Learning a New Skill

by Mike on February 2, 2016

I spent a good part of January in Langebaan, South Africa , which is located about an hour and a half north of Cape Town. I chose to visit this spot because it’s one of the best places in the world to learn kite boarding with flat waters, constant(not gusty) winds, and many accommodations conducive to kite boarders. Needless to say when the wind picks up, I’m out on the water getting as much kite boarding practice in as possible.

Langebaan, South Africa

Langebaan, South Africa

Just by luck, the dollar has significantly appreciated against the South African Rand(ZAR), making my daily expenses significantly cheaper than a year ago.

The downside is that during the weekends and especially during the holiday weeks, the water is often crowded. This leads to tangled kite lines, kites crashing undesirably close to people. So there are trade offs with the destination.

I first learned to kite board

in Fiji with an Australian instructor. Fiji is probably not a popular spot to kite board so I think I received more individualized attention from my instructor than say someone learning elsewhere.

I also took some group lessons in Zanzibar and that’s where I noticed how much more I’ve progressed during my week in Fiji with someone that solely took a week long group lesson in Zanzibar.

With the progression I made, I wanted to get as much kite boarding practice in Langebaan. I brought my own kites from the States because it didn’t make sense for me to rent the kites given the length of time I was going to spend in Langebaan.

Reflecting on my time in Langebaan, it brought me back in time when I was learning to snowboard in Mont Temblánt just outside of Montreal. I was with a group of college friends on a ski trip and one of my buddy’s brought along an extra snowboard. The two other girls on the trip were also learning to snowboard too. So I gave it try with them.

The first time down the mountain, I was catching edges everyday and tumbling down the mountain. It was frustrating, but stuck with it over the next few days. The goal was not to hurt myself and to try to make it down a slope without falling once. Going too fast was terrifying. I made progress by the end of the trip, but nowhere near competent nor comfortable.

Me and my kite

Me and my kite

With learning a new sport or skill, there are things one can do to improve adherence and maybe ease the learning curve.

Take Lessons with an experienced instructor

With kite boarding, getting lessons from a qualified instructors is essential. There’s a lot of moving parts with kite surfing that it’s difficult to learn safely without an instructor. I didn’t take any lessons with snowboarding, but had an experienced friend with showing me some techniques to learn to use my edges while on the bunny slopes.

Surround yourself with like-minded people

This is probably the most crucial element in learning a new skill or achieving a goal. With snowboarding I had a group of friends learning so we progressed together over the course of the ski trip. With kite boarding, I’m staying at an accommodation conducive to kiteboarders with outdoor showers, outdoor locker room storages, so I’m constantly around other like-minded kiteboarders who were better riders than me. Most of them were quick to offer advice when I asked for it.

Practice

Lessons will only you take your so far. Like wise with loosing weight, a gym membership will only get you so far. One needs to put in the time and learn the technique. I remember my first time trying to get on the ski lift with a snowboard. It was a terrifying feeling trying to approach the chair loading area without falling. My goal was not to fall and delay everyone else trying to get on the lift. After repeating the route, getting on the ski lift is now routine and now muscle memory. I’m trying to get to the point with setting up my kite and launching in the air safely as a routine that I’ll feel more and more comfortable.

Slowly push yourself out of your comfort zone

There’s two beaches here in Langebaan, Shark’s Bay(no sharks just a name) and Main Beach. Shark’s bay is more conducive to beginners because there’s no current, the water is flat, and most importantly, you can stand up and walk to retrieve your board. Main beach is a little more advanced because there are currents to deal with. I equate the difference between Shark’s Bay and Main beach similar to a green circle and a blue square slope on a mountain – a little more advanced, but not quite like black diamond. After kiting on Main beach without any incident, I’m more comfortable with it like with riding down a blue square or black diamond slope on a snowboard.

Shark's Bay in Langebaan

Shark’s Bay in Langebaan

Final Thought

There’s the individual comfort level of a person that comes into play and a little of bit of luck with learning a new skill. I feel that my personal observations can apply to anyone. In no way am I saying that learning to snowboard will translate to learning kite surfing faster. In fact, I think kite boarding is much harder with many more moving parts, i.e. the wind, board control, current, and waves. I’m merely using the snowboarding and kiteboarding as examples of skills that can be learned with my aforementioned observations. I’ve only spent a few weeks kiteboarding, but that’s not enough, I’ve asked some kiteboarding instructors what’s the longest time they spent away from kiteboarding and their replay was anywhere from 3 weeks to one and half months. So if I want to progress I would need to keep my absence away from the sport to something similar.

 

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