On the ocean in four separate countries, over the course of 21 months, I have spent many days, shed not a few tears and swallowed my fair share of salt water in order to learn to ride back and forth on a kiteboard.
Kiting was not easy for me to learn and I have never struggled so hard and persevered for so long just to master the most basic of skills in a sport. I have learned and enjoyed sports that I initially feared (climbing and heights) and even though kiting was a bit frightening at first I didn’t expect to struggle with my fear for so long. I have learned physical activities that I had absolutely no background in (swing dancing) and so I didn’t expect my lack of board sports background to pose such a challenge.
In short, I didn’t expect to spend so long sucking. Just being able to ride back and forth, stay upwind, and make 50% of my turns is a sweet, long sought after thrill.
Kiting is one of those sports where you can spend a long time in the learning process without actually “doing it”. First you learn to fly the kite on the beach. Then you take the kite in the water and let it drag your body around. Then you take the board and the kite into the water and use the power of the kite to come out of the water and ride across the top of it. Until I was able to ride back and forth, I didn’t feel like I was actually kiteboarding or that I was a real kiteboarder.
A friend was joking that Carol and I were “rad” kiteboarders and I explained that although you might call me “brave” or “persistent”, I certainly hadn’t reached “rad” yet.
In other sports, you may suck, but at least you are actually engaging in the sport from the start. When I learned to climb, I could climb easy routes on the first day. The first day that I tried snowboarding, although I sucked, I was at least standing on top of the board (mostly) and sliding down a mountain. Even though I was not good, I was doing it. I first flew a kiteboarding kite in Bahrain in 2010. I didn’t kite again until July 2011 when I took lessons in San Francisco. I didn’t learn to stand up on the kiteboard until my third country, Mexico, where I spent several days a week for three weeks trying to do so. I wasn’t able to ride back and forth consistently until Bora Bora despite a week on the water in the Tuamotus and I just learned to stay upwind in Maupiti.
Why did I push through and stick with it? Even early on when I was afraid, I had glimpses of the thrill of it and I knew how much I would enjoy it after it clicked. Particularly now when we are gliding across clear water, startling sting rays underneath our boards, and I have enough extra brain cells to ride, fly the kite AND watch the stunning scenery pass by. Plus, I need a sport I can do with the boat, with my husband who has been my activity partner since we met, and which gives me that wonderful exhausted, soaked in the outdoors feeling.
I need another week on the water and then I plan to start eating salt water on a daily basis again…but this time because I’m learning how to jump. ((Our kite beach, near our boat, below))
A big kudos to my fantastic husband who has spent this entire learning process as my “support and gear” team, doing whatever he could possibly do to make it possible for me to focus on learning to ride. He took over gear prep, gear put away, rescued me numerous times in the dinghy when I drifted too far away, and generally is the reason I was able to keep at it for long enough to get it.