IMG_7940 (Large)Flying the “trainer kite” was more frightening than I thought. It sounds gentle and easy, right? It’s just a trainer kite. No. I didn’t know how to fly it, and it jerked me violently when I flew it wrong. I also crashed it a lot. A few crashes were right near people on the beach, and each time I was mortified that I had almost hurt someone with this ten foot long kite. No one seemed to care that they had almost been hit with it. I was the only one grimacing when it crashed near them. I received only friendly waves and smiles from the almost injured passersby as I called out, “Sorry! I’m learning.”

My instructor kept telling me to relax. He kept touching my tensed up shoulders. Relax, relax, relax. But this kite was powerful and unpredictable. And it was only the trainer kite.

Then, something bad happened to a lady near us. She was with a friend who was teaching her to kiteboard. My instructor said the kite was much too large for her and the wind was strong that day. She was about 50 feet away and my instructor left my side to race toward her. He tried to release her safety leash but he was too late. The kite picked her up off the ground a couple feet. Then, it slammed her down hard in the sand, face-first, and drug her 15 feet. She was wearing a helmet and a PFD and seemed ok after the incident. I felt shaken, though. My palms were sweating and I had to take a moment to breathe and relax before going back to the trainer kite. I later read that the official kiting term for this is getting “yanked and spanked” by the kite.

“Maybe this sport isn’t for me,” I thought but kept going anyway. With my instructor holding onto the back of my harness I wasn’t going anywhere. It was hard to relax because I was afraid of the kite and didn’t understand what it was doing. I told my instructor this and he told me to sit down and fly it. Only then, when I was sitting on the sand, did I start to get comfortable. I wouldn’t get picked up or jerked around in that position. Then, it became fun to fly the kite. After a couple hours I was still flying it poorly, but at least I felt comfortable with it. Near the end of the lesson, I actually began to enjoy flying the kite.

The whole experience felt pretty overwhelming and I was exhausted afterward. I slept 12 hours that night.

Lesson 2
The next day I chose to do a shorter lesson. My time with the kite was too much yesterday. I need to approach this sport in smaller increments if I’m going to be successful. Flying the kite is intense, and the next step is to get in the water and let a bigger kite drag me through the ocean waves. It’s time for the real kite now, and time for the “body drag”. The body drag involves using the kite’s power to move through the water without a board. I did not feel ready for that at all. I am barely starting to understand the trainer kite.

So we practiced more with the trainer kite for about ninety minutes. Today I wasn’t afraid of it, and felt comfortable launching, flying, (with my instructor hanging onto me) and landing the kite. It was also a bit less windy and I think that helped. I learned to fly it one handed, even. At the end of the lesson I felt like I could control the trainer kite pretty well.

Lesson 3
It was time to fly the big kite in the water. My instructor brought it into the water and hooked it to my harness. I began to fly it as I stood in chest deep water. My instructor was tethered to my harness the entire time. It handled just like the trainer kite, but was obviously much more powerful. At least while in the water the consequences of my mistakes were less. The wind was very light, almost too light to launch the kite. It was a mellow introduction and I was glad. After feeling the intense pull of the trainer kite I was sort of dreading the power of the full sized kite.

The wind was too light to do much body dragging, but we tried anyway. It was a mellow introduction to body dragging and waves were small. We practiced flying the kite high with one hand while pretending to put a board on my feet with the other. This was perfect for me and I ended the lesson feeling good.

Lesson 4
It was the day for body dragging with the big kite in big waves. It was a windy day and I would feel the full power of the big kite. I was nervous but my instructor helped with everything and prevented any “kite-mares” that could happen in these intense conditions.

I was flying the kite again in chest deep water with my instructor tethered to me. I practiced my “power strokes”, which means dipping the kite down briefly to get a little extra power. Each power stroke pulled me up and out of the water a foot or two. It was fun, except the waves hitting me in the face every now and then.

I made a mistake with the kite and flew it right into the “power zone”. My instructor was hanging onto me, and we were both launched out of the water. From the knees up I was completely out of the water in an instant. Wow! The kite can so easily toss me into the air. It’s incredible. Note to self: do not fly the kite across the power zone like that!

There were a lot of people in the water that day. My instructor would regularly tell me to bring my kite up because someone nearby was launching or landing on the beach. It was hectic. People were enjoying the strong wind and waves. The next step in my training is a solo body drag, but with the intensity of the conditions and all the people around I don’t want to do it today. At the end of the lesson, I asked my instructor what he thought of solo body dragging near the boat with no people around. He said yes, as long as wind is light. This would be my next step, to get out in the big ocean by myself and fly the kite.

Self Practice
Our boat was anchored in a big, open area. The wind started building around 10:00 am and there were no people around. It felt like the perfect time to get in the water for my solo body drag. We have all our gear on the boat for kiting and Brian even devised a system for launching the kite right from the boat. So I put on my gear and leapt into the water. I was nervous about this but eager to make the breakthrough of controlling the kite solo without my instructor hooked to me. There was no one out here to collide with. If the kite launched me it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The waves were much bigger out in the bay and my PFD was fitting poorly. It didn’t fit over my kiting harness, which I only noticed once I was floating in the water. The back was riding up. And did I mention these waves were big? And I was hooked to a giant kite. The kite was appropriate for the conditions. It wasn’t overpowered or dangerous. As I tugged on a line to launch it I felt its power pulling me face-first into the waves. Rather than send the kite into the sky immediately like I should have, I just kept floating around and trying to get comfortable with the waves before launching the kite.

I tried to keep my back to the waves so they wouldn’t hit me in the face. This didn’t work because the kite was off to my left, hovering on the water surface, pulling me in that direction. The waves were definitely distracting as they washed right over my head. I flew the kite a little bit, but after about 15 minutes I was done with the waves and ready to stop.

Brian was hanging around nearby, upwind, in the dinghy. He would pick me up as soon as I gave him the signal. The fact that he was so close made me feel secure and willing to keep trying even though the waves were big. He was so close we didn’t even need the hand signal. I crawled into the dinghy and we hauled in the kite lines. They were a tangled mess. We went back to the boat and Brian untangled the kite.

It had been intense, and I felt victorious! I had done my first solo body drag, and in big waves!

Now, I’m waiting for my next lesson so I can do more focused body dragging in different directions. After mastering that, I’ll learn to get up on the board while flying the big kite. That is going to be interesting.


Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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