By Ginette Buffone | Photos Josh Anon

I could think up many excuses like I live in an area of fickle wind or most of the folks at my local spot ride a surfboard, but whatever my excuse, it all comes down to the fact that my riding had become stagnant. When I heard Kristin Boese was holding one of her KB4Girls clinics in San Francisco it didn’t take long before I committed myself to the clinic that weekend.

Kristin holds these clinics all around the world. Some are purely to unite girl kiters and allow them to push their riding, while others are for a cause and help give back to local charities. This San Francisco event was of the latter and was paired up with Girls, Inc. of Alameda. To be honest, I didn’t know much about that organization before this event, but once I found out about it, I was stoked that my involvement in the KB4Girls clinic would support their cause. They are all about helping young women become confident, responsible, independent, creative, and personally fulfilled.

The KB4Girls San Francisco event raised $6000 for a local girls club and helped participants advance their riding levels.

In a way, I was doing this event to help myself with some of those very same things. This past year, I walked away from a secure job and decided to take the year off. This was my year to explore, pursue my passions, and find out what fulfills me, and I had a feeling this event would introduce me to women who would have similar stories or who would inspire me to find my path. Also, for years, I’ve been telling my boyfriend that I wanted to push myself in kiting, but always fell back to my comfort level. By being around a bunch of strong, confident, positive women, I thought it would be exactly what I needed to step out of that comfort zone and try new tricks. I was excited about the whole thing. I set up a fundraising page, reached out to friends and family for donations (and still feel so blessed from all of their contributions), and within a couple of days was on my way to the clinic.

My boyfriend and I headed off from San Diego at precisely 5:45 pm on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend for what Google Maps says is an 8 hour 10 minute drive, or 10 hours 10 minutes with traffic. Stocking up on outrageously large cans of energy drinks and bracing ourselves for a 3:30 am arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to not hit any traffic and even managed to shave off a few extra minutes – maybe high gas prices are good for something after all! We rolled into the Russian Hill area of San Francisco around 1:30 am, stayed up and chatted a bit with the friend we were staying with, then crashed so I could get some shut eye before the next day’s clinic.

The next morning, I woke up to a too-early-for-a-Saturday alarm clock. Up and at ‘em, it was time to head off to the clinic! Before leaving, I encountered a bit of a technical glitch with my phone, which was supposed to provide me with door-to-door directions. So, in a panicked rush, I ended up copying down the directions off of my boyfriend’s phone old school style on a scrap piece of paper I found in the car.

So, off I went, weaving my way through San Francisco, glancing at the paper after every turn to know my next point. Remember the days we did this before GPS units? It worked back then and worked for me this weekend. With only a couple of wrong turns, I made it, in time for bagels and coffee no less.

Local kiter May Yam gets a refresher on self rescue techniques.

We all gathered together for a quick introduction and then split off into our groups to get acquainted with each other. There were local girls and girls from out of town, but as we shared information about ourselves, I found that we all shared one common thread: We all wanted to push ourselves this weekend and better our riding. After our introductions, we spent the remainder of the morning going over safety stuff, things I am sure all of our parents and loved ones would appreciate. Even though I’ve had to do a couple self-rescues in my time, a refresher course is always welcome and I learned to do a half-hitch knot, which I can only imagine will come in handy elsewhere in life as well.

Later in the day, the wind was still down, so we set up for the afternoon with some mental imaging. We split up into our groups, hung a bar from a tree, and used it to help simulate what we would do out on the water. Kristin mentioned that she spent many hours doing this style of training when there wasn’t any wind. And well, living in San Diego, I find myself in that predicament quite often. So, I have myself a trip planned to Home Depot when I get home to get one of those bad boys rigged in the garage for the all-too-often windless days. With no wind in sight, we ate some dinner together, and then called it a day.

On Sunday, the drive to the beach went a little smoother than the first day. My self-proclaimed photographic memory took me directly there with no wrong turns and no need for the written directions. There was no wind in the morning, so we huddled into the Boardsports shack where a projector was set up and we watched Kristin’s very own progression DVD that explained how to work through different tricks. It was great for both beginner and advanced riders and everyone in between, because it reminded you where you were at with your own riding and what trick is up next in your own progression. Mental imaging is huge in kiteboarding. I found myself holding my hands as if they were holding a bar and swinging my hips to mimic the movements of different tricks that were shown on the screen.

Alameda provided the perfect venue to learn and work on new moves.

As the DVD ended, there were some signs of wind. YAY! So, we fueled up with some lunch, walked down the beach to a dedicated clinic zone, and rigged our gear. We were all quite anxious to get out on the water so we could start applying everything that we’d learned so far on land. Well, we were all a bit overzealous. The wind was still not quite there so the wait was still on.

To pass the time, we decided to do some SUP races. I ended up placing second in my heat, and at the awards ceremony later in the day, I was rewarded for the second place finish with a super cool and compact reusable bag, but I like to think that I was also rewarded with some wind, because after the SUP race, the wind turned on!

Kites were launched, and we all hit the water. I tacked upwind away from most of the other girls as I wanted enough room to feel comfortable enough to try unhooked tricks. Sandy, one of the instructors from Kiteopia, rode up behind me and asked what I wanted to work on. I let her know that one of my goals for the weekend was to do an unhooked raley. She told me to go ahead and attempt a couple, then stop so we could talk about what I should fix. Ok, here we go.

She’s right there watching. I can’t just chicken out, drop into my comfort zone, and cruise around. I undid the donkey dick, pointed my board slightly downwind, and proceeded to unhook. I quickly pushed my board a little upwind, causing me to pop off the water. I threw my legs back, extended my body, and tucked back in when I came back towards the water. It was so quick, but it kinda, sorta felt right.

I tried another and then stopped to talk with Sandy. By the way, stopping in the water is so great at this location, because for quite a ways out, it is waist-deep with a sandy bottom. Also, it’s super flat water, so no need to worry about dumping your kite or getting pounded on the head by waves. These conditions make it super safe to try new tricks.

When I stopped, Sandy said that I did great and that I didn’t have much to fix. She did say that I should try to do the trick sooner and in more of one smooth sweep once I unhooked. I then followed behind her and watched her do the same trick. Got it — one smooth motion. But then I started to over think and wasn’t getting the pop I needed.

I was, however, able to execute and land a few good ones. And it felt good. Also, when I was unhooked and things didn’t go right, I felt in control. That was huge. Some people freak out when they accidentally unhook because it is a lot of force transferred from the ease of your harness onto your arms. But, there is a way to easily release the wind power and hook back in, which I found out about and practice, and feel not-so-afraid of unhooking now!

Again, this was a big realization for me and my progression. Next, I wanted to get my front rolls more consistent, but the wind started to lighten up, so I headed back in. I waited a bit on the beach, but it started to get really cold. Apparently, I was shaking from being so cold that Kristin told me that I should try to go back out to get moving and get warmed up or go get changed out of my wetsuit. I went back out. Or tried. It was still too light. So, I came back in, de-rigged my kite, and headed to my car to get warm.

As I was doing so, the wind came back…in fuller force than before. Men were on 7m and 8m kites. As I saw a couple of girls go back out on the water, I really contemplated on getting my gear and going back out, but the image of the cold wetsuit and cold wind was not really motivating.

This was my only regret of the weekend. I should’ve gone back out and taken advantage of the location and conditions. But, with that said, I did accomplish what I came out to accomplish. I got past the plateau that I’ve been riding at for the past couple of years. I only wish I had pushed my riding harder earlier on –it shouldn’t have taken me so many years to do an unhooked raley, but with my new found confidence and motivation, I surely see myself trying more unhooked tricks in the very near future. The fire is lit.

We ended the day back in the shack for the closing ceremony. A couple of girls from Girls, Inc. came to tell us about how our fundraiser will help them and many other girls become strong, confident, bold women. What a perfectly paired organization for this event, because I am certain that many of the women attending the clinic acquired some of those very qualities through their participation that weekend. It was announced that we raised over $6000 that will go to their organization. Sure the high from accomplishing new things out on the water felt good, but when they announced that amount, I could feel the greater purpose of that weekend’s event and I was grateful to be a part of it.

Thank you to all of my friends, family and volunteers who helped make this weekend possible for me. Please know that your generosity not only helped impact my life, but also will continue on and help impact the lives of many other girls.