Kiteboarding provides plenty of excitement, satisfaction
By David Higgins
When I first heard about kiteboarding, I didn’t like the sound of it. My first impression was that it was going to quickly become another fad sport; attempting to ride the wave of board sport popularity. Whenever I interacted with a kiteboarder, it was with the preconception that this individual was truly a lost soul desperately attempting to appear impressive, while lacking the guts and shear determination it takes to climb the learning curve of more challenging sports, such as surfing or skateboarding.
Humbly, I must admit that my respect for this sport and those involved increased immensely while on a recent vacation trip. It was on this trip that I had my own up-close and personal experience watching kite boarders in action. As the wind began to gust, carving marks along the oceans surface, the kite boarders flocked to the beaches the same way surfers do for an offshore wind and decent swell report. I watched in awe as they took full advantage of the wind gusts and the oceans’ surface. Zipping up and down the coastline, skimming within a few meters of the beach before heading back out to take another pass, making kiteboarding look effortless.
It didn’t take long before I realized that these kite boarders were living the dream; they had attained the ability to ‘walk on water’ as well as ‘take flight.’ As the shorebirds do, the kite boarders were capable of taking advantage of ‘lufts’ and ‘wafts’ that elevate them high above the rippling waves, hovering long enough to adjust the kite angle and be pulled downwards by the forces of gravity. Their seemingly effortless control and understanding of these natural forces was incredible to witness.
As soon as we returned to Okinawa, my search began for an opportunity to try this sport out for myself. I started by asking around and searching the web for information on the best ways to get involved. Usually, I am the type of person who revels in taking on the challenge of figuring out a sport for myself but when every experienced kiteboarder I spoke with highly encouraged me to take lessons, I decided that these folks knew best and began to look for the best kite boarding instructor in our area. In this search, I was advised that the kite can be very dangerous to maneuver without guidance and that the small ‘trainer kites’ are only useful for the first few hours of practice, after which, one would benefit from stepping up to the next level, using the regular kite. It wasn’t long before I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Okinawa’s ‘kite boarder extraordinaire,’ Mike Davison, from Patriot Kite Boarding School. I was convinced.
My wife and I decided to take the full day lesson with Mike for $300, which was an all day event that ran from 8:00am to 4:00pm. We began our morning with a broad view of the theory and science behind how kite boarding works. This sport is 90% kite orientated and 10% board. Mike was very personable, and clearly explained all of the ins and outs of the sport to us. We started off with the water training kites, which held incredible power and could take my 100 kg body for a pull as well as lift my wife’s 45kg body into the air about a foot off of the ground.
Initially, the practice kites were difficult to control but after a couple hours of practice, we were ready to move onward and upward. After lunch, I was given the 9 meter kite and was taken aback at how much more power it had. This reaffirmed to me the importance of taking lessons with a professional instructor. While on land with a good gust of wind, you can quickly lose control and the power of the kite can send you flying. This is a ‘hard’ lesson that is best to be avoided.
Once we entered the water with the powerful 9 meter kite, I felt a surge of relief, knowing that the worst that could happen at this point was that I could be pulled around in the water. After an hour of learning how to manage the kite with a fair amount of confidence, Mike offered me the board to practice standing on while holding onto the kite. I was able to stand up on the board for about 5 seconds each time before falling. Even as a seasoned surfer, I felt a strong sense of accomplishment at having reached this point on my first day.
After the lesson with Mike, my wife and I have never felt so exhausted and at the same time, proud of the progress we had made on our first day of kite boarding. We were definitely glad that we had decided to hire Mike as our instructor for this initial experience. Although we are still undecided as to how serious we plan to take our journey into our exploration of this thrilling sport, it is important that we stress what an incredibly invigorating experience it was to learn how to kite board.
As a converted skeptic, I can now say from first hand experience, that kite-boarders are participating in one of the most thrilling sports out there. Since this is a sport powered by the breath of Mother Nature herself, one can feel comforted and humbled by the fact that when kiteboarding, they are about as close to nature as a human has ever been. Being able to appreciate our oceans and seashores from this perspective is definitely worth the challenges that come with learning this exhilarating sport.