Justine's experience of learning to kitesurf with Northern Kites

Justine's experience of learning to kitesurf with Northern Kites

Previous hobbies: Hiking, snorkelling, badminton, rock climbing and surfing – a long time ago!

WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO LEARN KITESURFING?

I was on holiday in Anglesey, taking a walk to one of the island’s famous beaches – Traeth Llanddwyn. Being a cold grey day in October I was expecting the beach to be empty, but when I got there the water was full of people cruising across the waves on kites! I’d heard of kitesurfing before but had never really given it any thought, having not lived near the ocean again until recently. But here they were, just metres away from me on this beautiful bay, having the time of their lives. 

I love everything to do with the ocean, especially sports or activities that get you into the water. After watching those kitesurfers, and having spent most of 2020 sat under a blanket in my joggers, I really wanted to be out there as well; to brush off those lockdown cobwebs, get more active again and just do something totally new out of my comfort zone. Plus it looked like so much fun!

Were there any barriers stopping you from starting?

After the initial awe of watching the kitesurfers in Anglesey there were a few doubts at the back of my mind about whether kitesurfing was right for me. The main one was that all the people on the waves that day were athletic looking men. And whilst I might have been quite fit once upon a time, in Autumn 2020 this was definitely not the case! I couldn’t even run 5 minutes to the train station without getting knackered, and I could plank for all of about 15 seconds. Plus my upper body strength has always been pathetic no matter how fit I’ve ever been. So looking at these men I was very aware of my own physical shortcomings; was I strong enough? Was I fit enough? Would I just completely suck and end up wasting my time?

Then the other thing I was worried about was money. There was clearly a lot of gear needed to kitesurf and it’s not the type of sport you can just practise on your own or with some friends that know how to do it – you need to factor in lessons too.

Have your opinions changed since starting?

My opinions of kitesurfing have changed since I started to learn – and all for the better! For a start I was surprised at how little strength is needed to control the kite compared to what I thought, and most of the strength you do need seems to come from your core as opposed to your upper body. So whilst I still had some very achy muscles the days after my lessons, I really enjoyed how controlling the kite was more about skill than strength.

Having surfed before I wasn’t worried about falling over or swimming, etc, but I was worried about losing control of the kite – and therefore me! I had visions of me getting blown miles across the Mersey, having seen a bunch of videos on Youtube of people flying into trees or lampposts with their kites.  But my instructor did such a great job of showing me how to handle a kite in different conditions that this became less of a worry and just more of an awareness and a respect for the power it can potentially generate.

Overall I thought that kitesurfing would be more difficult – both technically and physically – than it was, and I was really happy to discover that I was making progress with the sport much quicker than I’d expected. And in regards to the cost there are lots of ways you can get into the sport without it breaking the bank, such as by hiring equipment or getting things second hand. But everything is included in the lessons in any case, so you don’t need to fork out on anything to begin with.

Do you think Northern Kites are inclusive to all?

I definitely think that Northern Kites are inclusive to all. Another worry of mine when I first started was that I’d be or feel like the odd one out – the only woman, the smallest, the worst or the slowest to learn, and so on. Situations like that have happened to me in the past in other sports. But from the moment I got there everyone was so welcoming to me and I felt like part of the community straight away. The team and the other kitesurfers are so kind and supportive that I didn’t feel judged or anything like that – it’s a great place to learn kitesurfing no matter who you are.

What would your advice be to other women looking to learn?

My advice is simple – give it a go! Take your first lesson and see where it takes you

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