A few kitesurfers pass through and assess the conditions and my equipment. Although a great deal for less than $500 for two (usually they are a thousand a pop), it turns out my kitesurfing kits are from 2001, well before the extensive advances in harness safety. The kites are good, although many of the valves are missing the part which prevents air from leaking once pumped up. Since the kites need to be pumped up tight in order to work properly, I order some used parts from ebay.
The first surfing guest scopes out the island and explains it is not a good one, on either side of it. The beaches are too narrow, meaning there is too much danger of being flown into the trees, ripping up the sails in the process.
Brazilian couple trying out the wind on the other side of the island.
The second surfers are a Brazilian couple who come to a similar conclusion, mostly in that the wind is not strong enough to lift up their kite. By this time I have contemplated trying out a few other islands in the area, after examining the map and my first surfer guest pointing out a few possibilities exposed to the open ocean. A group of us accompany the Brazilians to a couple of islands across the way and are pleasantly surprised to learn that the conditions are perfect. The Brazilians are ecstatic about breaking virgin turf and spend a few hours cutting across the waters without another soul to interfere. The sailing ship of Tao Expeditions turns up randomly and serves as an excellent backdrop. Ben actually joins us for this event and expresses great happiness to witness what I have been selling all this time – he finally sees the great potential in my overall plans.
Surfing in front of Tao’s original sailboat.
A few weeks later another surfer guest arrives but the winds are now strong enough to launch from both sides of our island (excellent news). We decide to go back to one of the Brazilians’ islands, where the beach is very wide, fluffy and soft, so she can give me a beginner’s course. After all, the future success of my camp hinges on there being a trainer here, and it could serve as a good source of income for me.
She explains to me some basic principles, such as how the lines are aligned, where the danger spots are and how to release the safety mechanism on her new, 9m kite (mine are 12 and 14m and can be potentially dangerous in these rugged winds). Having won sailing competitions during my youth, I grasp the concept quickly and soon enough have the kite high in the sky and under confident control.
She then instructs me to bring the sail over to my right, towards the trees and away from the shoreline. In an instant the kite drops down into the danger zone (downwind) and I am swept up off my feet and flying through the air (I was practicing while standing on the beach). My instincts are good and I keep my eyes glued to the kite while I’m rotated upside down and occasionally dropped down to the beach on my back. My eyes remain fixed on the kite in this new position, my head sometimes missing the odd massive seashell as I am dragged across the beach, until I finally bring the kite back under control out of the power zone. At the start of the training she asked if I wanted to wear a helmet, to which I sneered. Thank goodness for my extensive gymnastics and aikido training, giving me the balance and focus to bring the kite back under control, but I cautioned her: next time she decides to train someone, she should force them to practice playing with the safety release mechanism, until it becomes instinctive. In the moment when I was swept up off the ground I completely forgot about this while focusing on the kite, nor was I remotely aware of my back scratching up as I bounced and scraped my way towards the end of the beach and almost dragged out into the open ocean. Once back up on my feet, the crew worriedly runs over asking if I am okay. My trainer gives me a high five and said “job well done”. I then spend about half an hour body surfing in the water with good control of the kite, but my ears start hurting from the water gushing in and I am getting tired in general, so I pack it in for the day and hope to continue my training, preferably with my own gear, the next time an experienced surfer passes through.