Adventures with Kitesurfing

Arambol Travel Blog

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Ever since the first day I arrived in Arambol I've seen people gleefully whizzing back and forth on the water riding on what looks like snowboards attached to giant kites.

Now, I have almost no experience with almost all athletic activities with the exception of skiing, which I'm only moderately decent at. Being a TV, internet, book and generally anything-which-involves-being-entirely-sedentary fan, one might conclude that I would amusedly watch the kite surfers for a few minutes, marvel at their athletic bodies and physical dexterity then return to reading "Eat, Pray, Love". Wrong. After hungrily watching people skid across the water for about a week, I threw down my book and marched up to one of them and asked for lessons. My teacher is named Derek and is one of the most hilarious people I've ever met. He definitely gave me the up and down (no doubt taking in my noodly arms and academic-esque bad posture) but he slapped me on the back and said he have me flying in the water in no time (I'm not sure if he meant gliding on top or dragging through it, but a lot of the latter definitely followed).

Derek hooked me and Kurt up to the body harnesses: a giant nylon padded diaper with a large metal loop at the waist. The handle bar attaches to the hook and you steer the giant kite like you would drive a motorcycle. Within no time I had the kite up in the sky...and crashing down again. At one point, upon returning rapidly to the ground, the kite grazed the back of a cow (it galloped away) and then proceeded to ram full force into an innocent bystander who toppled to the ground like a bowling pin.

After some practice I moved on to the larger kite. The 10msq kite is a rollicking good time to fly and stays up in the air much more easily. It also has a lot more power. It's great fun to hold on to the kite for dear life as it jerks you all over the place like a marionette, your feet digging into the sand as the kite drags you every which way. We later moved to the water. This gives you the added benefit of crashing waves, which you clearly don't see coming because you're perennially craning your neck skywards, desperately trying to steer the kite towards zenith. Not very helpful are the natives, who seemed to think the kite was the damned coolest thing they'd ever seen, swimming underneath it as much as possible (WORST place to be when a novice is steering).

So to summarize the tasks at hand:

1. Flying gargantuan 15msq kite attached firmly to your pelvis.

2. Swimming fiercely to avoid drowning in oncoming waves.

3. Yelling at oggling Indian men to get the hell out of the way

4. Hoisting feet up on to a board floating freely with the current.

Needless to say, I got very wet and very frusturated very quickly. That's not to say I didn't enjoy every minute of it. I am obviously scouring the internet for my own equipment because I intend to keep learning in the frigid waters of Maine. Doesn't that sound like a great idea?

An aside to talk about where Kurt was for all of this. Ever since meeting Kurt I've had to come to terms with the fact that he's one of those annoying individuals we always meet in life who is good at almost anything he tries. After I decided it would be a grand idea to try kitesurfing, Kurt rolled his eyes and said "Don't you think that's a little overzealous?" Then the whiny prat decided he wants to do it too after I signed up. It took me at least 8 tries before I could get the kite airborne without quickly crashing back to earth with the affinity of a magnet to a refrigerator. It took Kurt ONE. Within 45 minutes Derek said something I've heard all too often: "Good work Kurt! You're a natural! Take over with Carla for a moment." in addition to other such delightful comments as "Your friend's really good! I mean you're not bad, but he's great!" After this it clearly warmed the cockles of my heart to see him snatch a few meters on the board as I watched mine float merrily off into the distance. Needless to say, Kurt is also enthusiastic about continuing kite surfing.

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photo by: Orange_Girl