Check the school primary teaching location and main wind direction.
The first thing you should learn is how to recognize an excellent spot to kitesurf. So it’s only natural that your school has done the same.
You will learn how to do a Spot check. First, we look at the wind direction, strength, and quality.
You will learn that you should look for places that have side or side onshore winds predominantly for your practice after your lesson. So let’s break down all the wind directions and how the schools can cope with different ones in the best way.
Off-shore: this direction can become a problem as you will be taken away from the beach making it harder for the school, they should have a rescue/teaching boat available and ready to pick you up. This direction makes the school work extra hard. Also, your riding direction is parallel to the beach so is for all the other riders.
On-Shore: This is the one that doesn’t show a hidden problem. The wind can blow you to the beach and make you have an accident. In this case, the school should have a boat or a way to get very far from the beach to start the lesson. It’s not the most practical wind direction. This wind direction makes the school work extra hard. Also, your riding direction is parallel to the beach so is for all the other riders.
Side-onshore: This is a helpful direction as you can go and come back to the beach and when in trouble you will be brought slowly to the beach. Still, you will be pulled downwind and into the beach so take special care in checking the beach conditions.
Side: This allows you to go and come back to the beach. This direction doesn’t bring you closer to the beach naturally but will enable you to stay practicing longer and forces you to use the kite to come to the beach or away depending on the side you relaunch the kite.
The strength of the wind should be adequate for your skill level, kite used, line length and exercise. It’s important to learn skills in light and strong winds as you never know the conditions you will encounter. Even if you start with average wind speed, this can change very fast so it’s important to know how to react in all possible conditions and also to know your limits. Learning with light or strong wind is very important as it’s better to acquire the correct skills under the supervision and help of an instructor than by yourself. Your progression might seem slow, but it will prepare you better to become independent.
The quality of the wind is also another significant factor. The wind shouldn’t have obstacles upwind or downwind of your practice location. Not having obstacles will ensure that the wind doesn’t get affected by the surroundings making it gusty and provoking an unexpected reaction from the kite.
So, when checking for a kite school to start your training, look for their primary location. Ask what the most common direction is and if the school as a rescue/support boat to assist on the lessons.
On a spot check, we also check the spot on land. There we should be able to spot a place to set up the kite, launch and land it. The launching and landing are the two moments that cause the majority of accidents. Make sure that these areas are big enough and clear of obstacles.
We also check the water type.
We should observe the surface, underground, the currents, and the temperature.
On the surface, we check if the spot is flat, wavy or choppy.
The best is flat water as it’s one less thing to worry. Waves create unnecessary difficulty in the beginning but are a necessary skill to learn to become independent. If the place has waves take into consideration that the learning will take a bit longer, but you will be much more skillful in the end. Choppy conditions are a mix of the other 2 with both the benefits and difficulties of both. An independent rider should be able to ride in all of them, so if you only had lessons in flat water take one more class to get used to the waves. It’s a lot of fun to ride the waves so don’t miss out on a wave session.
Underground we should consider if the spot is sandy, rocky or if it has any hidden dangers, check it with the school and other users. You also should check if the spot is shallow or deep. Shallow places allow you to have your instructor closer to you in a more natural way. In deeper water, the instructor has to hold on to you to be able to help you making it harder for him. Make sure the spot is not too shallow. As a rule of thumb, the best is waist deep, so there is still enough water for an accidental crash not to have consequences.
Currents are critical and a lot of time not visible. Current against the wind direction can help you to get upwind and maintain you in the same place. The board, however, will tend to go upwind from you making it harder to recover. Current in the same direction of the wind makes you go downwind fast and makes it harder in light winds to get the kite relaunched. Low current or current against the wind is always easier, but it’s important to learn also with the most adverse conditions.
The temperature is also critical. Check if you need a wetsuit or if lycra is enough. Make sure to use a good sunscreen to protect yourself.
Another thing to consider about the spot is the action on it. Check if the beach has other users such as surfers, windsurfers, bathers, fisherman’s, etc.… make sure there is enough space between your learning place and them.
So when checking the school for your first lessons, try to get one that has a beautiful spot, that is not overcrowded, has flat shallow water and a side or side-on wind direction and one that has a safety/teaching boat available for support, this is what we did and do at Kook Proof in Esposende.