San Francisco Bay area kiter Dr. Nick Levi was drawn early on to kiting on a foilboard. Coming from the kite racing scene, he realized that the performance of a foilboard far exceeded that of a conventional race board and once he tried it, he never looked back. While the challenge of learning to foil is one that can intimidate even the most competent kiter, the reward gained once up and riding is unmatched. The euphoric feeling of hovering above the water, as if gliding on air, and directing one’s course with just the slightest adjustments, feels like a journey atop a fast, high performance, magic carpet. Once mastered, foilboard kiteboarding allows for extended sessions, faster speeds, and less fatigue.
Addicted to the discipline for all these reasons, Nick decided to embark on a kiting day that would surpass all his previous hours long sessions spent training and riding. On August 1st, 2014, Nick experienced the most memorable day on his foil yet. Kiting on his foilboard at Sherman Island in the Sacramento River, he rode continuously for 12 hours straight, covering a distance of 186 miles. That is 720 minutes straight of gliding above the water covering an unprecedented distance for the sport of kiting.
Unplanned and without intent, his session was one to write home about and he posted his accomplishment and GPS track to his Facebook page. Quickly amassing likes and comments, some of his friends suggested that his distance just might have set a world record.
Encouraged by the response to his effort, he contacted the Guinness organization to check the record for the most distance covered by a kiteboarder in a single 12-hour period. When he realized that he missed the record by only 1/2 of a mile, the desire to push past the 200-mile mark was cemented in his mind. The following weekend, Nick showed up to the beach with extra fluids, power bars, and energy gels and did just that.
Passing the 200-mile mark in the middle of the afternoon, he pushed on and into the 12th hour of his session, he had logged 245 miles on his GPS in a 12-hour period. Although most of the official requirements for the record to be certified by Guinness were met, it was later learned that one key piece was missing- video evidence.
Still resolute in achieving his goal, and with the new challenge ahead of providing video proof of the feat, help was enlisted from local company SoloShot. With the assistance of the company’s flagship product- a robotic cameraman- Nick’s second record–breaking attempt was captured on video. As fate would have it, Nick never officially submitted the claim. His busy schedule and with the desire to push the bar even farther, he instead decided to dream up other plans of world records he could break, official or not.
Soon after, he fostered the idea to organize a group of 10 kiteboarders to kite more than 1000 km over the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with the intention of raising money and awareness of the human influence over the reef and to raise money to fund research for Motor Neuron Diseases (MND). The expedition (www.kitethereef.com) was a huge success and raised more than $150,000 for MND research and set a new Guinness world record as the longest distance kited by a team covering more than 1100 km over the course of 5 days.
Upon his return from the Australian adventure and with endorphins still pumping from their success, Nick got a chilling email from his dad. "Call me, I'm not OK with my health" it read. Learning that his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and annoyed with the lack of options for treatment of this deadly disease, he channeled his efforts and frustrations back into his long distance routine. Fast-forward a year to August 2016 and Nick knew that he had to break his prior 12-hour record, have it certified by Guinness, and publicize it in the hope of raising awareness and funds to support research for treatment and early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
The website www.KiteToCureCancer.com was created and a competent support team was assembled to document the attempt including two GPS recorders, video cameras, and a photographer. The plan was to go for it on August 13th, 2016, the same week that he had done it the year prior and 6 months to the day that his dad lost his battle to cancer.
The location for the attempt was Spinner Island Kite Club in the Sacramento River in California. Here the river is wide and the winds steady blowing throughout the morning and night.
The Crew met on Friday afternoon in Pittsburg marina at the Kite Bar to load up all gear and a keg of beer (thanks Eugenia at KiteBar).
After mental and logistical preparations were complete, they embarked to Spinner Island chasing the sunset and anticipating their day to come. At 4am, the team was ready to go with the waterproof lights, GPS gear, vitamin supplements, gels, and plenty of water for Nick to subsist on during his ride, as well as the rest of the day’s necessities.
As the wind was weak in the early hours, Nick and the rest of his crew started setting the kites, choosing an Ozone Edge 8m on 25 m lines. While this size kite might seem small to many, it's the kite that has been used in the previous long distance runs and offers a great combination of power with the ability for frequent looping.
Interestingly, it is also Nick's "big" kite. Usually you will find him on his 5m Edge.
Getting past the slight hiccup of a forgotten harness, it was finally time to get going. Once Nick was ready to start, the cameras began rolling and the official start time commenced at 6:36am, right at the opportune time to catch the sunrise. Guinness book requires at least 2 min of video every hour in addition to GPS data and photos.
The team decided to shoot over 10 min of footage per hour at first and then switched to recording every lap as Nick tacked on his North end of the run. Every reach was close to 2.3 miles at an average speed of 25mph, making a full lap in just under 15min. While it was a great start to the day,
the question on everyone's mind was the outlook for wind. Everyone hoped that the unfavorable forecast would be proven wrong so that Nick could achieve his goal. Luckily, and perhaps with a little help from the wind gods, the breeze did hold up, and by 3:38PM he crushed the 200 mile mark.
With a celebratory keg ready to enjoy, Nick took the first cold sip while he was still on the move. On the next tack, Nick declared he was shooting for 250 at least and kept on riding. Finally, at 6:36, as the wind faded, Nick pulled into the boat having clocked an official 254.5 miles in 12 hours. “I can't feel one of my feet, but should I go for more?” Were Nick’s first words once onboard. Although tempting, the team decided to hold off for safety reasons. Nick considered going further for the 24 hr. record (401 miles), but for the time being, the 12 hr. record would do just fine.