By Neil Hutchinson
Getting qualified, experienced instruction is a must for anybody getting into kiteboarding. Lessons not only teach you the fundamentals of the sport to get you on your way to becoming an independent kiter, but will also save you hours of frustration.
To be realistic, there’s only so much your instructor can cover in a 9 to 12 hour beginner course. As an instructor who has taught thousands of students over the last 10 years, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things that your instructor may not have taught you, but that you should definitely know.
1. Always know your “what if’s.”
When kiteboarding, always try to be one step ahead of the game and ask yourself, “If x, y or z happens, what am I going to do?” When things go wrong in our sport, it happens very quickly and sometimes you do not even have time to think; you just have to react and react correctly.
2. Don’t trust wind meters.
When using a wind meter you are only measuring the wind speed at one particular time and only in one static position, e.g. you may be in an area where the wind is being affected by obstacles and reading stronger, or even lighter than the wind actually is. Also, wind meters go bad. They can have some sand stuck in them or a bad impeller. If you took three different wind meters of different ages and measured the same wind at one time you would have three different readings. Learn the signs yourself for the beaufort scale. Don’t rely on technology for something you can learn easily.
3. Beware of photographers & hot chicks.
When a camera, pretty female or crowd shows up on the beach, there are likely to be more accidents or mishaps. People like to show off. It might not be you but others will push their limits to the max and may be focused on what they are doing and not thinking about their surroundings. I would say the likelihood of any kind of an accident or crossed lines increases by about 50% in these situations.
4. Respect others, be polite & be an ambassador.
The general public and media love to watch and question us. In our rapidly increasing sport, we do not want to leave a bad impression on anyone. It is up to all kiteboarders of every level to represent our sport correctly. Don’t curse out another kiteboarder. Yes, there is sometimes a need to talk to someone who is being dangerous or acting stupidly, but the first person you curse out will be the only person around next time you have a breakdown two miles out. Kiteboarders need each other.
5.Never assume you have right of way.
Kiteboarding normally follows the same right of way rules as sailboats and other watercraft. This works well in a perfect world but not everyone knows them. You could be cruising on a starboard tack with another kite or boat coming at you and you may have the right of way, but that does mean the other person knows that you do. Always avoid collisions/entanglements at all costs, despite who has right of way. Also, some beaches have their own local set of rules. Be prepared to take evasive action if necessary.
6. There is no such a thing as a stupid question.
Do not be afraid to ask a question even if you think others may view it as a stupid one. You will always be learning no matter your level; try to learn as much as possible from others. All questions are good questions – no one was born with a kite in their hands.
7. Never rush anything.
Take your time: Patience pays whether it is from setting up or nailing a new trick. When you’ve just gotten off work and only have an hour left of sunlight and its blowing a perfect 20 knots, do not rush things. If you rush, it quite often ends up with your lines in a mess, connected incorrectly, or a tangled bridle. If you’re having trouble nailing a trick or even just going upwind, get off the water for a minute and take a deep breath. Getting frustrated will only make your day on the water miserable.
8. Know your limits.
There is a massive difference between a steady side-shore 15 knots with flat water and onshore gusty 20 to 30 knots with a good shore break. Just because you see others kiting, does mean that you can or should. No one is invincible and we all have different limits. Know yours and respect them. U sually, if you are second guessing it, don’t do it.
9. Beware of static electricity.
Thanks to Ben Franklin, we are all frightened by lightning, but also beware of static electricity. Storms can be numerous miles away with no signs of lightning, but static electricity can build up in your lines and give you quite a shock, especially when landing a jump. When you see storms approaching, get off the water.
10. Don’t try to be a premature instructor.
Just because you have been kiteboarding for six months doing some good jumps and and tricks does not mean that you are qualified to be an instructor. To be an instructor it takes experience that only time can bring. As an instructor, others will look up to you and trust you. What you teach them will form the foundation of their kiteboarding. If it is not formed correctly and thoroughly, it can end very badly.
BONUS TIP: Beware of kiteboarding hungover and/or with lack of sleep.
Kiting is like any other physically and mentally challenging sport and without proper mental and physical rest, you are much more likely to make a mistake which can hurt you. Same goes for your mental state. When you are kiting, you cannot be thinking about whether you left the stove on, or if you were right in that argument last night. Your head needs to clear.