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/
Since my last post, I’ve had a few sessions at Shacks and Montones. I have been doing okay, but not really progressing. I realized that the deep ocean at Montones and shallow reef at Shacks were making me nervous and keeping me from working on anything that would make me lose my board.
That’s until I went to a new spot that is the only flat water spot on the island of Puerto Rico. This place is unreal. It’s a group of mangrove islands situated off the coast with a shallow reef on the far side enclosing the area.
I met up with an old friend of mine that I am sure almost everyone has seen in kiteboard mags: Claire Lutz. She was down teaching two amazing women Jen and Mirium. She told me they were going to La Parguera and that I should come.
I was stoked. It took us about an hour and half drive and then we had to get in a boat. I hardly ever get to go on boat trips, so this experience was really cool. We tossed our stuff in this little boat and were off. The setting was so beautiful I couldn’t believe my eyes. The water was so clear blue, the mangrove islands were gorgeous, and it was just the four of us.
Since Claire was teaching, she got to get her fix of riding in for the first hour. We had the boat on the shallow reef, and it was the first time I had ever stood in while I pumped up my kite. I had to tie my lines to a mangrove and walk them out, then untie them and attach them to my kite. This was a weird way of doing things, but it worked.
I had one of the girls launch me and I was so excited that I went pretty far downwind, forgetting all about my body position and staying upwind. I found myself kiting back and forth across the deep water instead of staying in the shallow section La Parguera has to offer.
I told myself this would be the best way to work on transitions and staying upwind. The wind was blowing steady, I was comfortable on my 9m, and I had nothing else to do all day. As I took long tacks back and forth it felt pretty cool to come up to a boat full of people chilling out on the deck and turn around back into the open water.
I raced across, occasionally tacking upwind, until I would catch an edge and lose ground. After about an hour of riding, I got pretty tired. This was my longest session since the Outer Banks, back in early November. It was then that I realized I had forgotten to talk to Claire about coming in. “Just go upwind. Get back to where the girls boat is anchored!” I told myself repeatedly.
I continued to take long tacks, feeling more confident on my strong side (goofy footer). I told myself to keep trying transitions and to take long tacks, but this was making me tired, causing me to make stupid mistakes. At one point, I kited over to a boat full of people and asked them if they were kiters, because I had the less then brilliant idea that I could land my kite to them, swim back and pick my kite up later. This would have never worked.
After a while, I started waving at the girls, and finally when Claire had to go pick one of them up she came over to me and said “Erin, What are you doing? You can’t land here. You have to go over to the mangroves where its shallow!” She kept driving the boat away.
Well, there’s nothing like that kind of pressure to make you learn to tack upwind. I took shorter tacks, concentrated on my body position, and managed to make my way back upwind. After I landed my kite, one of the nice locals Gorge (that I had met at Montones a little while back) gave me a beer and showed me the lay of the land in Parguera. It’s a really great spot and the locals are great.
All in all, it was an amazing experience (with one minor exception which has to do with my lack of boat driving ability…but I will keep that between us girls)! If anyone is heading to Puerto Rico, I highly recommend checking out this beautiful part of the island.