I have always been drawn to athletic endeavors, beautiful stretches of beach, and the feeling of flying. So it isn’t surprising that kitesurfing has been high on my list of sports to try someday.
Imagine my delight when I realized that the little place we rented on St. Kilda beach (Melbourne, Australia) is directly across the street from not one, but several kite schools! I wasn’t even fully unpacked when I marched myself across the street and signed up for lessons. I was so excited.
[Little Voice In My Head: “I’m going to be a kite-surfer. I’m going to fly across the water with unimaginable grace and athleticism, zipping up and down the coastline with my colorful kite high above my head and my hair blowing (perfectly) in the wind. The pictures will be awesome.”]
Lesson 1: I am in a group with two teenage boys who are competitive snow-boarders. After a 5 minute lecture by the instructor, they seem to understand perfectly the complicated physics of using a 12 meter kite to power what is “just a board” ridden on “a slightly different surface”. I pretend to understand too (hey, my son had a snow board — I think it was a snowboard) and nod my head nervously.
As the instructor straps me into the harness, he calls me “Granny”. Really? Just watch what Granny can do, master-kite-boarding-boy.
After a brief lesson in the sand on how to steer the kite (in which I hold my own thank you very much) we enter the water for a trial run. In less than 2 seconds, that evil kite turns me upside down and smashes my body into the waves. The boys (who remain upright and never get wet from the waist up throughout the entire lesson) laugh at me and wave at their parents on the beach to make sure they aren’t missing the show. This isn’t going well.
Lesson 2: This time I opt for a private lesson, which is way better. My instructor’s name is Pierre. He is French and about the same age as my son, but he does not call me Granny, which warms me to him immediately.
I’m getting the hang of steering the kite and I even manage to make it do some deep dives and re-launch it successfully after it crashes. “Great!” my new instructor cries as he he high-fives me, “time for a little body-dragging!”
The idea of “body-dragging” is that you practice steering the kite so that it dips low from side to side. As it moves in and out of the “wind window” you get a fun little ride, which mimics the feeling of being up on a board. Sort of like this.
I was doing it (no really, I was). But then my kite stalled. I panicked. Without going into the details, I did something stupid and my kite looped. I got dragged for quite a little ways. My instructor’s eyes were as big as saucers after this incident. I thought I might be banned from kiteboarding forever. “I’ve been kiting for 8 years and I’ve never seen a kite loop” he raged. “You understand that you could have been badly injured or killed, right? NEVER do that again.”
Killed? You can die doing this? Whaaaa?????
Speaking of which: On my way back to shore, I made sure to take a moment to be present (something I’m working on) and drink in my surroundings, being grateful for the day. Then I noticed something. A massive shadow in the water. It was sunset. I was in waist-deep water about 100 yards from shore in an area that is known for its nasty sharks (including great whites). OH MY GOD. I AM AN IDIOT TOURIST WHO IS ABOUT TO BE EATEN BY A GREAT WHITE SHARK. I was just about to let out a shriek of sheer terror when I realized that the shadow was coming from my kite, which was flying gently in the breeze over my head.
At least I didn’t actually scream.
Lesson 3: Not much to report from Lesson 3. Some progress. The biggest thing that came out of Lesson 3 was the realization that I DO NOT LOOK LIKE THE VISION IN MY HEAD. I am not, in fact, flying across the water with my hair blowing perfectly in the breeze. I look much like the abominable snowman, only I’m wearing a German Gestapo helmet. Why do I look like this? As a beginner, I am not allowed in the water without a full wet suit, a bulky life jacket, and the German Gestapo Helmet (which is supposed to protect my head if/when I crash a kite).
So, to review:
1.) I can die doing this.
2.) I look like the abominable snowman (with German Gestapo Helmet).
3.) My kiteboarding *handle* is Granny.
Should I reconsider this dream? Your thoughts on this topic are most welcome.
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