Ever drive over the Causeway and see those crazy people with the kites and sails surfing along the water with the wind carrying them to-and-fro? I secretly aspire to be one of those people!
I remember the first time I saw a kite-boarder skimming across the water next to me. I thought to myself, “Man, that’s the ultimate SWFL water sport!” As a new Florida resident, I secretly wanted to master the sport that I hadn’t seen anywhere else.
Well those initial thoughts were quickly placed on the back burner after I researched the cost of lessons, and the time it takes to become proficient. “Someday I’ll learn to kiteboard,” I told myself… until then, I’ll live vicariously through others, like our very own McCallion team member, Robin Suslick, who just took lessons a few weeks ago!
A little fun fact about Robin, she was actually a professional water skier earlier in her career, and is still an avid wakeboarder who loves the water. Even with her previous water sports experience, Robin admitted kiteboarding was more challenging than she thought it would be! (Which is not good news for me!)
However, she did mention that it might have been her previous experience working against her, as opposed to someone completely new to the idea with no bad habits to break. In fact, Robin’s 13-year-old daughter, Eliana, who had very little board-sport experience prior, was a natural at kiteboarding, and was up on the board within an hour and half. (Phew, this gives me a little hope!)
Kellen Hall and Ace Performer were awesome instructors, according to Robin. She described them as ambassadors for all things water sports here in Southwest Florida. You can stop by their store on McGregor Blvd., or even catch them on the Causeway on a windy day!
The lessons start with learning to maneuver a small kite on land, before graduating to a larger kite. “The kites have so much force with the wind, that it could easily carry you over the Causeway!” Robin exclaimed.
So, mastering the kite is a major key to safely learning the sport. After you get the feel of the kite, you can try a few body drags in the water, before moving on to the grand finale, getting up on the wakeboard.
“I love the freedom of a sport that depends solely on me and the wind,” Robin continued. She explained that the kite folds into a backpack with the harness and board all able to fit in the trunk of her car. She likes that you don’t have to rely on a boat, jet ski or spotter… you can just unpack and go – as long as there’s wind of course.
She warned that it can take about 8-15 hours of training in order to become proficient at kiteboarding, depending on how quickly you pick it up. She also mentioned that the training isn’t exactly cheap. However, she encouraged me to take an initial lesson, buy the gear and just head out to the Causeway where there are plenty of veteran’s willing to give you pointers.
Maybe I’ll start with just wakeboarding behind the jet ski, and eventually work my way up to kiteboarding. Either way, it looks like so much fun, and is certainly a unique water sport that brings even more thrill and adventure to Sanibel Island and Southwest Florida.