What is Kitesurfing?
Basically you’re using a large synthetic kite that flies well and creates power to pull the surfer on the surface of water. It’s like an engine using wind energy which you can turn on or off whenever you need power. Except, in kitesurfing there’s no engine. But proper control of the kite in adequate winds will give you, as much power, if not more than an engine! You can kitesurf on waves as well as flat water; just inflate the kite with a pump, (and do it safely so it doesn’t fly away!), attach the lines, hook the bar onto the harness and launch the kite. Once it’s up in the air, strap the board onto your feet and away you go!
Is Kiteboarding less known only in India or is it a new sport?
Kitesurfing as a sport originated in different parts of the world simultaneously, when a bunch of enthusiastic guys all around the world were experimenting with different types of kites, boards, harnesses, piecing the sport together. Initially the equipment was unreliable and homemade—people used surf boards or skis and pulled off big air (jumps), surprising windsurfers & sailors at their own game. Modern day equipment is reliable, sturdy and gives the rider great control. The sport goes back over 20 years but I would say kitesurfing formulated itself as an organised sport around eight years ago.
Where have your kitesurfing trips taken you? Which one's your favourite?
Well, I’ve been to Sri Lanka, Egypt, New Zealand and Australia, but India is the best. You have four to five locations in the West zone, lagoons in Kerala and Karnataka, and very good winds in the East coast. The variety is amazing. At one point you could be kitesurfing on a wave, and in the next hour you can switch to a flat lagoon.
What are the risks? Are there any prerequisites?
Well, it’s not an activity, it’s a sport. And a high powered one at that. So if you power up too much you’ll probably land atop a tree. You have to ensure the equipment is in good shape and choose the right location—a big fat beach, with fewer rocks, not-so gusty winds and clear water. On a personal level you need to be able to swim in open waters and be comfortable in the sea. Flexibility is vital, so we have to stretch, but kitesurfing requires skill and not strength, so there aren’t any other fitness requirements, unless you want to do some powered moves and tricks.
Indians rarely consider a career in adventure sports, what made you?
I’ve always felt connected to nature, it’s more real. I knew I wanted to be in this field and was involved with adventure sports since school. By 13, I was already taking people on expeditions and worked with The Imaginitive Traveller even during college. Having learnt mountain biking, paragliding and scuba diving, I had the skills, but to understand the business aspect and network with likeminded people I pursued Masters in Adventure Sports from New Zealand and finally trained in kitesurfing from IKO.
You’ve learnt so many sports, what do you love about kitesurfing?
The freedom of it. You can go long distances, explore islands and don’t even require any fuel. You just need wind. The equipment is travel-friendly and doesn’t take more than five minutes to set up! The travel aspect is also great because kitesurfers are a close knit community and our conversations start as if we’ve known each other for centuries. You feel very comfortable wherever you go.
Are there any kitesurfers you admire?
Yes, Ruben Len10, who’s into extreme kite boarding. His signature move is the MegaLoop. He goes very high up and loops the kite in a way that the kite goes below him.
The move gives him a lot of air time. I also look up to Ines Correa because she’s just 19 or 20 and is a world champion.
Can you do stunts too?
I’m not a pro, but I’m learning how to kitesurf unhooked (without harness), for tricks like the handle pass, where you jump high, rotate your body and transfer the kite to the other hand.
Jehan is the founder of Quest Expeditions Pvt. Ltd that offers several adventure travel packages. Two of its websites are dedicated to Kitesurfing. He pieced together India’s first kitesurfing event, Red Bull Quila Surf and is the brand’s opinion leader for kitesurfing in India.
Philippe Dartnell ---)
The PKRA (Professional Kiteboard Riders Association)
Red Bull King of Air
WIND FORECAST HOTLINES
Quest Adventure’s Mandwa
Beach Kite School