So today I’m writing about something different than travel guides.
In the last 6 months I have been travelling in Australia, chasing the wind and kiting in every beach where I could go for a session. Some were crowded, others super remote. Some with crystal clear flat water, others with waves and big swell. Some days I’d find a place with perfect conditions, most others…with challenges to overcome! I’ll write about the experience and locations in another article. However, today, I feel like sharing some practical advises for beginner kiters, and/or travelers facing new locations.
Just to be clear, I am not an advanced rider. I began this trip with already very comfortable kite control, but only started to develop my tricks along the way. Nowadays, I can qualify as an intermediate, with a reasonably good baggage on the topic “kitespots exploring”.
That said, the practical advice every kiterboarder or kitesurfer should consider, I believe can be summarized in 5 topics, some mainly applicable to Australia, but most useful to everywhere in general.
1. Get to know your new spot
Every time one reaches a new spot, it is advisable to drop a visit to the local kite school or shop, or ask around the lifeguards or other kiters about the conditions for kiting. This to avoid bad surprises with rocks, coral reef, strong currents, tides, wind sheltered areas and dangerous animals.
Analyse the conditions for launching and landing. If there are any other kiters around, it’s safer to ask for a hand than to perform self-launching of self-landing, especially because it is a new spot for you, and sometimes coastal wind can be dodgy around trees or other surrounding objects.
2. Be aware of marine life
Along the coast the marine life is always very active. The colder the water gets, the lower the chances are of encountering crocs or stingers, but it’s worth being aware of the dangers in the area.
In Mozambique I was stung by blue bottle stingers and by jellyfish on my beginner days, because I bodydragged a lot and also had my share of self-rescue moments. A wetsuit solved the problem. I also cut my feet in sharp shells several times, until I realized it would be a good idea to wear booties in some particular beaches.
In Port Douglas I kited regularly with turtles, once I even rode over one that just popped out in from of me (I slid over the shell only, the turtle was unharmed). Stepping on a stingray wouldn’t be surprising as well and there was also a crocodile around that the lifeguards sighted several times. Happily I never crossed paths with it, but always kited attentive to moving logs.
In Noosa and Inskip I saw dolphins. In Coolum beach I saw a bull shark and again dolphins. In Yeppoon, kited surrounded by jellyfish. In Byron Bay and Noosa I saw many whales as well. And the list can go on.
But here I am, alive to tell the story. Marine life usually avoids kiters. But it is important to get previous info about it in every spot (again, ask local kiters or lifeguards), wear appropriate clothing, keep eyes wide open and avoid bodydragging too long in areas of concern.
3. Consider the currents, sheltered areas and tides
Kiting in river mouths is a favorite for me, because I can usually enjoy waves and flat water and shallow and deep water at the same spot. However, the currents tend to be strong as it is well known and the tides can change a whole scenery in 6 hours.
In bays, usually with flat water, you frequently find wind holes because of topography or trees.
In waves, the current will influence how fast you can relaunch your kite from the water or get your board back.
Tides, as mentioned, are also very important, especially if you’re planning a downwinder or kiting in river mouths.
So again, test drive the new spot for a bit before going crazy doing tricks, for it may become a real challenge to get your board back in strong currents or re-launch your kite off the water in dead wind zones or waves.
During my trip I witnessed or experienced several stressful situations related with all the above. Avoid being that person, but if you can´t hold yourself, be sure you have someone around to help before letting shit hit the fan.
4. Respect the rules but specially other kiters
I don’t usually like kiting in crowded places. The reasons are many; less space for jumping, stacking or even just cruising, higher chance of lines tangling and higher chance of me getting really upset with people being rude.
Although usually the kite communities are very friendly and helpful, it happens at times that there is an asshole there in the middle. Don’t let it be you.
Besides knowing the priority rules, a simple good practice is, for example, looking around before changing directions or jumping, to avoid hitting someone. Another good example is to wrap your lines once you’ve landed your kite on a crowded beach.
When someone comes riding straight in my line while crossing, I don’t care too much about priority rules, as long as there is good communication with the kiter coming in my direction. With just body language together we decide who goes up and who goes down. In other words, I’ll gladly give away my right of passage a couple of times to the same rider. However it really annoys me when a kiter doesn’t know (or care about) any rules and just keeps coming straight at me even though they should be giving way. That’s just rude. I’m also not a fan of being tailed too up close, but maybe that’s just me.
Another situation that I find annoying is when I’m trying to recover my board after a nice stack and someone comes too close, making me get my kite at 12 for safety reasons and therefore, again getting dragged downwind… It’s just inconsiderate. Keep your distance if you see someone working on a recovery, unless that person is really in need of aid.
An issue that I see quite often is instructors giving lessons and other kiters getting too close to the students, putting everyone at risk. If you see someone is learning, remember you were that person once before and give them some distance.
Remember, everyone is just up for good fun.
5. Check your gear
Finally, regularly test your safeties, clean your equipment, tighten your screws and tune your bar – just because I’ve summarized it in one sentence doesn’t make this any less important! It may be the most relevant of the issues a kiteboarder has to consider and unfortunately you see at the beach some of the biggest scares are due to gear failure.
Having something go wrong in a new spot because you were reckless with your gear is the silliest way to put yourself in danger.
That’s basically it.
Always remember, most importantly, kiteboarding is about having fun! 🙂