Max's enthusiasm for kitesurfing was contagious and I decided to give it a try. Here is what I think is useful to know for anybody considering it:
This is what wind looks like
1. Yes, it is awesome. If you like the idea of being on the beach but have no idea what to do after the first hour, it's for you. It's kind of like skiing for the summer.
2. It's not dangerous or extreme (at least at the point when you learn how to ride - you can go crazy afterwards). When I first saw people doing it with a big-ass harness, it made me apprehensive. Turns out the harness is there just so that rider uses his core muscles to get pulled (while hands are only used for steering).
3. It should take someone of reasonable physical condition about a week to to get up and ride. The steps involved are:
- One day to learn to control the kite on land
- One day to control the kite while in the water - i.e. dragged downwind and upwind by the kite. Next step is to do the same while holding a board. I personally found the second step easier as you stay above water (leaning on board) and, therefore, don't end up having it in your face.
- One day to put the board on your feet while holding the kite and then stand up on the board
- One day to learn to ride after standing (i.e. not fall over).
Any kind of previous experience with kites or boards should help. But without it, it's roughly 4 days of everything going perfect before you can ride. After you can ride on your own, you will be able to take lessons for reduced price (i.e. without instructor standing over you), but school still won't rent you equipment until you are more competent (I'm not sure what they want yet, as I haven't got that far into it).
When I say 'one day' I mean roughly 2 hours of one-on-one instruction (i.e. 4 hours if it's 2 on 1) with wind of 10 knots or more. Wind is probably the biggest variable. I spent 2 weeks in Algarve now and only had roughly 3 days of real instruction - the rest was spent waiting for wind.
This is what no wind looks like
4. I would recommend finding a school with a fixed fee to learn IKO Level 2 (i.e. what I described above). If you pay by the hour, the interests of the student and school seem to be misaligned (they want you to take more classes, while you'd rather pay less). The school I found (http://www.kitesurfeolis.com/) offers this for 395 EUR (i.e. as many classes as you need to complete). Here is their description of levels: http://www.kitesurfeolis.com/?p=ks2. Overall I found Tavira to be an awesome spot (here is NYT writeup on it: http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/travel/the-other-algarve.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). Or you can stay in Tavira Cabanas (10m car ride from Tavira) - in which case you'll save 10m ride each way. But Cabanas is more touristic.
5. It's probably helpful to watch this DVD before each class (i.e. the section that you are about to perform): http://www.progression.me/videos/type/dvds/progression-kiteboarding-beginner-dvd-2nd-edition/
6. If deciding to go somewhere to learn, make sure you have at least a week and that the wind is consistent in that spot (use Windguru website to check what the wind has been last couple of weeks / previous year in the place you want to go). Otherwise you run the risk of only having 1-2 days of instruction.
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