Ever since Janice and I started our cruising life, I always wanted to pick up a water sport but didn’t have any experience in wake boarding, surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, etc… nada nothing. When we were landlubbers, I would do everything on land – biking, snowboarding, roller hockey, etc… So over the past couple of months, I’ve had an itch to learn something new and really thought that it should be on the water. Why not? We have all of this beautiful water around us so why not take advantage?
After narrowing down my water sports options to windsurfing and kiteboarding and many discussions with other water sport enthusiasts [usually involved many drinks], I weighed all of the options and chose to take lessons in kiteboarding. Why??!?!
- Kiteboarding equipment is relatively small. You can pack away the equipment on the boat and it does not take up nearly the same space as windsurfing.
- There are plenty of schools in the Caribbean islands. We found schools in Antigua, Union Island, St. Martin and St. Lucia but I am sure there are many others.
- After speaking with a very experienced wind surfer / kiteboarder – he told me the learning curve is much smaller for kiteboarding. The equipment has significantly advanced throughout the years and the sport has become much safer.
- Who doesn’t like to jump 20 – 50 feet in the air??!?!
So after weighing my options, I decided that I would take the opportunity to learn in Antigua. We always planned to be here for awhile (3 -4 weeks) which gave me the opportunity to take several lessons with the same instructor to ensure that I would like the sport.
Here is the breakdown of what you would experience in the first 3 lessons:
- Learning the direction of the wind
- Handling the kite. The school starts students on pretty small kites between 6 – 7 meters since they are extremely powerful!
- Safety, safety, safety. There is a ton that can go wrong in a short period of time so they really teach a ton of safety drills in different scenarios.
- Body drags upwind / downwind. What?!?!?! It is exactly what it sounds like and extremely important for board recovery when in the water.
- Relaunch kite from the water. When the sh*t hits the fan and need to dump the kite, they teach you how to relaunch the kite from the water. Lots of tips here and work extremely well.
- More body drags
- Introduction to the board
- The ability to water start with the board. This is by far the hardest skill and takes the most time to learn.
Looks extremely easy until they explain what to do:
- Place the kite in midday (right above you)
- Put the board on your feet in a sitting position
- When the wind is EXACTLY to your back, turn the kite to 11 o’clock
- Once the kite is at 11 o’clock and then pull the kite (to the right) and stop at a 45 degree angle
- Once you feel the traction (pull), stand up on the board and point the board the same direction as the kite making sure your right leg is straight and your left leg is bent.
I could not believe what my instructor was telling me. I had to do what!?!?!? I just laughed but after several hours, I started to get the feel for it. Definitely does not feel natural but I started to understand the physics / motion.
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE downwind kiting.
Unfortunately, we only got about 2 hours of kite boarding during the last session due to weather. The squalls hit the beach and then rained for several hours. Can you ride in the rain? ABSOLUTELY but the squalls really mess up the wind patterns and the wind often changes direction.
During my last session, there was a pretty big incident that occurred. When the winds shifted due to the squall, one of the kite boarders (not with the class) was pushed out to sea. Before he was whisked away to Africa, he crashed his kite and headed to the nearest deserted island. Janice was able to get a picture of him before the squall and that is the island in the background.
Once the instructors saw the situation, they were in constant communication with the Antiguan Coast Guard. The coast guard alerted a nearby resort and we saw a boat come to his rescue about 2.5 hours after arriving to the deserted island. I bet he was glad to see them!
I had an absolute fabulous time and CAN’T WAIT to get back on the water so I can hone in on my “water boarding” skills. Oops!
Special shout out to the kite boarding school Kitesurf Antigua and most importantly my fabulous instructor – Marcia. She was extremely tiny but she can easily handle those big kites.