San Francisco Bay Area kiteboarding lessons, learning and support.
I was practicing with the trainer's kite, took a land lesson, and last weekend took the water lesson. During the land lesson I obviously discovered that the trainer's kite has little in common with the real kite. The water lesson is where I finally had a chance learning how to control the kite I practiced only for 20-30 minutes during the land lesson, and even with a totally different kite (the land lesson was with a C-kite, water lesson with a bow kite).
It is very nice KWS have jet ski and they give you a 30-minute ride to the middle of the bay, so you can get a good wind. Call me crazy, but this is the last thing a beginner needs. I needed a light wind, and while being in the water in the middle between Alameda and San Mateo, I couldn't see anything, and it made it very hard to memorize the direction of the wind.
I talked to other 2 people who were taking water lesson that day. They told me they were practicing before, did body dragging, took classes last year, etc., etc. Of course, if they ALREADY got some skills practicing with the real kite - a water lesson from KWS is the right thing for them. But for beginners like me it simply made no sense.
Also, I don't understand how this works. No lessons can teach me the most importan skill needed - controlling the kite (the real kite, not the trainer's kite). Therefore, I need to buy one (because nothing can be rented), and start practicing. To start practicing in the water, I have to take the water lesson first. And to take the water lesson (especially, ESPECIALLY with KWS), I already have to have good skills controlling the kite. So where do I start ?
If you have already body drugg in water successfully
you should have enough kite skills to do a board lesson
provided you get into some fairly stable wind.
C or Bow should make no difference, in my opinion a
Bow is easier to handle, and will be more gentle on you
each time you make an error.
The skill you will really need to work on is assisted launch
off of beach.
There are plenty of people at Alameda who will help, but
also different opinions on method, wind window judgement,
or lack therof.Try to get with the more experenced riders for
this type of assistance.
If you do not feel safe in the beach environment, a lesson
off the beach with us at the shack will help you be more self
sufficient when you start practiseing there!.
Don't give up, the rewards are great!!!!, as is the kite commnity
So you got to learn theory and kite control with a trainer. You got 30 min. on land with a C kite to get the feeling? Then you went to practice in the water with a bow? I know that a lot of guys taking lessons think that they will be up and kiting after the lessons are over, but kiting takes work and commitment to even get going downwind. A lot depends on you. Some of the most important things to take from a lesson are.
1. Safety (most important)
2. Understand the wind and its power. (know when not to go out, direction, where the power comes from, where to park the kite, and hazards, safety)
3. Understand the kite. (setup, basic parts, size, bar, safety)
4. Understand basic kiting mechanics (launch, relaunch, rescue, how to get on a board, and kite cross wind, safety)
After all this you should be ready to go out and learn safely. Spend more time body dragging. Then practice getting up on the board. You have been given the basic skills to learn. Now itís up to you. Some instructors will help you on the beach, but thatís an individual thing.
Good luck and donít give up. You get used to the taste of the bay after awhile.
I also took lessons with KWS. My experience is little different.
First, I think I wrote it before somewhere, but the two best advices that I can give to a beginner is to practice power kites and take a wakeboard lesson.
By power kite I mean a real power kite, that can pull hard. You need to learn to control the power. The trainer will teach you the basic concept of control and the power window, but that's it. If you can handle a powerful kite on land as a second nature, you wouldn't even think about the kite in the water. Flying a power kite is a completely different experience than your trainer. It pulls hard, does not turn as fast as the trainer, and generally flies similar to the kite you use on the water.
Wakeboard lesson got me on the board. I was not able to do more than a few seconds, but after the wakeboard lesson I just stood up and cruised. I think some schools do that as part of the training.
As for wind:
You need the right amount of wind to learn. Light wind is definitely not the key, right wind is the key. The schools (including KWS) have many sizes of kites, and will almost always have the right size depending on the wind. Flying kites in light wind generally requires more skills, you need to maintain forward speed, the kites back stall and are not responsive. You also need to sign the kite aggressively to generate apparent wind, another factor that will make it harder to water start. For a beginner light wind is just another difficulty to deal with. You don't want the wind too light.
The advantage of the Jet Ski is that the instructor will take you to the place in the bay that has the right wind. Alameda beach is usually lighter than the center of the bay, and this gives the instructor the option of taking you to the place that has the right amount of wind based of his judgment of your skills.
Schools that teach on the beach do not have that option. You have to live with the wind, which also means cancelled lessons.
The middle of the bay can be little scary for people that are not good swimmers I admit. Orientation, boats going by and so on. If you are a good swimmer, it should be OK. If not, that is another mandatory skill for kiteboarding.
Orientation should also be a little problem if you have experience with powerful kites, you orient yourself based on the wind and not the ground when you water start. Wind is fairly easy to tell by the kite, especially when it is smooth like inside the bay.
Don't get too demotivated. Most people do not start cruising after one water lesson. The lesson gives you the basics to keep practicing.
I had a great and informative land lesson from KWS, but I have to say that was very disappointed by my water lesson on Sat. Since I dont own a real kite to practice with, I did the next best thing: I practiced with my 1.3 M trainer for something like 20 hours total. I did this in light, gusty wind as much as possible to improve my skills but also in steady strong and weak winds. I also brought it down to golden gate fields for 3 more hours "downwinding" with my skateboard before the lesson...
The problems with the lesson were that
1)The wind died several times and the swell was pretty big -- isnt this the whole point of the jet ski? To take you where the condtions are best?
2)The kite (turbodiesel -- perhaps not the best beginner choice, but not totally unreasonable from what I have read) inverted many, many times (6 or so times) and I spent a very large percentage of my water time waiting for it to get righted. I was not given *any* advice on how to prevent this (i.e. dont sheet all the way out), and in reading about the TD suspect that it wasn't pumped up enough.
3)For relaunching, the instructor told me to push the bar away as soon as the kite went over 90 degrees (one tip up in the air) which really doesnt seem to work to get the TD up... I had better luck keeping the bar slightly in (After doing exactly what he said about 5 times and watching the kite fall over). He also failed to explain the little black stopper which controls how far out you can sheet.
I did actually email KWS about my dissatisfaction, but didn't receive a reply. After spending $450 on lessons, I find the lack of response surprising... more surprising still in light of their reputation and the fact that they do cool things like organize the downwinder.
Thanks to all who have posted replies. I really apreciate your advice!
1) "The skill you will really need to work on is assisted launch off of beach" - this is one more thing showing how useless the lesson at KWS was. If I learned anything from that water lesson with KWS, it is definitely not launching off the beach. This is something I had to learn on my own, ask people on the beach to help - thanks for the advice.
2) "After all this you should be ready to go out and learn safely. Spend more time body dragging" - dewey, the things to learn that you wrote were taught at the LAND lesson, not at the WATER lesson. If you suggest that one should start practicing body dragging BEFORE the water lesson, this is exactly where I get confused.
3) "If you can handle a powerful kite on land as a second nature, you wouldn't even think about the kite in the water" - elli, this is something new to me. I thought that there is no such thing as practicing power kite on land. It is dangerous, it is strongly recommended to get to the water as soon as possible. I found one message when someone on the beach was yelling at a person for that - check it out http://www.bayareakiteboarding.com/about2601.html
So that's what I am confused with. After the water lesson, the instructor smiled to me, and said "you kite control skills are not so great yet". This is precisely what makes no sense to me. My "skills" are what he taught me during 20 minutes with the C-kite on land lesson. I can't get any skills on land, I have to practice in the water. To start practicing in the water, I have to take water lesson. And when I take the water lesson with KWS, the instructor smiles to me, and says he couldn't teach me anything because my skills are not so high yet for the water lesson. Is there something I am missing ?
Here is something to smile
"Where do you get money from ?" - "From the safe, officer" - "And who puts the money into the safe ?" - "My wife, officer" - "And who gives money to your wife ?" - "I do, officer" - "And where YOU get the money from ?" - "Officer, I have already answered this question - from the safe!"
That post is about a dude that was flying his 12 meter water kite on the beach. Not recommended. I saw a guy doing that in Crissy, flying a new turbo diesel 12m unhooked with no leash getting spanked all over the place. Kite stalling and powering up all the time.
I am talking about something in the middle, not a real big water kite, but also not a 1 meter trainer. Something between 3-5 meters. Open cell foil is the ticket, water kites with tubes will not take a beating into the ground well. Its like your trainer, but bigger.
It also depends a lot where you do it. Small crowded place is not a good place to practice.
Go to ocean beach during the week. There is a lot of space, soft sand that makes it safer to fall, and not so many people. There are also other power kite flyers that are there almost every windy day, and will help you. It's good if someone checks what you do the first time you launch because you can get your ar$$ handed to you on a gold plate.
Learn to control the power and show the kite who's the boss. When you get to the water, you will not even think about the kite.
It's also fun when there is not enough wind to go into the water. Plan B.
I don't know if my experience is anything to go by, but I was incredibly satisfied with my lesson, and was able to get up on the board pretty quickly, and even managed to figure out a little bit how to head upwind.
Of course I give much credit to Jeff for explaining things well, but I think a large part of the reason that things went so well was that I spent about 6 months practicing with a larger (3m) trainer kite, probably about 50+ hours all told. Given what everyone has said about practice with your kite, practice with your kite, I've got to believe that that's the differentiating factor.
I found that high-wind days down at Crissy with a kite that does create some power (but not fall-on-your face power) was the one thing that made the transition to a big honker kite a little less challenging. Of course I was still flopping around for a bit, and crashed the kite more than a couple of times (sorry KWS) but moving the big kite around and managing the power made a lot more sense because of it.
just my 0.02
Max and Michael,
If you didn't get a reply from KWS regarding your lesson, please PM me. I know that the KWS mail server being changed, and perhaps your message was not received. I'd be happy to forward your message to Jeff and Emily. If that doesn't work, the best thing is to come in and talk to Jeff or Emily. They are very reasonable about making sure people are taken care of.
KWS has 3.6m trainer kites that pull hard while having the safety of brake lines.... You should be able to fly one of these with your eyes shut before you come to the land lesson. Other schools charge $50 for a trainer kite lesson, but you should be able to do this on your own and get at least 3 hours of flying in...
Definately the Turbo Diesel is a sensitive kite... it does EXACTLY what you tell it to do right away... For me, I like this kite and ride it exclusively, and have had great lessons with this kite when teaching on it when I explain that this kite is very sensitive and explain how to limit the sheeting thow and offer flying techniques... KWS now has switchblades in the school which are stable and offer more room for error.
I am not in charge of the school this year (was last year) and did not give you guys your water lessons, but know that you can count on great experience at KWS. Kiteboarding is NOT an easy sport to get into for most people. It is an extreme sport that takes lots of skill and body management... When I was learning, it took me OVER a month just to get a good ride in on a board. The new kite gear is making things much much easier... but by all means, this is a skills based sport that takes time.
Feel free to PM me anytime you have questions...
I did end up getting a voicemail from Jeff yesterday and I talked to him today. He offered a complementary lesson, which I'll definitely be doing. I may have jumped the gun posting! I sent off my email them on sunday, so I thought I was getting blown off; I didnt realize that they were having mail server problems and a backlog of email. Also, having discussed the options for kites, decided to take the lesson on a switchblade rather than a TD.
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