kitesurfing update.2

Windy season continues here in Grand Cayman, and both of us have been trying to take advantage of the conditions to improve our respective set of kitesurfing abilities. I took four kitesurfing lessons from Kitesurf Cayman before Christmas, and after the holidays, NS took me out on the water to practice my water starts.

Pumping up the 12m Bandit

Our teacher/trainee technique consisted primarily of me being strapped into my seat harness and hooked into the kite while he held onto the strap on the back of my harness as I positioned the kite at 12 o'clock, listening to him give me last minute instructions about leaning back and diving the kite and digging my heels in... Yeah, hectic. Very hectic. But I did see myself getting better, albeit in baby step increments. Generally, after about an hour on the water, I'd be tired of being yanked around by the kite without my permission, and I'd head back to the safety of the beach. Here's a video that ADP took to as I practiced some kite control (without the board) while NS hung on for dear life.

I'm so much better at using a camera than using a kite. Especially a camera with a polarizing lens, pointed right out to sea at a guy that uses a kite better than a camera.

Kitesurfing seems to be one of those sports in which riders are always crashing themselves or the kite in the water, because everyone has a move or a trick or some challenge to be working towards. So although NS can ride up and down the water to his heart's content (which is the extent of my kitesurfing goals), apparently that isn't the end all and be all. Enter the backroll.

Here's a video of the trick. I'll apologize ahead of time: Yes, I took the video with the same camera, lens, and filter used for all the other shots in this post. Yes, the camera technically takes HD video. No, I haven't mastered using Live View mode while trying to focus on a faraway moving object in super bright sunshine. I might as well have closed my eyes while shooting this:

In addition, he's always working on getting air and landing jumps. If a guy on the beach hadn't been in my line of view (below), I think this would have been a pretty good shot:

Tongue out and everything!

So anyway, a little bit more of an update on my progress. After several "lessons" with NS (as described above), it was pretty evident that the only significant progress I was making was getting more frustrated with my skillset (orr mainly, lack thereof.) I don't know if it's just me, but this sport has a serious learning curve that isn't helped by the inherent dangers of flying the kite too close to common hazards like trees and cars and rocks. And this steep learning curve isn't just regarding the jumps and tricks; my simple yet seemingly impossibly goal is just to look like this on the water:

A week ago, I was really on the verge of giving up. I just couldn't envision improvement significant enough to keep me plugging away for much longer. But right at that time, N suggested that I book a fifth lesson with Kitesurf Cayman just to gain consistency my water starts. I figured it was worth one final shot. So early last Monday morning, before work and almost before sunrise, I was on the beach in a 3mm wet suit, ready to get beat up by a kite again.

The great thing about Kitesurf Cayman (besides the ever-patient instructors) is that they take students in their boat out far from the beach (and away from dangers) so that there's plenty of room to practice getting on and off the board without the risk of running into obstacles. The water is deeper there also, so as a student, you're not concerned with getting dragged over coral or conch shells. We took off in the boat, and soon I was strapped into the board, trying to perfect the combination of diving the kite while rolling onto the board, but not over rotating my body, which would inevitably result in a face plant. I practiced this over and over and over for about an hour with some success. 

During the second hour, I also practiced going to my left (which feels backwards to me, since I always ride right foot forward.) It was during this period that I started to feel much stronger to my right, and even rode to my left successfully a couple times. Okay, so nothing significant, but these baby steps felt like a big deal to me.

As the two hour lesson drew to a close, we were positioned north and east of the kite beach where the water gets more shallow, making it easier to put the board on while keeping the kite at 12 o'clock. I knew I had time for only one more run. Please let it be a good one! I found myself praying, as I ran with the kite backwards in the water until I was away from the rocks that were underfoot. I got onto the board initially, and then due to bad kite control, lost momentum and sunk back into the water. But since I was still strapped into the board, all I had to do was reset my legs, put the kite at 12, and start again. This time, my body positioning must have been better than before (knees bent with about 60% of my weight on my back left leg), and I dived the kite to 2 o'clock, keeping it there while I adjusted the board under my feet. When I needed more power, I made little figure eights in the sky with the kite, just like the instructor had demonstrated. When I felt like I was moving too fast, I let the bar out a little until I slowed a bit. I was doing it, traveling across the water pretty efficiently. Soon I passed the area I started in; passed the small beach that N and I had always launched from; and soon approached the regular kite beach. I wish I had timed the run; it felt like a minute or more on the board before I finally lost some momentum and sunk down in the water, shrieking with excitement that my final attempt had been (for me) a wild success! My instructor fist pumped with me. Victory!

I have no photos or videos of the lesson, so you'll have to entertain yourself with one more ADP video as I practiced with NS. [Don't you just love her commentary?? ADP has always been my biggest (or only) fan.]

So the bottom line of this update is that I'm sticking with it. Quitting has never been my thing anyway.


  1. JENN! ACK! Another great post! I am SO happy to hear that your lesson went well and you got such a great ride in! You GO girl! It was just the encouragement you needed! I'm so proud of you! :D

  2. Windy season continues here in Grand Cayman, and both of us have been trying to take advantage of the conditions to improve our respective set of kitesurfing abilities. diving holidays