Guys. I did it.
Yep, guess who is now able to get up and ride 10 – 15 metres to her right (only 2 metres to her left, but sssshhh) and THE BEST TIME EVER doing it?! You guessed it, me! And for all you wonderful people out there who have been following my journey, and for those who have had a laugh watching my many failed attempts, our lovely instructor Paul filmed it for us!
After feeling like I’d made really good progress when I went out with Rupert I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave it too long before my next attempt so as not to forget everything I’d learned. As luck would have it just a couple of weeks later we struck gold, a lovely sunny day with plenty of wind and nice small waves. More wind meant not having to pump up a 17 metre kite, yay! After a site assessment and setting up the kite we headed down the beach and I chatted to Paul a bit about what I’d achieved so far. The great thing about having private lessons is that you can go entirely at your own pace and work on whatever you’d like, rather than following a set lesson plan. I mentioned I sometimes struggled with rolling up towards the kite when doing my board starts, so Paul suggested we try working on that on the beach, with him gently tugging on my leash to give me the feel of the kite. After a few attempts I was a lot closer to standing up so we headed out into the water, which was a lot warmer than I thought it would be!
Because of the lack of wind when I’d gone out with Rupert, he had held the board to help me get into it so that I was ready to go as soon as there was enough wind. Since we had enough wind this time, Paul said he wouldn’t being do that, and I’d have to learn how to put the board on myself whilst holding the kite! This genuinely terrified me. How was I supposed to float in the water and put the board on without diving the kite and getting dragged away?! In fact, it’s actually not that bad. I’ll admit I definitely struggled the first few times but after a while you learn to “feel” what the kite is doing without looking at it so you can focus solely on getting the board on. By the end of the lesson I had no issues in getting the board on pretty quickly each time, something I was actually quite proud of!
The “rolling up” to standing position was definitely the part I struggled with the most. Whilst I’d heard many horror stories about students “superman’ing” over the front of the board (shout out to my friend Shannon who managed to release the safety AND lose a contact lens in the process!) I seemed to be going the other way, being too timid with standing up and ending up sitting back down in the water. The best tip Paul gave me was to try and get my head to my knee. For someone as unflexible (is that even a word?) as me that sounded ridiculous, but aiming for that did sort of force me to try harder with the motion of getting up.
The great thing about Paul as instructor is how genuinely patient and encouraging he is. Every time I tried to get up on the board, he was right there with me, and didn’t get frustrated with me at all. He was really good at giving me a small thing to focus when I needed a pointer, but also at knowing when I just needed to try a few times without any input. As the guys who own the centre will tell you, I am a perpetual worrier. It’s difficult not to worry that your instructor is bored (and freezing!) whilst it takes you what seems like 5387 attempts to get up on the board. I have to give it to every instructor I’ve had so far – you can tell they love their job and don’t mind at all if you don’t get things right all the time. Massive thanks to Paul, Rupert, Jen and Samina for putting the time in with me! If you’re nervous about trying kitesurfing because you think you’ll struggle, I’d honestly say just go for it!
The most difficult thing I found when first attempting the board starts is how much you have to think about, so it was useful to focus on a small part of it each time I tried, until eventually I could put it all together. Because I’d spent some time flying powerkites in between my lessons and had also had a kitebuggy lesson at the centre last year, I found the kite control part of the board start manoeuvre quite easy. If you’re struggling with controlling the kite or feel quite nervous with it, I’d definitely recommend having a play on something like a Peter Lynn Impulse Trainer – they’re super easy to launch even on your own and I’m much more confident with kites thanks to them.
After a good few attempts and correcting different things I was getting wrong, I was getting up more consistently, and in the 90 minutes we spent out in the water I noticed a definite improvement. Not only was I able to get up most times, I was riding further each time and wasn’t so hesitant about diving the kite. Most of the time I was trying to go right – this felt more natural as it’s the same way I snowboard, but Paul also helped me try to go left a couple of times. I was nowhere near as confident that way, but it was good to see that it didn’t go as terribly as I had thought (my left side can be pretty useless at times!)
I came back in with a huge grin on my face, happy that I was even closer to being able to kitesurf independently. I can’t believe that in just 4 sessions I’ve gone from learning how to fly a power kite to getting up and riding along without looking like I’m completely out of control!
Now it’s getting to winter and we’re a little less busy I’m hoping to get out another few times, but I’ll be wearing a jacket, booties and gloves for sure – being in just my 4/3 is a little brave for December! Luckily we have a stash of super warm stuff for students throughout winter so I’ll be raiding that!