How to go from Surfing to Kitesurfing
As a surfer, you're usually programmed to see windy days, and drop your head. "another blown out session". What do you do? You could go down and catch a wind wave, but it's never going to be as good as those glassy offshore days with the sun on your back.
What's worse, is the wind is onshore, and you know what that does to the surf. It takes all the punch out of it, waves no longer stand up, have have far less energy than usual. Add to the that, additional closeouts and long sections, and you're better off finding something else to do.
But what if I told you that you could turn this onshore slop into so much fun, that you'd actually be looking at ways to get away from work early so you could hit it? That you might even start planning your holidays around windy weather? That the idea of strong sideshore winds will have you cancelling bbq's?
Kitesurfing could well be the answer. If you're looking for more water time, you'll soon find you're out surfing the offshore in the morning, and kitesurfing in the seabreeze in the afternoon/evening. What a situation to find yourself in!
There are many disciplines in kitesurfing, and I'll be focussing on wave riding here. Even discussing wave riding, there is a whole bunch of ways of approaching it. Guys have kited 30ft Jaws on the north shore of Maui, all the way down to a heap of fun in side shore and side onshore down at your local beach break.
The first thing most people struggle with (even flat water kiters) is how you can surf, and fly the kite. Does the kite pull you off the wave? Well .. No. And it doesn't take long to master.
A great day at a beach break pans out something like this: You launch your kite from the beach, and by using your knees, you suck up the whitewater bumps on the way out. As you head into the bigger stuff, you can either launch up the face and get some big old fat air, or "bear off" (which means head downwind more), and go diagonally across the wave to take the sting out of it.
But hey .. if the wave is setting up real shapely, then treat it like a skate park, start the kite cranking around, and do the hardest top turn you can against it. For me, this is one of the best sensations of kitesurfing - feeling that board bight hard into the wave, scream up to the top and throwing a bucket of water into the sky like somebody is holding a hose under your fins! Even better when it's pitching and you're thrown forward by the wave!
Then it's a simple case of repeat, do your inside turn and do it again. Easily burn around any closeouts sections and continue the ride.
Some days it literally is like a skate park. Not the usual surfing routine of sitting on your bum looking to the horizon waiting for the next wave. You make your own fun on a kite, with incredible manueverability you can shoot all over the waves. Go up the line, down the line, skip sections, cut backs, floaters, off the lips, airs, board offs .. You're the only limiting factor.
Beach breaks are always challenging for their irregularity and inconsistency, and make for awesome "downwinders". Again, a personal favourite, you organize some mates to have some cars at the end point, and all drive up to the starting point in one car.
Launch off the beach, and ride the beach break as long as you can. I've been on downwinders from one to fifteen kilometers long, and they are awesome. On a good one, my back leg will be burning, and I may need to head out to sea to give it a rest! When's the last time you experienced wasted legs from pulling out so many turns when surfing? Not often.
So where to from here? Maybe I've wet your appetite, and you're at interested in finding out more?
Definititely the first step is to get yourself some kitesurfing lessons. As tempting as it is to be a local hero, and work it all out on your own, don't. Kites are a bit like speedway bikes (the kind at have no brakes). Its easy to put the power down, but in the early days, not so easy to dump it. Go to a school, and they'll kick you off with smaller kites to get you started.
When you've smashed their kite into the water a few times (glad it's not yours) they'll give you a bigger board so you can get the hang of getting started. Once you're past all that poop, you're ready to get your own kiteboard and kite.
Maybe read up on Ben Wilson's Wave Riding Tips...
Where to kitesurf in Western Australia (official)
WAKSA (West Aus Kitesurfing Association) list of kiting areas
How to progress in Freestyle Kiteboarding
Henning provides an excellent freestyle Kiteboarding guide...