Erin Swain has been writing about her experiences learning to kiteboard. We will continue to bring you updates from Erin about her experiences throughout the season. You can follow Erin’s blog at https://kiteboarder3.wpengine.com/tag/erin-swain/
OK, so today was THE DAY! My first Ocean Kiting experience! I have been waiting for this day for what feels like an eternity! I went to a spot on the north coast of Puerto Rico called Montones. It’s a cove that has a huge rock on one side where sets of waves wrap around and break. The beach is beautiful and there is a mix of sand and reef bottom. The water gets shallow in spots but mostly its pretty deep. Luckily, it’s sandy by the shore so its easy to get in and out of the water.
When I first arrived with four cute pilot friends of mine, it was blowing great. As we grabbed our gear and headed for the beach it started pouring down rain. I was feeling pretty bummed thinking we would get rained out, but everyone was optimistic. They said it would pass in ten minutes. It actually did!
We set up our kites and I was nervous about all the storm bands. I watched as several guys went out. There was one guy on a 7 and my smallest kite was a 9. After a lot of hesitation, I decided I had to give it a try. I waited for another bout of rain to pass over just in case it ruined the wind (either killing it or making it super gusty). I had someone launch me and grabbed my board and headed for the water.
When I first put my board on I wasn’t nervous as I was standing on the sand. As soon as I popped up and rode out, immediately my heart began racing. It was so exciting and scary at the same time. Don’t crash the kite. DO NOT crash this kite is all that went through my head.
The water was moving so fast and the chop under my board was not like anything I experienced on the sound in the Outer Banks. I approached my first white water and just bent my knees and plowed through it. Success! I was happy but not relaxed at all. I didn’t dare try any transitions, just reverted back to bringing my kite up to 12 o’clock and popped up on my opposite heel edge.
I did a few tacks and was not doing the best at staying upwind. Then more white water washed over me forcing me underwater. I tried to keep my board with me, but when I came up, I was flung over to the other direction than the way I was going. I didn’t realize that while under water, I must have pulled down hard on the right side, forcing me over that way. I lost my board and tried to body drag back to it. When I looked back to shore, I felt really far away. After a few body drags, all I wanted to do was come in and land the kite.
I body drug back to shore and one of my buddies was running down the beach to help me. He grabbed my kite and I watched a nice body boarder swimming out to rescue my board. I was not giving up. I walked back to my launch area and tried again.
This time there were four kites up in the air, and I was really uneasy with all the kites. Everyone was trying to stay in the same area, which was where I was trying to be as well. It was hard to see because I was bobbing up and down and getting spun around with the current. I definitely lost a lot of ground by not being aggressive enough, but I didn’t care.
This time, I tacked back and forth a few times, and saw myself getting downwind. I fell and lost my board but managed to body drag and grab it. Before I could get my board on, my kite was at the edge of the window and fell into the wind shadow I was scared of. I sheeted the bar out trying not to let the kite fall. It didn’t work. I watched as my kite just fell over and then floated down like a feather, falling on the shore. I swam in as fast as I could, and saw my other buddy, Brad, running down to rescue my soaking wet kite.
I swear, if I didn’t have a team of people watching out for me, this session would not be as much fun! I was set to throw in the towel when I saw my twin sister and her fiance walking down the beach. I had already taken my harness off and my kite was drying off on the beach. She has never seen me kite, and I really wanted her to see me give it a try.
At this point, there was no one kiting. It’s funny how my biggest caveat was other kiters as opposed to the waves, white water, and current. I was ready to try again! This time was the most successful out of all my attempts.
I made it out further than ever before. I also got in better body position after a few pointers from the guys on the beach. I felt a little more confident and was holding my edge better than earlier. It felt good until, like all the other times, I hit some white water and lost my board.
I body drug in and landed my kite to my friend Ray on the beach as I watched my board floating way out in the water. Greg, another friend, offered to swim out to it. I was stoked because I didn’t feel like fighting the current.
All in all, I was super stoked with my first ocean kiting attempt. The waves were bigger than I would have liked, the sky was cloudier and rainier, the wind was gustier, and I still did it! I hope the next time I go, it will feel like a walk in the park. Although, with all the ground support (thanks Ray, Justin, Brad, Greg, Wade, and random body boarder!), this session was safe and fun!
Until next time…