kite_pumping
Image credit: Andre Charland.

Kiteboarding lessons are expensive! And thus you have to make sure that you get the most out of the ones you take unless you have a rich daddy. This article will help you get the most out of your first beginner kiteboarding lessons in case, like me, you dont have a rich daddy.

Having taken kitesurfing lessons with different companies, I’ve seen my share of good lessons and bad ones. Looking back over the lessons that I’ve taken, I’ve realised that there is one big difference between a useful and a useless lesson. And it is : preparation. Dont get me wrong, there are a lot of other factors as well but this aspect (ie, preparation) is something that you can fully control.

The act of preparation dictates how much value you get out of the lesson and the number of follow-on lessons you need to acquire a particular skill.  By preparing for a lesson ahead of time, you achieve much more during your lesson. Sometimes you may even be able to execute the skill that you’re focussing on during that lesson. This usually leads to saving a lot of money because you have spent the bare minimum, on lessons, to learn that particular skill.

Here are 7 things you can do to prepare for your first kiteboarding lesson:

1. Practice on a trainer kite

Practicing on a trainer kite is the BEST preparation you can do before your first kiteboarding lesson. This is because during your first lessons, the instructor will be teaching you with one. You will save about 2 hours on your lesson ($200!!) if you can show that you can fly a trainer kite with your eyes closed (literally).

Have a look at my post How To Practice On A Kiteboarding Trainer Kite to learn more on trainer kites and how you can use them.

This video tells you how to use and learn with a trainer kite : http://vimeo.com/4133932

2. Check The Weather

Make sure the wind forecast is between 15mph and 24mph. You could do it with a little less wind but its usually easier to get on the board if you are slightly more powered up. Also you dont want too much wind because this will pull you right off the board and could be dangerous.

All in all you want the following on the day that your going to learn how to waterstart:

  • Wind direction should side shore or side-on-shore
  • Wind speed should be between 14mph – 21 mph. The more gusty the wind, the harder it will be for you to learn.
  • The water should be flat with little or no chop.

Do not underestimate the weather. If you the conditions are worse than the above given parameters then getting on the board will be exponentially harder unless your athletically built. I’ve seen a lot of people give up kiteboarding because they kept taking lessons in less than perfect conditions and blamed themselves for not being able to get on the board.

While your learning to kiteboard there are a LOT of variables. The weather is usually the biggest variable you need to give allowance for.

3. Watch an beginners instructional video

If your going for a beginner kitesurfing lesson then I highly recommend that you rent or buy Progression – Beginner 2nd Edition

. This is a great DVD which explains everything you will need to know before you take a lesson.

Its not the most exciting of DVDs but is priceless with respect to the time you will save on the water.

I highly recommend the Progression Beginner DVD. If you just use the steps 1-3 I think you have a very high chance of getting on the board within your first lesson.

4. Visualise The Water Start in Your Mind

During a 9 hour or 8 hour beginner kitesurfing lesson, the most important thing you will need to get a handle on is the waterstart. This is the safest way to get going on a kiteboard and it will become second nature. I feel that the hardest part of kitesurfing is learning this skill. Many a people do give up right here.

The secret to the water start is to breakdown the maneuver in your mind into a series of steps and visualise each part in your mind.

Eg: For a water start for a beginner:

  1. Kite at 12, knees should be bent. You should return to this position before attempting to waterstart again.
  2. Move kite to 11 oclock and bring down to 2oclock into the wind window.
  3. As the tension increases and when you feel the pull of the kite, point board downwind while getting up on it.

Note: Keep board between you and the kite.

Visualise yourself performing these steps in the water.

  • Feel the water lapping around you and looking upto your kite and seeing the sun in the corner of your eye.
  • Feel the wind blowing and your board under your feet.
  • Next visualize looking at the kite in the sky and bringing it to 11o oclock.
  • And feel your board and body pointing downwind a little.
  • Then you swoop kite down into the wind window and feel it pull you. As you get pulled you point your board downwind, and try to get up on the board as you straighten your legs.
  • You then bring the kite back up into the window and then your going down wind and leaning back on your harness back while in the distance you hear yelps of delight and applause :) ….

Repeat the visualisation process till you cannot see how you could possibly NOT get on the board and sailing away.

5. Share your expectations

Share your with your instructor before you start your lesson.
Its very important that you get what you want out of your lesson. If your a beginner the school will already have a plan for the stages that you learnt.

List what you didnt like about your last lesson and share these with the instructor.

6. Things to do right before the lesson

Get your Gear in Order

This is a BIG BIG time waster if not done before your lesson. Kite lessons are real expensive and if your using your own equipment, try to set up the lesson such that the gear is ready to go within the first 10 minutes of the lesson. This way you can use the lesson riding instead of pumping your kite, talking to the instructor and paying him for the privilege.

Test your safety leash

Always always always always test your safety leash before you get in the water. This is very easy to do. Just put on your harness and put your chicken loop into your harness-hook. Next, have someone pull on your lines and then pull the safety system to see if detaches you from your kite. Make sure you put it back right after doing this.

Sand, salt water and other debris can get stuck in your safety release and can lead to a malfunction of the system. It takes 17.3 seconds to test a safety release and it could save your life.

7. During the lesson

Concentrate on one aspect that you want to improve

For eg: For a begginer, water starting and going down wind on long rides. For an intermediate: Doing your first jump and landing it or going upwind. Have fun!

Remember to Ask Questions

If you dont understand something, ask the instructor about it. Seriously, in kitesurfing you could get hurt because your unclear about something.

After the session, hang out with the instructor and ask him all of the questions that your mind should be exploding with in exchange for a beer too. With a good instructor you could learn a lot in the space of just a couple of beers. It will be the best drinks you ever buy another kiteboarder.

If your wondering which kitesurfing school to go to then have a look at my article named How To Choose A Kitesurfing School.



KiteStudent
Image credit: eyesnbach.
So you want to rip through the waves with the wind in your hair going 30 miles per hour on a piece of wood. You’ve decided that your next vacation will be to a kiteboarding destination where you will finally take a lesson. How do you figure out which is the best kiteboarding school in the area? Read on.

If the spot is known for kitesurfing then there will be many many different schools operating in that area. I’ve written down a few precautions and actions you can take to decide on the best school for you.

Always Take The Weather Into Account

Remember the weather will always affect your lesson regardless of whatever your kiteboarding instructor says. So make sure the conditions are right before even deciding on taking a lesson. If its going to be blowing 35mph then its a good idea NOT to take a beginner kiteboarding lesson on that day. The higher the wind, the harder it is to control the kite. Also its easier to learn with larger kites because they move slower. In high winds, you’ll be forced to use a smaller much faster kite.

Remember, your instructor is motivated to make you take the lesson because he only gets paid if you take the lesson. Thus you really have to understand what the best conditions are for what your trying to learn.

Dont take beginner kiteboarding lessons if the wind is blowing more than 20mph. The wind should be sideshore (unless they have a chase boat for you) and there should be minimum chop.

Questions to Ask

This is a list of questions you need to answer about the school if your serious about getting the most bang for the buck from a kitesurfing school.

  • Do they have a chase boat or jetski available? This will maximize the teachers ability to come to your aid when in trouble? This will also maximize your time on the water which is what you want.
  • Do they have the most appropriate gear? Kites are specifically designed for a broad range of users from beginners to advanced riders who do tricks about 50 feet in the air. You want to make sure the gear that you use is made for beginners and not any other type. The gear should be the right kite size with the right line length. The longer the line length, the more forgiving a kite but also the more powerful its pull. Make sure they are using the newest SLE kites with large depower.To make sure they dont lie to you read up on kite types here.
  • Do they have the newest gear? Kitesurfing gear has been making tremendous leaps and bounds in the last few years. So much so that it might take you twice the number of lessons to learn on gear bought 3 years ago.  Good instructors and clubs dont always have the newest gear for you.  Also make sure the gear is new … ie less than a year old. The worst thing to happen is to waste your vacation on old antiquated gear. The newest model SLE Kites and big floaty boards are a MUST. C-kites and small boards are a big no-no.
  • Do they ask you to prepare ahead of your class? If the school really cares about you getting on that board, they should give you some material ahead of time to watch and get acquainted with kitesurfing. Some schools ask you to buy the progression beginner dvd and watch it before you come for your first lesson. This is a good idea.
  • Can the instructor communicate to you when your out on the water? This may seem stupid but the most important thing during a lesson is the ability of your instructor to communicate to you. Even if the kiter is a world PKRA champion, unless he can communicate to you then there is little or no use taking a lesson with him/her. Thus make sure you can understand what he is saying and that you have some mechanism to hear what he’s saying while your on the water. (Ie a wireless headset or something like that.)
  • Do they give you a money back guarantee if there is no wind? In case there is no wind some schools give you a free credit for future lessons. Some dont give you any at all. If your on vacation you probably want to be able to get your money back as your probably never going to come back to that particular place.
  • Do they teach you to kitesurf without a board leash? Board leashes are dangerous especially out on the ocean when there are waves and gusty wind. This is because if you get thrown from the board into the air, its likely you will land back on the board if you have a kite leash on. A school which teaches you how to kitesurf without a board leash is probably a better school than one that uses board leashes.
  • Do they provide a helmet, impact west and goggles? Most schools do. Do NOT take lessons with anyone who doesn’t provide you with good quality safety wear.
  • How is the time calculated? Most schools offer rates on a hourly basis. So make sure they start the clock when your at the beach at the water not while your chatting up the sales girl. If your using your own gear ask them where they will be launching from and if you can get there, make sure your rigged up before the instructor gets there. If he’s a good instructor he’ll make sure that you get about 30-45 minutes extra but still charge you for the regular 3 hours.
  • Can some part of your lesson be used to pay for gear that you buy from them later? Eg: if you take a lessons for $300 will they give you a discount ($100 or more) off any gear that you might want to buy after your lessons? Most schools will only be more than happy to apply some or all of your lesson cost to the purchase of gear from them.

And that’s about it. I’ve had a few bad experiences with kitesurfing schools where I’ve been taken out on days that I really shouldn’t have been on the water. Hopefully this article will save you from having the same experience!

Instructor: “Its upto you. Its good wind out there.”.

Me: “Hmmm ok … ”

Dont let this happen to you!

Happy Winds.

-Vivek

lots_of_kiters
Image credit: Ingrid Taylar.

Hi there! If your reading this, you’ve stumbled upon my little effort in de-mystifing the sport of kitesboarding. Kiteboarding is one of those sports which can be really hard for some people but very easy for others to pick up. If your finding it a little difficult then this site is for you. You’ll realize that a large reason why kiteboarding can be so difficult to learn has really nothing to do with you!

I will be discussing everything from kitesurfing equipment to kitesurfing vacations to the psychology of kiteboarding. I hope this site grows into an information source and a community for kiteboarding beginners.

Why am I doing this? Well kitesurfing (or kiteboarding) is complicated and I’d like to make it a little easier for people to understand and enjoy. Its also really expensive and reading this blog may save you a few 100’s of dollars!