Taking Flight

Taking Flight, June 30

Yesterday Mark and I had helped Anson go kite boarding, so today was my turn. Unfortunately, Anson injured his big toe by jumping down on the dinghy anchor; Kim generously offered to come and help in the support dinghy instead. To my disappointment, there were no beaches nearby, so we had to go up and across the wind a quarter mile. We inflated the kite and led and attached the lines. When we had the kite in the launching position we did a final check of the lines and they were crossed! After a good bit of yelling and frustration we set the kite back down and re-led the lines.

My kite has five lines. You attach a line to each wing tip, two just inside the wing tips and one to the center. The kite is an arched curve about 20 feet long with struts attached to the inflated leading edge. There are countless photos of kiteboarding online if you are having trouble imaging it. My problem was that I had doubted myself and had re-led the inner lines until they got crossed over the outer ones. On the second attempt to launch the kite, my lines got caught on coral and mom had to wade out to free them. Finally, after an hour of stressful set up I had the kite in the air!

Kite boarding is similar to wake boarding, except you use the kite and wind instead of engines and fossil fuel. To get up on the board you do a power stroke. By pulling on one edge of the bar you make the kite dive, moving it into a place to catch more wind and create more apparent wind. That produces enough power to pop you out of the water and get you standing on the board. Then you have to do another power stroke to get going. If there is enough wind once you are up and going you can keep the kite in almost the same position, but sadly, I had to keep the kite moving for more apparent wind.

When I first began I brought the kite down in a power stroke, but it only lurched me partially out of the water. I tried again, slightly less timid and got almost the same result. It took me a couple more tries before I made a big enough power stroke to get up. After ten seconds I came back down. I mostly had rides like these, some lasting up to a minute but most less. A lot of the time I couldn’t create enough apparent wind and fell backwards but still kept the kite in the air. Two or three times there was a gust of wind and I wasn’t leaning back far enough, so I face-planted, getting pulled by the kite almost 20 feet. The rides may not seem like much but this was the first time I had really tried since my lessons, three months ago.

After almost two hours of kiteboarding I called it quits and set the kite on the water. Kim and Mark came over to the kite and drifted down wind where it promptly folded around them. After a minute of wrestling, they were able to deflate it and start hauling me in. During all this time I started thinking of sharks. During our snorkels we saw many 6-foot-long reef sharks but I thought about the size of their mouths and felt reassured. Then I continued onto great whites. I hurriedly lay on top of my board and tried to stop any limbs from hanging over. I tried to convince myself that they don’t eat humans and that they probably weren’t in water this warm. After making sure to point out to myself that I hadn’t seen any seals, I felt much reassured. Of course after all that, I thought about tiger sharks. Thankfully the dinghy was near and I got on as fast as I could. Back on Anthea I dried out my kite and drank a cup of tea. Hopefully I will have a repeat of that experience sometime soon.

Tahanea Atoll

3 thoughts on “Taking Flight

  1. Excellent explanation of kite boarding. Now I have a pretty clear picture of what you did. However, I am not ready to try it myself, so forgive your land based Nana! Actually, I am quite proud of your writing and your stick- to-it -.ness. Keep trying- it sounds like the perfect achorage to do that! I totally understand your concern about sharks, but agree with you that mostly sharks do not attack people. Much love, Nana


  2. Hi Devon, great to see you’re still playing with the kite toys. Keep it up. Something to think about, if you’re having difficulty staying up after your initial power stroke remember to point your board at the kite to get moving and get apparent wind helping you before you try to head upwind. Also if you were bothered by a shark you’d be famous as no kiter has ever had an issue with a shark 🙂 you’d be the first :0


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