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Teaching Kitesurfing

So you have mastered kitesurfing and can go upwind, jibe, jump, tricks and etc.  Sooner or later, you may want to teach your friends or to become a kitesurfing instructor.  This page can help you to follow your dream to have one of the "best job" in the world (teaching the sport you love, making money and making other people happy at the same time).  [Please also read KTM Kitesurfing Teaching Methodology as kitesurfing teachning methods have much improved and evolved since the day this was written back in 2001].

While it takes a few weeks for a beginner to learn how to kitesurf efficiently, it normally takes only 3-4 days for a beginner to learn all the safety and basic techniques of kitesurfing.  The beginners can then use those techniques to continue practicing kitesurfing safely all by themselves.

A beginner course is normally divided into a 3 or 4 days lesson (2 or 3 hours each day).  Following is a proposed course content and both the instructor log (Hung Vu) and learner log (Melanie Banica, a non-windsurfer and a non-wakeboarder).


Day 1

Melanie was in perfect form for flying the kite on land

Photo by Adrian Banica

Objectives:

The objective of the first day is to learn about the wind, the kite safety and how to fly the kite.

  • Learn about the wind and the wind window
  • Learn about the kite safety system and the "let go of the bar" reflex
  • Learn to fly and control a trainer kite on land:
    • Launching
    • Landing
    • Steering left, steering right
    • Kite goes across the wind window from left to right and then from right to left
    • Sine wave, figure 8 patterns while running to the left and then right
  • Learn to fly and control a kitesurfing kite on land:
    • Launching
    • Landing
    • Steering left, steering right
    • Sine wave, figure 8 patterns while running to the left and then right
    • Simulate a water starting while sitting down on land and then dive the kite down to the left (and then to the right)

Instructor log:

I gave Melanie all land based training first using a small 1 m2 foil and then using the New Wave 4.9 m2.

  • I am glad that I had Melanie use the small foil first (for the first hour).  Most beginners would need at least 1 hour to learn flying the kite properly and a small foil help reducing accidents and frustration.
  • Melanie first steered the kite as if she was steering a steering wheel (I had observed the same mistake made by many beginners in the past). The instructor need to emphasize to the student that to steer a kite, one elbow has to be bent while the other fully extended. Once I made that point clear to Melanie, she immediately steered the kite very well.
  • Controlling a kite is all about reacting to the kite movement. Most beginners would steer the kite a bit late (react a bit slow). The instructor needs to emphasize to the student to steer the kite sooner. Once I made that point clear to Melanie, she was immediately in perfect control of the kite.
  • Melanie asked why she could not steer the kite straight fully across the wind window. My explanation was that it’s is a matter of finesse in controlling the kite. At the end of the session, I did notice that she was much better flying the kite straight across the wind window.

Learner log:

September 15, 2001

What an awesome day! Today I started to learn to fly a kite (so that I may do kitesurfing and kiteskiing later on). Mr. Hung Vu is an excellent instructor; he has a great sense of humour, which makes learning this sport a lot of fun! The hardest part in learning about wind, and how to fly a kite, is learning to control the direction in which I want the kite to fly (I am a person who does not try to ‘control’ anything; however, I do follow my intuition and I found this to be quite helpful when steering the kite). I found that if I use my whole body weight when steering the kite, I can feel when the kite position changes (I would still look up to see how the kite is moving). Mr. Vu told me that I should let the weight of my upper body lean backwards so that my knees are ahead of my body – this works great! I found it much easier to control the steering of the kite (from what I learned today, this kind of ‘leaning’ is what also is required for windsurfing – I have never tried this sport).

I also have to learn to let go of the steering pole – I was told to let go of the kite if it is going to pull me forward and down (face-first) onto my tummy (when you let go of the steering pole, the kite just floats down to the ground) (I got sand in my mouth once because I landed on my stomach twice in the sand! It’s kind of gritty-tasting.) Once I figured out how to utilize my whole body weight for leaning and steering at the same time, then I was able to start walking or running with the kite from the edge of one wind window to the other. This was fun! I felt like I had more control over the kite once I was able to do this. After 3-4 hours of learning to steer the kite, I found my neck muscles to be a little tired from looking up. My hands felt funny because I was gripping the steering bar of the kite so tightly. Because I was concentrating so hard when I first started flying the kite, I was gripping the steering bar tightly and I was not paying attention to my intuition or to what my instructor was saying. Once I started to relax, my grip loosened and I began to pay attention to what I was feeling and hearing (and when the kite crashed to the ground a few times, I became more aware of what was required).

I must go to sleep now – I am tired. Tomorrow I am supposed to meet Hung at 2:00 p.m. at the beach again – I am supposed to be going in the water tomorrow. Napta buna!


Day 2

Melanie learned to control the kite and body dragging in water

Photo Adrian Banica

Objectives:

Similar to day 1 except that the focus this time will be on the water.  The student will learn to:

  • Launch and land the kite in water
  • Learn hooking in and out
  • Body drag using the figure 8 and sine wave patterns with feet trailing the body in water
  • Body drag using the figure 8 and sine wave patterns with feet in front of the body in water
  • Repeat the previous step while hooking in

Instructor log:

I got Melanie in the water and have her try controlling the kite while hooking in the harness line. I also have her body drag herself in the water while flying a figure 8 pattern

  • At first, controlling the kite while hooking in was a bit awkward for Melanie; however, at the end of the day it became apparent that Melanie could control the kite better while hooking in than not hooking in.
  • As a non-windsurfer, Melanie had problem with hooking in without looking down therefore loosing control of the kite.  This problem normally goes away once the student learn how to hooking in without looking down or know how to feel the kite better.
  • The wind was very light such that every time the kite got to the edge of the wind window, it would misbehave and become harder to control.  I told Melanie try to turn the kite before it gets to the wind window in such light wind.

Learner log:

September 16, 2001

This morning I woke up and the the first thing that I did was to look out the window to check the weather – it is sunny, but not very windy yet today (for kitesurfing). I stretched my gastrocs and hamstrings, and I tried to stretch all the muscles of the pelvis (mostly concentrating around the sacrum; the area that I injured 4 months ago - I think that the movement of the kitesurfing will help me to get back into shape again – it was easier this morning to stretch my hamstrings than it was yesterday before I started land training).

This afternoon, when I got to Britannia Beach for my second session of kitesurfing, I met up again with the gentleman who introduced me to Hung. He said that he did not think that I was going to be in the water today, but Hung and I were in the water for the whole of today’s session. I was somewhat discouraged with what I did today in the water:

  • my legs got tired fast in the water and I got very warm (I think that this was due to the wetsuit that I rented; it was 7 mm and I was told that this is a "scuba diver’s suit" - I will try a thinner suit next week and see if my legs get tired so fast).
  • every time that I tried to hook the kite to my harness, the kite would fall down to the water (Hung said that I have to try to hook it to my belt without looking down – that I should keep my eyes on the kite and that it's easier to hook my kite to my harness when the kite is at the wind window and there is not a lot, if any, power to the pull of the kite).
  • I have to lean all of my body weight backwards when the kite has full ‘pulling power’ and let the kite pull me through the water (I will practice this "leaning back" body movement this week so that I feel more comfortable doing it when I get in the water next time).
  • I also have to make sure that I do not fly the kite all the way to the edge of the wind window (where there is no pulling power), and I have to fly the kite lower in the power zone (I tend to fly the kite so that it goes up high above my head – again, where there is no "pulling power").
  • My neck muscles were sore again today after the session in the water; I believe that I still have to learn to lean my whole body back more.

Day 3

Melanie was in perfect form for water starting

Photo by Adrian Banica

Objectives:

The focus of day 3 is to get on to the board and get going.

  • While hooking in, learn to get the feet in to the strap with the instructor holding the board
  • While hooking in, learn to get the feet in to the strap with 1 hand holding the board
  • Learn to balance the board with both feet in the straps while holding the kite
  • Learn to dive the kite to get on the board

Instructor log:

What a day for Melanie, she managed to overcome some of the mistakes the last time and seemed to get everything right.  She managed to get on the board a few seconds the first time (a major a achievement for someone who has never done any board sport).

Learner log:

September 22, 2001

Today, at 2:00 p.m., I am supposed to meet Hung back down on Britannia Beach for my third lesson in kitesurfing. While I was reading Hung’s log, it came to me that I have a few things that I will need to question him about, or just mention to him:

  1. What is a "sine-wave pattern"? (this is mentioned in his log).
  2. I don’t know what types of equipment that we have been using, so I would like Hung to write that down for me (for when I go to buy my own equipment).
  3. I am formulating an exercise that I can do in the house to get used to "leaning backwards" (the same body technique that I had to use last weekend to let the kite bodydrag me on the beach or in the water).
  4. I don’t quite understand when to utilize the center string on the kite; I need to understand how to control the kite more. I need to understand more about how the wind works (I am not a windsurfer – only a swimmer – and this was the first time that I had ever heard of a "wind window" (I will try to find something to read, or find a class at university or college).
  5. Today, I must continue to try to hook my harness without looking down, and I must also remember to hook into the harness only when my kite is at the edge of the wind window (not in the power zone).

(After 2:00 p.m.) This afternoon was lots of fun!! I got up on the kiteboard for about two seconds – it was cool being pulled out of the water! Today, Hung had me bring the kite directly above myself (to stabilize the kite movement), then put my feet into the feet straps of the kiteboard and "aggressively" dive the kite so that the diving movement would pull me onto the kiteboard and out of the water. I have problems stabilizing the kite with one hand (while I put my feet in the footstraps of the kiteboard). Hung held onto the board for me while I learned to do this – this really helped! I think that I must put too much pressure on the right leg when I am on the board because I (become unbalanced and) seem to push the board to the left (and, at one point, I would keep the kite flying more to the right-hand side, so I was even more off-balance – as though I am being pulled in opposite directions!).

The first few times that I attempted to put my feet into the footstraps of the kiteboard, I would look down at what I was doing, not pay attention to the kite and it would crash down into the water (it was a good thing that we had a water-relaunchable kite).

Today, I did find that I felt more comfortable leaning backwards while flying the kite, as compared to my first weekend of training. This week I also discovered just how hungry that this sport makes a person (after two hours, I was craving grilled cheese sandwiches!). My husband brought me a protein bar and a bottle of water, which really helped (thanks Ady!) (Adrian is also our photographer – thanks Ady!). Because I have birds at home (as pets), I was thinking this weekend that I would name all of my kites (and, also, because I tend to talk to the kite(s) while I am flying them – no, they haven’t talked back yet). HA!!

To balance, I think that I will have to relax my muscles more (I noticed that I am tensing up my muscles when I put my feet into the footstraps). To get out of the water, onto the board, I am learning that I should not fly the kite out so close to the edge of the wind window (and stay more in the power zone). I also learned that once I have my feet in the footstraps of the kiteboard, that I should unhook the kite from my harness.

Today, I had a different wetsuit on and it was much more comfortable. My legs did not get as tired, and it was just as warm! (This week, the wetsuit that I wore was only 2 mm., and 4 mm. On top with the neoprene jacket on. Then, with the lifejacket on top of this – well, another layer of warmth. Thanks to the boys at SurfSide for helping me pick out the wetsuit – good price too!).

I told Hung today that I thought that if I made a kite (yes, myself!), that I might understand better how the kite bridle works. I am very tired – I think that I will rest now (Hung said that there will not be enough wind to go out tomorrow, but that he would call me if we could go out. I will have to get something to measure how many knots of wind that there are (before I get out on the water). Hung said that I could look on the internet (for weather conditions). Good idea!


Day 4

Objectives:

The objective of day 4 is to continue to learn to get on the board and the to get going for a longer period of time.  This day is more useful for a board sport person (windsurfer, wakeboarder, snowboarder, surfer, etc) as he/she already know the feel of being on a board.

  • Learn how to get on the board in both directions
  • Learn how to harness the power of the kite to stay on the board
  • Learn how to control the board using foot pressure

Instructor log:

The water was too cold and too deep for me to be able to assist Melanie much.   This session was more like a self-practice session for Melanie than a training session as the cold water "stole" all of my energy and the ability to think.

Melanie had a minor accident with another kitesurfer.  It was more the other kitesurfer's fault as he ran right into Melanie's flying zone.  If you are a kitesurfer and read this, PLEASE DO NOT GET INTO A LEANER'S FLYING ZONE.

Learner log:

October 27, 2001

Last weekend, I had my final session in kitesurfing (before the water gets too cold, and I head out of Ottawa). This last session went from approximately 2 – 6 p.m.. Before we started my last class on the water, I meditated and stretched a bit; I find that the Rolfing that I had (a long time ago) has really helped me to be more flexible for sports like kitesurfing, and doing Yoga helps me to keep my focus and flexibility. I was really hoping to get up on my board for a longer period of time for my last session (my instructor said that I did not have to get up on the board, but I really did want to).

Hung and I started the kite off from the sand, Hung took the kite (airborne) to the water, and I brought the board to the water. The level of the water is deeper now; it didn’t take long to have the water get up to our shoulders when we walked in off of the beach. I was expecting the water to be much colder than what it was. A strong push in the water today; I guess that that would be one of the ‘side effects’ of wind (smile!).

Once Hung and I were in the water, I took the wrist strap from his wrist and attached it to my own wrist and then Hung handed me the kite. The movement/pull of the kite felt strange at first (since I had not had a session in some time, and because I hadn’t flown a kite much, I guess I forgot what the movement felt like). For the first fifteen minutes or so of the session, I just flew the kite and again got used to the feeling of the kite. I began to feel a bit chilled in the water (not moving much) so I decided to try and get the board on my feet. I hung onto the kite steering rod with my left hand, and started to pull my board towards me. Everytime that I began to pull the board towards me with my right hand, I would pull down with the left hand and the kite would destabilize and began to dive to the left. So I would have to let go of the line to the board, and restabilize my kite in the air. When I finally did get my board pulled up to me (the waves were strong, and it kept floating away from me), I started to put my left foot in the footstrap first and when I got my right foot in the footstrap my kite destabilized again!! When my attention changed to the kite instead of the board, my board flipped upside down and my feet came out of the footstraps.

The second time that I got into the water and started flying the kite, I went back to the same task of learning not to pull down with my left hand when flying the kite with one hand (when trying to get onto the board). Then, I think that I heard Hung say something. Peripherally, I saw another kitesurfer coming towards my kite at quite a fast speed (he was up on his board). I tried to change the direction of my kite so that we would not collide, but this wasn’t working so I let go of the steering rod to let the kite float down towards the water. I watched as the other kitesurfer kept coming towards my kite at full speed, and I didn’t know what else to do. All of a sudden, I got yanked underwater by my wriststrap and I was getting pulled so fast that I couldn’t get my head out of the water to breathe. I was swallowing a lot of water. I wanted to reach with my right hand to get the wriststrap off of the left wrist; I can’t remember if I tried to or not (it all happened so fast, and I can just remember bits of what I was thinking at the time). I could not get the wriststrap off; I couldn’t do anything but let myself get pulled and keep trying to get air. Finally, the pulling stopped and I was able to come up (gasping) for air. "F…!!!" was the first word out of my mouth when my head came out of the water (I am glad my instructor was far enough away that he would not hear this!). I asked the other kitesurfer if he was okay, and Hung told me to start rolling up the kitestrings. It looked like the middle string was broken, but I just kept wrapping it up with the other line. I asked the other kitesurfer if his lines were broken, and double-checked to see if he was okay (healthwise) before I got out of the water with my instructor to fix the strings on our kite. I was cold and shaken up after this little collision, and decided to stay out of the water for the rest of the day. I decided to watch my instructor go out for a run on the water – getting up on the board looks so easy for him!

Hung later emphasized a focus on body posture, and how he had to ‘lean back’ – I will practice flying a kite and ‘leaning back’ with my body this winter in kiteskiing (so that I can utilize this knowledge next year when I get back in the water). I would also like to learn a board-sport this winter (to work on my balance). My body was very tired the next day, and my hands were aching and moving very slowly, so I will have to get in better physical shape before getting in the water next year (swimming, skating, yoga and weight-training this winter!!). I love this sport – it is very challenging!! (smile!).

 


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