Let’s be clear – I absolutely love the water, I am a water baby, in a previous life I was possibly a dolphin and Finding Nemo is one of my favourite films ever. I am a seriously ok sailor, a pretty competent long distance open-water swimmer, I can sort-of surf and I could windsurf (at a push, if required, under duress). All of these require a reasonable level of strength, skill and stamina.
None of them, and I mean, none of them come close to how hard it is to master kitesurfing. I keep being told that Tarifa one of the hardest places in the world to learn to kitesurf, but that doesn’t really help when you’re being washed up on the beach for the umpteenth time.
The wind here is so powerful (averaging 30kts) and the waves are so big (all the more so when you’re only 5ft 3″) with a strong current, that even getting into the water alone is quite a physical feat. And all the while holding a not un-heavy board in one hand and flying a six or eight metre kite on the end of 25 metres of string with the other hand; a kite which ducks, dives and cartwheels around in the sky like a peregrine falcon on acid.
You then have to lie down in the water, keep the kite aloft with one hand, secure the board to your feet with the other, and stay afloat with waves breaking over your head. Your eyes sting, half the sea goes up your nose and you still have to keep that bloody peregrine falcon under some semblance of control.
Gasping for air, spluttering and blinking furiously, the next stage is to power up the kite whilst you’re semi-submerged and generate enough power to propel you out of the water with a forward momentum, but not too much to send you flying.
It’s is good job that I am a water baby, as I have been washed up on the beach face down, face up, head first, feet first, and if I didn’t have a wetsuit on, I’d probably have been washed up inside out too.
The internet is full of “hot babes” kitesurfing in string bikini bottoms and triangle tops – these surely must be either superglued in place or they’re merely click bait fodder.
There’s an awful lot to be said about what an empowering sport kitesurfing is for women, particularly as once mastered, it is a sport of skill and technique rather than mere brute strength and balls, but this is not a sport where one tends to look ones best, particularly when learning. It’s definitely more drowned look than wet look – and let’s be honest here, a wetsuit is friend to few middle-aged females (and men too!).
Stoicism, though, is one’s friend when learning to kite. As is pig headed determination and a smattering of tenacity. And a massage. And arnica. And alcohol.
A major breakthrough today! I rode for thirty metres to port and it was AMAZING! And then a big gust came, the peregrine falcon puffed and yanked me into the air, dragging me about 20 metres along the water – leaving my board, which had turned turtle whilst smacking me in the shins for good measure, somewhere upwind behind me.
It was my first jump, my teacher said. I’m really not sure I should repeat what I said. I submarined to starboard. It took me fifteen minutes to body drag to retrieve my board. I have five new bruises and a little nick on the sole of my foot which is exasperatingly tender.
As one of my friends says, it is definitely character building. I have got this. I can do this. I will own this. Just please god, let it be soon…
Reassuringly, everyone I have met in the the kitesurfing community has been utterly helpful, supportive and lovely. I have to believe this is because the learning curve is so high it weans out all the wankers along the way and thus the sport self selects only the very best of people.
Tonight though, with tender arms, a bruised ego (and thighs), aching bones, half the sea still coming out of my nose and really attractive red eyes, I’m going to go out and get rip-roaringly drunk with my friends…because somedays there comes a time that, no matter what challenge or conundrum you’re facing, the answer is always ‘more wine please’.
And I will go to bed, utterly trolleyed, with a huge smile plastered across my face because this is the life I have chosen to live and I’m living a life I love.
Choose happy. Love, Sophie, Tiggy & The Beast X
P.S: No, Tiggy doesn’t come kitesurfing, she stays at home and listens to the radio or has a playdate with her boyfriend, Filipo the boxer, who lives downstairs. And The Beast is making lots of new friends too. He’s particularly fond of this fire engine…