How To Change Your Life – Start Kitesurfing!

A Little Bit About Me

MeKotor

All my life I’ve been obsessed with water. Whether it be rivers, lakes or the sea, there’s nothing like the sound of running water or crashing waves to calm me down and make me feel alive at the same time. Growing up in Germany and then moving to England, I lived for a long time at least an hour’s drive away from the sea, so had to make do with rivers and lakes. My parents will tell you that they never had to worry about where I was – if they didn’t know, I was down by the river near my house, sat reading a book or skimming stones across the surface. I longed for the sea; it was my release, when the world got a little too overwhelming, it was a constant. Going to University in Nottingham, right in the centre of England, only made me miss the sea more. Whilst there I started snowboarding and spent several weeks in the Alps, falling in love with the snow-capped mountains but still missing the sea. When I got the opportunity in the summer of my second year to move to Portugal for 6 months and live by the sea, I jumped at the chance. But those 6 months flew by and before I knew it I was heading back to England to face the harsh reality of final year exams and my dissertation.

Entering the “grown-up world” after graduation, the stresses of corporate life meant I needed the sea more than ever and I’d escape as much as possible; often to the South Coast of England where I had friends from University. Whilst there I’d dream of living by the beach, walking along the sand with dogs and watching sunsets over the dunes. I’d wander along and watch the kitesurfers, gliding over the water or jumping high in the air – they all had one thing in common; the massive smile on their face. I longed to join them, but every trip came to an end all too soon and I’d head back to the city. Week after week I’d spend my days stuck in the office, surrounded by people that seemed so much more content indoors than I did and counting the hours until I could leave to wander home through the local parks.

CamberKitesEventually, after four years in the corporate world, I escaped when I lost my job and decided that rather than getting back into the same routine at a new job, I would make happiness a higher priority than climbing the corporate ladder. Within four months (with a hiking trip to Tenerife, mini ski season in France and a fortnight touring Germany in between) I’d packed up my belongings and moved to Camber, Sussex – determined to join the people I’d seen laughing and smiling on the beach there. Nearly a year later and well and truly settled into my kitesurfing “career,” I can tell you that not only am I hooked, but that it’s the best decision I ever made.

What is kitesurfing?

Kitesurfing uses inflatable kites to harness the power of the wind and allow the rider to skim across the surface of the water on their board. The kite is attached to you with a harness, and you control it using a bar. Depending on the wind you can use a variety of kite sizes, from a tiny 3m kite when it’s blowing a hoolie to a huge 20m+ kite when there’s barely any breeze. As you progress there are a variety of disciplines you can try; wave riding, freestyle, big air and racing, as well as lots of different kit options such as surfboards and hydrofoils. It’s a relatively new sport and is adapting every year and building a dedicated following that now includes me! There is something for everyone and there are always new and exciting things to try out – you’ll never get bored!

Is it really for me?

KitesurfingInEgyptWhenever I talk to people and tell them I’m learning to kitesurf, it’s always the same questions – especially from the girls. “Don’t have you to be really strong to do that?!” “Isn’t it really scary?” The answer is no. Whilst I’ll admit I’m definitely nervous before each session, that soon disappears as soon as I’m in the water having the time of my life. I’m 5’2”, 56kg and I have a reconstructed left wrist and hand; so, if you’re thinking you’re not big or strong enough to kitesurf, trust me – you’re wrong. On my first lesson there was a 14-year-old boy learning, and I’ve since seen the TINIEST 9-year-old girl kiting. I spoke to the guys at the centre and they’ve even taught people in their eighties! Because most of the power of the kite goes through your harness, it’s much less physically exerting than you’d think. Even if you’re not keen on water, there are plenty of activities such as kitebuggying or landboarding which are also great fun!

Another great thing about kiting is that you don’t have to go on holiday to do it – there are plenty of great kiting spots in England! Once you’ve got your kit, the beach is free. No more adding the costs of flights and transfers into your budget like you do with snowboarding. If you do have some extra cash, then there are some amazing kitesurfing locations around the world – ask your local school if they run any holidays or try searching Facebook for local kiting groups that might be heading out.

How do I get into it?

TheKitesurfCentreWhilst it’s completely safe when done properly, kitesurfing is still an extreme sport. The most important thing by a mile is to take lessons with a fully qualified instructor, preferably at a reputable kite school if you can. Since my local beach is Camber, I took my lessons at The Kitesurf Centre. They run a variety of group courses as well as private tuition. I’d recommend going for at least a three-day course – it will allow you plenty of time in the water and you’ll also have a thorough knowledge of the safety systems and how to use them. With each lesson I felt more and more confident on the kite, and by my fifth lesson (three group days and two private lessons) I was getting some decent runs in and was feeling pretty confident about my kite control. The instructors were friendly, knowledgeable and patient – I couldn’t have asked for more and I’m so grateful to each of them.

Once you’ve been signed off as an independent rider by your instructor and are feeling confident enough, I’d recommend hiring kit before you buy it. This will give you a chance to get used to some of the different brands and types of equipment and will save you from spending money on kit you end up hating. Used equipment is also a great way to build up your kit without breaking the bank – many shops will sell used equipment that has been checked over and repaired by a professional, so you know it’s completely safe.

My Advice

If I’ve tempted you to try out kitesurfing, here are my top tips!

  • SAFETY FIRST. Take lessons, check your equipment before every session and never go out in conditions you don’t feel confident in. There’s a saying in kitesurfing “If in doubt, don’t go out” and it’s famous for a reason. Better a trip with no kiting than a trip to hospital!
  • DON’T BE SCARED TO ASK. Everyone was a beginner at some point, and there is almost always someone who is better than you. The kitesurfers I’ve met at the beach are a friendly bunch and are always willing to help out with setting up my equipment, launching and landing and offering advice on the spot.
  • STICK AT IT. Throughout my third lesson I was struggling with getting up on the board and actually riding, and at times it can be frustrating to try something over and over again without seeming to progress at all. But I promise you’ll get there in the end, and you’ll feel all the more proud for keeping at it.
  • GET YOUR FRIENDS INVOLVED. I found that my progression in anything is always much faster when there are others with me, I’m pretty competitive and they help me push myself. Having friends on the water is also great if you’re a bit nervous. You can make friends at the beach too – one of my favourite things about kitesurfing is the amazing community I’m now a part of.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF. I’ve heard it said in surfing and other sports that the person having the best session is the one having the most fun, and it’s so true! Some of my favourite trips to the beach have happened when the wind wasn’t right for kitesurfing – I went stand up paddle boarding into the sunset, took the dogs for walks in the dunes and even played beach volleyball!

A True Beach Girl

Meeting Aaron Hadlow & Lewis CrathernKitesurfing has genuinely changed my life. I’ve always been a perpetual worrier and spent a great deal of my life stressed about situations that were unlikely to ever happen. When I’m kitesurfing, I’m focused on nothing but the wind, the waves and my kite. All the stress and negativity is quite literally blown away and replaced by the incredible feeling of skimming across the water. There really is nothing like it! Kitesurfing has made me fall in love with the outdoors all over again and has given me a new appreciation for Mother Nature. I’ve become more active and feel more confident in my own skin both on and off the water, met a bunch of amazing new people (I even met Aaron Hadlow and Lewis Crathern at a recent event in Camber – such nice guys!) and had some of the best days of my life at the beach. But most importantly, I wake up in the morning actually wanting to get out of bed because I’m so excited for the day ahead.

You can find more information and book a lesson here.

HOW TO: Look After Your Wetsuit

So, you’ve bought yourself a brand new wetsuit! After dropping a couple of hundred pounds on a wettie, you want to make sure you can get as much life out of it as possible. Our instructors spend hours every day in their wetsuits, so we’ve compiled their top tips for wetsuit maintenance (and repairs in case you need them!)

Before

  • Take care when putting your wetsuit on. Pull it on gently and try to AVOID SNAGGING it on fingernails or jewellery. Pulling it hard (especially the legs) can tear the seams around the knee or your heel can rip the ankle. Take your time and do a small amount at a time.
  • CHECK YOUR WETSUIT for any small holes, as these will stretch further if left unrepaired

Image result for pulling on a wetsuit

During

  • TRY NOT TO WEE in your wetsuit too often, as this deteriorates the neoprene and leaves a funky smell
  • If you stop for a long rest, change out of your wetsuit – DON’T LIE IN THE SUN WITH IT ON
  • If you change out of your wetsuit whilst still at the beach, make sure you DON’T CHANGE ON THE SAND

After

  • Take care when taking your wetsuit off, unzip all sections and GENTLY pull it off
  • SOAK for 15-20 minutes in WARM, fresh water
  • After soaking, RINSE the wetsuit out with more fresh water
  • Always dry your wetsuit INSIDE OUT
  • Hang the wetsuit to dry on a THICK HANGER – a thin hanger can damage the neoprene (you can cut a foam pool noodle to fit over a hangover or tie a couple of thinner hangers together and cover with lots of tape). Draping it over a thick rope or washing line is ideal but not always accessible.
  • AVOID cleaning your wetsuit with any aerosols, alcohol, solvents or petroleum
  • If your wetsuit seems a bit smelly you can wash it with WETSUIT CLEANER or small amount of BABY SHAMPOO
  • DON’T USE A BRUSH to scrub your wetsuit, simply rub it against itself in any particularly smelly areas (armpits etc.)

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Storage

  • Store your wetsuit LYING DOWN FLAT if possible, or on a thick hanger if not. DO NOT FOLD your wetsuit to store it, especially if it remains there for a long time, as this can damage the neoprene
  • Store in a COOL, DRY AND PROTECTED PLACE – with NO DIRECT SUNLIGHT
  • Do not store your wetsuit somewhere you also store vehicles which are used – the FUMES from the exhaust DETERIORATE the NEOPRENE over time
  • Do not store your wetsuit near chemicals, gasoline, oil or solvents

Repairs

  • For major repairs, take your wetsuit to a surf school to be PROFESSIONALLY REPAIRED
  • Small holes in the wetsuit can be fixed at home, using special NEOPRENE GLUE or NEOPRENE PATCHES
  • To LUBRICATE ZIPPERS, rub a small amount of BEESWAX on them

How to JUMP while Kitesurfing

Hi guys,

In this blog post going to talk about how to jump using the kite. As I’m sure many of you have seen

from YouTube videos, the heights that can be achieved through these jumps can be dizzying, and is

one of the defining features that really sets kitesurfing apart from other water sports. So much so

that Red Bull have created their own sports event dedicated to a particular type of jump; the

infamous megaloop. However, before we have you jumping higher than your house,

lets start with the basics.

A few safety considerations to make before you head out or do a jump….

Give yourself plenty of room, both from other riders and any obstacles. When you jump, you will

travel with the wind, so it’s particularly important to make sure there are no riders downwind of

you, and that you are well upwind of the beach

Don’t jump beyond your capability and confidence. Like when learning anything in kitesurfing, stay

patient, take your time, and enjoy the learning process. This will ensure you progress with a good

technique whilst staying safe.

Always make sure your equipment is in good order. It’s a good habit to get into to check your gear

for damages before you go out riding, especially your lines and bridle. And ALWAYS check that your

safety systems are working before you head out.

OK

So let’s assume your now riding confidently with good upwind ability.

Firstly, make sure you have a reasonable amount of power, enough to ride upwind comfortably but not so much that you’re likely to lose control or be pulled off your edge. We want to leave the water but not into orbit while learning!

Getting airborne is the easy part, maintaining control while in the air and landing softly is the key. Then you can confidently get higher and higher knowing you’ve the skills to land it without injuring yourself.

Once you’re happy with the power of your kite, ride across the wind as if on a normal tack with your kite at either 1 or 11 o’clock, increase your speed slightly and edge harder to check how much power you have from the kite. If you have plenty of pull then progressively edge harder still until you’re creating a big spray from the back of the board.

Take a look at this video to show the progressive edging and then final explosive thrust from your back leg. This is what makes the difference between going forwards and falling on your face, or going up into a jump. Without the edging and take off, there is no way you can jump no matter what you do with the kite. So spend some time practicing this progressive edging and release from the water.

The video shows why the board speed going into the trick is important as if you don’t ride fast enough with power then as you begin to edge you’ll come to a stop. This part of the trick is called ‘pop’ and it’s the most important part of the jumping and any trick where you leave the water.

The key to pop is pushing down hard with your back foot to create a spray from your board but in just a fraction of a second. The amount of pressure needed from your leg is high, so imagine you’re trying to push your back foot through the board while ‘loading it up’ and then when you can push no more, lift your front foot up to break the suction the board has between its base and the water. All in a moment, the tension you’ve been building up in the lines will suddenly catapult you forwards as the board leaves the water.

This is something that can be practised without moving the kite at all, and is worth spending some time on it as it’s the most important the part. The rest is just steering the kite and timing!

 

Once you’re happy there’s no obstacles downwind of you, send your kite to 12. This will create a

high pressure under the kite canopy, which will give you the boost you need to jump.

Pull the bar in, and you should leave the water.

Whilst in the air, keep your kite at 12, and the bar pulled in. Leaning back away from the kite will

increase your stability.

As you start to come down, the kite will act as a parachute and steady your decent.

Just before you land, bend your front leg to give yourself a soft landing. If one of your feet comes out

of a binding whilst in the air, it’s best to kick the board off before you land to avoid the possibility of

any ankle injury.

Dive your kite, apply your edge and ride off, feeling truly rad.

Obviously you want to steadily progress your way to higher heights. The following factors are what

affect how high you jump, so as a simple rule, the less you apply them, the lower you will jump.

– the speed you are riding

– how hard you are edging

– the speed you send the kite to 12

– the amount you pull the bar in

And that’s it!

Take a look at this video by one of our instructors which helps explain the process.

 

Common mistakes

  • Riding speed – it’s essential to go into the trick fast enough that when you edge to put you don’t just kill all board speed and come to a stop but it’s just as important to not ride too fast. If you ride too fast you’ll not be able to hold the edge for long enough and again will ruin the board release from the water.  A comfortable riding speed (10 – 12 mph) is ideal to begin with.
  • Pop & Board Release – Lets be honest, who hasn’t seen someone trying to jump that goes about 30cm into the air and 25m down wind? Everyone has! It’s the most common mistake when jumping and it’s all down to the take off. If you don’t hold the edge of your board in the water for long enough you can’t build the tension in the lines and upwards lift so the kite will swing across the window which will end with you being pulled forwards very fast and not going very high! To remedy this, ride a little slower, hold the edge for longer and only release when you feel the kite heading back over 12 o’clock, which will then be generating upwards lift. Using a small wave or kicker to aid this can also be very beneficial.

Check out this video for details on how to pop.

Rotating in the air – These rotations are generally caused by an uneven take off, so it is important to try and get the board to release from the water all in one. This is most easily performed by lift your front foot up quite hard so that it breaks the suction of the board to the water. The advantage this gives is that it allows you to control when you want to take off exactly. Another way to stop rotating once in the air is to tuck your legs up close to your chest, and tense your core muscles. This will give you a lot more stability and allows a lot better control. It should stop you spinning once air born and remove the ‘dangling’ feeling under the kite.

Falling out the sky! –  It’s actually relatively easy to jump and get quite high, but the hard part is controlled and gentle landings. It’s better to get the landing dialed before going to high as we’ve seen some pretty horrific injuries from heavy landings! The redirect is as important as the initial directional pull to create the take off.  As you come in to land, don’t be afraid to steer the kite reasonably hard as it has a long way to go across the window in a short period of time. That movement is what is creating the lift to soften the landing. As you improve and begin going higher you can introduce the downloop landing for even more lift, but that’s on another blog!

 

Developing your ability to jump will unlock lots of potential for tricks and fun.

So give it a go, progress steadily, and ride safe.

How To Kitesurf Upwind

Once you’ve mastered the board start, can ride both ways fairly confidently and can turn without

crashing/losing your board/launching yourself downwind, you’re ready to start to learn how to stay

upwind! Everyone knows, that although there’s nothing to be ashamed of, the walk of shame back

upwind is one of the most frustrating and exhausting experiences involved in the learning process of

kitesurfing. Without the ability to confidently ride upwind, trying out new transitions or playing

around in waves can also become less attractive as the thought of that dreaded walk coming sooner

than you want looms overhead! Luckily enough riding upwind isn’t as far away as you’d think and if

you follow these few tips you’ll be confidently riding upwind in both directions and as soon as you’ve

cracked it, you’ll be ready to work on your first jumps and other fun tricks.

To start off with, going out with the right gear is essential. If you’re confident with flying kites

(hopefully you should be by now) and maybe have a couple yourself, and you rock up to the beach

and the wind is looking in between sizes i.e. you’ll be slightly underpowered on your 9 but will be

slightly overpowered on your 12… Go for the 12. When learning to ride upwind, being

underpowered will make your life a lot harder than it needs to be. Riding upwind takes more power

than doing board starts and riding downwind. With less power your technique will have to be

perfect as any mistakes will be hard to recover from, and as you pump the kite through the air to

generate more power, the kite will pull you further downwind. With a more powered kite you can

ride further into the wind and if you make a mistake a small movement of the kite will bring you

back up to speed faster than an underpowered kite will. As well as this to ride upwind easier, a

larger flatter board is preferable, however if you’re struggling, correct technique will see you further

than dropping a load of money on a new board!

The first technique based tip and absolutely the most important technique when learning to ride

upwind is to look where you’re going! For many people learning to ride further upwind one of the

biggest mistakes they make is always looking at the kite. The kite is downwind of you and if you look

at that, your body is set up to follow that direction, your board will point you downwind and your

walk back up the beach will come a lot faster. When you look where you’re going, your shoulders

will naturally open up a little and twist in the correct way, which your hips, legs and board will follow

and you’ll already be riding a lot further upwind than before! An extension of this motion to get your

body pointed in the right direction if you’re feeling super confident, is letting go with your front

hand. This will twist your shoulders further than before, making riding upwind easier. But only if

you’re confident enough to fly the kite one handed!

The next most important thing when learning to ride upwind is your stance. For the perfect stance

you’re aiming to have a straight line between your leading shoulder and your leading heel. Bring

your hips forward and shoulders back, with your front leg straight and your back leg slightly bent.

With normal riding you want most of your weight on your back leg, but when riding upwind you’ll

want even more of this weight on your back foot. You want to lean back on your heel edge so the

board is carving into the surface spraying water away from you. Bring your toes up on your leading

foot and this will help the angle of your board in the water.

The next important thing is the angle of the kite in the sky. If you’re struggling to ride upwind, try

bringing your kite lower in the sky when riding, around or below 45 degrees. With a kite high in the

sky you’re more likely to be yanked off your edge as the vertical pull of the kite tries to pull you

upwards. If you have your kite below 45 degrees you will be able to send the kite further to the edge

of the window, and lean further against it at the horizontal pull tries to bring you back onto your

board, pushing you further upwind.

One common mistake people make when learning to ride upwind however is trying to ride too far

into the wind. Theoretically, you can ride up to 40 degrees into the wind when kitesurfing, however

with normal conditions and equipment 10 to 20 degrees is usually achievable. You’ll need to strike a

balance between edging your board enough that you’re riding into the wind, but not too much so as

to kill the power in your kite. If you edge too hard into the wind, your speed will deteriorate and you

will come to a halt. If this happens, come off your edge a little, increase your speed and you should

be riding back upwind again.

Speed is also another thing to consider when riding. Depending on the conditions you may find that

riding fast or slowing down will increase your chances of riding upwind. This all depends on the

power you have in your kite. If you’re super powered up, and you ride super fast, the apparent wind

you create whilst riding may create enough power to pull you off any edge you try to create to ride

upwind. If this happens you should be able to ride upwind whilst riding very slowly. However, if

you’re not quite powered enough, speed will be your friend. You’ll need to bear downwind to

increase your speed creating a good amount of apparent wind keeping you powered up enough to

ride into the wind. This can be tricky as finding the balance of using apparent wind to ride upwind

can be hard to strike, so as mentioned earlier going out with more powered than less usually helps.

One issue that also occurs when learning to ride upwind, especially here in the UK where we’re not

usually blessed with knee depth flat lagoons, is waves. Waves can be a major cause for riders to

crash out sending them further downwind leading to a faster walk back up the beach. Depending on

the size of the wave you will want to approach it slightly differently. With small waves, around waist

height or below, you’ll want to edge into the wave slightly and bend your knees as a kind of

suspension absorbing the wave as you ride over. With larger waves, you will have to edge into the

wave harder, and just before the wave hits, you want to effectively ollie over it, still tucking in your

knees to absorb the wave as it goes. To ollie over the wave you want to raise your leading leg whilst

pushing hard down on your back foot to get some vertical pop before the wave comes. With all

waves, as soon as they pass you’ll want to get back onto your edge as soon as possible to get back

riding upwind.

Finally, the last tip which is a great way to judge your progress is using a point to aim for. If you can

see something in the distance like a groyne or some flags, aim for that. It will give you a point of

reference as to where you are on the beach and how far you’re progressing. If before you could only

ride so that you’re further downwind from the groyne as to when you started, head back and then

try again to ride slightly further upwind and you will be able to see your progress as you get closer

and closer to where you started. The visible progression is a great motivator and will keep you riding

longer as you get closer and closer to riding upwind.

Overall the main points to riding upwind are:

 Look in the direction of travel, and if feeling confident release your front hand from the kite

 Correct stance/posture

 Keep the kite low

 Don’t ride too far into the wind

 Use the correct board speed

 Bend knees/ollie over waves

 Use a reference point

To learn to stay upwind can be frustrating at first, but with enough patience and practice you’ll nail

it. Focus on each individual technique first, then bring them all together to ride for hours without

leaving the water!

SEA BREEZES AND HOW TO KITESURF WITH THEM

SEA BREEZE

One of the most common phrases you will hear from kitesurfers is “sea breeze.” But what does it mean, and how can we use it to our advantage?

THE BASICS

Sea breeze is the term given to wind which blows from the sea towards the land, and it is created due the different rates at which the land and the sea warm up. During the day, as the sun shines down, the land heats up at a much faster rate than the sea. Warm air above the land rises throughout the day, causing low surface pressure, whilst the opposite happens over the sea – colder air causes high surface pressure. Wind blows from the high-pressure area above the ocean to the low-pressure area above the land.

SeaBreeze

How strong the wind is depends on the difference in temperature between the land and the sea; to create a sea breeze there only need to be a 3 degree difference! If the wind direction is already blowing onshore, the combination of the original wind and the sea breeze means that the wind strength will increase dramatically, and can be 1.5 or even 2 times the forecast strength. This is perfect for kitesurfers as it means both there is sufficient wind to kite and it is blowing in the best direction… onshore!

FACTORS WHICH AFFECT SEA BREEZE

Features on the land, especially mountains and channels, can increase the sea breeze further. This means that some places are able to rely almost solely on consistent sea breeze, whilst those with already good natural winds will see them increase by the sea breeze on a regular basis. The sea breeze can also be affected by patches of cloud which cover the sun, causing the wind to drop, or by the natural wind blowing in the opposite direction, though as long as this is under around 15 knots then the sea breeze can be strong enough to overcome it.

BE CAREFUL!

The sea breeze can be a big problem for kitesurfers with it being so unpredictable at times. The wind can go from next to nothing to blowing 20 or even 30 + knots in a matter of minutes, or can completely drop off and change direction. Kitesurfers can get caught out with kites that suddenly become too big, or may even need to self-rescue when the wind drops completely or changes to offshore. It can be worth waiting for an hour or so to check how the wind is building before on which size kite to take, and it is important to keep an eye on the cloud and winds during your session.

If you’re ever unsure about what size kite to take, you can always ask around – other kiters on the beach are a good place to start and are usually happy to chat and help. Schools on the beach are also good to ask!