INTRO: In his column this issue, twotime World Champion and frequent globe trotter, Mark Shinn, has some tips on taking your kitesurfing holiday
seriously, but perhaps not too seriously
I’m sure a lot of you think I’m going to comment on the withdrawal of kiteboarding from the Olympics, but I’m not. In truth I could write pages on the whole sordid affair but I’m fed up with politics in sport, so this month I’m going to write something about kiteboarding! Shocking I know, but it had to happen some time.
One of the staples of kiteboarding habits seems to be the winter kite holiday get-away, escaping the cold realities of the season and sneaking in a couple of weeks (or more for those who seem to have more flexible jobs than I) in a hopefully warm and windy place. Brazil, South Africa, the Canary Islands… the list of top destinations goes on but there is one thing that they all have in common: reasonably reliable wind.
Having made a few pilgrimages myself and benefitting from living in one of those get-away locations, I’ve noticed a recurring theme or two and thought I might impart a few words of wisdom. I’ve seen numerous expectant kiters arrive, only to have their dream trip spoilt through ignoring the five 'P’s: 'Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance'.
So, let’s break it down into a plan: By and large the days of turning up at the airport with three board bags weighing 40 kilos each and hoping to blag it are gone. Airlines are now wise to the schemes, so before you fly, call the airline and ask the cost of a board bag (and if possible pre-pay it) and the maximum weight. When you pack, do yourself a favour and weigh your bags at home. If they’re two kilos over then take something out; they will charge you for it and you have been warned! The poor check-in agent doesn't earn a huge salary and receives all the abuse through no fault of their own. Save yourself an extremely bad start to the holiday and simply follow the rules. On the subject of packing, I have a trick to ensure I don’t forget important parts. Put your board bag open on the floor and, as you start to dis-assemble pieces, collect them together in the bag. Put the fin screws back into the fins after you remove them and put the strap and handle screws into the board inserts if they’re loose. If you can pack a few spares of each too then do so, they don't weigh very much and will save you an enormous headache should you drop one in the sand in your rush to get on the water on arrival. Always pack a pump and a screw driver. Jet lag sucks and effects us all, but there are few better things than a 5am dawn patrol session on your own just because you were up anyway. Watching the conditions at 5am in the morning thinking about how good it could have been if only you had a pump is not a nice ordeal!
Personally, I tend to ignore the forecast and pack as many toys as I can get away with weight-wise. It may be rare to need a 12 metre in Brazil at this time of year, but at least you’ll be prepared. If you live in Brazil you might consider a 12 metre day as miss-able, but if you’re only there two weeks then every session counts. Of course, your gear is not the only thing that might benefit from some preparation. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people arrive on the spot to be greeted by perfect conditions and bang out three, two hour sessions in the first day, then two, two hour sessions in the second and then drag themselves down to the beach each following day bleeding and broken and unable to enjoy the conditions. There’s a good chance you’ll be kiting more often and for longer than you ever do at home and every probability that you didn’t kite a lot in the preceding month or so (isn’t that why you went on a winter kite trip in the first place?). A little restraint in the first days might save you many a lost session as the trip wears on, especially when it comes to injuries. That hot spot on your hand can be saved if you stop kiting before it becomes a blister and that blister can be prevented from becoming raw flesh if you cover and treat it in time. A few minutes stretching before a session can prevent many a torn muscle in particular your back, neck and shoulders. These are high strain areas in kiteboarding and injuring them can turn you from a rapidly improving kite star into a reluctant photographer quicker than you can imagine.
If you’ve planned your trip in advance then maybe it’s worth preparing yourself physically for it, too. Some regular cardio-vascular exercise (running, biking, swimming etc) can ensure you have plenty of physical endurance for your trip. Try to incorporate some higher intensity intervals into your training (increase your heart rate to an uncomfortable level for 30 to 60 seconds once every five minutes or so). A kite session isn’t about 120 minutes of constant exercise, it’s about periods of calm interspersed with short periods of intense physical activity. Some intervals in your preparation will ensure your recovery time between tricks is much more rapid and your fatigue levels will grow slower, allowing for more frequent and longer sessions. It’s also worth considering some basic exercises to strengthen the key muscle groups involved, such as stomach, lower back, arms, shoulders and legs. I’m not suggesting you start a programme of weight lifting, but there are a string of exercises you can do at home in front of the TV using your own body weight (sit-ups, pressups, star-jumps, burpees etc.etc.) that will all stand you in good stead for your upcoming trip, minimising the risk of injury and maximising your useful time on the water.
I do have a final tip that I break every time I go away, but perhaps you’re wiser than me. Perhaps it’s not necessary to go out and party like an animal the first night of your arrival. I’ve lost count of the number of times I entered day two of a trip with a hangover and, every time it happens, I wake up swearing I will never do it again. But the thought of that first after-session mojito is simply too good to pass up. It’s supposed to be a holiday after all!
Find more on Mark and his boards at: www.shinnworld.com
Read Marks column in the next issue out soon. Subscribe HERE