Forty, Fat & Trying
- Category: Forty, Fat And Trying!
INTRO - Cheryl Harrison attempts to overcome her autoimmune disease and crack this kiting caper
This is the first in a three-part series
Beaches come with a kind of compulsory happiness,’ a friend of mine once muttered. An attitude, I believe, that applies to a follower who reluctantly pitches a windbreak on a scorching summer’s day amidst a crowd of screaming kids and tries to plough through a paperback and bury their misery with it.
I’m the wife of a kitesurfer, and by default an accomplished kite caddy. A beach follower I’m not. For one year I thoroughly enjoyed trudging the sand and stones of Cornwall’s finest kiting beaches, mostly devoid of bathers and sun; a voyeur of the other half indulging in his passion. I often wondered if this was as good as it gets or if I could actually join him.
Apart from the fear normally faced with such an activity I was approaching forty, quite literally out of shape and suffering from an auto-immune disease called rheumatoid arthritis. This can make any or many joints in my body randoml stiffen, causing severe incapacitation and pain, this somewhat overshadows the other boon to my arsenal: lifelong asthma.
Putting all that aside, I approached Tim and Louise at Mobius kitesurfing school in Cornwall for a professional opinion on whether I’d realistically enjoy the sport at all. Secretly hoping they would say, “Not a hope in hell, love!” and I would return to launching others. Instead they took up the challenge...
I had already spent many hours on the beach over the past year with a small ram-air Flexifoil kite. Once we’d gone through all the safety and practical necessities they reckoned my kite skills were good enough to allow me to get in the water with an inflatable.
I can’t praise Tim and Louise enough for their patience and understanding. They tailored a unique, minimal impact approach, and after three lessons I was attempting to mount a board and their mission was complete - now it was up to me - practice and perseverance were needed more than anything else.
Since then I’ve become more revered than Eddie the Eagle, I’ve mastered the art of the face plant, demonstrating my technique to onlookers in five different countries. More committed than Bob Hope, I’ve entertained the troops in their holiday droves.
There was one instructor in Egypt though who particularly struggled with my form during a weeklong course. At the end of five days straight with a solid and very sandy 25-knot offshore wind, my body dragging was dialled. The biggest single achievement was getting into a rescue boat with the aid of only one, all be it very strong, Egyptian, and even then I can claim little of the credit. His slender build belied his brute strength and initiative.
Refusing my request to be towed into shore, he turned the engine off and coached me into the boat using the outboard as a ladder. Nevertheless, I wore his fingerprints proudly on my arm as a sign of my commitment for the rest of the week.
The biggest hurdle I’ve found over this past year has been coinciding the weather with my health. A year on and I can honestly say I’ve been in the water no more than twenty times, but I’ve enjoyed all
My better half is a big support, giving up primetime on the water to help me with getting the board on my feet. He stands watching while I make like Superwoman or burrow like a torpedo,fully powered-up, sometimes throwing in the odd kite loop and always a board-off, all with eyes closed and shrieks-a-plenty.
This hasn’t all been in vain. Though at times a hilarious spectacle, my numerous stuff-ups have improved my kite skills. I’ve become very capable of recognizing what situations I can save and when it’s time to pull the safety.
Kite down and belly down I’m constantly left star-fished in the shallows, groping for a foothold and blinded by a helmet that has slipped on impact over my eyes... what a sight!
However, my resolve has not wavered: I have a plan... A ROAD TRIP!
I’ve committed to a three-month sojourn amidst deserted beaches, scorching sun, insatiable flies and sea breezes. I’ll be giving kiting my undivided attention, as this seems to be the only way I’ll discover if it can actually be done by an outpatient with a lifelong membership. Away from any other distractions I’ll be maximising consistent winds in many locations from Perth to Broome along the west coast of Australia, kiting every minute I can. If it doesn’t come together for me under these circumstances, then perhaps it never will.
Cheryl is back with more heroics part two (click here), reporting on her progress from some of the best spots in Western Australia, where she’ll park, pump and play until she nails it.
Cheryl was proudly supported by Underground Kiteboards and West Country Watersports
This column is in issue #18. Read the whole issue online for free here now. Click here!
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