Cautious and scared – or even boring – is how I’d describe myself whenever the opportunity to do something that “should be fun” comes around. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, all I can picture, really, is broken bones and scraped knees.
So when I had the chance to learn how to kite surf along a private beach on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, I was hesitant to say the least. I tried systematic desensitisation, where I watched the kite instructor fix the kites, then made my way to the beach to watch the kite surfers launch their kites and fly up and out into the bay, hair flying, water spraying, making it look completely effortless.
I helped launched kites and even caught one coming for landing (although I almost injured the instructor when doing so). Then I even assisted guests who were trying on booties, harnesses and rash vests, and then just watched them fly from afar. All because I was cautious and scared… and boring.
Naturally, I got caught up in the excitement, as I saw people speeding along the waves with perfect control, jumping and turning as if it’s the most natural thing on earth. However, I was never caught up enough to try it. Until the day I walked out of my little house and sprained both my ankles coming down the only stair.
As my ankles healed, I realised that I could get hurt at any time, even while walking out of my own house. So why not give this kite surfing thing a chance?
I arranged with the kite instructor to let me know when he was free, and set off with booties, life vest, harness, and a hat to go tame the wind. The first day the wind tamed me. I forgot I had my earrings on, and lost a diamond and a pearl to the sea. On the upside, I was fearless, or as fearless as a scared young woman could be.
With a powerful stance, I faced the wind and the slightly choppy sea. I got the kite up and down again until my body got dragged through the water by the power of the wind in the kite. This, you see, is the essential first step. It comes coupled with an unnatural amount of salt water going up your nose – like some kind of secret initiation of kite surfers. All it did was make me spit very much unlike a lady.
Now, I wish I could tell you I was out there day after day, at every opportunity persevering, because that’s who I am. Alas, I let the days slide past and ended up in a slight panic at the end of the windy season, realising that I probably blew it. Then I met him – a young, shy, tiny Filipino at the resort who was being groomed for instructing, and needed to gain more self-confidence speaking and instructing Westerners.
So Jimboy and I made our way out to waist-deep water, him taking the kite and me dragging the board behind me, because I was determined to do board-stands at the very least before the wind quietened down. I brought the kits down and up, down and up, again and again until I was confident enough to start on the board. Holding the kite directly above me, swaying gently in the wind, I hooked my feet into the straps on the board, I leaned back a bit and brought the kite down… and face planted. Over, and over, and over. Then, it happened. One magical moment where I didn’t find myself face first in the sea.
With my feet firmly planted on the board, I was flying across the water, wind streaming past my face, salt water spraying, the ocean under my feet, the wind surging me forward as I moved the kite slightly up and down as I went. Jimboy finally found his voice and authority as he excitedly screamed at me, “Pull up, ma’am Jay! Pull up!” I managed to ride the ocean for about 25 metres before I had to move back upwind. It was an exhilarating victory for a girl that was cautious, scared… and a little bit boring.
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