My flatmates at University used to come home to hurriedly scribbled notes on the kitchen table: ‘I’ve gone to find the sea’. With no mobile and no real plan, off I’d wander to get a glimpse of the sea and feel rejuvenated again. In my University holidays, I would get my hit working as a Divemaster on Koh Tao in Thailand. However, once I graduated and began working in London with a ‘proper job’, it was only a matter of time before that familiar pang would rear its head.
I must admit that diving in the UK didn’t appeal, and so I sought an alternative way of getting me back to the water. Having never lived near a kitesurfing spot, it wasn’t until I was on holiday in Morocco that I first saw kitesurfing. Not satisfied with sitting on a beach for a week, and intrigued by these figures racing across the water, I thought I would give it a go and signed up for a three-day course…
Now, I’ve been kitesurfing when I can for nearly five years, and I only wish I had started sooner! Kitesurfing is an exhilarating, sociable and immensely enjoyable sport, and all too often I find girls are put off trying it. Don’t be!
People assume you have to be super strong, have amazing upper body strength and have a screw loose to try this ‘extreme’ sport. Yes, technically it is an extreme sport. But it is very attainable, and if you get lessons and learn how to be a safe rider there is no reason to be scared of it. And anyone who knows me will know I am not strong, and definitely don’t have good upper body strength!
So, what is kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing uses inflatable kites to propel the rider across the surface of the water. The kite is attached to you via a harness, and most kiters start off with a board called a twin tip (like a wakeboard) attached to their feet. There are other types of boards available, (for example, hydro foils and directional boards that are like small surf boards) so there are plenty of options for a whole range of conditions. The different kite sizes available also mean you can go kiting in anything from hardly any wind to blowing a hoolie wind!
As the sport increases in popularity and developments with kit are made, so do the number of disciplines available. From waveriding, freestyle, tricks, big air, kitecross, hydrofoiling, downwinders, speed events and racing, there really is something for everyone and endless opportunities for progression.
How do I get started?
The number one thing you need is lessons. It might sound obvious, but kitesurfing is not a sport where you can simply buy some second-hand kit on ebay, watch a few videos on youtube and give it a go yourself.Done incorrectly, it can be dangerous. Kitesurfing kit has fantastic safety systems to get you out of any trouble you find yourself in, but you need to be shown how to use it. Lessons might seem expensive, but they are so worth it in the long run.
Kitesurfing also has a really fast progression rate, and compared to lots of extreme sports the basics are easy to learn (promise!). I’d go for at least a 3-day course. This will give you a good chance of mastering the kite and getting a feeling of those first moments up on the board. Kitesurfing lessons are clearly structured, with each step aimed at being a little more challenging than the last. It might seem like a lot to think about at first- flying the kite, dealing with the waves and the wind and using a board- butyou quickly learn to master all of them with the step by step structure. A good instructor will make all the difference, so look out for schools that are BKSA accredited.
Most kite schools will provide you with all the kit you need (although if you have your own wetsuit I’d recommend using that), and once you feel comfortable with the basics I would suggest hiring kit before you invest in your own. Once you have your kit though, that’s it. The wind and water are free! So unlike lots of other sports you don’t need to break the bank trying to do it.
I’ve kited in locations all around the world, and I can honestly say that my local spot is world class, so there is no need for expensive flights either.If you are in the South of England, The Kitesurf Centre at Camber Sands is the best place to go for lessons. It’s easy to get to from London, has experienced instructors and is run by friendly knowledgeable people. Their website is also packed with information about kitesurfing if you want to find out more. If you live elsewhere, check out the BKSA website for other qualified schools.
My Top Tips
So, you’ve had a few lessons, what else do you need?
- Perseverance! After those first few lessons, you need to keep practicing to become a proficient rider.You will fall over. You will crash your kite in the water (luckily they re-launch really easily!), and you will most definitely make mistakes. But that’s all part of the fun! I’ve done so many embarrassing things at the beach now that I’ve lost count. Thankfully, the kiting community are a friendly bunch and people are always willing to help each other out.
- Drag some mates along with you. I’ve found that my own progression is much faster when I go kiting with buddies. Knowing there is someone there to look out for you and encourage you makes all the difference. And if you don’t think you know anyone who is up for it, you will meet people at the beach who are. Kiting relies on other people to launch and land your kite, so you will really quickly meet other kiters. I’ve made some really good friends these last five years, and all too often it started with running over to ask them to launch my kite for me!
- Ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask other kiters for advice. Perhaps you aren’t sure what size kite to take out on the water or what kit to buy. Take advantage of the wealth of experience that is out there and speak to others.
- Keep an eye on the forecast. Before long you will be addicted to wind prediction websites as you eye up your next session…
- Having said that you need…Patience! This is, after all, a sport that relies heavily upon Mother Nature. That is the beauty of it. But it also means that sometimes the forecast changes and there isn’t really anything you can do about it! If the wind drops off, or picks up beyond your capabilities, you definitely need to learn to go with the flow. A trip to the beach is never wasted time though. Whether you practice some kite flying on the beach, go for a walk, or get to hang out with mates at the seaside, soaking up the freedom being by the coast offers makes any trip worthwhile.
It’s no exaggeration to say that learning to kitesurf has had a big impact on my life. For me, it’s more than just a way to keep fit and have a fun hobby. Being close to the sea has always been restorative, and flying across the water without a care in the world is a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s also been a way of continuing to challenge myself. I started to kitesurf at a time in my life when my confidence was lacking. Learning, progressing and blasting away any negativity with a session on the water was like active meditation. Each session a small achievement.
For many people, kitesurfing becomes a way of life. I know so many people whose lives have changed because of it. I know people who have beaten addiction, changed their careers, travelled around the world chasing the wind and fallen in love with this incredible sport. Having the wind in your hair and the sun on your face is simply the best feeling, and with the weather warming up in the UK there isn’t a better time to learn, so see you at the beach!
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After graduating Sophie worked in London for a charity as a youth worker. She then pursued her desire to work with young people and has been working in Schools ever since. When not teaching or being kept busy as a housemistress, she can be found at her local beach kitesurfing, walking her dog or in building overalls renovating an old farmhouse with her partner!