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 http://kiteboarder3.wpengine.com/tag/erin-swain/
Merry Christmas to me! I got to kite three days in a row in PR! I honestly didn’t think I’d be having my third ocean session at Shacks Beach. It’s a spot that is coveted by kiters, but it can be a more advanced spot. Lucky for me, I have a number of people looking out for and encouraging me.
I met The Italians one day after I was scoping out the kite scene at Shacks. These two guys (Fillipo and Ivan) are hilarious. Fillipo has his own kite school out of Sicily and he speaks fluent English. On the contrary, Ivan speaks hardly a word of English. I explained that I had only been in the ocean once, and they were down for checking out Montones.
When we arrived, it was awesome. They even pumped a kite and ran the lines for me! I felt like a rockstar with all the kite support. It also doesn’t hurt that they are good looking Italian men! I tacked out a few times and did better than my first ocean session. I wasn’t concentrating on staying upwind, more on not losing the board while going through chop.
The next day I saw the Italians at Shacks. Fillipo explained that the wind was better here and there was more room to kite. I was hesitant because of the shallow reef, but there was no swell and plenty of wind. Also, it was high tide, so there was less reef exposed. The first time I went out to the reef, I stopped and turned around. I was totally freaked by the little pieces of reef sticking up, and was too scared to go way outside the reef.
Fillipo launched me while Ivan was out and encouraged me to stay upwind. He gave me pointers on edging really hard and pointing my shoulders where I want to go. Having him push me was great. While Ivan was encouraging me in the water, he told me to follow him, so I did, wayyy outside. That was cool and scary at the same time. I forgot to focus on staying upwind and would keep my kite kinda high when I went over rolling waves. When I did this, I lost a lot more ground downwind.
I lost my board in deep water. Vaguely remembering how to body drag, I actually made it back to my board in four tacks. I had to land to Fillipo in a wind shadow way downwind from where I had started. This was frustrating to be walking back after I thought I had riding upwind under my belt. Oh well. It’s a lot of water moving in the ocean, so, I decided to try again.
This time, Fillipo told me to just keep tacking out and then back to him. I did much better with shorter tacks. I didn’t need to be way outside of the reef. It was nice having Fillipo standing on shore so I could use him as a reference. He was yelling in a thick Italian accent, so it didn’t seem like he was yelling at me. In actuality, I think he was getting angry when I wouldn’t hold my edge, but the language barrier helped me not realize he was getting upset.
I followed this ripper girl named Emily on her tacks and tried to stay where she was kiting since she is so good. At one point I was getting more confident and I went out and caught and edge right on top of the reef. I scratched my knee and lost the board. I got back to it, but on one body drag, I smashed right into it, bruising my upper leg. After this incident, I got pretty freaked out and decided to come in.
When Fillipo asked what happened, I told him about the shallow reef. He told me not to look at the reef. Easier said than done. I was ready to call it a day when he said, I could either sit on the beach or try again, this time going only upwind. I knew he was right about staying with it, so I went out again.
I did much better this final time. I leaned back all the way, and concentrated on body position, keeping tension on the lines. I definitely learned more about staying upwind. I think I might almost have it down. I will let you know soon…