I’m headed out to Squamish BC for 5 days of kiteboarding starting tomorrow. This is a work-cation where I work on my laptop in the AM, kiteboard in the afternoon and work again in the PM. A reasonable compromise between all work or all play! I thought I would just jot down some of my thoughts about learning to kiteboard so anyone interested in starting from scratch had the benefit of my experience.
Learning to kiteboard:
- get a trainer kite and fly it as often as you can this will pay off for you when you get your first real lesson
- get a instructional DVD and watch it a few times. There is a lot to learn and by watching the video you’ll save time during your lessons by already understanding the basics.
- get some lessons from a certified instructor. Kiteboarding is a challenging sport that can be very dangerous if you don’t do it properly.
- set aside as much time as you can to learn. A week or two of dedicated time learning is much more effective than 20 weekends spread over 2 years.
- pick a good spot to learn. I tried 3 spots and they were very different from each other. If I had to rank them in order of ease of learning they would be: Lake Nitinat BC, Squamish BC and Hood River OR.
- use the kite school kites during your lessons. Even if you have a kite use the school’s gear. The first 6hrs of kiteboarding you’ll crash the kite a lot and since lessons are expensive you might as well take advantage of their beat up kites rather than trashing your own. To be clear I’m not suggesting you don’t treat their gear respectfully. It’s just that as a newbie you’ll be out of control the first couple days no matter how gently you want to treat the kite it will get pummeled.
- schedule lessons around your fitness level. If you are tired stop the lesson and pick it up the next day. Learning to kiteboard is physically demanding and as a newbie you’ll do everything the hard way so you’ll get pooped fast. When you are tired you won’t learn effectively, you’ll erode your confidence by flailing at the end of your lesson and you increase your risk of an injury. Don’t hesitate to take a rest day off while you are learning. You can always hang out and just watch other folks kite.
- watch the good guys. When you aren’t getting lessons just sit and watch the good kiteboarders. You’ll learn a lot from them just through observation. As you learn more you can also identify the folks that are doing things unsafely or using poor technique. You’ll learn from both ends of the spectrum.
- try and learn with a friend. You can help each other during the lesson and give each other feedback from a beginner’s perspective at the end of each lesson. You’ll also be able to work as a team and take turns practicing when you’ve progressed enough to be independent from the instructor.
- stick with it! There is a lot to learn and it can seem overwhelming. Frankly there were a few times I thought I just wasn’t cut out for the sport, but I kept taking lessons and then one day – *whoa! I’m up and riding*…=-) You might get it in two days, but I’d give yourself a week of lessons in a row until you are competent to kiteboard without supervision.
- kiteboarding is an individual sport, but it only works if everyone in the windsports community works together. It only takes a few irresponsible individuals to get a kiteboarding spot closed. It takes a lot of effort to keep kiteboarding spots healthy so every time you go out for a lesson or to ride make sure you do something positive to support your community. Help someone launch or land [when you know how], pick up litter, behave respectfully when around non-kiters/non-windsurfers, etc…
- windsurfers are not part of some different group from kiteboarders. They just use different gear to harness the power of the wind. Treat them like the comrades they are. We are all in this together and division hurts everyone’s interests.
- Have fun! Playing with a kite and a board out on the water is a blast. Be safe and pay attention to what’s around you, but don’t get so wrapped up “how to” aspect of the sport that you don’t feel like a 10 year old on summer vacation…=-)