My husband Andy is a very keen kite surfer and I’m often asked if I mind that he spends most of his spare time in the sea, and the answer is no I don’t. Not in the least. In fact sometimes I’m encouraging him to go, even when the wind is ‘marginal’. You get used to terms like “marginal” in the kite-surfing world. I am very experienced for instance in specialist terms such as “gusty” and “sheeting” and also understanding the wind direction and speed. The currents and tides are very important, as is the height of the waves. I’ve become quite the expert.
Andy mostly kite surfs at Lepe or Mudeford which are local to us in Hampshire. Wind, in our house, dictates everything, wind certainly influences what we will be doing on any given weekend. Andy has a t shirt that says “Pray for Wind” and we do, quite a lot. We are away in York next week, but we had to study the wind/tide and make sure it was auspicious to go away. You do NOT want to be with a kite surfer when its windy and there is nowhere to sail.
Andy is actually REALLY good at kite surfing ( he has been practising 20 years, having started as a wind surfer ) and I do feel a surge of pride when I’m standing on a Caribbean beach and he has a little audience watching him do his moves. Often said audience will come over and have a chat with me, as if I am his manager. I’m certainly used to launching and landing kites on the beach (this involves holding on and then letting go when signalled to “launch” and catching the kite and pulling it to the ground to “land”) and have even been asked by other kiters to perform this task for them when Andy is on the waves, so I MUST be good.
There are some downsides of course. Firstly, we only ever get to go on holidays where it is windy. And wavy. I have no issue with windy, but usually resorts only get the big waves in their winter seasons. For example, we went to Mauritius a couple of years ago and it was very windy and wavy, but it was also quite cool (as in chilly) – Andy LOVED it. August is mid winter in Mauritius, and the waves were huge, which was perfect for him. Not so perfect for me, sat on the beach in a cardigan.
There are about 20 identified kite-surfing spots where we can go on holiday, so I can’t complain, and we have probably only been to 8 of them so far, but places like Maldives and Fiji are off limits due to their lack of general windiness. Which is a shame. Perhaps when we are 80.
Holiday packing is competitive as I desperately try to fit my dresses and shoes around assorted boards and kites. Andy will try and limit how many dresses I can pack, whilst I moan that he doesn’t need 3 kites and 2 boards. We have to pay extra to take his sports equipment on the plane, which is irritating, and there are further money making opportunities when we get on the transfer coach at our destination airport. The coach driver usually charges Andy 30 or 40 euros to take the extra bag. Andy, the holiday rep and the coach driver will have a heated discussion while I sit on the coach and pretend its nothing to do with me. Andy always pays in the end, but insists on arguing anyhow. He says it’s the principle. I think he secretly enjoys it.
When we arrive at our holiday destination, there is much perusing of local websites and beach web cams to assess the kite surfing opportunities. This becomes a daily obsession. Every morning when we wake up, there is much checking and rechecking as to wind /wave /tide conditions. I, on the other hand, look out the window, register it’s sunny and proceed to settle myself by the pool or on the beach with a really good book. Only moving when absolutely necessary to get a gin and tonic.
Andy’s day will begin with a walk down the beach to assess the kite surfing situation, how many other kiters are out and what size of kite is being used (the less windy it is, the bigger a kite you will need. These range in size generally from 5-15 metres.) He will also go and chat with other kiters on the beach. Preferably in English, but Andy can speak Kite which seems to be an international language.
When the conditions (wind, tide and waves) are deemed right, off he goes and he may be gone for hours. I try and keep an eye on him in case he gets attacked by a shark or something, but if my book is really good, I can lose sight of him for hours.
I was on the beach in the Dominican Republic last year watching him, when two American ladies stopped just near to me and started talking about him. “I know him” said one, “I’ve actually MET him. He’s VERY famous, he’s in ALL the magazines and I’ve seen him all over the world” I did chuckle to myself. Bet she hasn’t seen him at Lepe.
At home in Hampshire, he gamely goes out in all weathers ( in his wet suit) and kites all year round, though maybe not quite so much in January and February. Lately he has performed a very different role on the beach, in rescuing at least 3 people who were in trouble in the sea. Mainly young swimmers caught in the off shore currents. I’m so proud of him and privately think the coastguard should put him on a retainer. I’m thinking of getting him a Kite-man Super Hero t shirt to go with his windy one.
If you google kite surfing you get ” Kite-boarding is an action sport combining aspects of wake boarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport” Wow! Kite surfing is certainly becoming a really popular sport and in different parts of the world we have seen some spectacular displays in competitions. Flying up in the air, flipping over and then catching your board with the hand that is not holding the kite, is pretty impressive.
Hydro foiling is the latest thing Andy has got into (partly inspired by The America’s Cup) and apparently its going to make an appearance in the Olympics. A Hydrofoil resembles a surf board with a model plane attached to the bottom of it. It’s easier to use if there is only a little wind, and according to Andy is the closest you will get to riding Marty McFly’s hover board in Back to the Future.
So, I will remain a kite widow for the foreseeable. When I told my daughter about the blog title she said, “Andy’s not DEAD!” No, thankfully he isn’t, and I am quite prepared for him to carry on kite surfing for some years yet. It just that it would be nice to go to The Maldives….one day.