Swept away

01 15 Kitewing DS

Martin Kimbell, of Ashland, took advantage of the ice conditions on Lake Winnipesaukee on Monday to use a Kitewing to sail from Ellacoya State Park. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Icy conditions draw specialty sports enthusiasts


LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE — While most snow lovers were cursing the soaking rain that fell at the end of last week, a small subset of people were cheering the forecast – especially the frigid weather that arrived on the heels of the rain. Skaters, ice boaters and kitewingers knew that the result would be lakes covered with thick, smooth ice.
And, it turned out, it wasn’t only the locals that were thinking about the Lakes Region. Social media groups, blogs and forums were discussing ice conditions, and on Sunday and Monday, ice hounds found their way to Lake Winnipesaukee.
Martin Kimbell, of Ashland, was joined by Eric Morse and Laura Bonk at Ellacoya Beach on Monday, where they set up kitewings – handheld sails that range in size from 9 to 15 feet across, with which they planned to voyage all over the lake.
“It’s basically a small hang-glider,” said Kimbell. “They’re incredibly fun.” Kimbell operates Squambats Kitewing, which sells the Kitewings and associated equipment.
Morse said that part of the attraction of the Kitewings is that they allow winter outdoor sports enthusiasts something to do when Mother Nature spoils the snow.
“When you get a January thaw, and we usually do, and skiing isn’t as great, this gets better,” Morse said.
It was through media such as the Squambats Facebook page that people from further away were tipped off to the cold, thick and snowless surface of Lake Winnipesaukee – a condition that occurs rarely, but which offers unique opportunities when it does occur.
“Everybody talks to everybody, ‘where’s the best ice?’” Kimbell said.
Kitewingers can choose between wearing skis or skates as they sail along – Kimbell chose skis, Morse and Bonk skated. Many others came with skates alone.
Sue McNamara, from Portsmouth, and Forrest Barker, from Stratham, were part of a small group that also set off from Ellacoya on Monday. Their means of adventure was Nordic skates, which feature a blade much longer than a hockey or figure skate, with an attached binding that can be clipped into a pair of cross-country skiing boots. The longer blade allows for much less friction on the ice and for greater stability over bumps and cracks.
Though the ice is thick, those who venture onto it still have to be cautious, as Kimbell found out on Sunday when he skied into a pool, three-feet deep, which had formed between two plates of ice. He was fortunate that he could retrieve his skis and kitewing and quickly head off the lake, and that he was sailing with others that could help him.
“Be safe out there on the big ice,” Kimbell wrote on the Squambats Facebook page. “Remember your safety gear and wingmates. Conscious safety is a must.”

01 15 Forrest Skates

Forrest Barker drove from Stratham to spend Monday skating across the thick, cold ice of Lake Winnipesaukee. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)