So, you’re 26 years old and you’ve left the corporate city life behind you to move to the South coast of England and work at a Kitesurf Centre. Turns out the first thing you need to do is learn how to kitesurf…
Well, that might not be you, but it’s me. Hi! I’m Karen, and this is my story of learning to kitesurf.
I’ve recently moved to Camber to start work as a Bookings and Retail Co-ordinator at The Kitesurf Centre, Camber Sands. If you’re already booked in with us you may well have spoken to me on the phone or over email. The guys running the centre have decided it would help me with chatting to you guys about kitesurfing if I actually know how to do it myself, so I’ll be taking lessons over the next couple of months and hopefully one day, perhaps next year, I’ll take my instructors qualification. I’ve been visiting the guys in Camber for the last 4 years, but never actually got round to learning… so, maybe just like you, I’m a complete beginner!
DAY 1 – “Even the words ‘body dragging’ sound scary”
It’s a warm, windy day here at Camber and there’s a space on a Day 1 of the Beginner’s Kitesurfing course with Samina. I’ll be learning with two guys; Bradley and Gedi. As luck would have it, I’d assigned the course to Samina, our Lithuanian instructor, and on the morning of the course, Gedi (a fellow Lithuanian) had called to check if there were spaces.
Samina is super enthusiastic about taking me for my first lesson, and though I’m a little nervous, I’m excited too! Once we’re all signed in and ready to go, Samina takes us up to the beach promenade to go through some basic theory and safety. She tells us all about the three key things to remember when picking a beach to go kitesurfing; the direction of the wind, the speed of the wind and the tide. Camber, on the coast of East Sussex, is a great place to learn and progress in kitesurfing. Because the centre uses both the beach at Camber and the beach at Greatstone (just a 10 minute drive away), the instructors can teach in any wind direction. She explains how when we’re first learning to kitesurf, we need just enough wind but not too much. Knowing there’s a maximum wind speed we will learn in (ideally, we’re looking for 10 – 25 mph) is reassuring; as a rather petite girl I’d like to know I’m not going to get blown away. Then we learn about the tides, and how it’s important to leave enough space either side of high tide to go kitesurfing, so we can safely launch and land our kites on the beach. Lastly, we talk about the hazards on the beach, in the air and under the sea. With all that done, we’re ready to go out and fly our first kite!
We head back to the centre, pick up a helmet and a kite and walk down the designated teaching area of the beach. To learn how to fly the kite, we’re using a Flexifoil Buzz kite, which Samina tells us is a great way to learn the basics of kite flying. Once down on the beach she shows us how to set the kite up in the correct position based on the wind direction and to check we aren’t setting it up near any hazards. She then talks us through the different parts of the kite and shows us how the lines and bar work. Once we’re all safely set up, we’re ready to fly! With a couple of small tugs on the bar my kite is up in the air and I’m actually doing it! I must admit I was pretty nervous about getting pulled down the beach by the kite, but just a few minutes in I realise I had nothing to worry about and I’m having loads of fun flying the kite in a figure of 8 and through different positions in the wind window Samina has taught us all about. Learning to fly the Buzz ensures I know all about the safety features and best way to use the kite and bar, something which we’ll continue with the whole way through our journey of learning to kitesurf. Learning this way is also seriously fun, so I can see why we have people who just hire the small training kites for a fun afternoon on the beach.
I really enjoy learning to the fly the trainer kite, and found myself proud when Samina tells me I’m getting on really well and that I’m ready to learn how to kite loop. Once we’ve all got our kite control to a good level we head back to the centre for a quick snack and to get changed into our wetsuits… we’re heading into the water to learn body dragging!
Stood at the centre in a wetsuit, harness and buoyancy aid (not to mention the bright yellow beginner’s helmet!), I’m beginning to feel like a real kitesurfer! Samina teaches us all about how to correctly put on our gear and how the chicken loop and safety mechanism work. We each have a go at putting on and releasing the safety, making sure we know exactly what to do when something goes wrong. As a massive worrier, this is really reassuring – learning everything step by step and practicing actually doing it using a trainer safety line attached to the side of the centre really makes me feel more confident about going into the water.
Samina picks out a 6m Airush DNA, we put our helmets on and walk down the beach… this is it! Once we get to the edge of the water Samina talks us through the different parts of the kite and how to check them all during the set up. We each have a go at holding the kite once it’s inflated, feeling how the wind fills it and making sure all the lines from the kite to the bar are untangled and damage free. Before we know it we’re ready to go, the kite is flying and we’re in the water ready to learn body dragging. Even though it’s only the beginning of June the water is much warmer than I expected and soon enough I’m bobbing around in the small waves excited for my turn on the kite.
Samina has explained the body positions and kite control we’ll need for our first body drag – the downwind body drag, and I feel confident in giving it a go (knowing she’ll be holding on to my harness and coming with me the first couple of times is still super comforting though). I take hold of the bar, get a feel for the power in the kite, steer it a couple of times and I’m away! Whizzing forward through the sea with a massive grin on my face… this is amazing! All the fear I had before I tried it (I mean, even the words body dragging sound scary) has gone and I can’t wait to give it another go. I try another few times and I’m really happy with my progress; I’m starting to see how my movements of the bar affect the kite and that it’s a lot more controlled and steady than I’d thought. All the images in my head of accidentally flying off to France have disappeared.
We’ve all had a couple of attempts at downwind body dragging so now it’s time to try directional body dragging, where we’ll change the position of our body and fly the kite using specific positions in the wind window to go across the wind, side to side along the sea. This is a little harder and we all crash the kite into the water a couple of times, which is great for two reasons; we learn how to safely relaunch the kite in the water and I learn it’s not nearly as scary as I’d thought to crash it – the kite doesn’t break and I can get it back into the air after a couple of tries.
After we’ve all crashed and relaunched the kite a few times, Samina shows us what we’ll need to do if we’re not able to relaunch the kite for any reason, and we learn how to pack down the kite and go through a self rescue procedure. We learn how to safely ensure the kite won’t power up and drag us away and how to wrap away the lines. We even learn how to use the kite as a sail or float to safely get back to shore if we’re injured. It’s a lot more methodical than I realised and I like that; going through each bit of the theory and safety procedures makes me feel much happier about eventually going out in the water on my own. With the kite slightly deflated and rolled up, we pick up the kite and head for the beach… we’re going to learn how to correctly pack away the kite.
Samina shows us step by step how to untangle the lines and roll up the kite, remembering to pick up our bag and pump we left on the beach and checking we’ve not damaged the kite in any way before putting it away. With all of that done we start walking back to the centre to wash our kit and store it, and on the way Samina chats to us about what we’ve managed to achieve today and what the next day of the course will include.
Back in my own clothes and stood inside the centre shop, Samina gives us a couple of fliers with information and a link to a website we can look at to recap what we learnt today before we come back for Day 2. She tells us we all had great kite control and we’re super happy – you can tell by the grins on our faces. I pop back into work mode for a few minutes and chat to Gedi and Brad about booking them in for their next lesson, then before I know it it’s all done… my first day of kitesurfing lessons is finished and I can see why people get so hooked on this; it’s unbelievably fun! I thank Samina – she’s been patient and enthusiastic the entire way through the lesson and a great teacher all round. I already can’t wait for Day 2, where she tells us we’ll learn some more different body drags and even work on standing up on the board!
For anyone considering learning to kitesurf I’d absolutely recommend the beginner’s course, I ache a little now and I’m ready for a hot chocolate, but I’ve definitely found my next hobby. I hope I’ve inspired you to give it a go and can’t wait to tell you all about my Day 2 lesson… maybe I’ll even be with you on it!
To learn more about our Kitesurfing Beginner’s course or other lessons you might be interested in, pop over to the kite school section of our website here or give us a call on 07563 763046.