Tarzan Goes Sand Skiing
A CSUMB student takes his love of extreme sports to the treetops and beaches.
Thursday, July 11, 2002
Photo by Randy Tunnell.
Photo: Mass Transit? Kite surfing was too dull, so Bryan Schaeffer devised a new land sport around the concept. Above he tests the kite rigging and, skis secured, takes off down Seaside Beach.
''I''ll try anything-twice," declares Bryan Schaeffer, nearly-graduated 24-year-old Cal State University Monterey Bay student. Today Schaeffer is indulging in one of his tamer recreational pastimes: swinging and leaping through the treetops in a grove of Coast Live Oaks behind the University Center on the CSUMB campus.
On this foggy Friday morning, Schaeffer is accompanied by his roommate Mahito Shirako''s little brother, 15-year-old Aiki Shirako. Schaeffer tosses his wallet on a patch of ice plant and gracefully skitters up a tree. He pauses 20 feet above ground.
"Shoot-I forgot the key part," Schaeffer calls down to me. "Can you throw me a hair tie?"
It''s hard to leap six feet across the treetops with mid-back-length hair flapping in your eyes-I guess-so I oblige, tossing one up to him.
"I think I''m going no shoes today," announces Aiki as he practically walks up the tree. The rules of gravity seem not to apply here.
Schaeffer offers instruction to Aiki while doing a near-split to reach the next tree. Aiki is hesitant to jump to the thin upper branches of the adjacent oak.
"Grab a huge chunk of canopy and work your way left," advises Schaeffer. Suddenly Aiki, with a shower of leaves, is bouncing up and down in the next tree.
Schaeffer throws his legs up and wedges his butt on a branch 25 feet in the air, then straddles it before standing up.
"One of the tricky things about this is to know if a branch is alive or dead," he says. "Look for leaves-otherwise it can get a little nasty."
"Jump, Bryan, jump!" calls Aiki.
"The bends are really important," continues Schaeffer. "A branch with bends will twist and break, whereas another one the same size won''t. If you can grab a fistful of branch, it should hold you."
Schaeffer ponders his next move as Aiki does an impressive gymnastic dismount, hanging from one branch, swinging, dropping to the next, swinging, then landing.
"That was cool," I say in the awed voice of the uninitiated.
"It hurt, though," Aiki winces, rubbing his feet and hands. A moment later he''s 12 feet up again, pondering a six-foot jump into the thin canopy. He''s unsure of the odds-big jump, thin branches, and a gnarly landing if he falls on the dead stump below. Schaeffer encourages him to try.
"It''s the same theory as people who lie on a bed of nails," says Schaeffer. "The tiny branches in the canopy will hold your weight if you spread across them."
"Just remember, right after you jump, the branch you''re standing on is going to whip you in the butt," Schaeffer advises.
With a ruckus, Aiki leaps, hangs on to the wildly bouncing branches, then lets go for firmer ground.
Schaeffer owes his first taste of George of the Jungle maneuvers to his roommate of six years, Aiki''s older brother Mahito.
"I had an instant connection with my roommate," recalls Schaeffer. "We both looked at each other and said, ''Hey this guy does fun stupid stuff.''"
Schaeffer and Mahito have added spice to the tree climbing activity with games of "tree fetch"-where a branch is tossed between toes (no hands allowed) -and treetop slingshot paintball.
Dangers, many of them crotch-related, abound.
"My buddy Keith was bouncing on a branch to try to jump to the next, and when he let go, it came up and whacked him, he fell, then the next branch got him between the legs, spun him upside down, and he hit the ground," laughs Schaeffer. "It was hilarious."
From 30 feet up, Aiki throws lace lichen at Schaeffer. A flexible branch swings Schaeffer almost to the ground as he hooks one foot the branch, lets go with his arms, and dives.
With moss and leaves in their hair, it''s almost time to head to the beach for activity-of-the-day number two, a sport Schaeffer invented: kite skiing.
Still in the early stages of testing, "kite skiing" consists of strapping on a short pair of snow skis, wearing a harness, and hooking onto a giant purple kite designed for kite boarding, a related sport in which a giant kite pulls a person along the water on a surfboard.
Schaeffer, who ski raced as a lad, has tried kite boarding, but, bored with convention, took to land instead.
Seaside Beach, with its wide expanse of sand, is a favorite site for Schaeffer''s kite skiing attempts, but success depends on a combination of proper wind speed and direction.
Schaeffer hooks up a spider web of pink, yellow, and white cords and attaches the kite to his harness. A special release will drop the kite if he lets go of the steering bar.
Schaeffer goes down the beach, unwinding the cords as he walks backwards in bright purple ski boots.
As he launches the kite next to a group of seagulls, Schaeffer leans back, doing a little sideways jig down the beach to keep up with the strong pull.
He warns me to remain downwind of him. "Behind the kite is a very bad place to be," he says. "It can crash on you, and a couple of people have lost fingers in the lines."
A lull in the wind sends the kite nose-diving fast. I look anxiously to a pack of picnickers watching open-mouthed. Schaeffer maneuvers and lands the kite a safe distance away.
He untangles the cords and launches the kite again, this time managing to step into his skis as he holds the kite directly above him.
Sending it diving down and angling himself across the wind, Schaeffer puppeteers the kite to the "power zone" where he gets pulled across the beach, turning on his skis as he dips the bar left and right.
"In Santa Cruz I was lifted off the ground," he says. "Another time we tried night flying-with glow sticks on the kite."
The wind changes directions, and Schaeffer has to regroup again. Perhaps the day calls for yet another adventure.
Besides aforementioned activities, Schaeffer skydives, cliff dives, surfs, skis, and explores Fort Ord-without obtaining the proper permission of authorities.
"You can''t really get into trouble if you don''t get caught," he says, referring to his excursions into the explosives compounds and huge underground bunkers. "There''s only one I haven''t been able to break into yet."
Almost certainly, it''s but a matter of time.