CAPTION: Storm chaser, Joshua Emanuel

SESSIONS

DELIVERANCE IN DURBAN

When one of the biggest storms in Joshua Emanuel’s living memory struck Durban in August, thanks to Covid restrictions, the South African Goliath of extreme big air riding happened to be ready and waiting in his home town

WORDS: Joshua Emanuel ALL PHOTOS: Wesley Redman

It helps to believe that some good things can come from bad situations. I have remained in South Africa since the initial big lockdown on March 28th, but as restrictions started to ease up in June and July I thought that I’d soon be travelling again. However, having a South African passport and no aeroplanes taking to the skies, meant there was no way out. Being back home in Durban for winter was the first time in six years wasn’t so bad. I scored some epic surfing, kiting, diving and explored places around the province for the first time. Watching the forecasts I noticed what looked to be the storm of all storms heading for the east coast of SA. Seeing pink and purple in a wind prediction is a very exciting prospect for me, except when the location in question is Durban. I laughed it off and chuckled,“Never!”It had to be over forecasting, predicting winds up 56 knots!

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The day arrived and sure enough I woke up to the sun shining and the wind blowing at 25 knots, which were producing some decent waves. I started off with a fun strapless wave session on my eight metre. Once I was all packed up the wind started to die off and I wondered if it all came earlier than predicted and had just ‘blown out’ hours before it was meant to arrive. Midday rolled around and by then the wind was down to just five knots, however talk was starting to pass through our local kite shop that the winds were reaching 100 km/h at Durban harbour, just 15 kilometres away. Not long later a buster of a westerly hit that had me bouncing with joy. Game time was actually on! I headed to the lagoon to attempt some short line kite loops, which ended in a bit of disaster after my bar unhooked and I had to release the kite. I packed the GTS away and pulled out the XR6 eight metre, though I kind of wished I had a seven.

White as can be, looking at the ocean was a view I have never seen in Durban. Wind gusts of 63 knots with an average of 58 knots was just so unreal, especially for here. Just as I finished rigging, my partner in crime Lorenzo arrived at the spot to join me on the gruelling downwinder. Once in the water things were better, until those nuclear gusts came through. Just when I thought it was all good, steering the kite to 12 o’clock would normally slow me down, but instead resulted in me simply only going up, even with my bar fully sheeted out and depowered. It was hell windy!

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We kited through sunshine, dark, stormy clouds, an incredible rainbow, more dark rain clouds and another rainbow. It felt like kiting on three different days all at once. What an incredible experience. At my level, this is exactly why I love this side of the sport; going out to break the kiting's boundaries as well as my own. It’s not often that I get ride in 60 knots, especially with my best friend and never in my home town. I’m glad that we both made it safely to the end of the downwinder with nothing but big smiles.

Kiting in storm force winds is extremely dangerous. In fact, anything over 30 knots should only be done by experienced riders who have taken the time to build up their skills and experience in a steadily building range of conditions. The windier it is, the faster things can go wrong. Take care everyone, but do enjoy the spectacle of the world’s best riders pushing the limits!

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