Learning to kitesurf in Langebaan
Learning to kite is an experience nobody ever forgets. Janine from Planet Kitesurf had to overcome a harrowing (sort of) childhood kite-related experience before she learnt in Langebaan earlier this year. This is her story..
I’ve always been a water baby, I normally take to the seas harnessed into the trapeze lines of a hobie cat. But when I recently took a job at Planet Kitesurf Holidays I knew I would have to change up my harness and start kitesurfing!
To be honest, I’m not afraid of much, but for a large portion of my childhood, kites, and the wind for that matter, had terrified me. I distinctly remember standing on the beach, myself not much taller than my dad’s knees, watching with devastation as my tiny diamond kite was taken by a sudden gust and jumped and skipped across the waves – out into the unknown.
My mom recalls the story over many a dinner party. Trying to contain the laughter, she explains how for weeks after that rare sunshiny day in the UK, I would close all the windows and all the doors at the slightest gust of wind with fear that someone or something I loved would blow away.
But living in Cape Town, it’s a shame really that I can’t kitesurf so taking the job at Planet was the push I needed to get off my butt and head up the coast to the expansive flat water lagoon of Langebaan to try my hand at learning to kitesurf.
On arrival at the modern Windtown hotel in Langebaan, the wind was blowing an absolute hoolie but we were off to the beach to give it a go in any case. Fears of blowing away aside, trying to get a handle on just the training kite was an experience in 30 knots of wind – but we managed! Thanks to the expert instruction of Byron from Windtown, we soon understood the wind window, the power zone and all the ins and outs of kite flying. After we had nailed the basic understanding of flying the kite it was on to a 4m North to practice flying down on the shoreline. With Byron holding firmly onto my harness (negating my fear of blowing away) I gained an understanding of how to use the safety systems, power and depower the kite, how to hold the kite in one position (more or less!) and how to launch and dump the kite. The power exerted by even this small kite was kind of inspiring, in a terrifying way, and I wondered how I would ever feel in control. However after some hours of practice I realised that the reaction of the kite could be equated to that of a hobie spinnaker and that sheeting movements could be pre-empted just like I would when sailing, and the power could be carried by the hips and stance rather than through the calves and heels as I initially attempted to do.
All around me as we progressed with our lessons on to re launching the kite, body dragging and upwind body dragging, others were doing the exact same thing, all safely joined by an instructor who was on hand to ensure the whole thing didn’t dissolve into absolute chaos. The body dragging really gave me a feel for the kite and after a few tries I was flying along at a great speed, only tea bagging myself every now and again! With shallow water, reliable wind and a safe kiting area, the lagoon in Langebaan was truly the perfect place to learn to kitesurf.
We were able to progress quickly in these conditions and although exhausted at the end of our lesson, we finally made it up onto the board. Some spectacular face-plants ensued and what felt like a good ride was probably just a couple sections in the ‘poop-position’. But we got there in the end and I think it’s safe to say that the boat may have to spend the next Cape Town summer in the garage as we take to the water with a kite instead!
4 tips for learning to kitesurf
Choose a hotel with an on-site centre
It was such a pleasure to have our instructor’s right on our doorstep and as Windtown is set up for kitesurfers, an outside locker right at our room was a convenient place to store our equipment. Additional facilities like an outside shower and buckets to clean equipment are small necessities that you wouldn’t get at a hotel not geared up for the sport. Hotels with on-site centres also ensure you are right in the thick of things and you can literally tumble out of your bed and onto your board when its time to hit the water.
Book private lessons!
We recommend taking lessons rather than just trying to learn from a friend with their equipment. You really need to learn how to get control of the kite before you even attempt the board – a process which takes a good couple of hours! One-on-one or, at the most two-on-one instruction, allows you to progress at a quicker pace. You also need to make sure you learn with the right equipment – new kiteboarding equipment has great safety features, making learning really easy and safe. Try with older equipment with the incorrect instruction and you could seriously end up hurting yourself!
You will spend the first day or two just learning the basics, including how to control the kite, how to relaunch, body dragging and how to body drag upwind to retrieve your board. These are fundamentals and it’s important to be patient during this time. I have seen many a friend vow never to kitesurf again simply because they didn’t give these basics enough time to gain a clear understanding of the sport before jumping on a board. Become a master at these tasks and when you do finally get up on the board, you will feel in control and sure of yourself.
Take your time
Once you are up on the board it is all about practice, practice, practice. A few hours of kitesurfing a day may not sound like much but all that falling, swimming and laughing sure does take it out of you. The instructors at Windtown had the utmost patience for us newbies but now its up to us to practice and get better! I really recommend you book a learn to kitesurf holiday – this will allow you to put the time in over an extended period of time with access to the right equipment, really allowing you to progress at a pace that is comfortable and enjoyable. When you go home you can then look for your own equipment and start kitesurfing every day!
Planet Kitesurf offer kite trips to destinations all over the world! Head to their site to find your next dream kiteboarding holiday www.planetkitesurfholidays.com
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