I wish I would have been more prepared to learn how to kitesurf. I didn't even know I was going to learn to kite surf until the day we walked up to the kite shop in Goa, India.
I was so unprepared. I may or may not have known what kitesurfing was. But it was a unique activity available to us, and something we had never tried, so why not?
After getting on the board for the first time I nearly gave up, but I'm so glad I didn't because now I'm hooked. I'm going to share I learned in those few weeks of getting my ass kicked in the water in hopes to help others have a better experience learning.
Pick a spot that has steady wind!
Oh my god, duh! I mean, now I know and understand how frustrating it is to be sitting on the beach with an inflated kite and sunblock on, but not enough wind to do anything. If you're planning a trip, check the average historical winds, and talk to the local kite shops. And be prepared to sit around anyway watching the winds and then hurry up and go!
Learn at a beginner-friendly location
This might seem obvious, but it's not. Most of the really popular kite spots around the world are not the best for learning. Waves and deep water are awesome for the pros to catch sick air on their jumps, but those waves will kick your ass and possibly keep you in practice kiting mode (no board) for longer.
I also suggest seeking a location that won't be packed. Trust, you won't have a ton of control at first, and the last thing you need are 100+ kites to dodge, including other beginners who aren't in complete control either.
It's tempting to want to look good while you're shredding in a bikini or just your board shorts, but if you spend any significant period of time on the water you're going to get too much sun.
We learned this the hard way. It's a pain in the ass to get out of the water once you are out there with your kite. So, no reapplying the sunblock for sometimes 3 or more hours (the average time of a lesson). Wear long sleeves and a good secure hat with a brim. Your face will be tilted up toward the sun a lot, especially when you're learning how to control the kite so wear good sunglasses!
This should be obvious, but going kiting when you're hung over or super jet-lagged is stupid. You're not going to get the most out of your expensive lessons if you're not close to 100%. You'll also be at a greater risk of getting hurt or damaging equipment. Be smart. Duh.
Wear a Life Vest
Nothing screams NEWBIE more than wearing a life vest. But so what?? When I was learning I was the only one at the spot wearing one, but you know what, it saved me many times. I don't mean it saved my life; I wasn't drowning or anything because the water wasn't that deep. It saved me because it kept my head above the water (for the most part) when I would mess up and get dragged. The few times I didn't wear a life vest I had some pretty uncomfortable falls. It may look dorky, but you won't be wearing it forever. Speaking of looking dorky...
Consider wearing a SCUBA mask (seriously)
Wearing a SCUBA mask while learning to kite is a great conversation piece. If conversation means being made fun of! I started wearing a SCUBA mask on my second lesson with the board because when I would fall, it would take me too long to get the water out of my eyes and nose, and the kite would dive and I wouldn't be able to keep it flying.
Wearing the SCUBA mask meant that I could fall and get right back up with out coughing, blowing water out of my nose, and rubbing my eyes. Unfortunately it also meant I wasn't able to protect my eyes from the UV rays, but I pretty much had no choice. I won't wear them forever, duh, but just as long as I need to feel confident. For those of you who have no issue with water in your face (I'm looking at you surfers) then forget this stupid piece of advice.
Choose a shop that gives free or cheap rentals to graduates
As soon as you're independent, you're going to want to practice without your instructor and kite a ton. Renting gear can get expensive while you're figuring out what to buy. We've seen numerous Kite schools that give heavy discounts or a number of free rentals if you went through their program. This is gold!
Don't give up!
Dude, kitesurfing is hard! You'll probably spend a few hours with wind theory, and then maybe one, two, three or even 5 days learning the kite without the board. Don't rush this part, you'll be practicing the safety stuff, including critical skills like self-rescue.
One of our instructors said,
I could not agree more. I thought I'd have an advantage learning to kite after years of skydiving, but it's so incredibly different. I'm sure I picked it up a little quicker than most, but found it very confusing trying to understand how to navigate the wind-window (something not applicable in skydiving) when flying a parachute is so intuitive to me.
Don't give up. Don't give up. Don't give up. Kite surfing is so rewarding!