Learning to kitesurf in Lago Calima

I try to place my feet in the straps of the board without looking, keeping the eyes on the kite – working hard at keeping it steady at 12 o’clock, right above me –controlling with one hand while the other flips the board ever so slightly in the water to make it easier to guide the feet to they’re place. How many times I have struggled with this seemingly simple and mundane task! I have flipped the board, rotated it, lost track of the kite for a second while trying to keep the board in place for enough time to place my feet and then getting dragged slightly to one side and loosing my board in the process. How much time spent body dragging upwind to recuperate my board? Going too fast, passing it, not getting close enough having my board just out of reach, loosing control of the kite trying to turn the board around again, and having to do it all over again without even having tried to stand up. How much time?

Panorama of Lago Calima, Colombia

This time though, it all goes smoothly. With slight, light hand movements I make the kite stay in place, keeping me neutral, floating. The feet slide easily into the straps on my first try, no flipping of the board, no messing around, like it was the most natural thing in the world. I stop for a second, take a deep breath, concentrate, make the board face the right direction, straighten the front leg slightly, bend the back one. Weight on the back leg, have the front of the board stick out of the water and remember, make sure the board points toward the kite, always towards the kite. Then I make a go for it! I steer the kite slightly towards the right, 1 o’clock, and then to the left down to 10 o’clock, I feel the wind grabbing at the kite, dragging me out of the water, and I’m not falling, I’m not lifted into the air and smashed head first into the water, I’m actually standing. For a millisecond I’m so stunned that I don’t know what to do, but then I make the kite dive, having it catch the wind and keep pulling me on before I risk sinking back in the water.

Kitesurfers in Lago Calima, Colombia

Oh, the feeling of floating across the water, feeling the wind against your face, the speed. For a moment nothing else matters; I forget all the tedious work of recuperating my board, all the time spent fooling around in the water, all the face palms and the amount of water swallowed (if you are not swallowing water, you are not kitesurfing, someone told me), this is it, this is the shit! I have the kite dive a few more times, cruising, how wonderful. I just have time to reflect over how much fun this is before I make the kite go too much to the right, the wrong way, my board isn’t facing the kite any longer, the forces are going in opposite directions and I’m flying trough the air and then dragged straight down into the water, face first. Again. The board is gone, again! Back to basics. At least I’m getting good at body dragging!

Two kitesurfers in Lago Calima, Colombia

Learning to kitesurf is something I have wanted to do for years. I remember the first time I saw kitesurfers I were at a beach in Mui Ne in Southern Vietnam with my family. I was 17, and while the afternoon winds were blowing, whipping up the sand, ruffling up the pages of my book, I would watch the surfers cruise across the water surface, playing with the wind and the waves, their colourful kites dancing in the sky. I wanted to take some classes, but I didn’t, and I regretted it ever since. I was supposed to learn it in the Philippines when I was travelling through Asia a couple of years ago, but some permit issues, lack of wind, and then a small typhoon and too much wind put a stopper to that. This time though it all finally worked out.

Kitesurfers in Mui Ne, Vietnam
(Kitesurfers in Mui Ne, Vietnam)

I was a bit scared though, that I wouldn’t like it, as over the years, and through trying a few water based sports (like surfing and river kayaking) I have realized that I am not the biggest fan of water. Water actually scares me at times, I’m scared of loosing control and the thought of drowning terrifies me (I think drowning has to be one of the worst ways of dying). I find the surfing part of surfing quite fun, I love any kind of sport or activity where balance plays a mayor part, but struggling against the waves to get out where you can catch them, being thrown around in them when falling and not knowing what is up and down, not so much. Same goes with white water kayaking, being upside down in the water totally sucks! For some reason though, I have absolutely no problems with diving, and as it turned out; not so much with kitesurfing neither. Maybe because where I learned it there were no waves. It was mainly just me and the wind – and that damned board floating in the water, never where I wanted it to be.

People kitesurfing in Lago Calima