Life Lessons from Kite Surfing

I thought I knew my left from my right, but clearly, my kite surfing instructor, Magali, wasn’t convinced. “ Steer left!! The OTHER left “ she shouted from behind me, as she held both hands on my harness to keep me from flying into the air.

It took me a good 90 minutes to learn to use my weight against the power of the kite. It then took me another 90 minutes to learn to trust her, and follow her instructions carefully, without trying to take control of everything.

In kite surfing, you learn one of life’s most important lessons – to let go when the wind is forcibly competing against you. On your first day, your most important task is to get comfortable with steering, and keep your kite at an ‘at-ease’ position. The kite is the easiest to manage when it is at a 12’o clock position, right above you, neither pulling you left, right, or forward. The best way to keep the kite in this position, is by pushing the handles away from you at mid-position. In some way, you’ve got to physically let go of the steering, and hold it at a distance where you have some control over it, but not too much that the kite starts to gather wind from all over the place and jerks you around.

“ Push away, and be at ease, “ Magali told me. “ The more you try to pull it towards you, the more you will lose control” At some point, I wasn’t sure if she was teaching me life lessons or kite surfing. But over a good 3 hours, I finally learnt how to comfortably get the kite up in the air, steer it from left to right, right to left, and be in the present moment.

Kiting really is about being in the ‘now’, the wind is a major condition that cannot be controlled, and so the only thing you really have, is the ability to go with the wind. To feel where the wind wants to take you, roll with it, and let it surprise you. I met a pro-kite surfer, Aya, who said to me “ sometimes you can have the best conditions, good wind, flat water and perfect equipment, but if your body is not in the mood, then you have to listen to it.” I watch one of her videos, where her usual relaxed mannerism is juxtaposed by her focused and sharp movements as she whacks out a mid-air spin, followed by another trick immediately after.

I’ve taken wind surfing lessons before, and thought kite surfing would be as tiring, if not more, since it included harnessing the power of the wind. It was a pleasant delight to realize how light the kite was, and how natural it felt to steer it. It was, in the most basic sense, flying a kite while you’re in the water, with a couple of more fancy equipment versus your usual reel and line. After 3 hours of kite surfing, I felt more or less like I would after a 15 minute run, energized and ready for a day’s work.

Lunch time came and went, and then came the actual fun parts. We were going to do body drags, which is basically steering the kite at 1-2’ o clock and 10-11’ o clock positions so that the wind could propel me across the water. The lagoon was a perfect place for these exercises, because of the shallow waters and the soft banks. I took a while to get my body in a stiff position, point my arm to which ever direction I had to go into, and keep my legs closed so I effectively became a surf board. In minutes, body dragging became my favorite activity. It was such insane fun, feeling myself go full speed ahead across the water, as if I were a stream-lined surf board. I swallowed a good amount of sea water because I was hysterically laughing so much, like a 5-year-old on the swings for the first time. Body dragging was a pivotal lesson, to help ensure I was ready for the addition of the board itself.

“Always keep your knees bent, and when you feel the power of the wind, I want you to push against the board and try to stand up,” her words were repeated in my head over and over again. I wanted so badly to stand up for just even a second, to prove to myself that I could pick this sport up fast. I tried and I tried and I tried, again and again, but it never happened. Magali never stopped being patient with me, and I realized she was repeating herself over and over again, so I must have really not been listening to her at all. Yet, she never once lost her temper, never once gave up on me, and kept checking on me to see if I needed a break.

On our final try, I told myself to screw it! Who cares if I can stand up, who cares if I face plant into the water, I just want to have some fun while I can. I steadied my feet, pushed the kite into position, waited for a chance to dip the kite a few times and boom! I stood up! Just for a second before I was thrown back down again but in that second, I felt invincible. It took me 5 hours to realize the one simple concept Magali had been trying to teach me from the start – to feel the wind and be in the now. The techniques could definitely have been stronger, the wind could have been more consistent, but all these conditions, even if met, are not as important as the little moments of opportunities I missed, because I was trying to get everything else perfect.

Kite surfing taught me to live in the present, to enjoy the current seconds that don’t fly by as quickly as we think they do. If you would just calm your mind, and breathe deeply through your core, time stops for you, and in those moments, happiness visits and stays with you for as Long as you want it to.

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