If you missed the first part of this blog series, have a read over “Learning to Kite in Tobago – Part 1”. If you’ve been desperately creeping the blog hoping for the continuation, this is your lucky day! In the last post, I talked a bit about the island of Tobago and the best place to find kiting friends, Radical Sports Tobago. This time, it’s all about the ride. Here’s a synopsis of my kitesurfing trip in Tobago with pros and cons listed below.
1. It’s Windy, Wait, No It’s Not
The wind was very unpredictable, and particularly gusty. Apparently, the wind would come from over land most of the time which tends to creates pockets of highs and lows, and sometimes nos. One moment I would feel completely overpowered by howling gusts, and the next minute the kite would drop out of the sky, and I would spend entire downwind sessions watching the kite flop from one side to the next, as I tried to relaunch it from the water.
PROS: Kite control, kite control, kite control. When you can’t control the kite, you spend all of your time learning how. As a beginner, that’s incredibly important. Plus, I spent what seemed like countless hours practicing relaunching my kite from the water, which is another very valuable skill.
CONS: Dealing with unpredictable winds is frustrating for any kiter, but utterly maddening when you are a beginner. It’s like learning to ride a horse with a blindfold on… you’re anticipating the worse, hoping for the best, and you’ll probably want to stop before you really hurt yourself. I was bruised and rattled after day 1, but thankfully on day 2 and 3, winds were a little more consistent.
2. Stand or Slam in Shallow Water
Shallow, clear water is just off the shore of Pigeon Point beach which is bordered by a nice reef break not too far out.
PROS: The shallow water was a nice change from Barbados when practicing basic skills. A little less scary than practicing on land where more serious injuries can easily happen after some bad maneuvering. And, I did enjoy having solid ground to stand on when trying to relaunch my kite when it would randomly fall out of the sky. It’s much better than being dragged by currents while you try to relaunch.
CONS: When I would get up on the board and lose control, shallow reef water was not convenient anymore, it was terrifying. One particular launch off my board sent me flying and I landed pretty hard on my foot, hitting the firm sand below. My ankle was a bit tender, but nothing major happened. I felt very lucky that it wasn’t reef.
3. Multiple Long Practice Runs: Priceless.
For those taking kitesurfing lessons at Radical Sports Tobago, downwind sessions are part of the package. For experienced kiters, you can pay a nominal fee to have a boat take you upwind, so you can enjoy a good long down-winder.
PROS: This was by far the best part of my experience of learning to kitesurf in Tobago. My instructor, Nigel, and I would hop in a small fishing boat, and head upwind, a few kilometers away from shore. It was the ideal distance where I would be able to consistently practice getting up on the board. Long sessions with an instructor following me around in boat (and offering the occasional board delivery) was really great for making the most out of each lesson. It was also nice to have my instructor close by offering tips after each ride. It sure beats trying to hear a whistle or to understand some foreign sign language from what appears to be a raving ant on the beach.
CONS: There are none. If it’s too long, if you get frustrated, or hurt, or whatever, your instructor is always there, and so is the boat.
4. Randomness of Patience and Party Boats
Calm instruction goes a long way, and apparently so do the party boats on the way to No Man’s Land, a popular BBQ beach spot.
PROS: I cannot speak highly enough about my instructor, Nigel at Radical Sports Tobago. He was very experienced, very encouraging, and probably the most patient instructor I have yet to meet. When I was reaching my wits end and slowly entering meltdown mode, he would calmly utter a few words of advice, and complete the sentence with ‘ok, let’s go’ or something to suggest, it’s time to get at it again. That was enough for me stay grounded in moments of complete frustration. I probably would never have pushed myself as hard as I did if it wasn’t for his cool and calm instructions.
CONS: Unless I am on a party boat, I don’t particularly like having them nearby when learning to kite. Mostly on weekends, glass-bottom boats loaded with tourists and locals would often pass through the kiting area on their way to a popular snorkel and beach barbecue spot on the distant shore. Although the fans of onlookers made me feel like a warrior on display, battling winds and rising to the occasional victory ride, I could have done without the potential hazard.
Go Experience the Bago Vibz
Overall, learning to kitesurf in Tobago was great, battle bruises included. It was three days of consistent kitesurf practice, and I needed it. I came back to Barbados much stronger than I was before, and felt far more confident riding the wavier aqua-terrain. Although the winds can be gusty in Tobago, varying wind conditions will teach you a lot of other must-knows which will benefit you in any kiting location. I highly recommend Tobago as a kiting spot for beginners as well as experienced kiters, and will definitely be going back to experience those ‘Bago Vibz’.