Kiteboarding on Deer Creek.

You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a kite and that’s pretty close
Kitesurfing Quote

You might be wondering how a kite can make you happy – well I guess that would depend on the person and the type of kite. Some folks find joy and relaxation in flying your typical single or multi-lined kites that come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, all while keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. But others yearn for a little more adventure; these are the athletes who find happiness in large power kites as they fly across dry land, snow, or water!

Kiteboarding or kitesurfing is a sport that combines the aspects of paragliding, surfing, windsurfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and wakeboarding; using power kites to pull riders across a specific surface. In kitesurfing, the rider is attached to both the board and the kite, while kiteboarding encompasses various riding styles beyond waves, although, many use the term kiteboarding as an all-inclusive term.

The parachutes one might see soaring over Deer Creek Reservoir are, in truth, power kites. The kites, made of an extremely tough material, form their shape with an inflatable leading edge and struts. Athletes ride Deer Creek’s waters in a near silent form, kiteboard pitched against waves, moderately resembling a wakeboarder but without the boat. Dyneema lines harness the rider to the kite, controlling their movement and direction of flight based on tension (Dyneema is known as the world’s strongest, lightest fiber – 15 times stronger than steel, yet floats on water).

Kitesurfing in Heber Valley is a small, but very interesting, past-time. The traditional launch site is located along the southern end of Highway 113 near the junction to 189. These days, the site is largely maintained by volunteers. Formerly used as a launch for windsurfing (where the rider is on a board with a sail that is attached to the board), it begs the question, “Why, on such a rugged beach, would anyone decide to start and end a day there?” With thick brush and barb-wired fences, the location was useless to most other water adventurers. However, in 2017, several athletes took it upon themselves to connect with Deer Creek managers, volunteering to clean up the beach. These athletes continue to build on the heritage of wind-enabled water activities, especially at that particular spot on the lake. Today, with the site mowed and maintained, kitesurfers launch with little obstruction. Aside from the lone windsock, there is nothing that will catch their lines, bridles, or kites. Still, why there?

The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist hopes it will change, the realist adjusts the size of his kite. – anonymous

A long-time kitesurfer explained that “southwest wind blows up Provo Canyon, over the lake, channeling between Deer Creek Island near the marina and the west shore, creating a venturi effect.” The result is a generally steady, not gusty, wind, which the riders rely on for safe and consistent conditions. Another kitesurfer, Nate, attests he watches the weather closely from day to day, hour to hour as he works from home. Nate is self-employed, so when conditions align, there is often just a window of time to get a kite in the air and on the water. Those who live locally take advantage of favorable winds as much as their schedules allow.

Wind conditions are constantly changing, so riders keep watching how the wind affects the lake’s surface and other telltale indicators. When the wind is on, kites fill the sky. From the highway, commuters will notice kitesurfers keeping to their corner of the lake. Sharing the lake with recreational boaters presents a safety hazard to both surfers and boaters, so each group respects the others’ recreating space.

Safety aside, their chosen surfing location provides the best wind. Remarkably steady wind, almost strange in its stable force across the water and land, draws kiteboarders from all around the west seeking locations like this, sometimes even visiting from other countries.

“It’s definitely not an ocean breeze, it’s a bit more erratic. There’s a bigger range from the gusts to the lulls. For a mountainous body of water, it’s gotta [sic] be one of the most reliable windy lakes in the world,” explains Rob Umsted, owner of locally owned and operated kiteboarding school, Uinta Kiting. His organization is the only legal kiteboarding school available to teach on Deer Creek Reservoir. Classes are available in an organized format as a resource for new kiteboarders.

Umsted explained that as a windsurfer living in Hood River, Oregon, on the Columbia Gorge, “one of the windiest places in the world, it’s hard not to do wind sports there.” 25 years ago he saw a bunch of surfers with kites and thought it was amazing – that’s when he made the shift from windsurfing to kitesurfing.

Rob Umsted and Austin Hall, who has been with Uinta Kiting for three years, teach newcomers theory and technique to get someone from interest in the sport to fully independent on the water. During the summer season, they book out quickly, so calling at least two weeks in advance is always a good idea, but don’t let that stop you if you can’t. The duo will do their best to make sure anyone interested in learning – can! They also rent and sell kiteboarding gear. A one-stop shop and classroom, Umsted gets calls all the time.

“Somebody called last week, driving through from out of town, ‘We just drove by! Do you guys rent gear ‘cause this looks awesome!’ they exclaimed as they saw the mountains in the background with snow on it and kitesurfers out riding on the lake.” Visitors often express they’ve never seen anything quite like a kiteboarder gliding across a lake with Timpanogos behind them. For Heber Valley locals commuting to and from Provo, the site is common, yet still wonderfully intriguing.

The community is small and welcoming.
Social media groups can be a helpful resource for new boarders. Local resources not only include an amazing launch site, but also a place to learn. So, why are those guys out there on the lake boarding with kite power? It’s fun. They love it. And their passion has fueled responsible management of their launch site and good stewardship of their community, both on and off the water.

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re a little unsure just remember this quote from poet, Erin Hanson, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

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