Blown away by Lancelin …

Australia, Kitesurfing — By on December 10, 2010 5:26 PM

I was recently reminded why I do not make plans too far in advance when traveling and prefer to fly by the seat of my skirt.  I have always regretted the times when I have thought too far ahead instead of allowing life to evolve, as it should be. Plan as you may, things change, the unexpected happens, you meet new people and you find yourself at a crossroad. Do you continue on your original planned route or veer off course and take the new path that was not on your map but just feels right?

This was the dilemma I faced last week when I unexpectedly fell in love with Lancelin, a tiny beach town in Western Australia. I deliberated … do I take my ticketed flight to Sydney or stay and become a badass kite surfer?

Photo by Sarah Son

The original plan was to spend only one week in Lancelin where I would learn to kite surf and enjoy much needed alone time. I had seen heaps of kite surfers as I traveled down the west coast; the sport looked to be so much fun that I just had to give it a go.

Lancelin is an international Mecca for all wind sport enthusiasts due to the ideal wind and water conditions. Located only an hour north of Perth it seemed like a great place for me to learn to kite!

Photo by Sarah Son

After a week in Lancelin I planned to fly to Sydney to spend a week hanging with my good friend Amanda (aka Wing Sis) who would be visiting from San Francisco. Thinking even further ahead, I was planning to head back to Southeast Asia where my limited dinero would last much longer.

Upon my arrival in Lancelin (Lano) I realized straight away that there was something very special about this place. Lancelin is a small fishing town nestled between the ocean and sand dunes. The town stretches along the edge of a natural bay which is protected from the Indian Ocean by outer reefs and islands. The protected waters of the bay are ideal for swimming, fishing, boating and wind & kite boarding. The surrounding sand dunes are also fun to board down. Climbing to the top is not easy but the views are well worth the effort.

With only 400 full time residents in town, everyone really does know your name. There are a few shops in town – a local bakery, general store, pharmacy and pub. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Lano if you aren’t out on the water. Some might find such a small town boring, but I absolutely love the peaceful solitude of nothing to do.

The Greyhound bus dropped me off at the YHA Lancelin Lodge where I was warmly greeted by owners Trish and Trev.  The hostel was very inviting with brightly sun lit rooms, an immaculately clean large kitchen, an adorable cat who lazily defies his name “rocket”, hammocks swaying in the shade, and a swimming pool. Occupying the hostel are “mature” backpackers instead of your typical 21 year olds.

This very international hostel was filled with surfers from all over the world who had came to Lano for only one reason – the wind. I have been told that over the next month around 200 more surfers will flock to Lano’s windy shores for the Lancelin Ocean Classic. Inside my six bunk female dorm room I went through the standard drill “Where you from?”, “Where have you been?” ,“How long will you stay here?” I was surprised to learn my new roomies planned to stay in Lancelin for 3-4 months. Chiara (Italian) is in Lancelin for her 2nd windy season. Julie (Cali) had also spent the previous summer in Lano and returned this year to learn to kite. Mylene (French) an avid wind surfer left her boyfriend at home to surf for four months.

Everyone warned me that there is something about this place and took bets that I would also fall victim to Lano’s black hole. After only a few days in town, I inquired about the hostel’s weekly rates.

I signed up for classes with MAKANI KAI KITEBOARDING , ran by amazing instructors Al & Kel. Little did I know that there are so many steps involved in learning to kite surf before you even put a board on your feet. After my first week of class I had spent 8 hours in the water and had yet to even attempt to stand up on the board! (More about kite surfing in another post … Learning to kitesurf with Makani Kai Kiteboarding )

As my departure date neared I was conflicted about what to do next. I was having so much fun kiting and I needed much more practice before I would be a badass kite surfer. There was no way I was going to leave Lano without standing on my board and riding if only for a few seconds.  I also was loving life in Lano and my daily ritual of leisurely drinking coffee in the morning, reading books, and relaxing in a hammock while I waited for the wind, riding bikes, meeting new people, walking on the beach, and watching beautiful sunsets from the tavern each night. I also found myself doing lots of cooking and baking which was quite fun for a change. Chiara taught me how to make her favorite authentic Italian pasta dish and Mylene taught me how to make a French apple pie.

As I biked through town to what was suppose to be my last kiting lesson, the sea breeze called to me and I responded “I don’t want to leave!” Then I remembered, I can do whatever I want, why shouldn’t I just stay? So I seized the opportunity to travel the way I love best  – exploring by myself, finding new places I like, and staying until I decide I want to leave.

So three weeks later I am still in Lano and I am staying put for a while!  I have had an amazing time in this little windy laid back town and I have no future plans other than buying myself a kite and board and practice kiting as much as possible. I extended my Aussie visa that was scheduled to expire this week, I can stay another 3 months now! I have made heaps on new friends and cool new people arrive here every day.

As I have experienced so often, it pays to be flexible in life and travels as you can never know what lies just around the corner. If you stick to a “plan” you may miss something very beautiful.

To see more photos of Lano CLICK HERE

Below is a video I made after I left Lano 2.5 months after I arrived. A compilation of great memories!

And another video of me learning to kite … if at first you don’t succeed try, try, try, try again! 🙂

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  1. Aunt Barbara says:

    The photos are beautiful – and so is your writing. I felt I was listening to you talk. You are having a wonderful life and I am proud that you are brave enough to reach out and live a dream. You are a special person and I love you very much.

  2. Walter says:

    Have you been recently back? Going there next week 🙂

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