He had checked the weather forecast that morning hoping it would be what he wished for. He had dropped a considerable number of pounds since last year so the slower wind worked better for him and today could not be more perfect at 16 miles per hour. He packed up his van, gently laid down his specially-made board and kite and took the 30 minute drive up the coast to his favorite spot with the ideal wind trap for side-shore kite boarding.
The shoreline was scattered with fellow kiteboarders who nodded politely to each other as they set up for dawn patrol. People stared as they always did when he unloaded his van. The set up takes him longer these days, but he didn’t care, he enjoyed the deliberate steps it takes to pump the c-shape sails and get everything ready.
Finally, he staggered slowly towards the water dragging the heavy board and kite behind him. He inhaled deeply and held his breath before the rush of the take-off took over took his body and set him free.
A slow start at first sent his mind wandering back to the times when he was flying fighter jets over Afghanistan. His precision techniques and sheer unwavering attention made him a great pilot and he knew it. His team trusted him to get the job done and he never let them down.
The wind picked up and he rose into the air with the ease of a gull. He knew he could handle it so trusted his instincts and did a faultless loop. He loved air style and spending time creating a show of form and finesse without being overly cocky. At this moment in time, the sky belonged to him.
He lost wind or concentration, he wasn’t sure which and crashed back on top of the water leaving him slightly winded and shaken. He had to re-launch and get the kite back into the air quickly. It was not quick enough for the resurgence of the forced away memory of his crash landing in enemy territory to flood back into the forefront of his mind. He couldn’t move. He was trapped with half of his body outside of the jet and the other half stuck between the seat and cockpit. There was no way out.
He shifted his mind back to the present and started to pull on one of the steering lines to get the kite back to the edge of the wind. His c-shaped kite made it easier to re-launch giving him another rush of adrenaline as he started to ascend skywards. He shouted with exultation and immediately regained composure to start his personal show again. He felt as high as the planes flying overhead. This is where he belonged. There was no other place he felt like himself more than in the air.
After two hours of surfing the wind started to whip up and become more fierce. He knew it was time depower and head back to the shore. His kite pulled him gently back in and he could feel the agony in the lower part of his body due to the sheer upper body strength he needed to do this. He had no choice, he had to return to land.
He has no memory of them pulling him out of the jet. His only memory is of waking up in the hospital and feeling the excruciating pain in his legs. He reached down to rub the pain away.
He pulled his board and kite back to shore and caught a glimpse of people staring again. He wasn’t sure if it was pity or admiration. He got back to the van, put his equipment away, sat in his specially made driver’s seat and unstrapped his carbon fiber prosthetic legs from his aching thighs. An older Serviceman walked towards him, saluted without smiling and walked quietly away. It was a good day.
Tomorrow he would fly again.