What is a surfer to do when their favorite surf spots are swamped with crowds? What about when the conditions are bad due to wind-chop? The answer to both of these conundrums is to go kitesurfing!
I began my journey of learning to kitesurf in the early 2000’s while living in Maui. The sport was just starting to get noticed and since Maui is famous for its unrelenting wind and beautiful beaches, it was an ideal place to learn. The equipment was in the early stages of development and instruction was difficult to find. But, I got word that a kitesurfing school had just opened on the island so I tried my luck by spontaneously showing up and introducing myself. I was stoked to find willing instructors who lent me free gear and they were happy to have a willing student who was ready to hit the water. That was the day I entered the niche sport of kitesurfing.
Learning to kitesurf was not pretty. First, I struggled to keep the kite up. Next, I had to get the feel for being pulled by the kite, which meant letting the wind drag me down the beach while doing my best to avoid colliding with people, beach gear, and bushes. My first days of kitesurfing beat me up both physically and emotionally– several years passed before I attempted the sport again in the cold waters of my hometown, Santa Cruz.
After an exceptionally crowded and frustrating surf at my favorite local spot, I ran into a friend who happened to be an avid kitesurfer. I was desperate to find another way to get my surf wiggles out without fighting the crowds. He offered to teach me the ropes, so I picked up some used equipment and we got to work. Learning to kitesurf was a slow and steady process that took a ton of patience and perseverance. Thankfully, the gear had improved tremendously since my first attempt in Maui and I had a trusted friend watching out for me this time. I went as often as possible, determined to do whatever it took to break into the sport of kiting.
I will never forget the day it clicked and I could finally stay upwind. What an incredible, graceful feeling; like flying on water. Graceful, that is until I needed to switch direction, at which point I had to sit down in the water to maneuver the board and the kite in the other direction. Shortly thereafter, in the warm waters of the Caribbean, off a small island called Tobago, the resident jellyfish pushed me to learn how to jibe. Without my wetsuit to protect me, everytime I sat in the water the jellyfish stung me multiple times and even managed to get into my bikini. It was a painful and persuasive motivator to conquer the art of jibing (which I did). Finally, I had the skills I needed to be a real kitesurfer.
For me, kitsurfing is freedom. The speed and power I can generate with a kite are exhilerating. Kiting also gives me access to the ocean when the conditions for traditional surfing are not ideal. Without a doubt, the best part of kiting is towing myself into waves. Whether that means having fun with playful smaller summer waves, or using the wind to pull me into larger winter surf, this is when I feel all my years of surfing culminate into a single epic experience.
Aylana’s top three tips for newbie kitesurfers
Get lessons from a kite school! (check out https://exotikite.com/)
Do not go out alone.