My Daily Dose of Plankton – Early Days on A Kite Board Part 1
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I know I’ve written about this before in my HaylesTrails blog.
Well, today, I had my first day of waterborne kite boarding lessons in the sleepy Mexican fishing village of La Ventana on the Baja peninsula. This town gets overtaken by kite boarders and windsurfers every winter, because of its consistent winds and perfect orientation for down-winding on a kite board. It’s a paradise from every which way you look, and pleasantly un-commercial. There are very few hotels and restaurants, just a couple of bars and no tourist shops. There’s but one kite board shop, a few more kite board schools, and everything revolves around just a few places, meaning in any given week, you’re likely to run into the same kiters again and again. If you’re from the West Coast of USA or Canada, and a keen kiter, you’re likely to bump into folks from home as I did. You learn quickly the meaning of ‘Baja Time’, which is that everything pretty much shuts down by 9 or latest 10pm each night. Such is the pull of the promise of next days’ wind, and the addiction and commitment of the worshipers to the religion of kiting! All very ‘genial’, as the French would say.
So on my first day, the wind was too strong for us to conduct my water kite lesson in the clear bay of La Ventana. So, we drove cross country to the Lago that the small town (by Mexican standards) of La Paz lies on. Yesterday, it was this same bay that we visited to swim with Whale Sharks due to no wind for kite boarding. Now, you probably know, the reason Whale Sharks hang out anywhere for any period of time, and the reason the water isn’t so clear, is for the abundance of plankton.
Enter the title of this blog- ‘My Daily Dose of Plankton’ aptly titled for a reason. Today, I think I drank as much seawater (containing said plankton) as the whale sharks from yesterday did.
From San Francisco, I signed up for lessons with Xantos from 4Elementskiteboarding. He’s a local guy, with perfect English who has set up his own school having taught in many of the American schools here in La Ventana and also in SF. His warm, Mexican charm and passion for the sport is evident and his school set-up is very professional. He has the latest and greatest equipment, including kites that can miraculously almost re-launch themselves, and a boat from which your instructor can continuously coach you on your every move, with radio contact into your helmet. The latter is very effective and encouraging, which believe me, helps a lot when you are learning.
Thoughts on today: Firstly, anyone who says kite boarding is easy, has rocks in their head. I recall being told before I started learning, that it was relatively easy. I see now the significance of the word ‘relative’ because I suspect they meant relative to other water sports like windsurfing and surfing, which are known to be very difficult. Point one. I haven’t learnt too many new sports lately, but I’ve tried wake boarding, I’ve certified as a scuba diver, done my AFF parachute course, taken some private plane lessons, dabbled in rock climbing, ice skating, roller blading, road biking, beach volleyball, telemark skiing, white water rafting and even white water kayaking (that’s insanely hard also) all in my adult years.
However, quite honestly, at no time have I felt so equally hopeless and dependent on my teacher as I have with kite boarding. I feel like I spent most of my day neck-deep in the water, like a castaway from a sunken boat, about to drown at any moment. Whilst in this compromised position I’m expected to control a large killing machine (i.e. the kite) whose ‘temper’ can at any second rip you out of the water, into mid air, and then thrash you down again like a rag doll all in the blink of an eye. Ok, this dramatic scene is avoidable IF your kite control is up to par. I’m going to admit right here on Day 1, mine clearly wasn’t! A little refresher of the past lessons was needed.
I’d mastered in previous lessons (pre-cycling accident) in San Francisco kite setup, kite safety, kite flying and launching skills on land (i.e. the land portion), and kite skills in the water. I’d done a bit of body dragging up and downwind, board dragging, and tried a board rescue.
So, today this meant more body dragging, kite strokes and generally what this translated to is I drank so much sea water- I drank ‘my daily dose of plankton’. Finally, towards the end of Day 1, I was let loose on the board, and given the go ahead to attempt to get up and ride. I felt pretty chuffed that I could put the board on my feet from in the water without much struggle. I recall that this was a big hurdle in my previous lessons. I must be progressing I thought- only the reality is, progressing in what? Climbing Everest from Base Camp? Yes, there’s a long way to go, but thankfully my teacher Alan’s (aka Jesus!) voice on the radio was so soothing, and encouraging- he seemed to be more excited by my progress than me, and that’s cool!
I managed to get briefly up, then flop over forwards (because of bad kite control), and much to both of our annoyance consistently lose the board in the process from my feet, necessitating Alan to bring it to me with the boat each time. (Yes, I did say I felt hopeless and dependent on my teacher).
So, that was Day 1. Let’s see how Day 2 goes!