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High: A whole new spin on flying a kite

india Updated: Aug 16, 2009 02:41 IST
Dhamini Ratnam
Dhamini Ratnam
Hindustan Times
Dhamini Ratnam

Adventure sport junkies swear by activities like parasailing and surfboarding. Now you can combine the two and throw away the tether into the wind. You’ve just landed in kite surfing zone. There are few ways as good as this to lord it over the elements and let both wave and wind combine to take you on a wild ride.

Sounds incredible

It is. Kite surfing combines elements of kiting and surfing, letting the wind pull you along the waves. There’s a board with straps for your feet and a kite with either two or four lines connected to a bar that you will grip. You are required to wear a waist or seat harness and a personal floatation device for safety.

Wade in to shallow water, strap on the board, wiggle into the harness, and then wait for the wind to fill your kite and do the rest.

Don’t know how to surf?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to. But you must know how to swim. If you’re in good physical health, with no major knee or back injury, you’re good to go. Although, as Phillipe Dartnell, who teaches kite surfing in Goa, points out, that last requirement didn’t stop a boy with a prosthesis from completing a four-day beginner’s course with him last summer in Goa.

According to Dartnell, all you need to learn kite surfing is four to five hours a day and a total of 12 to 14 hours. After that, it’s all about practice.

“Ninety per cent of this sport is learning how to fly the kite — how to find the wind pockets, control the lines, tilt the kite to the right angles to use the wind well,” says 29-year-old Adam Bedi.

A veteran adventure junkie, who’d had his fill of snowboarding, skiing, and mountain biking, Bedi first encountered kite surfing when he went to Goa’s beaches in search of a new high. He signed on with Dartnell, learning the sport harnessed to his tutor’s kite, and was soon addicted.

He discovered what you will, if you gave it a shot: It’s easy to learn, a great rush, and also makes you feel like a dude, for doing something that very few others are.

Is it dangerous?

Kite surfing is the ideal blend of adventure with minimal risk, especially if you’re learning from a trained instructor. The kite generates an immense amount of power and speed while moving through the water and the more extreme the conditions (wind and water) the higher the danger quotient. There’s always the inherent danger of being dragged or lofted while hooked to the kite, says Dartnell, but in Goa, conditions are usually sedate.

Staying alert is key. “It’s the lines you should take care of as they get taut in the wind and can cut sharply if you’re not careful,” warns Bedi.

The thing to remember, as you set off to fly over the sea, is to “go out only as far as you are willing to swim back,” Dartnell points out. “A distance covered in 10 minutes with the kite is an hour’s swim back to shore.”

The magic ingredient

So, if you must have a prayer on your lips, let it be for a mild to strong wind of at least 8 to 12 knots. And then just explore the coastline, letting the wind and waves do the hard work.