Okay guys. I feel like it’s time to put together a whole bunch of things I’ve learnt over the last year of kiting. Working at a kitesurf centre, having kitesurfers make up 90% of my local friends and dating an instructor… it seems that there’s not a single day I don’t end up talking about kiting. Whilst occasionally it can get frustrating (especially when the rest of them are so good at it!), it’s meant that I’ve picked up plenty of tips and tricks along the way. It’s also nice (or so I’ve been told by a couple of you who have come into the shop) to have a beginner to talk to about your experiences; someone who understands what it’s like to be new to the sport and have doubts / fears, not just someone who has been kiting for more than 10 years and can jump almost 20 metres (I’m looking you at you Tristan).
So, based on my own experiences, and chats I’ve had with you all after your lessons, I’ve decided to compile a list of things think it’s really important to remember as you start out on your kitesurfing journey.
- Take lessons. Take as many as you need. There are plenty of people who rock up at the centre having never flown a powerkite in their life and ask to rent out equipment, claiming that “they’ve seen it on YouTube and it can’t be that hard.” Kitesurfing is an extreme sport, and it is possible to become seriously injured or even have a fatal accident. Find a local school and take a course, take some private tuition, and don’t go out on your own until your instructor signs you off. Listen to them when they say you need to practice more, or that you need to go through some theory and packdown practice on the beach. Lessons are cheaper than replacing damaged equipment, or taking time off work because you’re injured.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. You’re at the beginning of your journey, they’re in the middle (and that middle may well be 15 years in). Everyone was a beginner at some point, and whilst more advanced kiters might not like to admit it, they’ve all struggled with some part of kiting once upon a time. That guy kite looping and boosting into the sky? There was a time he couldn’t board start. That girl nailing an unhooked raley? She couldn’t fly her kite with one hand at one point. Take advice from Usain Bolt and “don’t look in the other lanes.” Focus only on your achievements.
- Small victories are important. For a long time, I got frustrated that I wasn’t able to just get up and ride around, staying upwind without a care in the world. I set myself some pretty big goals on a short timeline, and was disappointed when I found myself lacking. Things changed when I started focusing on the little things. My best tip for a newbie kitesurfer is to spend a couple of minutes at the end of every session thinking about what you have learned or achieved. On my worst sessions, I’ve still learned something. That time I stayed out too long whilst ill and had to throw up before packing away my kite? I learned that I can go out alone and not be scared. I also learned not to go out for too long! That time I only stayed out for 20 minutes and swore at the waves several times? I got better at relaxing my legs to cope with the swell. Every time you kite, you learn something.
- Find a kite buddy. Learning with someone else can be super fun, motivational and safe too! If you don’t have friends who want to come to lessons with you, why not book a group lesson and see if you meet someone? Finding someone of a similar weight and ability can mean you can go out together and share equipment, which is great for the first few sessions when you’re not quite ready to go out alone. Having a kitebuddy can also give you the motivation to go out more often and also to know there’s someone out on the water keeping an eye on you. If nothing else, having a kitebuddy means being able to opt for 2-2-1 tuition, which is great value! Learn together and cheer each other on as you progress.
- Trust your instinct. Whilst at first you’ll always go out with the kite and board the instructor recommends for you, there comes a point when you are capable of making your own decision based on your ability and preferences. You’ll learn to kite under-powered to help prevent injury, but at some point, you realise you can hold down the next kite size up and it’ll actually make things a bit more fun. You can start to use your own judgement on top of the advice of other kiters. Whilst in Egypt this year, a friend told me to take an 8m. But I could see people out on 14’s and I knew the wind was forecast to drop, so I took out a 12m. And you know what? It was perfect. Go me. Take on board advice, but remember to have faith in your judgements too.
- It’s okay to not go out. Whether it’s because the conditions aren’t right for you or you’re just “not feeling it,” don’t be afraid to go out if you don’t want to. Some great advice I received early on (not long after the session I was sick after) was to never go kiting because you think you should. If you’re not up to it for whatever reason, you’re likely to have a bad session. That being said, if there’s only a little doubt, it might be worth going. Perhaps kiting will put you in a better mood, or perhaps learning to deal with a slightly stronger wind will be a great progression for you. But if you really don’t feel like kiting, don’t.
- Be safe. Once you’re up and riding around a bit, it’s easy to think that you’re pretty much an independent kitesurfer. But there’s so much more to it than that. There are a lot of things that you won’t necessarily be taught in your early lessons, that you can only gain from experience (and sometimes from some theory / beach based lessons – don’t disregard the importance of these!). Learning how to safely perform a pack down and self rescue is one of the most important things you can learn as a kitesurfer. It’s also important to know how to launch and land safely, how to check and maintain your equipment and what to do when things don’t go to plan. If you don’t know what to do when things go wrong, you are a danger to yourself and to other people.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is always something you can learn from other people, even if you’re an advanced kiter. And most people are pretty happy to stop and help you. If you’re unsure about something that seems “off” with your lines, ask someone you trust (your local school is always a safe bet for this!). If you’re curious how best to wrap your kite up, ask. It’s always better to ask someone than to have to need their help later on if you got something wrong. Everyone was a beginner once. Ask someone, and if someone asks you, be nice and help out. We’re all in this together.
- Enjoy yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in competitions with devices like the Woo, or to be always comparing yourself to someone on the beach. Stop worrying about who is jumping the highest, stop worrying about always having the shiniest new gear, and stop worrying about how you look in your wetsuit because you nailed a burger from the beach cafe before your session. The person having the best session is the person having the most fun.
I hope this helps!