So, I’ve got to be completely honest with you all now. I didn’t kite at all over winter. Not once. Instead of carrying on with my lessons and braving the cold, I ran off to the Alps and went snowboarding. I hadn’t prepared for how much I would regress after not going out for 5 months, so when I was faced with 25mph winds and a 5 metre kite for my first lesson of the new year, I was pretty damn nervous. So nervous that I ended up deciding I wanted to practice kite control and body dragging rather than attempting to practice my riding.
This time round Steve would be teaching me. Steve is our resident crazy South African, and one of the very first things I’d learned at the centre is that when you’re out and about and Steve isn’t on a lesson, you should never be doing what he’s doing. Whether it’s taking out a kite that’s way too big, or attempting to kite buggy through a fort of cardboard boxes (that he may or not have requested to be set on fire for the stunt)… just don’t do it. On a lesson however, sensible Steve kicks in, and he taught me all about the importance of upwind body drags. I’d done a few on my Day 2 lesson with Jen, but since that was around 8 months ago I figured I could use a refresher. Steve explained that upwind body drags are really useful for retrieving your board, and can also help if you are kiting in offshore wind and need to get back to somewhere that you are not out of depth. They can also help if you need to body drag out past a shore break to find calmer water to board start in.
After the session, I was disappointed that I’d essentially gone “backwards.” But the instructors reassured me that it happens to everyone, and that the only way to overcome it was to go out more. So go out I did – once a week, every week for 8 weeks. There were even a couple of weeks where I managed to go out twice! As soon as I started going out more regularly, I began to notice the improvement. My board starts were getting more consistent, I was more confident with my kite control and I was no longer getting taken out by the smaller waves (big ones definitely still caused me problems though!)
I understand that it’s not always possible to go kiting every week. Trust me – though you might think that I get to go out all the time, over the summer the centre is so busy that I work 70+ hours a week and only get one day off. But if you want to become a kiter, you’ve got to commit. I decided that even if I only managed to go out for 30 minutes, it would still benefit me. On some days, I didn’t even bother going on the water, instead opting to just fly a powerkite on the beach for a bit and practice one-handed flying or flying without looking at the kite.
Another thing you can try if you’re wanting to practice but don’t want to go in the water (maybe because you can’t be bothered with putting on a wetsuit, gloves, hood and booties – I feel you) is landboarding. Since you’re still on a board and flying the kite the skills transfer really well, I definitely felt more confident being more aggressive with my kite dives after a couple of sessions landboarding. It also has the advantage that you can landboard in any wind direction since you don’t need to worry about offshore winds carrying you off to the horizon.
Finally, although it might not sound like real practice, watching YouTube videos of kitesurfing tips really helped me. I found a whole bunch online under “The Kitesurf College” and found that if I watched them enough, I would already have in my head exactly what I needed to do when it came to trying. It was also handy to get a different perspective on some things – every instructor has a different method so it can be really helpful if you’re stuck on a particular aspect of kiting to look at it in a new way.
So, my main point of this blog entry is that you will get there, you just need to practice. Trust me, I know how frustrating it can be not to pick it up straight away (especially if certain people on the beach make it look so easy!), but it really is just a matter of committing to it and practising as much as you are able to.