One of my best friends here in South Africa took me kite surfing today. He warned me it would take a few lessons to get the hang of it. The first place we went, the winds were too choppy. The kite was backing and then filling with air and lifting him off the sand. So we packed up and drove to the cape, where the seas were rougher but the winds steadier.
The winds were STRONG. We pumped up the kite, and Mauro took it aloft. I flew large kites for years in Charleston, but this is a different beast. You could drag ten people across the sand with one of these. The wind was 25 or so mph. Mauro landed the kite, and I stepped into the harness.
We sent it up, and immediately I felt the power of the thing. It was a 9 meter kite, one he’d never flown before. Took a few minutes to feel in control of it, and then Mauro had me power the kite down and drag myself across the sand, my feet leaving twin ruts in a large zigzag.
It was a rush. Depowering the kite (sending it straight up overhead), I would run and skip and whoop back to where he was, then do it all over again. After a few rounds, I took a break and Mauro went out into the surf. The walls of foam were over 3 feet high, and he just jumped them, carving the waves and zipping back to shallow water before heading back out.
When he came back, he showed me how to jump on the sand. I put the harness back on and powered up the kite, took a few tentative leaps, and by the fifth or sixth one, I was going about six or eight feet off the ground and a distance of twenty feet or so. I could do just this, no board, no water. My cheeks started hurting from the permagrin. Mauro warned me it was addictive, and I could feel it. I asked him if I could try the board. He said “No way.” I begged. He finally relented.
It was a bad place to learn, in the surf. He prefers the river when the winds are out of the east. I got my feet in the straps, the waves crashing around my shins, powered the kite up, and off I went — out of the board straps, up in the air, slamming into the water, dragging and spitting and laughing and shouting that I was alright. The kite crashed, and it took a bit to get it flying again.
One more try. I knew it would be the last. Mauro already didn’t want me doing this. Supposed to be the third or fourth lesson before you get in the water. This time, I got up, but for two seconds. Then I was REALLY up, yanked off the water again, a few feet off the ground, gliding for eight or ten feet, then splashing down.
An amazing first lesson. I’m almost scared to do it again, to feel what it’s like to soar above the waves, because I might not want to come back down.