Gone with the Wind

Just beyond Central Maui’s industrial district and a stone’s throw from Kahului Airport lies one of the world’s greatest kitesurfing destinations—Kanahā Beach.

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Maui kitesurfing lesson
The pair practice a water start from the safety of dry land. Kristin mimics the wind’s pull as Lehia practices getting into a standing position.

Kristin hollers, “Push the bar away!”—which of course immediately solves my aerial dilemma. I hit the sand with about as much grace as a fish out of water. I apologize to Kristin for the scare, and admit that, while I remember her earlier instructions about pushing the control bar away in that situation, my body went into panic mode. This is one lesson I learned the hard way.

Next is the ominous-sounding “body dragging” portion of the lesson. My mission is to direct the kite as it drags me through the shallows. It’s about as dignified as it sounds, and I’m already worried that while my body goes this way, my swim trunks will go that way.

Potential wardrobe malfunctions aside, my body-dragging experience doesn’t start well. Kristin floats behind me and grasps my harness; from here she’ll hitch a ride as I practice maneuvering through the tide. With the kite fluttering in neutral position directly overhead, she coaches me.

“Take it to 2 o’clock,” she says, using the clock numbering system as a guide. As the kite lowers into position, we’re pulled towards the deep blue. “Okay, now 10 o’clock,” she instructs. The kite shifts towards the beach . . . 11 o’clock . . . 10 o’clock . . . 9 o’clock . . . wham, kite down. It’s a fitting metaphor, I think to myself. Between self-inflicted kite crashes, wind-whipped face plants, and involuntary mouthfuls of saltwater, I long for the safety of the shore. With each go, my internal voice is shouting in fast forward, replaying Kristin’s instructions, scrutinizing my positioning, scanning for dangers. Surprisingly, chaos soon turns into calm, and movements become second nature. With a quiet mind, controlling the kite feels easy, almost intuitive. Once I’m able to maneuver with ease, my kiteboarding ambitions sharpen into focus, and I can imagine the next step of adding a board under my feet.

I’m surprised at the kite’s responsiveness to even the softest of movements. Instead of changing directions with brute muscle, this wind-powered sport is about mastering kite control with grace—no bulging biceps required.

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