Fitness Adventurer Jonaliza D. Misa is fascinated with kitesurfing but a little hesitant to get on the board. She catches up with kitesurfing master rider Andy Hurdman who gives her tips to ease her mind before starting her first lesson.
Kitesurfing: Relaxation Is Key
As soon as I discovered standup paddling, I was exposed to and became fascinated with other water board sports, particularly surfing and kitesurfing. No question about it, learning how to surf is on my bucket list– but kitesurfing seems a little too extreme for a beginner like me to handle.
“It’s 80% flying the kite, 20% board skills,” kitesurfing master rider Andy Hurdman assures me, “If you don’t have any board skills, that’s not a problem. Everything is about control of the kite and relaxing. Once you gain the skills of flying the kite, you don’t forget them—like riding a bike. That’s the beauty of kitesurfing. And there’s no rush in learning it. [It’s only when] you get comfortable with flying the kite [that] you move from land to water.”
If I’m going to take anyone’s word about kitesurfing, it’s Andy. A veteran of the sport, Andy has been involved with kitesurfing since 1998, becoming a sponsored athlete that competed (and placed in podiums) all over the world for many years. You may also recognize him from the Discovery Channel’s kitesurfing series Catching Air. But he is best known for inventing difficult tricks that he make seem easy and flawless, leaving his audience—both non-kiters and experienced kiters alike—in awe.
“Another thing to keep in mind is, the more relaxed you are, the better you do,” Andy continues as I begin to feel a little bit more at ease. “You wear a harness when flying a kite so your hands can be very relaxed on the bar, and your weight and power is distributed to your core via the harness.”
Lessons with The Kitesurfing Master
Today, Andy can be found spending most of his time as Kitesurf Program Manager/Head Kitesurfing Coach at GoodWinds in Dorado, Puerto Rico, and from July through September, coaching at Next Level Watersports in Nantucket, Massachusetts. I only want to learn from one of the best, so naturally, I ask about his program.
He breaks it down for me, “It’s beach lessons for 2-3 hours, taking time to get comfortable with the power of flying a kite, and understanding every aspect of flying a kite to be more knowledgeable and comfortable before getting in water, which helps with relaxing.”
“Usually, beginner students don’t get in the water until the 3rd or 4th hour of flying the kite. I won’t put a student in the water until they are comfortable walking with kite, landing and launching kite,” Andy goes on, “I like to tell my students that [there is no rush], take your time and enjoy the process.”
And how do you prepare for the first lesson? He advises, “Don’t wear a 2-piece bathing suit, wear a 1-piece. And since the first few hours are spent on the beach looking up, wear sunglasses. Really, just come with a relaxed mindset and know it’s going to be safe and fun.”
I begin to get excited, but wonder what challenges I will face while learning what is consider an extreme sport. Andy tells me, “When you are learning to fly the kite, we are just concentrating on flying the kite alone. Then when you move to the next stage, let’s say in the water, I like to call it ‘multitasking while flying the kite’. Because once you learn to handle the kite while sitting, then walking, then jogging on the beach, you get in the water and your body drags and you swim with the kite–all of this is multitasking while flying the kite. Once people get in the water, they almost forget what they learn on the beach. That’s why it’s important to learn to fly the kite before you move on to the next stage of your lesson.”
According to Andy, you don’t need upper body strength or arm strength. 80-90% of the power is in your body weight and harness. “[Kitesurfing] is an amazing workout for the core. When you get really good at it, you are flying with one hand most of the time.”
Mother Nature Makes The Call
Andy is an advocate of the sport. You can tell he is very passionate about it just in his words, “The thing I love about kitesurfing is harnessing Mother Nature and the power it has, if you want it. Another thing I love about kitesurfing that people should understand is that this sport can be very tame or very extreme. Again, it’s like riding a bike; you could ride the bike at 20 mph, or you can go 100 mph. It’s all in your hands. So when people judge it before they actually experience it, they don’t really realize its potential.”
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Andy. Riders like him go through hurdles, too! The most challenging for Andy? “You don’t always get to kitesurf when you want to, only because Mother Nature decides. [If] the wind is too light, you’re not gonna be able to do it. That’s why I pick up other sports like paddleboarding and surfing.”
And what advice will Andy give someone interested in becoming a pro like him? He says, “In the beginning days, I would watch other riders, watch how they jump and study them. Then once I started getting better, I would visualize a trick until I can play it in my head and then go out in the water and make it happen. I also trained a lot–trained on a trampoline and did off-water training, dynamic movements, and working out really seemed to have helped me a lot.”