Learning to kitesurf with Makani Kai Kiteboarding

Australia, Kitesurfing, Reviews — By on January 18, 2011 2:50 AM


“Don’t do anything until the kite is at 12:00,” my kitesurfing instructor Kelly reminded me, her voice echoing inside the radio helmet that was a bit too large for my small head. I knew I looked quite goofy out at sea, but felt reassured knowing that my instructor could still communicate with me from shore. My brain felt overloaded with all the many steps I must remember in my attempts to stand up on the board. Thankfully Kelly’s voice could remind me and encourage me every step of the way.

“Push your left leg out, take the kite to 1:00 and then power stroke down to 10:00. “ I did as she instructed, feeling my body lift out of the water, standing on the board briefly before I was lifted and tossed through the air landing face first in the water … a classic beginner’s appropriately called a  “superman”.

I felt the wind knocked out of me, gasping for air while swallowing heaps of salt water, the kite crashing into the water as I drifted further away from my board. Frustration was quickly followed by determination. I was going to be able to ride on this board if it killed me, and I would not leave Lancelin until I could ride!

I laugh at myself for thinking that the five days I originally planned to spend in the small windy beach town would have been enough time for me to learn to kite surf.  There are so many skills and safety instructions to learn that the average person requires 10-12 hours of instruction before they can stand on a board. Perhaps the most important safety skill to learn is how to perform a self rescue in the event that you cannot relaunch your kite out at sea. A self rescue involves depowering the kite, wrapping up the kite lines, and then using the kite as a sail to drag you safely back to shore. I

Many days of consistent practicing would be required to actually ride downwind, and the ability to ride upwind is a whole different skill to learn much later. Tricks and jumps could take years I was told, a very frustrating fact for someone like me who prefers immediate gratification.

Watch this video of the fun times I had learning to kitesurf with Makani Kai Kiteboarding School.

Pumping up kite

Headed out to sea

Kel makes sure I don’t blow away!

There are many factors that affect a kiting session: wind direction and speed being the most important. Wind speed affects what size kite you use, and wind direction determines whether or not you can even kite that day. Kiting in offshore winds is very dangerous and is not advised for beginners as you could easily get carried way out to sea! While I would accept a free ride to Africa any day, kitesurfing is not my preferred means!

There is much seaweed in the ocean surrounding Lancelin.  When the wind turns toward the shore, everyone knows the seabreeze is in because of the terrible sulfur smell. We all really like this smell as it means it is time to go kiting!

A useful site to monitor the wind conditions in Western Australia is Seabreeze.

Makani Kai Kiteboarding School

Lancelin is known to have very strong winds, which is why so many wind sport enthusiasts stay in the town for months during the windy months of November-April. Wind speed in Lano often reaches 25-30 knots.The greater the wind speed, the smaller the kite needed. I often use a 6-meter kite and sometimes even tiny 4-meter kite on very windy days. The smaller the kite, the quicker the kite speed.

Lancelin is a great place to learn to kite and Makani Kai Kiteboarding School sets up their tent near the north lookout point where there is a beautiful view of Lancelin Island and a safe bay  for beginners to practice. When kiting in sideshore winds, you can rest assured knowing you will eventually end up on land, no matter what goes wrong out at sea.

Lancelin Island

Great spot to learn to kite!

Practicing on land

Running kite lines

The first day of lessons was on the beach in which I just got the feel for flying a kite on land. I can’t remember the last time I flew a kite, perhaps 25 years ago?

The next few lessons were in the water learning how to body drag, a skill needed for board retrieval (which happens quite often when you are a beginner). If you lose your board it will always end up behind you, as the kite will drag you downwind faster than your board can drift.

Body dragging involves using your kite position to the wind to drag your body upwind. I discovered that body dragging uses muscles in my abdomen that have never been worked so hard before. I would often wake up after a long day of kiting unable to move, but happy a 6-pack was in the works!

Body Dragging

It wasn’t until day five of my lessons that I was allowed to take the board into the water.  Historically, I have struggled with sports involving boards. I am a terrible snowboarder and have no experience wake boarding. I realized because of this inexperience, learning to kitesurf would prove harder for me than most others. I watched with envy as my roommate was up and riding after only three days of instruction. It would take me many hours of instruction and practice to eventually be able to ride a few meters.

First time up on the board!

This was of no fault to my excellent kiteboarding instructors Kelly and Al, who showed great patient and encouragement; their skills inspired me to try, try, try again.

Here is a video of my trials and tribulations to ride! There is nothing like the thrilling feel of finally being able to ride on the board!

Kelly & Al

Kelly and Al have been teaching kiteboarding all over the world, Al being a professional kitesurfer for over 10 years. Makani Kai Kiteboarding School was formed on the belief that life should be an endless summer, full of the spirit of aloha and positive vibrations.

Their experiences have taken them on an endless summer living and working all over the globe, spending a combined 20+ years gaining valuable experience in the Water Sports. They plan to teach kiteboarding in Lancelin until April 2011 and will continue to teach kitesurfing in Lancelin in the windy season (November-April).

If you are interested in learning to kiteboard, I highly suggest that you take lessons from Makani Kai wherever in the world they may be. The couple is very professional, talented, patient, and great fun to learn from!

The company is equipped with the newest and safest kiting equipment. They teach with Epic Kites, which I found to be easier to relaunch from the water than other kites I have flown.

Epic Kites

I have spoken with many students who have attempted to learn to kite on their own and found lessons to be hugely helpful, especially in learning life saving skills such as a self rescue techniques.

Watch this video to see an example of a lesson given Makani Kai Kiteboarding School. During this lesson the board was first  introduced and a self rescue was demonstrated.

Kitesurfing is a new sport (born in 1998) and is quickly becoming a very popular and addicting sport! In the past decade the safety features of kites have been hugely improved, making it easier to safely enjoy this fun sport!

I have come a long way from my first kitesufing lesson but need much more practice and look forward to kiting in other parts of the world!

To find out where the wind is blowing now and to learn all about exciting new kiting spots all over the world, I use iKiteGlobal Kitesurfing Travel Guide.

To see more photos of my experiences with Makani Kai Kiteboarding Lessons CLICK HERE.

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