Very often when I want to share my passion and excitement for kitesurfing with my work colleagues and other acquaintances, I am greeted with puzzled, terrified looks, some pity (poor soul, he doesn’t know what he is doing) and the eternal question: aren’t you afraid that you are going to die? Isn’t kitesurfing a dangerous sport? Only crazy people do it! Then, to reinforce their argument, they send me YouTube videos showing crash compilations, or fish the internet for extreme accidents and horror stories. My sister cannot bear the though of me doing it, while my mum barely tolerates it, and says, with a knowing smile: “Well… if it makes you happy… “.
I work as a Health and Safety Professional and, by definition, my profession demands that I carry out a risk assessment and prepare a method statement for pretty much every activity that is carried out in my work place. Surely, a person that makes a living from telling people what is safe and what is not, should not engage in such crazy and dangerous extracurricular activities, like kitesurfing. Perhaps it would be safer to just sit on the sofa and watch the other ‘crazy’ people doing it. Oh, really?
So, is kitesurfing really an extreme, dangerous activity?
The simple answer to that is that kitesurfing is only as dangerous as you make it. Just like a dog is only dangerous if it has received the wrong training, so kitesurfing is only dangerous if done with the wrong mind set and wrong attitude.
Wrong mindset is to have a few drinks then head to the beach and attach yourself to a 12m kite in 25knots winds blowing offshore… then attempt to do some tricks just like the other guy was doing when you were watching it from the bar… How hard can it be, eh?
The right mindset is, of course to head over to the beach and go straight to the kite centre, approach a certified school and get the correct training. During that training, carried out by a professional, accredited kitesurfing instructor, you will be educated in many safety aspects, and many dangers will be highlighted, along with best practices on how to avoid those dangers and how to effectively manage all residual risks. You will learn how to assess wind and water conditions, entry and exit points, learn about right of way (who has priority on the water), learn how to start and land a kite, learn how to water start and how to body drag and, if necessary self-rescue. During your accredited kitesurfing course, you will learn how to navigate a kite in a controlled manner, and what to do if things don’t go according to plan. You will also learn how to ride on the board and how to rescue your board if you lose it. You will learn all the kitesurfing basics, and these basics will serve you as a great foundation as you progress in your kitesurfing, even after you stopped taking classes.
But, perhaps even more importantly, you will learn to respect the sport, you will learn that if done correctly it is neither extreme, nor dangerous at all. You will learn how to read and be in tune with nature, learn how to be totally free and how to find both tranquillity and adventure at the same time. You will be inspired to travel to places that you’ve never heard about before and meet people that you never though existed. You will learn to fly… quite literally. Life will never be the same again, because, once you have expanded your mind and your horizon, there is no way back.
So yes, kitesurfing is dangerous. It is dangerous for those that find it safe to stay on the sofa and label every free spirit crazy. But you are not that person. You know that the real danger is being afraid to try… as it might change you forever.
See you on the water, my friend. Let’s ride together…