Wind Kiters at KS Cheney State Park

Thanksgiving leftovers are about gone, football
is on TV, and the wind is blowing 50 mph. You’d think that Kansas state parks would
be deserted now – but you’d be wrong. M&M point at Cheney State Park is bustling
with color and activity as windsurfers and kiteboarders take advantage of the fierce
gusts. There’s something for everyone in the Kansas outdoors, and these inland surfers
found Sunday’s mild temperatures and gale force winds just right for their favorite
sport. Summer riders enjoy good breezes almost daily
at Cheney Reservoir, which is nationally known as a play lake for kiters, windsurfers, and
sailboaters . Earlier this fall, Cheney State park manager Jody Schwartz told why:
“We’re about 20 miles west of Wichita, one of the biggest cities in the state. We’ll
annually have 650,000 folks come and visit us. We get various recreation people. We have
campers, windsurfers, day use area people, fishermen, boaters, and jet skis.
Out here at Cheney, we’re a flat lake, with the wind pretty constant. October, we’re
about ready to shut the park down water wise, but sailors and windsurfers will still come
out. They’ll put on wet suits, and do what they can to come out and enjoy it.”
Kiteboarding and surfing are highly athletic pursuits, and the riders often surf together
for safety’s sake. Average gear runs several thousand dollars and includes the high-tech
kites and harnesses, boogie boards, and protective gear. Wet suits are a necessity when playing
in cold water, and hypothermia is a threat riders don’t take lightly. Most experts
have a “quiver” of kites or sails – different sizes to best handle various wind speeds.
High winds offer tremendous power for jumps more than 30 feet high and flights of 100
yards or more. But fun as it is, it’s also exhausting. Hour-long sessions are often the
limit. Stacy Messner of Wichita tells what it’s like to windsurf:
“It’s a handful, trying to hang on to that sail about 30 or 40 minutes, and your
forearms are just burning from trying to hang on to that. Then you go ahead and try to jibe,
make your turn, there’s plenty of wind. I believe my sail is a little big today, I
could have went with something a little smaller. Just because the gusts are, I’d say, in
the 50s (mph), it seems. “Yeah, you didn’t even try to jump. You
know, just coming off the backside of those waves, which are about, anywhere from three
to five feet out there in the middle, and just coming off the backside of those, you
get air. And the troughs out there are just so long, it’s like an ocean swell. You can
just ride it.” Wes Jenkins of Wichita was one of the kiteboarders.
He gives us his take on the high flights: “The ride today was absolutely crazy. The
only cool thing about it is, when you’re out there, you don’t think about anything
else. You just relax and have fun. And just hold on. The winds are great – there’s
five foot, six foot waves out there at times you can slash on and just have a blast.”
Needless to say, this pursuit isn’t for everyone. But that’s the great thing about
Kansas state parks – they’re public playgrounds for all kinds of interests. And for these
guys, high winds at Cheney makes the ultimate rush.
I’m Mike Blair for Kansas Wildlife and Parks

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