Since my last blog, great advancements have been made. For a start I convinced my girls to come and watch Mum and take pictures! So despite initial showers and diving for cover under a resting kite, the girls had a great time and these are actual pictures of the Blogger for a change!
I have been out many times since my last entry and first of all, body dragging was finally perfected, and I began to understand why it’s an important skill to learn. My efforts to get up on the board meant I inevitably fell off many times! Too strong a dip of the kite and I was pulled face-first over the board, and too feeble a dip and I would plop back in the water, so getting back to the board is rather handy! But here’s the final episode…
A kite boarder has a few choices when it comes to which board to use, and I’m not an expert on any of this. Basically there is a twin-tip, which is squared off on the front and back and is often used for tricks, or a wave-board if you want to ride waves. Both have foot straps, although expert kite surfers choose to go strapless on their surf-boards. The construction of either type of board is a blog in itself, but usually if you ask an expert they will guide you to the board best suited to your skill level, height, weight and use.
I bought second-hand gear on Craigs List, which for less than $300 I got a kite (which never really stayed inflated), a twin-tip board, harness and a bar. The board is actually a little too short and narrow for a beginner and I found it difficult to get up on. Each time I ducked the kite back and forth for power and got up, the board would sink down under water. For a more skilled kiter, they will be wiggling the kite in the power zone to keep them going until they reach planing speed, but I would get so distracted once standing, I’d forget and sink back down in the water. I did this many, many times, each time perfecting the lift so I wouldn’t go over the board and land on my face. The face plant resulted in lost board and much body dragging back and forth in the choppy waves until I would find it! So despite the incorrect sized board, I learned a lot.
This is when my instructor stepped in with his beautiful Naish Global surf-board. He usually rides it strapless, but put the straps on for me to try it out. The wide, floaty board was the trick. With my back to the wind, board pointed somewhat down wind to reduce drag, keeping my back foot bent under my bum for balance, then with a few ducks of the kite I was pulled up as the board moved forward. I was up on the first try!
I zig-zaged the kite up and down to keep the energy up as the board increased to planing speed. I felt totally out of control without any sense of drag, and the board was racing fast hitting the bumps hard making a loud clattering sound. With my mind racing with a hundred new sensations and sounds, I tried controlling the kite’s power by leaning on my back leg to make a gentler, more controllable ride. Too late, my momentary distraction made me lose balance and in the the water I went – but oh, what a feeling! I actually did it!
I began to realize the next issue was speed. The board planed wonderfully, to the point where I was almost going faster than the kite – and getting speed wobbles. Crash! A slight distraction and I was off, but not deterred. The thrill was sensed and I was body dragging my way back, then up again. It was surprisingly easy to get up. As a beginner I kept going downwind, not knowing how to turn the board very easily, so each time I’d go for longer and longer, eventually ending up on a long tack back into shore a mile from where I began. Success in my book! I wore a grin from ear to ear which couldn’t be wiped off my face!
On my next outing, I tried the twin-tip again, and after a few tries was up and planing. The advantage to this type of board is when tacking the board doesn’t need to be turned the other way. For me it just means slowing, sinking down, gently bringing the kite over head, then a quick dip of the kite and I’m back up going in the opposite direction but board still on my feet. The surf board required holding the kite overhead, slipping out of the foot straps, turning it to face the new direction, then re-positioning my feet. A little more cumbersome, and watch out for those skeggs! They leave bruises on the thighs. My intention is to ultimately use a surf board so I can ride the waves, but for now, the less complication the better.
It’s boxing day and the weather was fantastic. Fairly strong winds between 25 and 30, but no large gusts, and plenty of sunshine. My instructor sent me in at the East end of Kanaha (by Grandmas) and I tacked back and forth all the way down to School Beach in the next cove. I fell off a few times, drifted through the narrows near the “Bone Yard” and spent a fair amount of time body dragging back to my board, but I also had a lot of long runs, and when I landed on the beach that grin was back!
We deflated, wrapped up and walked back to Grandmas and I did it again. As I headed in to School Beach for the second time, I was actually under control enough to steer the board and check the speed with my back foot. This time my instructor had the grin. And so he should! After many months of perseverance, through fickle weather, deflated kites, and a few scary moments, my instructor had done an exceptional job successfully launching me.
As for the Dragon? He and I have come to an understanding and we’re working as team to do some real kiting!
This is the last installment for Kiting on Maui. Thank you for reading my Blog.
On a more serious note. Kite boarding is a dangerous sport. You must never try this without an instructor. There are Rules and Safety protocol to follow. Learning how to de-power, get rid of or cut away from your kite in an emergency is crucial. The very-thin lines can tangle around limbs and if the kite suddenly fills, can cause severe injury and even death.
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