In the summer of 2009 I went to the Mille Lacs gathering on Lake Mille Lacs, MN. I was hoping to learn a little more about this kiteboarding thing and everyone said lessons were the best way to get started. I found out about the gathering on the Lakawa web site. I email them and found out there would be instructors there. If you can’t find one, don’t be shy and ask around. Someone will know how to locate one. After talking to an instructor and visiting the ATM we were on our way. I honestly can’t remember the guy’s name.
We started on land with safety and then went over kite set up and gear. The information I got here was very much like the info you get from most of the videos. But it was good to be able to ask questions as he went through the steps. With the kite ready and the safety talk over we headed for the water. Mille Lacs is shallow for a long ways from shore. We probably walked a couple hundred yards out because there were several kiters working closer to shore and it was an on shore wind. The instructor gave another safety talk and demonstrated the safety mechanisms on the kite. Then we went into the figure eight pattern and how to work that with the big kite. This was my first experience with a bigger kite. I think I was using an eleven that day. As a side note I have to recommend getting instruction when starting out. I know you see this everywhere on the web but it is true. You can probably figure this out on your own but it will take you a lot longer. Back to the story. Having someone to hold on to you while you get use to the difference in power from a trainer to the bigger kites was good. Being a professional instructor he was able to predict what my actions were going to do and provide assistance and immediate feedback to what I was doing. This kept me out of trouble and gave me extra confidence to try things. Once I got used to the big kite we moved on to body dragging. This was a fun experience. I was surprised at how much power there was in this kite as compared to the trainer I had been flying and was used to. While dragging I ended up quite a ways away from the instructor but we had radios so he could continue to give me feedback even though I was out of earshot. This was a good tool to have. There wasn’t enough time left to try the board that day.
At the end of the day I had learned how to safely set up the kite and enter the water. I also learned how to power up the kite and direct it where I wanted to go. So I felt pretty good about the experience. It was more expensive than I had expected but worth it. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for a private lesson. The lesson should save you time, frustration and gear expense in the end and what is all that worth.
My instructor was going to demonstrate how the safety on the chicken loop works. He let go of the bar and popped the quick release on the chicken loop which should allow the bar and lines to move away from you and depower the kite in the case of a problem. This is usually fine because you have the safety leash to keep you attached to the equipment. In this case though the leash detached from his harness (himself). Now there was nothing to stop the kite from roaming freely. It was an onshore wind so the kite headed back to shore. Remember all those kiters I mentioned between us and the shore. This could have ended up badly but one of the riders closer to shore realized what was going on and was able to wrangle the kite. I am not sure what really happened. He said he attahced it to his harness and I believe he did. Some how though, it came undone and away the kite went.
I learned two things from this. First, make sure your leash is attached at both ends – to you and to the kite. The second thing I learned is there is no way to keep up with a roving kite while running through the water.