Best Extreme Sport

Kiteboarding on the Bay

Pull up to East Beach or Crissy Field on a windy day and you're just as likely to see kiteboarders speeding toward the shipping lanes as windsurfers. Although the two sports have roughly the same objectives -- going fast and getting air -- the kiteboarders accomplish them in a manner that's more, shall we say, nuts. You see them out there, leaning back nearly horizontal with the water, holding onto kites shaped like melon slices that look sturdy enough to lift a car. Kiteboarders reach ridiculous speeds, and with just the slightest weight adjustment, the merest hop, they become airborne, spinning their rectangular boards or grabbing rails as they soar higher and farther than any board sport yet, snowboarding included. Participants caution that the waters off Crissy Field are for experts only, and for obvious reasons: brutal and unpredictable winds, tanker traffic, and strong currents that'll pull you through the Golden Gate if you fall. Which is good for spectators, since only the best will be out, blowing us away.

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