Learning to Kitesurf in Aruba: The Kite Experience

Learning to Kitesurf in Aruba

When most people envision kitesurfing, they think, at the very least, of having a kite to harness the winds above their head and a board to skim the seas. Well, that’s what I thought, too. But when I when I was learning to kitesurf in Aruba, things didn’t exactly go as I had expected.


“We’re going to have to start on the land,” my instructor from Aruba Active Vacations, Jacob, told me.


He and I crossed over the road, leaving the turquoise waters and sand behind for some cracked mud. Jacob ran through the basic instructions for controlling the kite and offered up analogies that probably would have made sense to most rookies to kitesurfing.


“You get it?” Jacob kept asking.


When it came to me and the wind, we understood one another the way a Welshman with no foreign language skills might comprehend an Amazonian tribal chief had he just been teleported from the Gwaun Valley and into the jungle. Put me on a surfboard and I know how to travel across the ocean. But give me air currents and a sail and I’m like a slow sixth grader in a college calculus class. (How about that for analogies Jacob?)


Case in point regarding my adeptness at wind management: I once got stranded on a bay with a few campers, a sailboat, and a steady wind. The camper had to get us back in.


Jacob handed me the kite and told me that the place above my head was twelve o’clock. To my right, just above the ground, was three. And to my left, also just above the ground, was nine. “Okay, Noah, I want you to fly the kite from three o’clock, then to nine o’clock, then to twelve. I want you to do this five times. You’re going to get really frustrated because even if you do this four times and then the kite falls, we go back to zero.”


After I had completed four sets three times in a row only to have the kite crash at my final swing toward three o’clock I was ready to murder the poor kid.


“Okay, I think you’re ready for the water,” Jacob told me after nearly an hour of dry kite-control drills. We walked back toward the assumed setting where kitesurfing would take place.


I learned a few more tricks and then Jacob hooked me up to the kite.


“Where’s the board?” I asked.


“First we have to learn how to control the kite over the water. You need to know how to release the kite. Also, this kite is five meters. The one you steered on land was only two. So now you have to get used to the new kite. We introduce the board on lesson two.”


“Then do I go kitesurfing?”


“It depends how quickly you learn board control.”


I followed his lead and sailed the kite in figure eights across the sky. The huge parachute dragged me out into the ocean, dunking me repeatedly and then depositing me out by a big red buoy where it was still shallow enough to walk back.


“The best kitesurfers in the world come to Aruba because of the winds,” Jacob told me as he restrung my kite. “We have some of the hardest winds to learn to ride. If you tell someone you were learning to kitesurf in Aruba, they’ll know you can kitesurf anywhere.”


I wanted to correct him. I had only gone kite in Aruba.




A Note about Learning to Kitesurf in Aruba:


To be fair, if I were running a kitesurf company, releasing humans to tackle both domains where people were never intended to survive, I would take the same precautions as AAV. If you’re interested in learning to kitesurf either you need to invest some time to learn the sport or just don’t bother. It’s a lot of money for a first lesson that only involves the kite. Or, if you go with a less ethical company, it will be a lot of money for a near (or actual) drowning experience.



Posted on by Noah Lederman in Surf & Snow

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