By Julia Kammel, MD
I just recently moved to Salt Lake City and have fallen completely in love with it! When I moved here from DC everyone was surprised that I would chose SLC. Aside from having a phenomenal family residency (which goes without saying) there are endless ways to enjoy the nature that surrounds this city. When you think of outdoor activities in Utah my favorite outdoor activity might not be the first that comes to mind. To my surprise I have found that the SLC area has excellent kite boarding.
Kiteboarding is a relatively new but growing sport that is done mostly on water, but can also be done on land and snow. The kiter wears a harness that hooks onto a bar that has the kite attached to it. The kiter then uses a board to glide across the water.
The choice of which size kite to use depends on how strong the wind is and how much the kiter weighs. The bigger the kite, the more power it has and the higher up it will lift you, resulting in some very impressive jumps, and equally impressive crashes if you are still learning kite control.
When learning how to kite you train in developing a combination of kite control and board control. The kite has a leading edge that is inflated with a pump so that it keeps its shape. This is crucial for when you drop it into the water. The inflatable leading edge keeps the kite afloat preventing it from being a dangerous sea anchor that you are attached to. Learning how to steer the kite involves knowledge of basic wind theory. You will learn about the wind window which teaches you what positions in the sky the kite will have the most power. Knowing where the power zones are and how to angle your board will give you the skills to travel upwind without much effort. Once you are gliding over the water you can travel very quickly, with speed records of almost 60mph!
My favorite part of kiting is sunset sessions, when the water is smooth and peaceful, although one of the popular appeals of kite boarding is the endless amount of tricks you can learn when jumping over the water. This sport is still very new and every year the types of tricks and skills that kiters are developing are increasingly impressive.
Are you wondering where in Utah you can go kite boarding? Utah is by no means known for its traditional kiteboarding but in my short time since living here I have found multiple lakes that are good to kite on. Although you have to watch out, since some of the best ones, including Lake Utah, have algae warnings in the summer. However once the snow starts falling the kiteboarding world switches to snowboards and skis and takes to the air with these. Utah is developing a reputation for being an incredible snowkiting destination. The open spaces and great amount of snowfall makes it a perfect location. The goal is to find locations with smooth unobstructed wind flow and no obstacles (such as trees, power lines, houses etc). With some snow coverage these areas turn into snowkiting playgrounds. In just a few minutes you can cover vast distances. It feels a bit like snowboarding, but no need for a lift ticket since the kite can pull you uphill if the wind is going the right direction.
I am very excited to experience the world of snowkiting this winter! If you are excited about learning more about kiteboarding feel free to talk to me about it anytime.This is one of the many outdoor sports that rejuvenates me after a hard day of work and is a wonderful way to spend time with friends. I hope that everyone can find some way to be active and enjoy nature that fits best for them! As always be safe, wear sunscreen and have fun!
Julia Kamme, MD is an Intern Family Medicine Resident in the Department of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah, School of Medicine.