Sri Lanka – a kiteboarding trip or a review in how I learnt to kiteboard.

Ever since I was in Okinawa in July and saw some kite boarders, I was really interested in learning the sport. A free long weekend with M gone, and poor weather cancelling my original hiking plans in China; I bought a last minute flight (3 days before) to Sri Lanka using some trusty points that allowed me to fly direct on the cheap.

A friend recommended the school “Kitesurfing Lanka” and it seemed like there were good vibes for solo travelers, so off I went. My flight left HK at 830pm and landed at 11:15pm (5.5h flight with time difference), and there was a driver waiting for me at the airport where I arrived in Kalpitiya at 2am. Easy!

One part of the “resort”. There are glorified tents, bungalows and cabins depending on budget.

At breakfast time, I started chit chatting to people and the majority of them were staying for at least a week. Everyone said 4 days was very aggressive to learn to kite which I was surprised to hear as I had read online all the IKO (Kiteboarding Organization) courses were 9-12 hours long. I naturally assumed I would at least be up and riding a bit in 2-3 days.

Anyways here is the logistics of of the school works for those interested: the kite school originally online quoted me 9 hours for 350 Euros , but when I went , they was  offering group lessons (partnered with 1 or 2 other learner the same level as yourself) as well where it was 9 hours for 240 Euros. There was a morning session that was 3 hours long, and an afternoon session that was 2 hours long. Naturally for the next 4 days I took group classes everyday.

The lagoon. Sharp shells in some areas!

The lagoon in Kalpitiya is quite large and there are different sections divided for different schools and resorts as well as an open area for other people. It is quite muddy and squishy at the bottom. About 50% of the lagoon you can kind of stand on, and the other 50% is too deep. The 4 days I was there, the winds were 18-20 knots with some gusts. There is a rescue boat.

And here is what I learned for the 4 days for a total of 20 hours of group lessons:

Day 1:  (2 people Share 1 kite)

AM: Trainer kite & how to set up big kite.

PM: Play with big kite. Self Rescue.

Day 2:(2 people Share 1 kite)

AM: Body dragging & upwind body drag.

PM: Attempt #1 at waterstart.

Day 3: (1 person 1 kite) This is when things get interesting…

The wind is strong at 20knots. I get a 5 m kite to use.

AM & PM: Attempt at waterstart but I keep losing board and have fairly poor kite control and can’t really figure out how to do upwind body drag. Realize I never actually figured it out as I keep reflexively pushing the bar in. (It took me all day to admit to making this mistake …)  Time to do referesh and relearn with the instructor. Can get up the kite, but can’t stay up.

Day 4: (1 person 1 kite) I use a 5m kite again.

AM: Still holding my bar wrong when upwind dragging and finally realize my mistake after instructor repeatly tells me. Also realize what I need to do to get up properly after some mock practice on land. Manage to water start and kite for a good 20m in both directions.

PM: Finally figured out upwind body dragging to find my board. Still have trouble water starting going Right, but heading Left (my snowboarding side) comes naturally and I can somewhat control kite. Also my kite manage to explode (the air bladder popped), I get to practice my self rescue!

Day 4 made me a happy girl 🙂

Sunset view at Kitesurfing Lanka, there is a beach across the bridge but it isn’t so clean or swimable. On no wind days you can SUP for free. Great place, great atmosphere, very friendly.

So there you go. I managed to “kite” on the last day. This is what I realized is the norm for most people:

    1. Almost no one manages to “kite” in 9 hours unless they are naturally gifted or have done lots of kite and board sports. Any online course saying you can learn to jump and go upwind is a big fat lie to most people.
    2. Kiting is dangerous if you don’t know what your are doing. Trying to learn it yourself will get you seriously injured.
    3. You crash a lot when learning and drink half the lagoon.
    4. Upwind body dragging when it’s wavy is a bitch.
    5. Many people don’t even water start after 4 days, much less change directions or go upwind. Of all the newbies I met who were there for 7 days, 50% could not kite for more than 5-10m afterwards or even waterstart. There is no shame in taking time for it to finally “click”.
    6. Most of the people I talked who already knew how to kite took a long time to learn. +10 days, mainly due to inconsistent winds.
    7. This sport is unforgiving and all about finess. Patience is key. The learning curve and initial time & cost investment is huge compared to any other sport. (i.e. I can climb in 1 day but I can’t really “kite” in 4 days)
    8. I am not ready to go out solo yet and I defintely appreciate the rescue boats that have saved my lost board countless times. I will do more lessons, possibly in Boracay as soon as possible to not forget it all. And its time for M to learn.
    9. No way will I buy a new kite when I am still crash landing them so frequently.
    10. I will come back when I get better to do their trips.
    11. Kitesurfing community is great and friendly, just like climbing!
    12. It is so much fun when you can actually get up and go. I have found my new passion.
The local Sri Lankan crowd. Such polite people, I really feel guilty for having not visited any parts of the country.

And here is the price breakdown:


Lessons: 20h*27Euros= 540 Euro –>much cheaper than Western Countries, more expensive than Thailand.

Accomodation with Full Board: 4nights in tent * 30Euro = 120 Euro

Transport: 105 Euros (would be cheaper with more people)

Flight: 40 Euros

Total: 805 Euros

One of our dinners. Seafood and Meat, a total protein diet. They also have delicious Sri Lankan dishes especially at lunch time.
One of the cooks making Kottu. Chopped up pancake into noodles.

Some final thoughts:

 

  • So… not a cheap 4 day vacation or a cheap sport to learn by any means. But I think after a few more hours of lessons/ supervised kiting in Boracay, I will be able to be confident enough to go solo. Certianly, I can go try kiting solo now, but I think having an instructor point out your mistakes is so helpful and having a peace of mind.
  • The advantage of learning private is probably learning it faster especially before Day 3 when you finally get a kite and board to yourself and you have to wait for the instructor to give you tips or help you back to launching point. The disadvantage is that you don’t see other peoples mistakes which helps you a lot too.

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