Warm winds, brown water, rolling pasture lands with Devil's Mountain to the south and the Hills of Montezuma rising to the north. Just an hour east of the San Francisco Bay , but it feels like a time warp into an easier, simpler time. Sherman Island is the final spit of reclaimed delta levee land that separates the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers before they mix and meld into one and continue their eventual journey to the Pacific Ocean



It's a step back and time and a warm welcome from the hustle and bustle of city life. For the 24 competitors in the 2015 Ripping The Rio kite boarding contest, some who travel from as far as Victoria BC, Texas, La Ventana and San Diego, its all about slowing things down on shore and heating things up on the river.

Camping trailers in the Sherman Island parking lot. Tent camping in the soft grass below the levee road. The rustle of reeds. Blackberry picking. A seemingly endless supply of ice cold beer. Roasting hot dogs and sm'ores over the Webber. And win the wind arrives some racing.

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Aerial imagery © Progressive Imagery



The south west breeze in the Delta is pressure gradient dependant, with the cold 52 degree Pacific to the west, it only takes a mild 70 degree day inland to start things moving. pump inland temps to 80 and a bit of ebb tide and things really start working. Sacramento and Redding hitting the 90's and the Rio burns.

This weekend temps inland remained pleasant and Sherman Island responded with kinder, gentler pressure in the 18-14 knot range. Plenty enough to squeeze in 6 races on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. This isn't high stakes qualifying competition, more a county fair potato sack race with the chance to accidentally snag a fisherman's line with your foil in the process. Yes more than one case of monofilament entrapment occurred over the weekend, as sleepy fisherman spring into action, thing they had caught the mother of all sturgeons, their rods bent double and the drag whirling feverishly , only to discover the prize at the end of the line was not a 200 pound prize fish, but a 200 lb Bernie



All images other than noted © Guacamole Kite



But enough fishing tales, a tad on the continuing evolution of the sport. Rio Vista aka Sherman Island share in the some of the key developments in the past and will continue to do so in the future. The 1st foiling board on the West Coast when local kiter Lodevik Kint 1st showed up at Sherman in the spring of 2013 with a French foiling setup and attracted the attention of Bryan "Bernie " Lake and Adam Koch both who were training extensively on their formula boards at the time. They quickly recognized the potential of the renewed concept, embellished it and soon had dozens of converts.





The kites themselves continue to evolve as riders and development teams continue, and Sherman Island provides a more relaxed atmosphere for the fine tuning of rigs. While the racing models for serious racers is pivoting around high profile ram air kites, the subtle differences in canopy, leading edge and foil shapes for various conditions is controlled by bridles and control lines. As lines stretch, the shape of the kite ultimately also changes, so riders need to adjust accordingly. To get the maximum performance from their kites, a time consuming trial and error process must occur with notation and feedback to kite designers to refine the kites.






This weekends contest was Nico Landauer, a Uruguay transplant who resides in San Diego now and flies Elf kites, which emphasizes a thin blade high performance shape, which responded well to the light to moderate breeze. Nico never placed lower than a 3rd all weekend , his light air mastery demonstrated. Local Johnny Heineken, who grew up windsurfing in the Delta rides Ozone Kite's which caters to Johnny's big breeze primary location of Crissy Field in SF, The Ozone has a skinny girth and different camber profile than the Elf. Another leading sailor, Joey Pasquali rides F-One's, which have thicker blades and a different curve profile on the leading edge.
Confusing?


Try not to focus too long on one element of the quickly evolving sport of kite-boarding / foiling. Because one you think you have things figured out, something new emerges and give you another challenge to overcome. Best thing might be to slow down, crack a cold one with some friends, watch the river flow and not over think things. That's what the Rio will do....

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