Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 159: Kite Surfing in Tarifa!

The Beach Boys never saw anything like this. As the sun was setting in Barcelona I was sitting on the beach, watching this dude cruise around the water being pulled by a huge kite. Maybe it was my background in sailing, but that looked like a ridiculous amount of fun. When I arrived in Tarifa and learned that it was the wind capital of the world and it was right before tourist season, I had little choice. It was time to get a grip on kite surfing.

The dude that I saw kite surfing in Barcelona.

My classes began while I was still in Torreguardiaro. I tried to convince Nick to join me but he was tied up with work. I called the first company I found in a magazine I had. I had no idea what to ask a kite surfing instructor to see if they're legit or not so my requirements revolved around English and money. The first dude I talked to seemed satisfactory. His name was Daniel from 11380 Kite School. We would soon become good friends.

Daniel's van and kite surfing gear.
Our first day on the beach.

On my first day of class I took three busses to get from Torreguardiaro to Tarifa. When I arrived I wasn't sure where to meet Daniel. He said to meet at the bus station but I couldn't find it. Eventually I realized that there was no big bus station, just a small group of outdoor shelters. I saw the grey and orange VW van that he described over the phone. He didn't look like he was going to kill me so I hopped in. Daniel introduced himself and we headed to the beach.

Algezaras' beach, full of industrial icky.
Josh is a young punk kite surfer from London.

The first day of class focused on kite control. He started me off with an airfoil kite about 1 meter across. The wind was ridiculously strong and it took all of my concentration to control (and hold onto) this kite. When we moved to something three times the size I was a little nervous. Thankfully I learned that kite surfing kites have four lines, two for control and two for break. Therefor the surfer can control the direction and the power. The wind was so strong if I didn't use the break well the kite would pull me off the ground. When kite surfing you're supposed to keep the kite on one side and make figure eights with it so the pull is constant. When the kites go up to 15 meters that's no easy task. Thanks to my stunt kite experience we cut the lesson short and saved the third hour for the next lesson. Tomorrow I was going in the water.

Kites, kites, kites!
Back at Tarifa's beach. Not good wind for kiting...
Windsurfers can surf in high or low wind.
My third day of lessons. Let's go!
Packing up after I ripped the kite. Oops :)

For my second day of kite surfing lessons I had to wait two days until the wind was perfect. I've already bitched about the lack of cooperation from mother nature, but it's life – one more example of my lack of control on my surroundings. When Daniel and I were on the beach he explained the next exercise, something called 'the body drag'. Essentially I was going to walk out into the water with the kite until the water was waist deep. Then I laid down on my stomach holding the control bar in front of my chest and made the same figure eights that I did on land. The feeling of the kite in the water is completely different than on land. When I was on the beach I felt like I was fighting with the kite, but in the water the stronger the kite pulled, the more fun I had. Once Daniel saw I had good control with the body drag he showed me how to start with the board.

Getting ready to go home.
Daniel wrapping up the kite.
Tarifa is surrounded by wind farms.

At the end of my second lesson and throughout my third I was determined to stand up on that sucker and kite surf for real. Everyone else is cruising all across the water and having a blast. I'm swallowing gallons of water as waves crash on top of me or I wipe out trying to stand up. I've gotten so close a few times. Once I was even standing for maybe 3 seconds or so. This is the most difficult and exhausting part of kite surfing. Yesterday I practiced for nearly five hours. After wiping out to my heart's content, I came ashore and Daniel and I would walk up wind so I could try again. Try holding onto a surfboard in 30km winds. Bwah!

Daniel, myself, and my ridiculous wet suit tan.

Even though I slept in the forest last night I slept like a rock. I feel beat up, perpetually sunburnt and my hair is replete with sand, but boy am I happy. Today the wind switched directions. The wind in Gibraltar normally blows from the East or West and depending on its direction is referred to as Poniente or Levante. I wish I could tell you what kite surfing is like and hopefully when I return from practicing today I will be able to. Wouldn't it Be Nice.


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