain squalls. Gusts of 40+ knots get your blood pumping, fear is now keeping you warm. Boost and loop if you dare, this is the time to show off those megaloops. Grey and black clouds are soon replaced to leave you with blue skies. This pattern of winter sun and savage squalls will be repeated all day. Learn to love it, it will be with you for 6 months.
After a few hours the fingers will be numb. When you can barely hold that bar it is time to come in. This time of year, a ‘billie' is essential. This is a tin pot used like a kettle, hot coffee or tea has now replaced a cold beer. Finding a sheltered spot to light the little camp stove is now the ultimate challenge. It is at least an hour’s drive to the closest shop, with the flat water and howling wind, no-one is leaving.
You will always hear the comments: “It’s Australia! How can you be cold?”. “Its got to be warmer than here”. “You must be enjoying all that sun”. Ok yes, summer might be 30+ degrees. Winter though is 5 degrees, 4 ams, 3 hour drives. Kite all day and drive 3 hours back with the rain pouring and the wind howling. If the winter wind is howling around you in Australia, chances are you'll be in the southern parts of the country. Where the nearest land mass will most likely be a polar ice cap. You can feel the wind carrying that icy bite and the water is deep penetrating cold. It is the deeply commited kiters that follow the wind, no matter the weather or distance. Summer might be all board-shorts and sun tan, but if you’re here for winter, bring thick rubber and a billie can!