“Okay, you’re about to launch, are you sure you’ve got your chicken loop locked in?”
I was an hour into my first lesson and I realised I hadn’t been paying one iota of attention. What the heck is a chicken loop? I was only half listening when my kitesurfing instructor explained the safety basics and now it was really showing.
Not that it was boring. I was just too distracted to listen. Kitesurfing is seriously mesmerising to watch; so peaceful, graceful, and effortless. And who can concentrate when you are surrounded by Instagram worthy palm trees? That, and I still had four days and five lessons to go. Piece of cake. Or so I thought. My boyfriend sure did make it look easy. What a jerk.
The day was warm and hypnotic. Sri Lanka has the kind of heat where you can almost taste the humidity; a certain spice lingering on each puff of breeze. But this cinnamon flavoured zephyr was a little untrustworthy. The wind was a gentle, albeit a sporadic, 15 knots. As most seasoned kite surfers will know, this is somewhat on the soft side, not unlike my waning confidence.
While I had never tried kitesurfing before, Sri Lanka is one of the easiest spots to learn. My lessons took place in a lagoon, the water shallow enough for me to stand, and protected from the open seas and rough swell. I took some comfort knowing I could walk my kite back to base if I got into real trouble.
I went into the lessons thinking it would all be pretty simple: I’m a surfer so I expected it to be an easy uptake. I’d already imagined myself mastering it; my bikini would sit in place, my hair gloriously blowing in the wind, I’d glide across the water to the sound of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita, as the sun slowly set behind the sand dunes. Maybe even a turtle would pop it’s head up and give me a wink.
I was a little surprised when none of that happened.
While I could understand the wind and swell, the addition of a hand held device with a mind of its own made things complicated. My hair remained plastered to my cheeks and my neck and arms ached from constantly looking skyward. I’d swallowed a decent quantity of water from attempting a body drag (where you remain in the water and use the wind to drag your body up or down wind). I had a permanent harness wedgie and I never saw a turtle.
While that might sound like a beginners nightmare, in reality it was just part of the process and not as traumatic as it seems. There’s a saying in surfing that, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun”. So even though my kite flying was erratic, and often bordering on deranged, I wasn’t the least bit worried. Because when you’re a learner, you’re completely off the hook. There are no expectations, there’s no pressure to triumph and certainly no judgement. Your mind, body and often your inner-child are completely at play as hand-eye coordination plays catch up with the unbridled joy that befalls.
Suiting up into the harness, lining up the strings and inflating the kite seemed easy to grasp and so in the beginning I was quietly confident. But reality hit me when my instructor asked about my chicken loop. It was in that moment that I realised I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing.
But it was too late to change my mind.
My instructor spoke firmly through the headset. But before I could move my kite from the twelve o’clock position to the three o’clock position I was soaring through the air with disregard. Once that kite took flight, all bets were off.
I flew through the air, propelled meters from a cunning, unsuspected gust before face planting into the water. It was epic. I laughed hysterically, swallowing more water and wishing it was caught on camera. Flying uncontrollably down a lagoon is technically frowned upon by fellow kiters, but damn was it fun.
I am yet to try kitesurfing again. That’s not to say I never will, the experience was worth it for the joy of learning, and for the pleasure of watching my boyfriend try and learn to surf.
So, if you’re in the position of learning a new skill, my advice is to go into it thinking you’re going to have the most fun, and if you can’t be having the most fun, at least double check you’ve got your chicken loop equivalent locked in.
Lexi Connors is the ultimate wanderlust enthusiast, with an incurable case of curiosity and a deep passion for ethical travel. She has a penchant for cats and finds mushrooms extremely vexing.