The story of a scared girl learning to ride the wind and the water
Cautious and scared… even boring is how I could be described whenever something comes around that ‘should be fun’. Instead of throwing caution to the wind I picture broken bones and scraped knees.
So when I had the opportunity to learn to kite surf on a private beach on the Island of Palawan in the Philippines I was… hesitant – to say the least. I tried systematic desensitisation where I watched the kite instructor fix the kites, then eventually made my way to the beach to watch the kite surfers launch their kites and make their way out into the bay, hair flying, water spraying, making it look completely effortless.
I helped launched kites and even caught one coming for landing – although I almost injured the instructor doing so. I helped guests try on booties and harnesses and rash vests and just watched from afar. Because I am cautious and scared… and boring.
I was caught up in the excitement of it as I saw people speeding along the waves with perfect control, jumping and turning as if it is the most natural thing on earth. I was never caught up enough to try it though. Until the day I walked out of my little house and sprained both my ankles coming down the only stair. Both ankles…
As my ankles healed I realised that I could get hurt at any time – even walking out of my house – so why not give this kite surfing thing a chance?
I arranged with the kite instructor to let me know when he was free and set off with booties, life vest, harness and hat to go and tame the wind. The first day the wind tamed me. I forgot my earrings on and lost a diamond and a pearl to the sea. But, I was fearless, or as fearless as a scared young woman could be.
With my power ranger stance I faced the wind and the slightly choppy sea. I got the kite up to midday and then one and three. Back again and down until my body got dragged through the water by the power of the wind in the kite. This, you see is the essential first step, it goes along with an unnatural amount of salt water going up your nose- like some kind of secret initiation of kite surfers. All it did was make me spit very much unlike a lady.
I wish I could tell you that I was out there day after day, at every opportunity persevering because that is also the person I am. But alas, I let the days slid past and ended up in a slight panic at the end of the windy season, realising that I probably blew it. There was a young, shy, tiny Filipino at the resort who was being groomed for instructing and needed to gain more self-confidence speaking and instructing westerners.
So Jimboy and I made our way out to waist deep water, him taking the kite and me dragging the board behind me, because I was determined to do board-stands at the very least before the wind quietened down. I brought the kits down and up down and up again and again until I was confident enough to start on the board. Holding the kite directly above me, swaying gently in the wind I hooked my feet into the straps on the board, I leaned back a bit and brought the kite down… and face planted. Over. And over. And over. Then, one magical moment I didn’t.
With my feet firmly planted on the board I found myself flying across the water, wind streaming past my face, salt water spraying, the ocean under my feet, the wind bearing me forward as I moved the kite slightly up and down as I went. Jimboy finally find is voice and authority as he excitedly screamed at me ‘Pull up ma’am Jay! Pull up!’ I managed to ride the ocean for about 25 meters before I had to move back upwind. It was an exhilarating victory for a girl that was cautious, scared… any a little bit boring.