Another Hard Day at the Office
The Learning to Kitesurf Blog - Ocean Vagabond Dakhla / Worthing West Sussex UK
If you've only just found this page, maybe via Google after searching for Learning to Kitesurf, or Learning to Kite Surf Blog, then hello!
This page was setup to "document" both mine and my wife's experiences at learning to kite surf.
If you don't know me I'm a very active windsurfer, living on the beach at Worthing. Over the past few years many windsurfers have turned to the dark side and many have not returned :)
Below is the "chronicle" of how we decided on, or ended up learning to kitesurf in Dakhla.
My mission was to end up returning to the UK a capable kite surfer, and mission has been accomplished!
We decided that ten days would be better than a week, in case of no wind days and from what we've heard people tend to "crack" it on the fifth / sixth day so we wanted to be able to maximise the potential of this superb location which is so ideal for learning to kitesurf.
I decided to continue with "The learning to kitesurf blog" after we returned from Dakhla back to Worthing in West Suusex in the UK, so can document my progression as it were.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT - It is with deep regret that I have to admit that I might be turning to the "Dark Side" a few might have realised that this sad state of affairs was on the cards from a few hints I have recently been making on the weather blog.
We leave Tuesday, flying to Casablanca first, staying the night over, then on down to the Western Sahara to Dakhla the following day - and in the true spirit of Another Hard Day we will be keeping a blog - where at the bottom of this page you can add your comments / insults :)
Why Dakhla for Kitesurfing?
Back in February I think it was before we went off to the Mountains, I was actually working in the office one day when my wife, Elaine suddenly announced that this is where she wanted to go kitesurfing!
I had a look at what she had on screen and could tell that Elaine was being serious about this, whilst some of her contemporaries are doing degrees / MBA's etc Elaine decided that she'd rather learn to kitesurf and that this was the only place that she felt suited her.
So rang up Ally at Waveriders who I know from Bikram and she had recently been out to Dakhla and confirmed that it is indeed a fabulous location, especially so for learning. I seem to recall we booked it pretty quickly, as I didn't want Elaine to change her mind and I was more than happy to go along with it.
I had in fact had some lessons way back in 2003 in Cabarate in Dom Rep but that was pretty disastrous due to the conditions. The shore dump was a like a big high tide day in Worthing, wind was marginal onshore and the beach was very narrow with people walking past you all the time, not at all ideal!
Another mate Steve Sinnhuber, had also been out Dakhla on a kite surfing wave course and he too confirmed how great the location is.
And that is why he went on a wave course there, for Dakhla as you can see on the map is on a very narrow peninsular, so open Atlantic one side and flat lagoon on the other.
View Larger Map
Since the begining of May have been in contact with Jason from Finky INC down in Littlehampton about doing a lesson prior to going out, and we must have postponed around ten times due to the weather. We do have ten hours of lessons once we're out there, but thought with Jason's years of experience as an IKO instructor would make sense to get the basics, especially Elaine.
We're staying at the Ocean Vagabond in Dakhla the video below shows what the location is like .
And this video shows the actual accomodation, most important when taking ones other halves!
Arrived at the hotel around 23:00 - managed a few beers, quite strange to be back in bar where people are smoking including the barman!
We're not bothering to go into Casablanca as from various reports it's quite a dive.......
But this is not too bad as the Office for the Day till we get a flight down to Dakhla this afternoon!
Thursday 14th June Ocean Vagabond Dakhla
Let the kiting begin....
Arrived here just as the sun was going down, was shown our "bungalow" and we then went to the restaurant for some late dinner.
Superb location, the French couple that traveled with us from the airport (about half an hour North) were sitting at the bar with bottle of white wine and a plate of fresh oysters.
Quite a cosmopolitan mix of people, around 70% French and a complete range of age groups.
We ended up talking to a couple of Irish guys who have traveled extensively all over the world, especially Brazil and they really rate Dakhla highly.
We arranged to meet up with for lessons and briefing at 09:45. Elaine and I explained how we had our session with Jason on Saturday and what we had been doing. They said we'd have a quick hour on the land then go out on the water.
The kiting on land was very different to what we did at LA, sitting down on the soft sand, digging our feet in whilst feeling the power of the kite, which I think was a 5.0 for Elaine, and I had something a wee bit bigger (I think).
We then went down to the lagoon and I was straight off body dragging downwind which was reasonably successful.
I'm wearing my 3&2 with short sleeves and bare feet. Wind was picking up all the time, if I'd been sailing then 5.2 or even a 4.7 would have been ok.
Elaine was wearing a shorty and has to be said did get a little cold, so I went off for one more down winder think I did three in the end, so have done a fair amount of walking!
Once back at the centre we (Kamil my instructor and I) thought might as well carry on after lunch and try water starting. After lunch wind had picked up some more, so Elaine sat it out, was probably 4.2 weather.
Initially I did a couple of upwind body drags but wind was really howling so the instructor thought might as well go for the board. Got that on and off I went, not going forwards but with the board on and just digging in the back rail feeling the wind in the kite trying to get up.
During this phase I took a fair amount of involuntary air but luckily the board stayed on so I did cover a fair amount of ground, all be it down wind and as you can see from the picture did manage to get up and almost kite in a straight line.
Think progress is going to be measured in meters or seconds achieved!
Finally did wipe out big time and kite decided to go round a few times and then start slowly looping, there was no way I could control it and so I pushed the safety and in around 5 minutes my "rescue" boat arrived.
Decided to call it a day, as was just so windy and I was pleased with the progress of getting up on the board in under three hours, well excluding Saturday and all those years ago in Cabarete!
Hi Ho Hi Ho it's off to work we go!
Did get up for all of a nano second!
The setup here is very impressive, and the location is quite bizarre with four or five kiting "camps" accessing the same water, though it is not crowded as it's a damn large lagoon.
On the other side of the peninsular it's the Atlantic and there's a very good reef break Foum Lamboiur about 20 mins drive away, and as you can see there's a wide range of windsurfing kit available, plus surf boards for the various breaks that are along the Atlantic side.
Friday 15th June Dakhla Lagoon - Kite Surfing Lesson(s)
Three steps forward yesterday then three and half steps backwards today......
Well at least that's what today felt like.....
Yesterday seemed to be going really well and managed to get going, all be it in terms of milli seconds on the board so was quite hyped to get out on the water today.
Really should have gone out on the morning lesson but left it too late to get on that as the wind seemed to be building again to the levels of yesterday and sure enough by the time I went down to the waters edge at Noon it was howling again with most out on 7 - 7.5's.
The instructor was good at explaining what was meant to be happening though by the time I was out in the middle of the lagoon what had gone in my right ear had obviously disappeared out of my left ear.
Can't really recall enough to describe what was happening and what the end results were, as the first two hour session was made up of numerous attempts to get water starting, loosing my board, chuffed that I managed to get it back on in deep water only to then be launched over the front head first and then loose the board again and again.
Once I'd lost the board then body dragged back in to the beach to be met by the guy from the safety boat who had picked my board up, and was then there on the beach to land my kite.
I'd then have a half mile walk back up to where the instructor was to do it all over again after some more advice which again went in one ear and out of the other!
Don't know whether it's something windsurfers do when learning to kite but it is akin to sheeting in, thus powering up the kite as you go backwards, only for the kite to power up pulling you over the front of the board.
I did feel for the instructor who was trying so hard with me, and we spent about ten minutes on the sand trying to simulate be being pulled up by the wind and not using my front leg to push myself up and just use my back leg "gently" again without trying to push myself up, and even on dry land I could not get it right.
I have to admit to feeling a right muppet...........but there again it is only day two really!
So we finished the two hour session with me feeling rather "down" and my lack of progress after yesterday.
Arrived back in time for lunch around 14:30 and just about finished when the same instructor Ismael asked me if I wanted another session at 16:00 - so foolishly I let him talk me into it.
And that was more of the same, though has to be said there were signs of better progression, and in fact a couple of times I was just about up traveling across the water when I felt my kite behaving weirdly, the lines looked ok, and then coming back in towards the beach on the other tack (see I kept my board on and was able to come back in) the same thing was happening, then all of a sudden the kite went ballistic and started spiraling and I thought I was going to have to push my safety again but it settled down once in the water and I was "rescued" for the umpteenth time - turned out the kite was loosing air.
With that decided to call it a day after an hour rather than do the whole two hours, as the old man in me was feeling a bit knackered.
So have spent the late afternoon getting some windsurfing kit together as the plan is to go over in the morning to check the wave beach out and hopefully restore my deflated Mojo!
As for Elaine, unfortunately she's not been feeling too well, the usual Dom Rep, Egyptian etc tummy issues........
Dakhla June17th Foum Lambouir Wave Spot
Back on the board today which was probably the best option as I did not think I'd even be able to make it out of the "bungalow" due to my stomach and feeling quite weak.
There was no way I could have managed kiting. So four us gathered our gear and loaded up the truck and headed back towards Dakhla town which is about 25km South of where we are.
The turn off for the beach is about 6km outside of Dakhla.
Kit wise was none too sure what to take, so I chose a 85lt over a 79 and took a 5.7 , 5.0 and my own 4.0 just in case.
Once we arrived at the beach wind was cross off with a wind line out to sea near the waves that were breaking to the North just under a ledge that would also make the wind light for me the closer I sailed to the shore, ok for the kites with the ledge as their kites could still catch the clean wind, but for me on a sail was hard work at times!
Out to sea was a classic rolling swell that I played on going out the back a fair way which was probably not the safest thing to do.
Although the waves in the photos do not look anything too special coming back in was good, catching a wave and linking more than a few turns together.
Evidently the waves are much better out of the trades season when there is actual weather driven swell, and I've seen the photographs that confirm that plus the amount of surf boards at the centre lay testament to that.
We left the beach in time to just get back for lunch at Ocean Vagabond, and wind was howling even more than the previous couple of days. And one guy who has a couple of weeks under his belt was told half way through his lesson that it was just too windy for him, so seems going to the beach was a good call.
Later on a group of six kiters came back in a boat having done a downwinder to the speed strip which is super glass and shallow.
Dakhla 17th June Kite lessons continue
A couple of decent runs........
Had my lesson at 10:00 so the wind was not so manic, but people (good) were still going out on 7 / 7.5s - I used the RRD 7 Vision I bought with meas I thought I should get used to that, and my kite handling skills are a little better than the first day.
My instructor, Hassan, has the patience of a Saint, but I could see him being very frustrated as I was back into Muppet mode initially.
It was when he said, Gavin forget everything and let's start again, that I sensed he was getting tired with my ineptitude.
The problem I've been having is what all beginners learning to kitesurf endure that of being able to point the board down wind get the kite in the power zone and stand up, and then manage to stand up without, and this is where wind surfers are bad, pulling the arms in.
This time Hassan explained that I really have to angle the bar, almost vertical, where as previously I was only at about 45 degrees and that was my problem.
So I actually managed a few runs, one side far better than the other, which is evidently the norm. In fact I came on my last run adjusting the kite (feathering) it, almost playing with the position and just about staying up wind.
That said all my runs end up with me way down wind, one of the "assistants" comes down, takes my kite and board, kites back up wind while I walk back.
I take my hat off to all who have learnt on the South Coast without the luxury of having a rescue boat to pick your board up for you, and a string of assistants launching and helping you land your kite.
Later in the afternoon back on the windsurfer and we did a downwinder where I filmed the guys, one guy (62) who had only been kiting for a couple of weeks was on his first downwinder along with his instructor.
We went down to the next Centre further along, stunning scenery and the like.
Joe caught a lift back as he was not up to kiting back upwind, and I sailed back trying to beat the kiters and the whole thing ended up being a bit of a "race" and I sort of had to try and bury Hassan my instructor of earlier to prove that I could actually do something reasonably well!
I was on a 79 Twin with a 5.7 from the Mistral Center here which was strange in that with a 5.7 in the UK most kiters would be on a 12 yet here they were on 7 / 7.5s , though the water here is so flat so you can hang on to a bigger sail. Though further down the other end of the lagoon there was a bit of a rolling wind blown swell in the middle.
The learning to Kitesurf blog continues
Dakhla 18th June – Think I’ve sussed it!
So started the morning where I left off yesterday. Wind was not as strong as yesterday so 9’s were the order of the day, or so I thought……
I actually went off almost first time and made it to the other side of the lagoon which is shallow and then came back, all be it down wind and then back out again for another three or four trips across the lagoon.
Then after about half a mile you come into shore and wait whilst an assistant comes down to land your kite, he takes over and sails back up wind and you walk back and then do it all over again following on from a few words of instruction / encouragement.
After a couple of runs I commented that I felt I was under powered a little as I was having to “work” the kite whilst others seem to be powered up. To which Hassan replied he knew I was under powered and that it was on purpose, to get me working the kite understanding how to develop the power, it was then that I looked at my kite and saw that I was on a 7 and not a 9 !
The wind then came up, and I was well powered up and even sailing up wind a little, all was going well till I wiped out, kite crashed and deflated (valve came out) so it was my friend in the rescue boat to my aid again………don’t think I lost the board once this morning and even managed a few deep water retrievals, launching the kite and getting the board back on.
So at lunch time texted a few people saying I think it might be time to put my shorts over the wetsuit as I’d cracked it J
Afternoon session was a bit more of a wake up call, as this time I was put on a 10 and found that quite heavy and slow, but again did quite a few runs across to the other side.
Only hassle was when that kite went down it was hard work getting it up again, so it seemed in comparison to the 7
Again I found myself in various situations thinking I was not going to get out of them and end up being rescued yet again, though I was going further afield so not too sure if I’d be spotted or not anyway.
Think I only lost my board once this afternoon.
Finally made it out into the lagoon, heading for the other side, nigh on a mile (see below)
Each time I came in down wind had my new assistant, to launch the kite, as Elaine has decided she enjoys the windsurfing far more here with a great choice of kit from the Mistral Centre and the conditions, and can’t see herself going through the steep and at times violent learning curve, plus as she said when I’m out in the middle of the lagoon trying to launch the kite, get my board on etc she knows that would just freak her out.
And she’s getting quite handy at landing kites now, plus the all important photography :)
Re launching they are very safety conscious and still do not let us launch the kites yet, though think that will come over the next couple of days.
So end of day four with the kite and progress is good, though I know there are more than a few situations that I’m going to be finding myself in!
Was thinking about how much actual time I've spent kiting, tend to do a two hour lesson in the morning and then and hour or two in the afternoon. However by the time you actually get to the water and get out and then all the walking back up wind and being out at sea waiting to be rescued / reunited with your board etc it's probably around 10 - 12hrs of lessons.
Then when you think, so far how much time I've actually been up on the board that's probably only half an hour !!
Dakhla Kitesurfing Lessons Blog Ocean Vagabond
Well I’m pleased to report that the last session of the day saw me going across the lagoon more than quite a few times, staying upwind, in fact actually going upwind from where I started and not being separated from the board / wiping out etc
We started a bit later as the wind was still light at 09:30 (lessons usually start at 10:00) so was on the water around 11:30 with me on a 9 and a little bit underpowered at times and having to work the kite. Think the instructors know I’m here for more than the standard week so they think it’s time well spent getting to know the kite, though I’m not so sure!
Again had my usual separations from the board and managed on more than one occasion to get back to it by body dragging up wind though did take ages. Plus had the kite down in various stages of being hard, to nigh on impossible to launch, which was good in that I was sussing out how to pull the kite using the back lines and the middle line (after an earlier discussion with an instructor), not too sure which worked but seemed to have been successful at getting myself out of a situation.
One very long walk of shame on the last run in the morning, and I was admonished for going too far down wind – I did try to explain in my Franglais that it was not something I was going out of my way to do on purpose!
So finished at just after 13:30. Elaine came out on a 4.7 and had great two and half hours, coming off the water well after me - as we're nearing Springs, the lagoon is filling in more so she timed it so she only had a few meters to walk up for lunch.
I was back out on the water at 15:30 for another couple of hours. Was quite busy and I did panic once or twice, and then I started to get mad as it was obvious many did not know the rights of way, so the air was blue at times.
Did do one major launch through the air as I think I was going along well powered up, and then panicked when someone fell in front of me and think my kite shot up to 12 o’clock and took me up in the air, so is that how you get airtime?
Came back in after doing not too bad, though still a little walk of shame and the instructor told me I was working the kite too much and that I should not need to (as I was on 10 and was windier than the morning) and I should concentrate on keeping it lower in the water.
So went out and it all sort of just happened, kept upwind, felt the power in the kite etc etc
One thing did make me think though of here vs the water conditions back home, here it is very flat, and every now and again I found myself in chop (if you could call it that) and I think when I return to the UK I might be in for a little surprise….
Worked out have had 16 hours here of instruction, 5 days, and still four more days still to go.
Think do need to ask about launching one’s own kite, as they are still very safety conscious here, and that makes you nervous.
Great day though!
Maybe some GoPro action tomorrow
Wednesday June 20th Learning to Kitesurf continues apace
Lunch time update
Each session just keeps getting better and better. Very much took off from where I left off yesterday afternoon, and spent all the morning riding backwards and forwards across the lagoon.
I used my RRD 10.5 Vision that I bought out here with me along with an almost new bar, very nice feel to everything.
Elaine came out again on the same kit as yesterday, 4.7 and 95lt and she found it a little up and down. She does like it here for sailing as she blasts across the lagoon from one side to the other playing chicken at times with the kites, though always staying well upwind of yours truly. In fact we even had a couple of runs almost together
Was a little busy at times, but all good experience and I managed to drop my kite not once, but twice one the same guy. Afterwards I went up and apologised to him in Franglais, but asked him after the first near miss why he came near the “Cock” in the Orange helmet a second time and did not give me a wide berth, all very amusing.
Wind eased a little and again was having to work the kite, and I stayed up wind whilst others were down wind, and I was complimented on my kiting in the conditions by my instructor, but I did say that I think that there was also an element of windsurfing experience coming into play as I was also looking at the gusts coming across the water.
Did try transitions on the inside, and came close to a couple, but need more constant breeze me thinks.
Not too sure about the afternoon as yet, might chill.
My shoulder is giving me a fair amount of gyp as I tweaked it again windsurfing before I came out and again on the Big Friday and a couple of times out here windsurfing. Seems to be ok when wind is constant kiting but working the kite I can feel it.
Lunch time PS
Just been having some video analysis of my hands etc on the bar from my Go Pro filming, instructor was really able to explain to me what I was doing wrong and how to correct it, see if that actually happens when I next go out!
PPS had a chill out afternoon, I know that's heresy but the "old"body needs a rest, though don't think my shoulder will heal in half a day!
Dakhla Learning to Kite Surf Blog
Thursday June 21st The Seventh Day
So we’ve been here a week now, and interesting looking back at what the conditions were like when we first arrived and subsequently went out on the water for the first time, it was damn windy and quite a chill in the air.
We went out on 5’s for that first morning of kite flying and body dragging and then on to 7’s in the afternoon I think.
Then it was 7’s for the next three days (apart from Sat when I went “wave sailing”) with it still howling and most experienced kiters using similar sized kites.
For the past three days there’s been a noticeable change in the weather with the wind easing during the night as well as being warmer, and not having to wear sweat shirts!
However the wind for the past couple of days has gradually filled in later and later, with the lessons being put back from 10:00 to 11:00, then 11:30 and today 13:30 as the wind took a while to kick in.
That has also reflected in the size of the kites I’ve been using, going from 7’s to 9’s then 10.5 yesterday and today 12.
This morning whilst waiting for the wind we walked down to Dakhla Attitude, a couple of miles further along the lagoon as it starts to open out more, so in fact beginners there start their lessons by walking up wind a half mile or so first, so that eventually when they end up downwind they are close to the centre, where as if they launched from the centre and then went off downwind they’d be unable to get into shore easily as the lagoon widens substantially.
Ocean Vagabond at low tide; High Spring comes up to the centre
Looking down towards Dakhla Attitude, it is on the left down from the dune out of sight, as the lagoon opens up
Had a nice refreshing mint tea, and so much cheaper than cans of coke etc , take note!
Did seem to be more wind down there, and there was fair amount of activity on the water.
We headed back as my lesson was meant to be at 13:00 but we put it back another hour or so as wind was still filling in and we all wanted lunch first and some time for it to settle!
Took the 12 down to the water’s edge on the ever advancing tide which was rushing in. Ishmael my instructor went through the logic of the sliding turn again and I went out and put a couple straight in, might have been a fluke as it then took a while to get them anywhere near consistent, better on one side than the other.
However, on the first run out into the lagoon the centre’s big boat was coming back with a group of French kiters out here on a clinic who were returning from a big down winder, not too sure what kites they used as they left around 10:00.
The boat is about 8ms with a big 200hp on the back and kicked up a fair wash, which yours truly tried to kite over, reminiscent of Worthing chop and that did for me!
I then kited upwind whenever going across the lagoon to try and find some chop as I have to try and suss that before returning to the UK !
With the high tide there was also a faint wind-blown rolling swell and I tried to kite that turning the board with my feet and discovering that it was better to keep the kite downwind rather than at 12 o’clock !
Back inshore Ishmael was pleased with my progress and then talked me through how to ride toe side / fakey, this was not so successful and I think I’ll leave that for another day.
Wind did get up in the afternoon and I found the 12 quite powerful and ended up sussing out that it was easier to ride one handed when going up wind as well as it being easier to dump more power.
The lesson finished (two hours) and I then did another hour blasting around, so another good day, though no GoPro footage as we had a slight problem.
To stop condensation in the GoPro someone suggested putting some grains of rice alongside the camera unit in the waterproof housing, and this has worked though only delays the eventual condensation but good for an hour or so. Trouble is the camera was put back in the housing minus the SD card which was still in the laptop and you can guess where a grain ended up – anyway managed to extract it after half an hour or so (good old Swiss army knife and head torch).
So two more days, I’ll continue with the lessons, though they are not exactly one on one, just good to know that someone is looking out for you and it’s up to you if you want to keep coming back in and have a talk through with your instructor before going back out again.
I’ll probably do what I did today, have the two hours and then stay out seeing how much longer I can hang on for!
Body is certainly feeling it, blisters, various cuts dings on the feet (all not healing in the salt water), lips burnt and shoulder well and truly knackered, however knee is really good, as my guts are now not too bad J
Dakhla Learning to Kite Surf Blog
Friday June 22nd The Eighth Day
Awoke to a chilly morning, so sweat shirts down for breakfast, decision made as to wait for the sun to burn through and the wind to build.
So walked a couple of miles down to Dakhla Attitude for a mint tea. Only, typically as here, the kettle was not working so no mint tea.
Strolled back in sand blasting wind which was gusting to about 35 mph by midday and a few kites smacking down onto the sand/lagoon.
Tide was coming up and so launched at 14.30 with wind kicking in all the time. I told Elaine to go for a 4.5 but with a huge selection of sails she thought a 4.2 would be more than enough, and using a 79L Fanatic Twinser, it's taken me years to get her to sail the 74 Twinser, it was the best option and she was amazed at how well up wind it went!
Kite choice was an ongoing discussion, as the wind was building all the time, I did have my own RRD Vision 7 but went for power with an 8.
And so we were both out on the water at the same time. Elaine had a challenging but v enjoyable session fully maxed but gybing (as she declares) remarkably easily.
Board choice was a major factor, I came out here with a RRD Poison132 - the instructor took one look at it and declared it was much too small for me but "can I buy it?" . He made so many obvious hints as to the fact that he wanted to buy it even though he has his choice of North boards here and after trying it on the water and a series of texts to Seasprite HQ a deal was struck!
I was having an interesting time with a smaller board trying to get it to slide, but took a while to get the nose to stop digging in, by the end of the session had that sussed.
However, just as you think you're uber confident, that ego gremlin comes up and bites you in the arse. The kite went down and within a fraction of a second, so it seemed, it imploded and went inside itself (not too sure WHAT happened) and then proceeded to merrily loop around itself with the instructor, Ishmael, shouting to push quick release.
So after 10 mins sorting the lines out, back out again for another 2 hours........
Learning to kite surf – a reflection on the past ten days in Dakhla
My aim was for this trip was hopefully to come away being able to kite surf, and that I’ve accomplished.
If I had just been out for a week then yes I would have come back with the basics in place, but I always thought that the extra three or four days would help build my confidence and technique.
I did come out with an obvious knowledge of the wind and sea having windsurfed for well over thirty years, and that does help tremendously especially in some of the situations that I found myself in, drifting out in the middle of the lagoon, kite down, board adrift and wondering who would come and rescue me, and or then mentally preparing for ditching everything and swimming the long way back in, all of which in the past I’ve had to do in my years of windsurfing.
I did do a kite surfing course way back in 2003, in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, but can’t recall any of that apart from the body dragging in the big swell and shore dump, don’t think I ever got near to putting a board on, or if I did it didn’t stay with me for long!
A good move prior to coming away was three hours with a UK instructor (Jason Finky Inc) getting to know the basics of flying a kite, rigging, launching and landing as well as the all-important safety aspects.
So once in Dakhla we were on the water in just over an hour of our first lesson.
I did rather naively think that I would be cramming loads of hours on the water in any one day, however all of my time was spent with an instructor over seeing what was going on.
Most days I did a two hour lesson in the morning and then an hour in the afternoon, sometimes two.
By the time you get your kite down to the beach, rigged and then out on the water almost half an hour has gone anyway, and then at the beginning you do end up spending a fair amount of time walking the kit up from where you ended up downwind.
That said, most lessons were made up of around four students, and we all had our own kites and boards so we were not sharing or hanging around in the water as is so often the case when learning to kite surf.
My initial block of ten hours did go pretty quickly. The last three or four days my lesson was mid-afternoon not that there was a great deal of instruction going on, though that was down to me for if I chose to come back in and have a chat with him about what I was doing / not doing etc. After the two hours was up I then carried on kiting till I was too tired with the rescue boat still out there!
Learning to Kite Surf at Ocean Vagabond Dakhla – what’s included
Prior to your lesson, you find yourself a wetsuit, which is advisable as the water and wind create quite a wind chill, plus you will be spending a fair amount of time in the water!
Next a buoyancy vest and helmet, and then a harness; all of which there is a large selection of sizes.
With harnesses they recommend using a seat harness as opposed to a waist harness when learning to kite surf.
Then you’re given your kite and board. I used three different types of board throughout my nine days kiting and various kites from 7 to 12, using my own RRD Visions 7 & 10.5 that I brought with me, but only after a week or so for obvious reasons!
All the above is included in the price of your lesson and any additional hours are charged at at a pro rata rate of what your initial 10hr block booking was at, so I paid 28Euro an hour.
My only concern / moan is……
And kiters reading this here will understand both sides, is that I did not fly and walk with the kite, nor launch the kite. The instructor always launched the kite and then gave you the kite over the water’s edge. Only once when I found myself stuck over on the other side of the lagoon for 40 or so minutes did I walk around with the kite depowered and ended up launching it when the rescue boat guy arrived with my lost board.
Walking with the kite here along our stretch of the coast is an integral part of kiting. That said I understand all the safety reasons why, and that not allowing students to walk / launch their own kites will stop kites getting trashed.
On arriving back home I’ve now been kiting here, and has to be said, water and air temps are not that dramatically different as we head into July.
Learning to kite surf over a period of ten days was the best strategy and I’m now ahead of quite a few guys who only did one weeks kiting, but I do understand that not everyone can go for more than a week.
Already we’re discussing a return to Dakhla next year, probably June again trying to get a posse together, so if you’re a dinosaur windsurfer contemplating the cross over then get in touch, or just a kiter who fancies going there…………
And if you can’t wait, then get in touch with Ally at WaveRiders and she’ll give you the low down on all the options.
Ocean Vagabond as a location is superb,
It is very French, and don't expect partying and the like. There is not a lot to do apart from Kite and windsurf and or just chill out. Most people crash by 10:30, that said if you went in a group then you have your own company to enjoy.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included, and yes, they do have beer and wine!
Accommodation in the bungalows is good, and they are all positioned to give you a feeling of privacy.
There are a couple of other centres across the lagoon and I would imagine in High Season could get pretty busy on the water, and two miles down you have Dakhla Attitude.
I met a few people who were staying at Attitude for one week and then coming up to Vagabond for the second, this is the best way to do it, as Ocean Vagabond is a more luxurious than Attitude. Though I could imagine, again in High Season it might not be so busy at Attitude.
Though I can never see the reason why for going away from the UK in July and August when we have warm water and good winds.
June and September are almost low season there and that is a good time to go for wind!
Again have a chat with Ally at WaveRiders...................
Since returning from Dakhla I'm now a sponsored Seasprite Rider, having collected my Visions (12m and 9m) to go with my 7m I took with me to Dakhla, as well as my Venom Board - not bad for someone who has only been kiting for ten or so days, of course nothing to do with the fact that I do all their websites and IT :)
My first session was under the watchful eye of Lewis (he who jumps piers) down at North Lancing, and was really good, various Fairies did a down winder to there from Fairy's Corner (Goring Gap) and we gave them a lift back.
Flat water on the inside was really good for helping me in my sliding turns - in fact we went down there for a second session the next day.
Then a day later (1st July 2012) I was talked into going from Fairies........
Sunday, I should have followed my gut instinct and kited down Lancing way..........
But no I was talked into going out at Fairy's Corner (Ferring /
Goring Gap). First mistake was not changing my straps size for boots, so
ended up doing a rush job in the water and they were way too loose. Sea
state was a fair bit rougher than the last couple of days so I was all
over the place, totally useless compared to yesterday on the turns. With
the net result, fell in the shallows on to a damn rock, akin to
snowboarding and falling on your coccyx, now nursing a bruised arse, not
the best of preparation as next Sunday I expect to be in the saddle for
nigh on eight hours cycling up three mountains on the toughest stage of
this years Tour de France.
Did loose my board up there and luckily Norfolk Dave picked collected it and delivered it back to me. Various wipe outs in the shallows and more bruised feet on the feckin rocks. Anyway all good fun, and great kiting with various Fairies.
I then decided to head down wind back to WeatherCam HQ where I knew Jai and the Mrs were hopefully out, maybe not the best move on ones own, but what could happen?
All was going really well, and in fact tide was well on the way out, and not that many kiters were out from Pro Beach; a few waved at me as kited through recognising the Cock with the Orange helmet and green RRD Visions, and about 1/4 ml from home, stacked in stupidly, went over the front, board came off and that was that, by the time I got myself together board was upwind a fair way, and then tried a couple of upwind body drags but just lost sight totally of the board amongst the white water, chop and waves, couldn't believe how quickly I could loose it, even though I was able to stand up almost and look for it.
Spent a while trying to see it and then opted for coming back in as I saw the Mrs running towards me to land the kite and at the same time I was flagging down Dee who was coming back in with her windsurf board near the yacht club. I almost hijacked her kit as I jumped on it and went searching for my board. Was actually surprised how far up wind it still was when I eventually found it after around twenty minutes!
So did have a gut feel that I was due an incident today after the last couple of good days!
So been down to Surfladle and bough a roller leash, and have received quite a few emails berating me for going down the leash route!
Might have to look at the inflatable arm band method!
Went up to Fairies and put up the 10.5, others were going with 12's but I thought the wind would come up.
Was very busy with many fellow Muppets and out right beginners, and Ant was up there with a whole load of students learning, as well as some others in the water who was progressing on to kites on the open water.
Was interesting to see that a few had been out and bought a roller leash as well, with one mate defending to me as to why he was wearing one (to get more time on the water), which was a bit ironic as it was me who had lost a board and bought one initially, so I totally understood why!
I did my nervous launch on the grass and even more nervous walk down to the water's edge helped by Ashley. That's only the second time I've really walked with the kite like that (see above contentious point), and was not too bad. And had a fair old walk back in across the rocks when I came in, though did see a mate nearly loose it walking down the bank and then slipping in a puddle!
At first was well powered up and kept upwind of most in the water. Riding was good though seem to have gone backwards in my slide turns, think not helped by being a wee bit under powered and nervous of falling in the shallows on my arse again!
Did think wind was easing all the time and I was conscious of an approaching dark band of cloud, that was making me paranoid about a switch to NW'ly and a drop in wind like what happened the day before at the Big Air.
In fact did think the wind had dropped as I had difficulty getting going again whilst out at sea, after three or four "just one last run's" I was a fair way down wind as I had no power to kite back up wind so called it a day.
Good but short session, and nice to know my board was glued to me as it were, and ironically heard that a mate, who used to use a leash had lost his board, though was recovered down near Pro Beach.
Tuesday July 17th
Went out at Lancing proper for the first time (kiting that is) on a 12, rip was a pain as I tried to get my board on at various times. Did have a few moments but managed to recover myself, and was glad of the leash. Was a good session and made some more progress on the turns, was quite choppy along with little ramps on the inside which made life interesting. Amazed at the amount of beginners at various stages of their learning curve. Shame about the lack of sunshine, did think it was going to be a sunny afternoon. Wind did pick up as I was out, and people were on 9's even saw one guy launching an 8.
Afterwards drove up to Fairies, even though tide was way out a lot of people out enduring the walk across the rocks, but the water was nice and flat according to Fairy in Chief (FIC) Mark H.
999 Call - Back home and saw a couple of kites out in front of WeatherCam HQ, and sussed it was a mate (Geoff) having a go in the shallows, so went down on to the beach to see what was going on. Another guy was also kiting (Martin Chapman) and a long long way out he dropped his kite and had a "moment" from the looks of things, and then spent a while getting back to his board. Eventually he was back up and running.
Hour or so later back at home, other half in the kitchen went pale as she noticed a Police car had pulled up outside and two Policeman in fluro jackets & uniforms were walking to the front door (she thought it was bad news about her Mother!), turned out it was the Coastguard who were reacting to a 999 call about a kiter in trouble out at sea. Someone had called then when they saw Martin stuck out at sea (though didn't bother to check, keep an eye out as to how he was getting on), they came to my house as someone told them I was on the beach. So was that a good thing or a bad thing, suppose it's good to know that Joe Public maybe looking out for you!
Wednesday July 18th
Good session at Pro Beach, powered up on a 9, in conditons that were quite interesting with many a ramp to contend with!
One major incident with Mick, as he went over my lines (my fault) and luckily neither of us panicked and somehow we both came out of it unscathed with me swimming under his lines (aaahhhhh), but could have been soooo much worse, gave Lewis mucho amusement as he was buzzing us making sure we were ok laughing at the situation as we both had to contend with our boards on our roller leashes!
Back home around 18:30 was looking out of the window and saw two guys in all sorts of problems with their kites in front of WeatherCam HQ right down at low tide on the rocks. One guy pulled his release and then had major hassle of collecting his kite, then his mate had a few issues leaving his board while he tried to get back in over the rocks getting slammed in the process, then after landing his kite had to go back over the rocks into the shallows to find his board. Then all credit to one of them, went back out!
Thursday July 19th
Thought someone was telling me not to go out today, as arrived Fairies and found that I'd left the board in the garage, so back home, then decided to go from Pro Beach as more people had turned up, took kite out only to find I'd grabbed the wrong one, so back home again!
Once out on the water, had probably the best session yet in terms of getting more slide turns in, had only one minor incident with the kite down for a while. Finished around mid tide so walk was not too bad as there's a fair amount of sand there unlike some where else!
That's three days in a row now, could have been five if I could have been bothered with dank Monday.
Mid July / August 6th
Been out a fair number of times over the past three weeks or so, though we did have one week of Summer weather where wind's were light.
Sat 4th August - think this is worth mentioning as a little mile stone, have been trying to get some air over recent sessions and have managed to get the air but all resulting in major wipeouts......
Did attempt some jumps, and actually managed to get a "little" air and land that was witnessed, but on the whole most resulted in me getting the kite in the wrong position afterwards and being yanked off the board head first, there's only so many crashes your body / brain can do in a session*!
*Especially after numerous pints the night before!
August fair amount of kiting but no major developments as such. Did go to Ireland, Brandon Bay and kited there in a truly superb location, though ended up going back on the windsurfer as conditions were too big and there were no other kiters out.
Sunday 9th / Monday 10th September
Had a good couple of days yesterday and today, and like above another mile stone in my kiting.
Yesterday I went with a 9 from Pro Beach and after a few runs (as it was quite busy) decided to kite up wind to Fairies, just over a mile or so which saw me coming in at the Cafe and turning on the inside there (how times have changed) and kiting for a brief moment with Johny Kane, the lone windsurfer out from there. As I progressed towards Fairies wind seemed to be easing and sure enough those out up there started to go ashore. I decided to head back down wind making the most of a sort of apparent wind having to really work the kite whilst kiting well off the wind, another technique that I found myself having to learn and adapt quickly!
By the time I came back down think it was only me and a couple of others out with everyone else back in. So a first kiting that far upwind.
And then today, again on the 9 and mid tide (we're on neaps) water was quite flat, but conditions just favoured going for it a bit, and would say I've just about cracked the jumping, though a fair amount of major wipe outs, but was certainly landing some. On a few, where I ended up with the weight of the board and the kite in the wrong position I almost turned it into a mid air transition (in my dreams).
So feeling good after today's session, even though my sinuses are full of water!
And was emailed this from a mate.......
Nice to see you at Pro beach yesterday great afternoon for me also if not a bit max out on a 12m my mistake too then lazy to change down.
You did a great jump infront of me 10ft, some real air ! OK the landing was a kite loop transission shall we say.
Wednesday 12th September
Video of the days antics trying to to get some air, coupled with Bob Dylan's first single from his great new album, Tempest, well worth giving it a couple of listens, really grows on you!
Thursday 13th September bruised coccyx :(
Another video with some different cam angles and nice clouds - ended up with a bruised coccyx as ego got the better of me and lost it in the shallows falling on a rock :(
Saturday 15th September Lancing
Another good session and this time I was actually caught with my fins out of the water, by local photographer Gary Levett
Sunday September 18th Lancing
Wind filled in nicely for a late afternoon low tide session down at Lancing similar to Saturday. I forgot that it was the Clubs first kite slalom event, so when we drove into the car park on the seaward side of the beach huts it was mobbed with kites, but it turned out that was for the start of a race!
Monday September 17th Lancing
Good news and bad, went out today to try some toe side carves, and amazingly pulled off my first attempt and then finish off with the heel side, then next three or four attempts could not replicate the fortune of my first, and then on the last one the kite stalled, fell out of the air, landed, line went over, kite went inside on itself and started spiraling. Time to pull quick release, but still carried on being dragged through the shallows, then pulled my harness quick release but hung on to the kite in the hope that it might somehow depower, at this point Jesmondo came along side and suggested I let the whole lot go, he then proceeded to stop the kite, so thanks.
Then spent the next thirty odd minutes sorting my lines out, and then back out again, so as not to take a dent in the confidence, but couldn't quite bring myself to try another carve, all good fun :(
Tuesday 25th back on the 7m
Have not been on a 7 since Dakhla when that was all I was on for the first three or four days as it was so windy. The worst part about yesterday for me was walking down to the water's edge over the rocks as it was gusty, plus the kite was very twitchy in the air, once out on the water I was fine and back in my comfort zone as it were. In fact I was amazed and how relaxing it was compared to the previous day when I was back on the windsurfer which is physically far more demanding in strong winds, though yesterday when I was out the wind was easing and could have been on a 9 by the end.
But conditions were for me challenging, hopping out across the waves, going for jumps and finding trying to control the 7 after a jump was far more difficult compared to a larger kite. Did have Dan Sweeney gyrating himself all around me it seemed at times, I did say to him afterwards that I should have had the GoPro on, but probably would not have caught much of the action, but this clip show it is possible to kite and get in close, might need to get a little more kiting under my belt first !
Wed 26th Lancing
Had a marginal half hour or so on a 9, but wind was dropping all the time. By the end people on 12's were ending up downwind. This is all pretty well as forecast.
Was an interesting session for me at least in getting over some quite large walls of white water and waves when not too powered up, all good stuff for the log book as it were!
Yesterday launched at 10:00 and has a great session (see vid below),
wind was initially SW'ly then went SSW'ly and at times bolt onshore
which did not help me sussing out my front side toe riding on the
inside, and unlike all the toe side YouTube "coaching" vids & DVD's
which are all filmed on flat water did have a few "bumps" to contend
with, and some very nice waves!
Thursday - another lesson learnt
launched around 10:30, was planning to put a 12 up, but in the "red mist" of launching grabbed the kite and only when I was pumping it up realised it was a 9, so went with that, and in fact I was fine getting upwind through the white water. It was only when I came in the second time to go for some more toe side on that inside that a wave took me out whilst I was riding back out toe side and I dropped the kite. I then found out that dropping the kite in the rolling waves and white water is none too clever as I could not relaunch it and was getting swept in with the groynes looking as if they would have an early lunch on my kite with the lines now spouting seaweed all over them. Luckily there was already another kiter on the beach who was able to drag my kite up, so mucho gratitude!
Did try to launch again, but wind had eased a little and I could not get going on the inside, so thought God was telling me something, so I packed up!
Monday was a classic S'ly, (and nice n'mild) with mid tide "play ground conditions" nice big wide open flat spaces of water twix the wavelets. Wind was quite up and down which in a S'ly made it hard work for the windsurfers, but on a kite was great fun. Though later on when the Shoreham / Hove posse turned up the wind did fill in a little more for them and they eventually had a good session, but not before I had some fun with Nick the Farmer :)
Sunday was all about luck, for many the wind dropped just as they launched, for others they had a window of wind that let them get a decent session in. I suppose I was lucky, launching around 11:00, I had a great 45 minutes or so with some great waves, and thanks to Eunice for the shot.
7m Thursday After Wednesday's lame attempt at getting out on the water I was definitely going out on Thursday, except I was none too sure what vehicle as it was gusting 40's. So Sean Keith talked me into leaving the "Pole" in the van and I put up the 7m, having explained to me how to depower the kite even more (all news to me!) by changing the lines using the three available knots.
I was pretty nervous about launching after the last time (that windy Sunday a few weeks back), and Johny B was there to hang on to me, but kite felt good and getting down the beach was not too bad, and a great session was had, both by me and quite a few others.
I came in when I started to get paranoid about some approaching weather, though I was fine and in control on the water it was the concern of walking the kite back up to the beach and on to the grass that was getting to me, not to surprising as I have to remind myself as I've only been kiting five months.*
*Though have been out more than most might do in a couple of years :)
Wind's were indeed crazy on Wednesday, I was very tempted to go out on the Pole when the wind's were W/WNW'ly as the waves were looking classic, had this from Lewis "kited outside the shark park for 1.5 hours was AMAZING", also had a nice photo sent to me from Nick the Farmer off Hove which was firing big time!
Thursday 27th Probably the best day of the year?
And I managed to miss it even though I was in my wetsuit and on the beach (East Wittering Joliffe Road), the only issue was that I'm still too inexperienced to handle those conditions. Even the Fairy in Chief who did manage to get out a good hour or so after my first attempt said it was the most demanding kiting he's ever done, but having a 10 up when others were maxed on 7's might have been one reason why.
I should have turned around at Arundel where the traffic was really bad taking that as a sign, but I carried on. Then before Chichester it was gridlock, which I avoided by going through Tangmere, again another sign that maybe I should have stayed at home, especially when I was up at 05:30 taking my brother to the airport.
And then when I arrived around 13:00 I was greeted by some of the best waves I've seen on the South Coast for a long time and I was kicking myself that I had not brought the windsurfing kit. There was a handful of very good sailors out ripping the head high waves in a clean cross shore wind.
The tide was still too far up to launch a kite though an old friend, Stuart Holland who was once one of the best wave sailors in the UK, was getting his 7m kite ready and suggested I do the same as the tide would be dropping quickly.
Stuart has been kiting a good few years now, and is a very good surfer as well, so on his directional he too was ripping out there. I decided to wait for the rest of the Fairies to show, by the time they arrived the wind had started to shift more cross off. The adrenalin of anticipation then kicked in as I started to get my lines ready and I did not take note of the clouds, so by the time we worked out the best way to launch in the limited available space on the beach and with me wearing the blinkers of red mist I had not sussed the advancing squall so when my kite went up wind had kicked in big time and was howling off shore, I did try to get up a couple of times but the kite was getting yanked violently in the gusts, as in the offshore wind and on the shingle you were in the lee, so one second 15mph the next 40mph.
I decided that it was too manic and landed the kite. Then after another half hour decided to try again (should have sussed that there were not that many kiters actually out on the water, and none of my caliber) and no problems launching this time, except that as I approached the shallows, wind went and my kite fell out of the sky!
Few more people were getting out though many came back in, as wind at times went almost straight offshore, but as the tide receded that seemed to coincide with a spell of clearer weather and wind went more cross offshore, so third time lucky I thought.
My lines were in a bit of a mess from the failed second attempt, so I used the sand at low tide to lay them out and double check, taking the lines off the kite to be sure, just as I did this a freak wave rolled the tide back in a good 30ms from the waters edge all over my lines it was at this point that I thought a God was trying to tell me something!
So all goes down in the experience log, those that did get out knew what they were doing (nearly all on directional boards) though all said how challenging it was.
The windsurfers too had a great time, but did have to work hard at getting out, but were rewarded with some fabulous riding, and it was best for them when the tide was still up.
So more wind for the rest of the week and on into the weekend, though think best to take one day at a time, tides are now good for getting out at a sensible hour in the day, though by the weekend will be back to mornings as tide and lack of daylight could be an issue.
Heard from my daughter Xmas eve who is out doing her second season that she's emulated her dad and did her ACL so that's her season, and we've booked to go out and see her in a couple of weeks, so yet again I don't get to ski with her!
Friday 28th Dec surprisingly good session in the end!
Was worth waiting for, and had a good 90 minutes or so on the 9 well powered up with little wavelets to play on.
Was almost quite busy at one point with around 15 or so kites and a few sails, think circa 13:00 quite a few were on down winder Lancing way from here. As I was coming in was amazed at people still going out, think they're in for a long walk!
Saturday 29th Dec another damn fine session
Timed it perfectly, wind eased & tide on the drop, just right on the 9m weather as wind veered WSW'ly with some very decent sized faces, which proved challenging pour moi, but really good. More of the same tomorrow hopefully!
Little vid taken with the phone, so not too bad a quality......
Sunday Dec 30th AM great session!
Was a damn good call in the end, arrived at the beach 08:15 and went for a 9 as it felt like wind would pick up. Did my first self launch watched over by Mike T and was first out on the water, first couple of runs were sublime with the sun low in the sky and waves lining up beautifully. Did initially think that maybe this was a day for riding on the "pole" as the waves were getting better all the time as the tide pushed in, and imagined that the likes of Bracks / Witts would be going off, but then seeing a couple of windsurfers having a really frustrating time I was so glad I was on the kite!
More and more kites launched and it was almost "busy", Jason Gilbert was out up from Shoreham ripping the waves on his directional showing me how it should and can be done, that said I managed a bit of down the line (DTL) riding on some big faces out to sea, managing to control the kite for some cut backs, but still have to get the speed of the transition faster and more aggressive.
Monday New Years Eve
Twas a good morning, was first out doing tide on the push, well powered on a 7. Weather stayed dry and there were some decent waves and faces to play on and nice flat stretches in between, great fun playground. Fair number of windsurfers out from the Cafe too.
Monday 13th May - broken line stops play :(
Oh well suppose I had to experience "kit failure" at some point, though was well out beyond the yellow buoys beating back up to the Cafe when the bridle pulley line went. Mate (Norfolk Dangerous Dave)took my board in and I ended up coming in down by the yacht club where another mate (Sean Keith), was watching to make sure the kite didn't end up on the groynes and then Dangerous Dave (The Original) drove me back!
And was good that I was wearing my winter suit as I was in the water for a half hour, and was starting to get cold in the arms.
NB: after yesterday kite now has a complete set of new lines !!
Up to the breakage was a really good session totally maxed on the 9 but having great fun wave wiggling and riding.
Not again !
Went to Lancing last Wednesday 15th May, and had a good session, until another "moment", which this time was caught on video for your entertainment!