When I first came to Kalpitiya with my girlfriend, we had no idea wed be taking a kite surfing course. We managed to spend over a month in Sri Lanka without even getting on a regular surfboard, even though every single person whos heard we were coming here asked well, have you learned how to surf yet?. Its understandable.
One of the attractions Sri Lanka is best known for is the water sport of kite surfing. So we were not expecting to try anything in that venue, especially since kite surfing seems, to the eyes of the onlooker, even more hardcore than surfing.
We came to Kalpitiya, where kitesurfing is the number 1 thing to do, but what did that have to do with us? Well, heres how it happened: we went for a walk along the lagoon, looking to get some good photos of the kitesurfers practicing along the edge. The sun was right in our faces so the photos weren’t coming out right, but thats how we ended up while trying to get decent frames out of the camera “ spending a good chunk of time watching people practice this impressive sport. Truly impressive. People surfing the water, attached to a gigantic kite which looks like a parachute, pulling them at great speed over the waves. Impressive, but still had nothing to do with us. But somewhere in there, something did click, because on our walk back to Valampuri kitesurfing Resort, we looked at each other and said: Well¦ should we try this?
And try we did. Luckily, they were able to slot us in the following day. We got some fruit for lunch and showed up the next afternoon (which was great because we like to sleep), put on our bathing suits, secured our sunglasses with wire and some tape, and naturally, as extremely pale people, got ourselves some grade-A Sri Lankan sunblock lotion.
Our instructor showed up to the kitesurf building, a bubbly South African by the name of Kobus, and we went by motorboat across the lagoon to the sandbar, where all lessons were taught, and where most surfers launched from. From my seat, I looked at the surfers whizzing by. One of them performed a huge leap above the waves, and I thought: I wonder how many tricks I'll know by the end of the day.
But really, on that first lesson, we barely got in the water. We learned some kite-flying skills, safety procedures, kite structure, and what every part was called and mostly stayed on dry land. We practiced flying with a little training kite. I remembered how when I was 10 years old, I made a little kite at craft lesson at school and flew it around the fields in my village. It was awesome. Turns out that flying a surfing kite is a bit more complicated than that. The guys out on the lagoon were making jumps and tricks, while I was standing on the beach with a miniature kite (which kept crashing dramatically into the sand), wearing a life vest, a helmet over my wide-brimmed hat, a full kitesurfing harness, and sea booties, and of course, my sunglasses dangling on a fashionable wire around my neck.
After we more or less got the hang of it, we took a sip of water and were ready to prepare a real kite for action. We unrolled, inflated, untangled, connected and arranged the kite and all the different wires, and finally walked to a shallow part of the lagoon to practice. I grabbed the control bar, the wind blew, and I immediately flew several meters forward. Wow, this thing is so powerful! But with a lot of patience, mostly from our instructor (for which I truly appreciate her), we made some nice progress.
At the end of class, my girlfriend hesitantly asked our instructor, "Are we doing okay?" to which he replied, "You're advancing at a completely normal rate." My girlfriend sighed in relief, and I couldn't help but wonder if everyone gets the same answer at the end of their first lesson.
We helped fold the kite and took the boat back to the school. Now all that was left was to eat our fruit (at which we excelled since our very first day in Sri Lanka), accompanied by some hungry-looking crows. We were looking forward to our second lesson. I am sure that by the end of it, I'll be able to do a ton of tricks.
by Shira Elazary