How often do you go on holiday and try something new? Since moving to Asia (or maybe it’s age) I’ve noticed that my holiday goals are different to before. Albeit I am blessed with many vacations per year as a teacher (don’t hate me!) but I’m no longer content with just sitting on a beach for a week, lazing around and working on my tan. Do you know what I mean?
Don’t get me wrong, whilst a few beach days are still compulsory for any tropical island holiday, over the past few years I’ve been getting much more enjoyment from adventurous activities. Whether it’s hiking in the Malaysian jungle, taking to the fly trapeze or motorbiking a 600k loop through the highest mountains in Thailand, you could say that just sitting still is getting harder and harder. So I’m trying for a new holiday approach. An activity that will take me to some of the worlds most beautiful and remote islands and beaches, where I can still keep active and feel the thrills of adventure in my wake.
Cue the kitesurfing vacations!
With many years in the wait, the Sailor and I FINALLY embarked on our first kitesurfing holiday. For those of you who don’t know what the sport is about, think of wakeboarding but with a kite pulling you instead of a boat.
If you just visit some videos one Youtube you will see my reasoning, it looks insane. A perfect brew of thrills and fun, with all kiteboarders looking like they wake up every day stoked! It was time to join in on the action.
We decided to head to Koh Phangan. Being only a short flight from Malaysia and one of my favourite places to holiday, it was a no brainer. It’s beautiful, it’s chilled and has some of the best beaches to relax on those recovery days. Plus, more importantly, it has good wind in July.
After reading great reviews online, we decided to try out surf school Kiteboarding Asia (KBA).
Related Read: Fun, Sun & Vitamin Sea: Thailand’s Top 5 Islands
We were based at KBA’s South Station in July, located at Lime & Soda resort. It’s just a 5 minute walk from the main pier in Thongsala and in a convenient part of the island.
The beach is relatively quiet and a great set-up for beginner kiteboarders, with its shallow, lagoon-like water. The island is also surrounded by coral reef which filters the waves and jelly fish.
We booked the 3-Day IKO course which cost 11’000 baht p/p (around £255 GBP.)
If you’re looking to get into kitesurfing, then it’s best to learn at an IKO certified school (International Kiteboarding Organisation.) This ensures quality control as the instructors have to undergo training that promote high standards and safe practices. From shopping around, I’ve found the lesson prices at most IKO schools to be about the same.
Our tuition was 1-1 and lessons lasted about 3 hours per day.
Lesson 1- Kite Control
We started on the beach with some important theory and were given a lowdown on the wind and told how to find the wind window (the area of the sky where the kite is able to fly.) The info was presented in a clear, easy to remember way and was reinforced throughout the course.
Afterwards, we were shown the different parts of the kite and how to set it up.
Then it was time to practice the art of kite flying! Having a bit of experience before using a trainer kite with Windswell in Port Douglas helped and my kite control was pretty good. If you’ve never done it before, then the power can initially feel quite intense. But after a bit of practice you quickly feel more in control and progress happens really quickly.
I practiced some kite move on the beach with my instructor ‘A’ before taking it into the water. He got me landing and launching the kite, making figure 8’s, power strokes (needed for getting up on the board) and walking with it in the sea.
This lesson was by far the easiest as it’s all about the kite and absorbing key information.
Lesson 2- Getting up on the board
Lesson 2 was a fresh 6am start to get a good hit of the wind and before the tide went out. We started by recapping key info from the day before and ‘A’ gave me more autonomy when setting up the kite.
After, we headed straight into the water for more kite control practice. Thankfully the water was still blissfully warm first thing in the morning.
In many other schools, the next stage would be body dragging (letting the kite drag you through the water) in preparation for the water start. However, as the water at this site is shallow, it is ideal for practicing power strokes whilst having the board on your feet. This got us feeling the motion of being pulled out of the water, which ultimately accelerated our progress.
To be totally frank, I thought I’d find kiteboarding hard and that it would take days to figure out how to get up on the board. However after practicing for only a short time, I got up! Then it was like riding a bike and I pretty much managed to get up every time.
After a few more get-ups and crash lands (and a few gulps of seawater), I surprised myself further by not falling ass over leg and managed to ride downwind for more than 50 meters (if you’re not sure, this is a great achievement!) It pumped me with some serious adrenaline as I got my first taste of the riders paradise.
Since then, I was able to get up on the board regularly and ride short distances.
Although you don’t need to be a super athlete or a muscle man to do this sport, a reasonable level of fitness helps. I exercise regularly but was completely nackered after the second lesson! As well as the physical demands- controlling the kite, riding, falling, getting back up and being dragged through the water- the mental side can be a bit draining too. Learning is hard! And trying to remember to do so many things at once was the biggest challenge. But the rewards make it so worth it.
I took a day off in between lesson 2 and 3 to regenerate and recover. Thankfully, Koh Phangan pulls it out of the bag when you need to relax:
Lesson 3- Water start upwind and downwind
For me, this lesson was all about confidence and control. I could get up on the board and ride a bit, but I still wasn’t skilled enough to get the kite to a controlled stop afterwards (I kept on crashing it instead!) I had more to learn about the kite’s power too, so I didn’t overpower it and end up in the palm trees or Koh Samui (just kidding, that was A’s joke 🙂 )
The wind picked up a bit today also so I was really feeling the kite’s force, which made me more hesitant to get up on the board. But ‘A’ was a champ at guiding me along every step of the way, giving me constant feedback on how to improve. I remember his favourite line (and possibly every trainer in the world) “Don’t pull on the bar.” Repeat this like a mantra before you go and then you may be better at not doing it (ultimately it causes you to lose control of the kite.)
During this lesson, I had some successful get-ups in both directions and started to feel more in control.
By the end of the week, the Sailor and I were buzzing. After years of wanting to try out kiteboarding, we finally completed the first step to becoming independent riders.
Although its an extreme sport, it was much easier than I anticipated, even for even slim girls like me. I was surprised at how little strength I actually needed- but I guess it makes sense. You just need to control the kite and the wind becomes the ‘muscle’.
From start to finish, our experience with Kiteboarding Asia, Koh Phangan went over and beyond our expectations. Justin, the school manager, was great at keeping us in the loop via Whatsapp with regards to bookings and wind conditions, including cool places to hang in KP 🙂
The whole team were also super passionate about the sport, professional and created a set-up that oozed good vibes- it was contagious. ‘A’ and ‘Da’ were also super motivating and genuinely wanted us to do well, which pushed us harder too. I don’t think we would have done quiet so well if it wasn’t for our great instructors.
I left feeling so proud of myself and fuelled with a new found passion. My IKO member card (given at the end of the course) now sits on my fridge door like an honoured souvenir and motivation to book the next kitesurfing trip.
Kiteboarding Asia, Koh Phangan
- South Station Location
31/10 Moo 1, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani, 84280.
- Whatsapp: +66 (0) 80 6000 573
- Check out their reviews.
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