I have fallen in love, and his name is kite surfing.
I feel like I’ve just fallen in love with the boy of my dreams, and I have to leave him. Yesterday, after a week of waiting for my kiting instructor to give me the OK, I took a board out on the water, and I stood up! Now that I’ve finally felt the true potential of this sport, I can think of nothing else but where and how I can be reunited with my love again. In a panic last night, I scoured the internet for good kite surfing locations in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia. Anywhere. I am addicted, and will cut back on other expenses just so I can pay for a few hours here and there of lessons, and maybe pick up some gear along the way. I’m even researching flights to the Domincan Republic because my new pro friend Sam has offered me the use of her Star Kite-sponsored gear and her place to crash in.
After breakfast yesterday, I looked out at the shining sun and the kites starting to decorate the sky, and I thought, If I don’t make it on a board today, I’m giving up. I strolled over to the kite school to see if I could maybe get a lesson, not truly caring anymore and starting to think that maybe me and kite surfing weren’t meant to be. My instructor looked over the schedule. “Are you free right now?” he asked.
I ran back to Donkey Den to change, excitingly telling everyone there that I would actually have a lesson today. I threw on a sports bra and shorts and bounded out of the gate as guests and staff alike wished me well. They had all heard me bitch endlessly about how bad I wanted to stand up on the board before I left. I half ran, half skipped back to the kite school, rubbing sunscreen on my face and shoulders on the way.
Frainin and I did the usual stuff, setting up the kite and walking upwind with it. He had me body drag down the beach two times before he deemed me ready to get on the board. Actually, he said, I should have body dragged one more time, but I annoyed him so much that, thankfully, he decided to skip the third. He took hold of the kite and I held the board as we walked downwind for the third time that day. Even though I was wearing a helmet and a life jacket, I felt pretty cool as I passed other newbs in helmets still learning how to hold the kite or body drag. I was walking with an actual board with the actual intention of riding the fucker. On the way I passed other kiting friends and acquaintances. Jooast, a Dutch instructor who cooks meals at Donkey Den with his girlfriend Lillian, gave me a high five. His pupil, a guy from Switzerland who drinks beer at our table sometimes, wished me good luck. I saw Doc, AKA Javier, another instructor at the school, and he, too, wished me well. Annette and Juliet, my fellow volunteers, were handling their kite and shouted out, “You go girl!” I nearly moon walked the whole strip of the beach.
Frainin stopped and looked out at the waves pensively. He then demonstrated in the sand how I would get on my board in the water, then had me mimic his movements. I laid on my left side, with my left hand holding the handle on the board. He told me to press down on the board with my elbow. Then I had to come upright and move the board in front of me, using my left hand only as my right was on the bar, pretending to hold up the kite. Once the board was in front of me and I had my feet in the straps, I bent my legs and scooted my butt forward, flexing my feet to bring the board up on an angle. Frainin grabbed the lines and, acting as the kite, pulled hard to bring me up to standing. As he continued to pull, I felt my body go into the familiar stance of a kite boarder trying not to fly away with the kite. I straightened my left leg, bent my right knee and leaned back, holding the bar in front of me and trusting in the strength of the pull. Frainin gave me a mischievous smile and let go of the lines, letting me fall onto my back in the sand. He explained that to get the kite to pull me up, I’d have to bring it down to 10 o’clock and quickly back up to 12, repeatedly. This would put my left foot forward and take me out to sea, similar to body dragging. 12 to 2 would put my right foot forward and take me to the shore.
Into the water again. My left arm clumsily supported the board while I held onto Frainin’s harness as he and the kite dragged us out past the waves. He attached the kite to my harness. Ah, that familiar pull in your gut. I angled the board in front of me with little grace as my instructor held onto the back of my harness. I tried to keep the kite neutral at 12 with my right hand and use my left to hold the board steady enough to slp my feet in. OK, I was in the right position. Now all I had to do was move the kite. Tentatively, slowly, carefully, I brought it down to 10 and back up to 12. “Faster,” said Frainin exasperatedly. I told myself to stop being a wuss and brought it down hard to 10 and fast back up to 12. Push the bar up on the line a bit to depower, pull it closer to you to power. Relax. Loosen your grip on the bar a little. And suddenly I was standing up. And just as suddenly I was back down and Frainin was telling me to keep the kite at 12. “OK, good. Again.” 10, 12. Depower, power. I’m up and trying to keep my body straight, but my ass keeps dipping threateningly close to the water. My legs are shaking with the strain, but my brain is starting to understand what it has to tell my body to do. After a couple more soft crashes, Frainin tells me to face the beach and do the same on the other side. Let’s just say, my right side is not my strong side. 12, 2, I’m standing up and falling immediately back down. Right, I’m supposed to switch my legs. Straighten the right leg, bend the left. I tried again and ate it hard enough to lose the board. Frainin grabs a hold of it and tells me to body drag out of the water. The waves crash behind me and on top of me, but the kite pulls me out of harm’s way and makes me feel invincible. Obviously, I make it out way before Frainin and experience a sensation of glee and freedom at holding onto the kite without an instructor around. I feel like it makes me better when I have to listen to my instincts instead of Dominican-accented Spanglish. When he made it over to me, he told me I did a good job and asked if I was happy. I answered honestly. “Sort of. I need to try again. We’re going back out, right?” He tells me that we’ve already been gone an hour and a half when I only paid for an hour, an he has another lesson to go teach. Something about the way I stomped my feet and pouted like a child must have either softened his heart or scared him because he granted me another half hour.
Out past the waves, and already my body was learning how to deal with the board in the water. I got my feet in, gave a little practice 12 to 10, and then swung the kite hard, bringing me to a standing position. I was soaring for a while, cheesing hard as I watched my board cut through the impossibly blue water. Then I looked around and realized that I was pretty far out to the ocean, and brought the kite back to 12 so I could rest and get my bearings. I looked back and saw Frainin a ways away, pointing toward the shore line. Reluctantly, I angled my board the other way, brought the kite back down to 2 and made it a few feet before I crashed and lost my board again. Clearly my success rate is pretty low on my right side. I tried for a while to have the kite drag me to the board, barely hearing Frainin yell instructions at me over the surf. I soon gave up and just body dragged out. Frainin met me at the shore and took the kite from me so he could go back in for the board. Before he headed into the water, he seemed genuinely impressed that I was able to stand up for so long. “You went at least 20 or 30 meters. It takes most students a whole day, maybe two, to stand up like that.” Maybe he was just flattering me because he knew how much it meant to me, but I was in the clouds for the rest of the day.
I’m heading to Peru today. I hear Mancora has good kite boarding….Stay tuned!
by Rebecca Bellan