Darren and I don’t like to wait for adventure! We’ve tried to accomplish every dream imaginable and we’re doing a great job with it. About two years ago, he told me he wanted to try kiteboarding. He watched countless videos on the techniques and skills involved and he wanted to get out on the water. Life has a funny way of happening, though, and we forgot about his dream to master the kite on the water. We planned on trying it together two years ago when we were in Florida but the timing was off and we never made it. We tried again when we were in Jamaica for our wedding but the winds wouldn’t cooperate and, alas, it never happened. Darren was starting to take it as a sign that kiteboarding wasn’t in his future and he left it slip to the back of his mind.You’d think since we live in southern California we would have tried it by now, but no such luck. Finally, two weeks ago, I looked up kiteboarding companies in the area and I was determined to schedule a full course-to-ride lesson for him. On Saturday, he finally crossed kiteboarding lessons off of his bucket list… only to add purchasing kiteboarding equipment to his new list since he loved it so much. With similarities to sailing and tinkering skills required for perfection, Darren found a new hobby to add to his extensive list.
SoCal Kitesurfing was the school of choice. Running out of Belmont Shore, they are a results oriented instruction center where you get personal attention and commitment to your success. The instruction is done by the owner and kiteman, Bart Miller. Bart loves teaching and adventure sports. He said, “Kiting combines the best of many sports. If you love sports, adventure, and travel like I do, this sport will change your life! Great times, friendships and adventures await you!” During Darren’s 6 hour lesson, Bart’s words held true; he loved the sport and the adventure, but it was the personal interaction with Bart and the other students that really made the experience memorable.
The SoCal Kitesurfing “office”, or tent set up on the beach, created a welcoming environment where others were encouraged to setup, demo gear, and share tips while kiting. Darren approached the tent to a welcoming owner, Bart, and an instructor-in-training, Nick.
Once the other three guests arrived to the semi-private lesson, the instruction began. Bart gathered the students into a circle and gave them a quick run-down of the safety guidelines and the procedures for the gear. Bart is a trained IKO professional. He’s insured and certified and adheres to the highest standards in teaching and safety. Safety was his first concern and was part of the entire process.
Almost immediately, Darren and the other students were able to play with the gear while Bart safely guided them. Darren enjoyed the active learning process where he was able to learn by doing rather than listening to a boring lecture.
Starting with a trainer kite, they learned about the wind window and how to handle the kite within that window. They practiced walking forward and backward with the kite as well as sitting down and controlling the kite while stabilizing it in the sky. The power of the trainer kite was the most surprising part of the entire day for Darren. He had no idea how powerful it could be. He said, “the trainer kite had enough power to drag you down the beach.” For a little kite, it could certainly get you moving.
After they got the hang of the trainer kite, they then learned how to rig and launch a real kite, which can be a difficult concept. Darren quickly learned that if you launched the kite too aggressively or if you didn’t keep it on the edge of the wind window, then you could literally go flying into the air; controlling the power of the kite was a major part of the learning process.
The afternoon session started with power strokes in the sand. The power stroke is the basic power generating move in kiteboarding; it’s what you do every time you start riding. During the power stroke practice, Darren realized the precise technique required to kiteboard successfully.
Once in the water, they learned body dragging, where you lay on your stomach and allow the kite to drag you out into the water. With Bart’s support, he tried to get up onto the board. As time progressed, Bart had less and less involvement allowing the students to practice on their own.
Learning how to fly the kite was more technical than Darren anticipated. After trying paragliding a few months ago, I asked if it was similar and he said, “there is so much more to kiteboarding. With paragliding you just let the kite lift you off the ground. With kiteboarding, though, there’s not just steering; there’s also power. The bar changes the angle of attack for the kite so if you bring the bar up or down it increases or deceases the power. Plus you still have steering and launching the kite. To handle the kite while floating in the water is difficult. You need to control left and right, power and alignment, and the board on your feet. It takes incredible balance and power just to get up. It’s more like sailing where you are constantly tweaking the sails for maximum power and wind resistance.” Although Darren’s “sail boat” was just big enough to stand on and his tacking, zig-zagging towards the wind and then away from it, was less than perfect, his sailing skills made handling the kite in the wind almost second nature.
Physically and mentally drained after 6 hours of training, Darren returned home with wide eyes and endless chatter. He wanted to explain every little detail of the day and relive every minute of it. As he rambled on about the kite, the laid-back, friendly personality of his instructor, the water, and the power, I was proud of arranging the day for him.
Darren didn’t just tick another item off of his list. He gained knowledge of a new sport and it opened his eyes to the possibilities that kiteboarding offers. He’ll most definitely return for customized lessons and advanced kiteboarding. The continuous tinkering and techniques required to master the kite are a perfect match for Darren’s personality. The best part about trying something new is that you never know what amazing experiences will change your life and leave you wanting more.
I don’t know what’s next on the life bucket list, but SoCal Kitesurfing found a permanent home on Darren’s yearly, and possibly monthly, lists.