Kiting #1&2: So it's day 2 of my kitesurfing (kiteboarding) experiment. I'm in NELSON, just at the north of New Zealand's South Island. I'm cheating a bit here - we'll start at day 2, and then backtrack to day 1 as it comes back to me. So Saturday (today's Monday) ended with disappointment. We had a day in WELLINGTON and I'd planned to visit Wind & Waves on Oriental Bay Wharf (or whatever it was called) but following a very interesting few hours in Te Papa and a "quick" trip to The Warehouse, we located the shop only to find it was closed. But that's New Zealand for you. There's that famous quote from somebody-or-other from the 50s who remarked that when he got off the boat/plane he found the country to be closed. Sunday's are here like they used to be a good 15 years back in the UK.

But I do rate the Warehouse - now this is a shop like I'd imagine Wal-Mart to be, less some of the food. A cross between Woolworth’s (the UK version), B&Q and Matalan - but all at Poundstretcher prices. "Where Everyone Gets a Bargain..." - it's on the radio all the time here! I've seen more Warehouses than pubs so far in this country. Anyway, sulking we returned to the town centre still under the impression that there was only one place in town that sold the boards. See, I had this idea that I'd buy a board & kite in Wellington then spend our four weeks travelling round the South Island seeking out great kiting spots and by the end of it I'd be up and running. Well it looked like it wasn't to be. This was the last big city we'd see till most of the way through the trip - and if there was only one shop here in the capital city and a great windsurfing area, then I had no hope elsewhere. So we ambled through town on the way to our 5:30pm Cook Strait ferry. K popped into a skateboard shop while I, to no avail, checked out a camping shop. Well she returned with good news - there's a shop on the way to the train station (from where we'd be making our war to the ferry) which might just have some equipment.

So off we marched, checking our watches as it crept past 4:15. Sweating we got there, enquired about kiting. And yes, they've got some stuff. Under a table! I had a quick look through - I knew I needed a 12m kite and a 157 board, and a seating harness. They had only one brand I hadn't heard of and not in the sizes I wanted. The young lad in the shop was pointing me towards a 6m kite. Now I'm confused! He insists that's good enough. Then when I say I've been told to get a 12m, he begrudgingly finds an 11ish metre one. And they don’t have a 157 board but he assures me a 130 or so board will be fine - the only one they have. And there are no kiting harnesses. But they've got loads of windsurfing ones - and they're essentially the same. Just missing some of the safety devices! OK, I say. Give me your best price on the lot. He goes to consult with the boss. I think he sensed I was in a rush. I'd been quoted $3100 or so for a Naish kit up in Bayswater (Auckland) - so that was my benchmark. While he's gone though I take a few breaths and manage some thinking. This is far too big a purchase to rush through - and now I'm confused about sizes, and rapidly losing confidence in my already limited knowledge of the sport. He returns with $2,600. A good price - maybe? I don’t know. Cheaper than before, but not what I'd wanted. So I thank him and flee - disappointed. And hoping that there'll be another such shop in Nelson - where we'll be on Monday (today).

So you can imagine my joy when I see a couple of kites in the air as we near Nelson. We're in the middle of a row (K and I) and driving with steam coming out your ears is never the best - so the chance to stop and watch for a moment is gladly taken. I drive on and tentatively park up near where they're launching. Now I’m getting better at these situations but I always return to some 14-year-old shyness when confronted with what looks like a load of people doing what they look like they know what to do, while I now close to zilch about it. And I want to find out more and ask questions - but am not entirely sure what questions to ask. So I furtively approach from the side, along the gravelly beach. And watch a moment. It looks more like a teaching set up. So that's a bit easier. There's a Brit, part of it but not looking like she knows what's going on either. So I set upon her with my bumbling questions.

Well I establish - HURRAY - that there's a kitesurfing shop and school in town. It's on Bridge St - I should be able to get some lessons on Tuesday - and should pop in tomorrow morning. But it seems a bit silly given that all the instructors etc are around me now. So I kind of say Hi to one - john I think - a German chap with - YES - the same NZ$88 Warehouse wetsuit on that I bought back in Wellington. Now I'd seen in the paper that their wetsuits were in a 30% sale. And assuming they'd be bloody cheap before a sale; and assuming that that kind of thing would be expensive from a watersports shop - I thought I'd save a few quid (or dollars) by getting one at my favourite shop. And surely there all kind-of the same: Neoprene and stitching. Well we'll see how long it lasts - but it did me proud today - and the instructor was wearing one too!

But I digress. So the following morning - today morning - I found Bridge St. Not easily mind you - K was navigating and doing her favourite trick of barking out lefts and rights despite having not yet determined which street she's actually on. So we went round town a few times first. But I’m used to that. And I find the shop and talk equipment. And somebody doesn't turn up for their session. And they'll give me a lesson free if I buy. And they're pushing the same Naish gear at almost the same price as the guy up in Auckland. And I'm reassured. And I'm getting bloody excited. And we um and ah about board sizes and kite sizes and brands. And a space appears for a lesson this afternoon. And I say I just need a coffee before shelling out all this cash. Coffee and wrap down - K off to the hairdressers - while I'm back in the shop and raring to go. I'm still scared of parting with the cash so say I'll do the lesson first then buy if I'm still keen. Okeedokee.

So on to the lesson!!! At last! I drive off to meet the others on the side of the water - a few K's out of Nelson on the was to Picton.. We've got the British girl from earlier - Lucy I think - (from earlier today, not the one I met yesterday). Having assumed it would be a male dominated sport. And one Kiwi's would be all over. I was slightly surprised to see the shop populated by Germans and Brits most of whom were women. The guy who taught me up in Auckland was also a Brit (he'd just left his kite school in Essaouira as tourist numbers there had dropped off). So I meet Jack - there's two of us learning together this afternoon. And don my new wetsuit. And as I always do - pretend I know slightly more than I do. I'm a strong believer in not wasting time going over things a gain when it's possible to push on. Or taking diddling little f'ing institutional type steps when you can just jump in. I didn’t push it too far though - 'cos I'm still a bit scared off all those bits of string. And when I tried it in Auckland on a 5 or 6m kite I got thrown around in the after a fair deal.

We're gonna do “bodydragging”. I assume that’s the same as the getting thrown around in the water that I tried a couple weeks back. Yeah - I've done that before. So we wade out. The water's nice - fairly warm. The breeze is fairly stable - but not very strong. I'm not into windspeeds yet and couldn't tell you the speed. But I'd hazard a guess at somewhere between 1 and 30 knots! 6m kite wind - enough to get dragged along the water. Lucy was a fairly good instructor. I preferred her to Tim/Tom/Jim (can't remember his name) of BAYSWATER, north shore of AUCKLAND. So I got bodydragged along first - though not very convincingly and not very far. She didn't appear impressed and said something rude along the lines of being a scared-y-cat, poof, battyboy, woman etc! Ok - try better next time. But I didn’t floor the kite, which I thought was a bonus. But that kind of thing is given I now realise. Jack next - now he's already learnt to fly his own kite on the land so I'm preparing myself for some embarrassment here as he performs superbly in front of here and she stands there admiring his s\technique. Well I was wrong. He was OK-ish but no much better than me. We did this a few times. And I'm starting to enjoy it. See I thought I'd done body-dragging at Bayswater but this is shit-loads better.

Never mind the board - its fun just being dragged along the water by this amazing power - thing. Need better words for that one. It was far easier to control. And, well, just - better. Ok m- I think I'm gonna get the hang of this faster than I thought. We played around at this for a while. To the right to 1-2 o' clock, then sweeping back across the power zone to 6-7 o'clock. And back and fro. And all the while moving forward. I forgot the shoe - on my second go - the one she wasn't impressed with anyway, I lost my wetshoe thing. But hey - they'd got them from the Warehouse too, so no big deal.

So we moved on to the board: me first again. This is a bit tricky - one of those things where at first there appears to be too many things to think about at the same time. Keeping feet in the straps (one missing a shoe), while controlling the kite. Getting the feet in the straps. Not sinking. Facing the right direction. Now I write it, sounds no big deal, but it was tricky at the time. I moved the kite to the right a bit then a big one to the right - and we have power and we have lift-off. A Challenger lift-off in all but flight time. I fell straight in the water, over the front/side of the board (kind of starboard). Again! She moaned again about lack of power.

OK, let’s go for it. Loads of right - 2 o'clock. And left... And the same happens again... but this time the kites down in the water. All that red, blue, no more red. I've got red on full..... Etc..... But Jack had to help me re-launch it. Another difference between this and the last time I tried. That kite had re-launched from he water really easily. So much so I'd been very surprised. Now again I'm thinking that this is a sport that I'll be spending a lot of time getting ready for and not as much doing. Like my surfing attempts in Sydney three weeks ago, where after three sessions and a good five hours in the water I spent only 1 nanosecond standing on the board.

But we re-launch and have one more go. I down the kite again. So it's Jack's turn. And on we go. Till the wind dies. And it's back to shore. And it starts raining so I rush off in the Car (our 1989 Toyota Corolla) back to the tent to rescue the sleeping bags that earlier on I'd so cleverly suggested we leave out to air. Excellent! So I made good progress I think. I'm not so scared of it anymore. And I'm definitely gonna buy one. Just see if I can get another lesson out of them first.

So that's also the end of the beginning of my new, first blog. Another thing, there are many - that I've been meaning to do for f'ing ages. And already I'm wishing I'd been doing this all the way through our Sri Lankan adventure. But hey…….


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