Neil Hutchenson creates a new kind of event, kiteboarding and sky diving combined. Many know of Neil going back ten years in kiting, now he has expanded into coaching sky diving. The venue in Sebastian, Florida is ideal for this sort of thing. The LZ is about two miles inland from the riding area. The riding area is accessible by boat about a 1/2 mile offshore within the Intracoastal Waterway. Shoreside launches in the area aren't so good given abundant long docks in the area to tangle with. The riding area is a narrow spoil island. It is rideable with winds from all directions, with flatter water on one side or the other in many conditions. The Intracoastal is almost three miles wide allowing the reduction of land-related wind shadow which creates excessive lulls and gusts.
The first day of the event was on Friday, which I missed unfortunately partcularly as they had some good wind. I drove up on Saturday first to the Sebastian Municipal Airport. It is about 130 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, 93 miles from West Palm Beach, 90 miles from Orlando and 140 miles from Tampa situated on the east coast of Florida. More about the skydiving operation there, Skydive Sebastian at: http://www.skydiveseb.com/index.html
More to come latter on regarding the remarkable flat water riding venue just to the east in the wide Intracoastal.
There were a bunch of sky diving kiters there already. A few kiters including Neil, Evan, Jesse and a few others started to get into sky diving in a big way about three years ago. More have come into the sport since then in SE Florida. The reasonable wind independence can be a very good thing.
Susie Q's bar on the water and opposite the sand spit riding area. Lyle Presse runs a pontoon boat as sea taxi to take experienced riders and students out from the dock there.
They started out the morning with a traditional sky diving competition event, seeing who could land closest to a depression in the ground filled with gravel. Neil is flaring for a landing here, coming very close to the target. Unfortunately, this shot was following the formation training jumps.
A dockside view of the Intracoastal and sand bar from Susie Q's.
Quite a few kiters showed up like Matt Sexton here, felt like a normal kite event with some new twists.
The kiters came out in force for light pretty uncertain winds on Saturday. I understand things were well powered the day before.
Neil walking in with Lyle Presse. As Neil has been a pioneer in kiting, Lyle has been a pioneer in recreational sky diving. A great team to have in place to bring participants from both sports together. Lyle ran the sky diving competition while Neil organized the kitesurfing.
The on site pro shot owned by Lyle Presse. Close to the sky diving LZ or landing zone and not far from the kiting area either.
They have organized Kiteboard Sebastian to service kiters in this great riding venue.
A look at the inside of the shop. Gear for sky divers and kiters all in one venue, impressive! Click photo for full sized image
The "Island!" Narrow, sandy, good with wind from most directions, fairly calm waters and just offshore from the local bar. Click photo for full sized image.
One of the chute packing areas. They were running a LOT of sky divers through here with two jump planes running continuously throughout the day. We estimated they might have over 1000 jumps in a day. The recycle from jump to jump is pretty short too.
They have a camp ground immediately adjoining the jump preparation area and aircraft tarmac.
This may be Pete's VW, makes me feel like I'm in a time warp. Used to see these all over Ft. Lauderdale Beach when I was growing up there in the 1970s. Still running and good for water people on the move.
One of the two planes being readied for loading up and another spiral over the field up to 13,000 ft. I understand free fall to chute deployment may last around 60 seconds.
The sand bar north of the island, great riding area in wind. I understand they even get thermal winds in the 20 mph range out of nowhere fairly often. AND, they have some summer thermals too. I suggested to Neil and Lyle that they set up a wind alert for regulars who kite up that way.
Joe Ruscito comes in under silk, although I think the use different canopy material these days.
A closer look at Joe and his lady. Joe also hang glides in addition to kiting and sky diving. These air sports compliment each other with some shared knowledge and skill base. I certainly learned a lot of practical knowledge and ideas to adapt to kiting from hang gliding in the early days of kitesurfing before we had much of a clue about anything in the late 1990's.
They have a bar and restaurant right by the pro shop. Click photo for full sized image
Evan another long time kiter got into sky diving about three years ago along with Neil and a few other riders. Evan is also a pilot keeping him focused on air activities more than most. Here he is showing off an camera integrated into his helmet. You will see full sized DSLRs and video cameras on mortar boards of sorts stuck to the top of some jump helmets. Bulky but they do deliver great images.
Matt floats into the LZ
Jesse a well known kiter walks in. He started about the same time as Neil in sky diving.
Some of the more aggressive experienced sky divers come in real hot, like 70 mph worth. Sky diving is all about managing drag, like kiting really. The less drag or projected area you present the faster you go. You can hear these guys ripping in just from the noise the air makes as they fire down to the LZ.
Enrique from SWFloridakiteboarding.com came over from Naples for the event. He was smart to rig a 16 m Crossbow and ride a Plasma light wind board. He was one of the few able to ride upwind, at times.
The run tandem jumps on many flights usually with these folks situated at the back or more accurately forward section of the plane jumping out last.
I decided to do a tandem jump to be able to get some shots from the plane and to relive the experience. A good friend treated me to a jump for shooting her wedding 19 years ago at Clewiston, FL. I think the more recent jump was more interesting. The jump area is incredibly scenic to say the least. Neil wore one of my GoPros and captured this shot of me in the forward section of the aircraft and the tandem folks near the pilot compartment. I jumped with Ian Brown a very capable, well informed certified instructor with only 14,000 logged jumps!
No need to even get wet the way Lyle barrels on on the spit.
A shot out of the window of Sebastian Inlet. Some may recall some fun downwinders AJ ran from Cocoa Beach to Vero by here, photos at: http://fksa.org/showthread.php?t=8052
Sean shredding across Sebastian Inlet with Kent hot in pursuit during the downwider.
A shot of Neil with the Slingshot helmet decal by the aircraft door.
Mike from the Otherside Kiteboarding was invited to come up to provide kiting lessons. Brandon from Miami Kiteboarding came up to help out Mike.
When the green light goes on and they say jump you want to do just that without delay. I recall the aircraft holds about 23 and you want to get the folks out while they are still over the jump zone.
Terri swings out at about 13,000 ft. above ground level (AGL) as I recall. This was captured from the GoPro video Neil shot from his helmet for me. She next stuck a leg back a few times and then pushed off into space.
A look at the airport from a lower altitude.
There she goes!
Riding into shore to grab my gear as the breeze is up. Not for long though, it had faded before I got my riding cameras sorted out and had returned to the dock.
This was actually shot by Neil using my GoPro later in the day during formation practice. Still it provides a nice perspective of sky divers flinging themselves out of the plane and falling down at over 100 mph.
Harry Parker is a professional photographer and an avid sky diver too. He shoots some excellent photos as exemplified from a recent trip to Rum Cay in the Bahamas. You can find more of his images at: http://harryparkerphotography.com/HPBlog/
An example of Harry's shooting.
A tandem pair flies overhead.
That is a look at the morning and mid day, I still need to wrap up the end of the day with the formation practice jumps. Have some interesting photos from that one so stay tuned!