My diary of Kitesurfing in Watamu
After dating an avid kitesurfer for 9 years you would assume I would be a pretty good kitesurfer myself right….. well think again. How about if said boyfriend has been a kitesurfing instructor as long as I’ve known him – surely I should be fairly competent right …… hmmmmm not so much. Well surely moving to Kenya 3 years ago to set up a kitesurfing school with him would have been motivation to learn right?? Yeaaaahhh, ummm well, time just kind of got away from me.
Well finally all those students & kiters who come through Tribe will no longer get the mumbled answer of “yeah I can kind of do it” when asked the dreaded rhetorical question “You can kitesurf right? You must be really good!”
After toying with the idea of really giving kitesurfing a go for so long, in the past few weeks I finally set my mind and time to doing it. Coming towards the end of the season and with things starting to quieten down at Tribe it seemed the perfect time to get out on the water. I wasn’t coming into kiting completely as a beginner, I actually started a beginner course with Ben back in the UK. The cold water and rain did little to inspire me so my desire fizzled out quickly. After moving to Kenya I did a couple of hours here and there but never got up on the board properly riding along downwind let alone thinking of coming back the other way. However in the last couple of weeks my progress has been amazing. As someone who is scared of fish (horrible wakeboarding experience which I still do not laugh about) and scared of being in deep water I have really surprised myself. My background in watersports is extremely limited to a couple of attempts at wakeboarding and surfing, showing real skill in neither. However something with kitesurfing finally clicked and below is a diary of my progress. Hopefully this inspires any other people who may have considered trying kitesurfing but assuming it is too hard, or that they won’t be any good. If I can do it – you definitely can!
27/08/2015: First day getting back into kiting and the wind is great. What’s not so great – Kenyan TV station K24 are here filming for one of their shows on extreme sports to do in Kenya. Not ideal for my first day back on the water. Start with setting up the kite and checking I remember where everything attaches and launching and landing the kite. Ben is teaching me (against lots of advice) but we are getting on well. Get in the water and start with body dragging downwind, upwind and cross wind making sure I can use the kite to take me anywhere in the water. All being well we move on to the board – and I’m up and going… for about 5 seconds. Lots of face planting and drinking salt water but I’m happy to be getting up. What’s a good way to end the session? With a quick interview with K24 about how I got on – brilliant. For a good laugh you can check out the show here.
30/08/2015: Wind slightly lighter than last time so using an 11m Slingshot Z kite. Have a great day with getting up on the board and doing longer runs downwind. Coming back upwind seems impossible and after a few times of getting carried away with my own success, walking back up the beach after a long run downwind starts to get old pretty quickly. Resolve myself to shorter runs and trying to come upwind back to where I started.
01/09/2015: Conditions are great and the wind is stronger so now using a 7m Rally. Excited to start practising coming upwind but seem to have taken a step backwards and a bit frustrated. Not even able to do good runs downwind and quickly become annoyed with myself which doesn’t help. After drinking a lot of seawater I give up today as a bad job.
07/09/2015: After a few days off as we were busy at Tribe I’m back in the water. Lots of kiters around which makes me nervous but something I need to get used to. Wind really good so I’m using a 9m RPM and my new 135 refraction board. Ended up with a brand new board as a result of ordering error, Ben not too happy as was meant to be for him but I’m super excited! Had my best day yet as well as my longest session to date – almost 3 hours on the water. I don’t even notice where the time went. I’m still not coming upwind all the way but the distance I have to walk up the beach is getting shorter which I’m really happy with.
08/09/2015: Feeling shattered from yesterday’s session but resolved to get out on the water as the tides not great for the next couple of days. Enjoy a quick sunset session from 5pm for just over an hour. Still trying to get to grips with my new board, can’t come upwind properly and always heading back towards the beach. Work in progress.
11/09/2015: Early morning start today with the tides. Wind great and I’m on the 9m RPM which is fast becoming my favourite kite. Decide to start trying to learn how to turn. Manage to do this a couple of times and giving a shout of joy which everyone at the beach hears. Don’t manage to turn every time but really happy with my progress. Fun couple of hours on the water and even spot a turtle!
13/09/2015: After getting some advice on how to turn, I really start to get to grips with it today. The wind a little lighter than last time so I’m using a 10m Wave and decide to try a slightly bigger board, a 137 Crisis. Something just clicks. Great day coming upwind so much better than before, past where I started and managing to turn most times.
14/09/2015: Wind great again today so I’m using the 9m RPM and 137 Crisis board. This feels like my favourite kite/board combo so far. Ben encouraging me to move onto other things like jumping (which seems crazy) so I work on increasing my speed going along and spending less time looking at the kite and more on where I’m going.
15/09/2015: With lots of kiters in Watamu at the moment I’m getting some great advice on the beach. Angela, who is visiting from the UK also learned to kite this year. Shes jumping and doing back rolls so I pick her brain on learning to jump. She tells me to start with popping, using the board to jump off the water without using the kite (similar to an Ollie on a skateboard). Have fun practicing this and Ben comes out to kite alongside me giving advice. I have the GoPro on my line mount and get an awesome but foggy picture of him kiting just behind me.
16/09/2015: Watched some instructional videos on jumping and toeside riding this morning before kiting session. Ben lets me know that toeside riding is something fun to try and can also be made into a turning technique. Out on the water on a 10m Wave and manage to go toeside on first go. Have got into a habit of squealing out loud when I do something good and then lose concentration. Slowed down right away and sank into the water but really happy with progress. Tried a few more times with relative success.
19/09/2015: Wind starts out light so first outing is on a 12m RPM. All going well until the wind suddenly picks up and im way overpowered. Crash the kite and twist the lines but I’m saved with the help of Emmanuel (our beach & kite assistant at Tribe) and back to the beach to switch kites. I’m back on my favourite kite, the 9m RPM (which is incidentally Bens kite). Work on jumping and sending myself a little higher each time. Managing to do something slightly wrong each time though so not landing each jump. Send the kite too far behind myself at one point and literally fly forward and lose my board. Spend a long time body dragging back to it and get back to the beach shattered but still pleased with today’s progress.
21/09/2015: A group of 6 of us do a downwinder from Plot 40 to Turtle Bay Hotel. Going downwind is a great chance to practice tricks and we start out riding at Plot 40 where there is a great flat water spot for trying out jumps. Land 3 jumps in a row and my highest yet which I’m so pleased about. As we go off downwind the wind picks up and I’m overpowered on the 9m RPM. Even after depowering the kite im still struggling a little. Ben and I attempt to recreate the couples kiting pic without the fog but end up getting our lines twisted. After a trip into the beach we manage to get ourselves sorted safely and back out down towards Turtle Bay. All ends well in the pool at Ocean Sports with a cold Tusker beer.
22/09/2015: As most of the kiters visiting Watamu are leaving in a few days we’ve planned a trip to Che Shale to kite and have lunch. Che Shale is further up the coast so we hire and van and set off in the morning. Im excited to try out a new spot but also nervous as haven’t really kited anywhere out of Watamu. When we get there we walk the beach and Ben points out where is best to stay. Only place to avoid is the “dead zone” (dramatic) where the wind drops off and you will face a long walk back up the beach! On my trusty 9m RPM and shouldn’t have worried. Have a fun session with good runs in and out and still practicing jumps.
With the season winding down it doesn’t look like I will have many other chances to kite before the wind picks up again at the end of Nov/beginning of December. However I am so happy with the progress I’ve made and can’t wait to get out and kite again next season. Had definitely reached a point where if I wanted to start kiting I needed to commit and really glad that I have, it’s so much fun. And who knows, future students of Tribe – you may see me on the beach teaching and Ben in the office instead …… although maybe not, I’m definitely not a patient as Ben.