A few years ago I was on a beach in Egypt.
I was at one of those funky places with golden sand, a bar serving ice cold beers with unpretentious bites to eat, free WiFi, funky music filling the air and a selection of regulars and holiday makers mostly beautifully tanned and generally young and funky looking.
It was a great place to chill out but I wasn’t there to chill: like everybody else around I was waiting for the wind.
As soon as a hint of a blow came out everybody run to the shore, grabbed a bar with lines attached to oversized colourful sheets of material and off they went with a plank on their feet onto the patch of sea in front which suddenly looked like a motorway at rush hour.
As for me the water was still out of bound and joining the motorway rush hour was a dream that faded further and further away every time I slammed the unruly flying toy onto the ground with a force that released a chilling shotgun-like sound: I was learning to kitesurf and I wasn’t being very successful at it.
There was a lot of hanging around waiting for the right wind but eventually I was taken to the edge of the water to learn how to be dragged by the kite: they call it “body dragging” in the industry. It is an indispensable technique to get yourself back to the board or to safety if you lose it while kiting and it marks the student’s first attempt at harnessing the power of wind to move about on the surface of the water (and in my case drink enough seawater that you wonder how there is any left). I wasn’t so convinced.
To me the term already spelled trouble. After the little practice that I had managed to get out of the lesson on the beach while learning to control a smaller training kite alternating with other students, I wasn’t quite sure I was ready.
As a matter of fact I grew an ever stronger conviction that this flying monster had a life of its own and I feared it like you would if you met a visibly rabid dog in the street and someone gave you the task of catching him. Yet those who have known me long enough know that I am not one who gives up easily in front of a challenge.
So there I was in the water giving it a go: like when you learn skiing and ignore every directive from the instructor to throw yourself down the slope and lean faithfully towards the valley because as he as he tells you, leaning backwards will ensure a speedy fall, I once again applied the same tactic and followed my own brain’s directives which at the time seemed to make much more sense: I pulled the bar every time I felt pressure experimenting a force that made my body feel like a feather.
Exciting for a split second; until your brain starts to wonder where and how you are going to land.
“Let go of the bar!” was the usual firm order. So I did.
I landed on a piece of dead coral and ended with a painful gash on my foot.
“It ain’t for me” I thought to myself. I went back to diving and closed the chapter.
That was then and this is now. Things have changed.
These days come a breezy day you will see me grabbing one of my very own flying monsters and running to the local beach to tinker with the wind.
So what’s changed? I asked that question to myself too.
The answer is to be found in between a combination of my usual search for a challenge, destiny and good instruction.
Meet Olesya and James: my kitesurfing instructors and owners of http://www.kitesurfing-lessons.com/ Muscat’s first kitesurfing school.
Destiny led them to setting up their kiting school right across the street from us: flags and banners went up. When you have something right out of your window calling out to you like the sirens of Odysseus it is hard to ignore, especially if nobody is tying you down; it seemed natural to dive into the challenge again.
This time around however conditions were a lot different: sandy beach with no hidden coral, good wind and above all, very good instruction.
Like with any extreme sport, quality of instruction is not something you want to skimp on. You need to know you can trust your instructors to keep you safe while feeling that you have enough space to build up your confidence and independence.
You may see someone who is a champion at what he (or she) does, yet their skills will not necessarily make them good instructors. Instruction is a totally different thing and this was a completely different story from what I had experienced in Egypt a few years ago.
Small classes (most of the time I had one-2-one sessions!) meant progressing fast.
I have finally managed to tame the monster and conquer my fears.
It didn’t take too long and most of all it has been a lot of fun. Today I can say I am riding.
I have completed my beginner lessons and I have bought my kite.
Don’t get me wrong I am still learning and like skiing you improve as you practice but my instructors are always there ready to give me a hand and plenty of tips to help me improve. That’s where their passion shines.
They really make all the difference.
It’s the kind of passion that gets me off my lazy bum when the wind is blowing and I am wasting my day. They will text me and call me and make sure I am where the action is.
If you are thinking of giving kitesurfing a go I really recommend getting in touch with them.
If you are in Muscat and wonder around Al Azaiba beach raise your head and follow the colourful kites, they will lead you to them and a steadily growing social kiting scene.
If you are elsewhere in the world then let a holiday take you to discover this amazingly beautiful country.
As for kiting in this corner of the world, Oman has a number of beautiful hotspots for kitesurfing along the coast south of Muscat.
The best season is the summer when temperatures in Muscat reach soaring heights but are still pleasant along the breezy southern coastline; some locations are reachable for a day visit others are better enjoyed over a weekend or a longer trip.
Warm waters, beautiful beaches, regular wind and no crowds: I am really looking forward to riding the summer.
Will I see you there?