Kite Surfing on Margarita Island by Elliott Hester
on photos for more images of Venezuela
the sun at my back and a wave beneath my board, I am
surfing off El Yaque Beach on Margarita Island, Venezuela.
Well, not really. Technically, I am sailing. Wait a minute,
now. It feels more like waterskiing. But then again,
I am actually flying a kite.
Although these may sound like the delusions of a water-sport schizophrenic, the
truth is I’ve just learned to kitesurf.
surfing, kite flying, sailing and waterskiing, kitesurfing is the most exciting
water sport to come along in years. Riding a modified surfboard, and pulled by
an inflated kite attached by four lines to a body harness, kitesurfers can travel
across the water’s surface at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour — as
as a fully-throttled JetSki.
The adrenaline rush is unbelievable. So are the wipe outs.
Instructor Murray Sampson of Margarita Xtreme Kite School believes El Yaque Beach
is the best place in the world to learn kitesurfing. “The conditions are
perfect for beginners,” says the Scottish expatriate. “The winds
are a constant 12 to 20 knots, the water is always warm, and you can walk offshore
through waist-deep surf for more than 250 yards.”
Murray lectures me on kitesurfing safety and technique. What sticks in my mind
most is the bit about the quick-release strap. Should I loose control of the
kite and go flying toward the face of a mid-rise hotel, simply pull the quick-release.
It acts as an ejector seat, detaching the kitesurfer from his wayward kite and
preventing a possible disaster in the process.
After the briefing, Murray unrolls the four lines from the control bar so that
the lines are stretched out evenly along the beach. He attaches one end of each
line to a corner of the giant kite. The opposite ends merge into the control
bar which the Scotsman attaches to his own harness.
he eases into the shallow water, I follow far behind, holding the kite sideways
above the surf. When he gives a thumbs up, I release the kite. Snatched by El
Yaque’s steady winds, the kite soars nearly 100 feet into a denim-blue
sky. Murray then guides the kite to the “neutral position” (directly
above his head) and waits for me to join him.
expert windsurfer, sailor, snowboarder and kitesurfer, Murray believes the ability
to fly a kite is the single most important attribute for a novice kitesurfer. “If
you can fly a kite, you can kitesurf.”
I watch Murray tilt left on the control bar. The kite moves left. He tilts the
control bar to the right. The kite reacts accordingly. He pushes up on the control
bar to “de-power,” and the kite begins a feathery descent. He pulls
down on the control bar. The kite catches “full power” and climbs
back to the neutral position.
Now it’s my turn. Murray unhooks the control bar from his harness and attaches
it to mine. I tilt the bar left, too far left. The kite nose dives toward the
sea. “Pull right, right!” he shouts. I follow his directions, but
overcompensate. “Pull left, left!”
Soon, I find a rhythm and am moving the kite comfortably from the 10 o’clock
position to the 2 o’clock position. Time for the “dragging” lesson.
Stretched out on the water in the “Superman” position, I’m
told to move the kite from 10 to 2. This time, forcefully. With one quick turn
of the kite then, I am dragged through the water like a fallen water-skier who
refuses to let go of the tow rope.
“De-power!” Murray shouts, from what seems like a mile away. “De-power!!”
manage to push up on the control bar, thus collapsing the kite and ending the
skid. “Full power,” the instructor shouts, realizing the kite is
sinking. Spitting out water (he never told me to close my mouth during the dragging
lesson), I pull down on the control bar, turn left, and am snatched once more
across the water’s surface.
“Good, good,” Murray says. Now, I’m ready for the modified
Holding the control bar with one hand, my kite hovers in the 2 o’clock
position. I sit in the water and use my other hand to help ease my feet into
the surfboard’s footholds. In order to stand up on the board, I dip the
kite rapidly to 10 o’clock and back to 2. The sudden surge of power yanks
me forward and up onto the board.
I am surfing! I am sailing! I am … “Ahhhhhhh!”