Gemma and I arrived in Mui Ne with sore legs and sore bums after a 6 hour motorbike ride from Delat (more on that later). Mui Ne turned out to be probably the windiest place I have ever been (and I've visited Wellington on many occasions) and deservedly the Kite Surfing capital of Viet Nam.
Given that I've sailed for few years, had a the occasional windsurfing lesson and I'm never one to turn down a new experience or activity, I decided, with (as it turned out, unjustified) confidence, to give this kite-surfing lark a go. The lessons started out simple enough, we began on the beach learning the basics of controlling the kite, moving it back and forward through the "wind window" and understanding where the power was generated from.
|From Viet Nam|
Once I had some of the basics in hand the instructor took us out into the water, initially with me holding onto the back of his harness, then me with the kite by myself. The first action in the water didn't involve a board at all, just learning to "body drag", where you use the kite for power and your body as a rudder to manouver yourself upwind, followed by running the kite in a figure 8 to drag yourself downwind (used to provide power when actually on the board). None of this was terribly difficult and despite drinking about 3/4 of the South China Sea, I was happily comming to grips with the basics. Next on the agenda was body dragging with the board in hand and learning to recover the board by heading upwind to fetch it. Oddly enough, if the board ends up more than about a foot behind you (upwind), you can't reach for it as you will probably lose control of the kite and drop it in the water (or worse).
|From Viet Nam|
|From Viet Nam|
After 4 hours I was ready to try and get up on the board. The instructor happily informed that this part (which is the hardest) is the bit that can't really be taught, it is mostly feel, especially with regards to amount of power needed to get your body out of the water. Feeling just a little nervous I headed toward the water to give it a shot. Getting out of the water involves moving the kite gently in one direction, then dipping hard back in the other direction to generate the power to lift your body out of the water and start surfing. I had a good few attempts without success, so my instructor called me back in and informed me that wasn't really giving it enough power, before sending me out for one final run. So I headed back out and dragged myself to an appropriate spot, lined up the kite downwind and pulled the board onto my feet. I took a couple of deep breaths and moved the kite out to the right then back hard to the left, unfortunately a little too hard, well actually a lot too hard and the kite lauched me clear of the water. My board instantly came off my feet as I flew face first back into the drink with enough force to rip the helmet off my head and open up the clips and zipper on my life jacket! Feeling a little roughed up and a slightly deflated at not being able actually get up on the board, I dragged myself back to the shore and after 5 hours decided to call it quits.
I chatted briefly to the other instructors and found out that most people tend to spread their lessons over a few days (5 hours in a single day is pushing it) and generally don't get up on the board until about 7 hours, so I reckon I did okay. I think I'll probably give it another go when I get back to the UK.