Kitesurfing – no lifts, no fuel, no fees

Posted by Florent on November 19th, 2010 | Expedition

Just another deserted beach to call home for the night in Western Australia

A little over seven years ago, I spent two months living out of a mini van driving around Australia. I started my journey on the West Coast in one of the most remote cities on earth – Perth – and drove myself and a few other people for part of the route all the way around the North and East coast to Sydney. No daily plan and an ultimate sense of freedom. Just a starting point and an ending point, letting the days decide which path my adventure would take me, living in the outback amongst some of the most poisonous creatures on the planet. Living like a hippy with not a single care in the world.

As I was driving down parts of the East Coast, I distinctly remember seeing kitesurfers for the first time in the distance. As the floating shapes high in the air above the water in the distance started to come into focus, many thoughts ran through my mind. First of all, “what kind of a genius invented this sport?!?”. Secondly: “in my lifetime, I will learn how to kitesurf!”. As I reached the beach, I was taken aback by how the small human figures in the distance seemed to have perfect control of the massive kites, going upwind, riding waves, getting huge air. This sport was meant for me.

Seven years later, here I am, checking the wind reports everyday to figure out when I can get on the water next. I have now been kitesurfing for a little under two years, and I have to say that I have been hooked ever since riding the water for the first time. Living less than an hour’s drive from the Texas Coast, I can go anytime the wind is decent, whether it is on the weekends or even after work in the summer when I am able to beat rush hour traffic.

Riding a 14 m Cabrinha in light winds in Texas City, TX

Call it an addiction. Yes, maybe. But until you try it, it is hard for anyone to understand the ultimate feeling of freedom that comes with controlling what waves you will ride, what direction you will go, how much air you will get, all powered by a natural force. Nothing like leaning back on your kite and digging the edge of your board into the water, creating a wall of water flying downwind, placing the kite exactly where you want it, picking up speed and jumping off of a wave, getting huge air and hanging there for a while, then gently floating back down to the surface of the water, for hours on end, all powered by the wind. No lifts, no fuel, no fees. Just you, your gear and the elements.

To get started, I recommend buying a trainers kite and learning how to fly it really well. When you can do that, you are probably ready to have one of your experienced friends either teach you if they have a kite that they are willing to let you crash a few times. If not, a few hours of lessons is not a bad idea. After you are comfortable with body dragging, and dragging yourself upwind to practice getting back to your board, you are ready to hop on and surf. At first, you will most likely fall, have to walk back on the beach to get upwind, force drink water as your kite drags you downwind through the water, get your lines tangled as your kite falls out of the sky, and have someone have to go get your board as you are not able to get back to it. But once you quickly get past that, the sport becomes even more enjoyable.

Not sure if the wind is good enough to kite? A good way to check is to pee right into the wind. If it lands on the ground, the wind is most likely not good enough. If it lands on your foot, a bigger kite / board is appropriate. If it lands on your knee, you’re in luck, break out the little ones. Or you could always buy a wind meter, whatever you prefer.

Riding Toe Side

No lifts, no fuel, no fees. No fees once you have your gear that is. And probably the number one thing that deters people from getting into the sport is the initial investment of your board, kite, lines, and harness. For beginners, I recommend buying a used kite – with no holes in the bladders or no major tears in the canopy if possible. You will save bundles of cash that way. But you will soon realize that you will want more than one kite so that you have all possible wind conditions covered, because when there is wind blowing, you will want to be on the water. This sport will become part of your life, and part of your reason for existence. You will catch yourself at the most random times subconsciously looking at all of the wind indicators around you, the flags blowing, the tops of the trees swaying, the windows rattling. You will start noticing some things that you never used to notice. And when you do finally get on the water, it is amazing, every time, no exceptions.

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