Everything about today fills me with a sense of dread. I am a poor swimmer, I have no upper body strength and I am afraid of heights. Yet here I am, sitting in a car park in Beadnell bay waiting for Kevin Anderson. He’s going to teach me how to kitesurf.
I’ve only seen kitesurfing once. It was in Brighton and a muscular James Bond type was skimming through choppy waters, bouncing off the crests and being lifted to almost impossible heights. At one point, he went over the pier. I recall screaming as he did it. And here I am, a 44-year-old woman with a midriff so doughy you could lose a small handbag in it.
Only two things are skipping through my brain – “Help Me, Help Me Now” and “How Can I Get Out Of This?” But of course, I can’t get out of this and as Kevin zooms up in his snazzy van and steps out, grinning, I bite the bullet and take the wetsuit and rubber boots he’s handed me. I learn one immutable fact immediately – pulling on a slightly damp wetsuit is so unbelievably exhausting that 15 minutes later, I am lying on the floor and on the verge of tears. I crawl out from the changing room and, breathless, gesture towards my back. “Can you do me up?” I pant, towards Kevin.
Kevin takes one long look at me. “Oh no, Pickle,” he says, lifting a hand to his mouth. “You’ve put it on inside out.”
So back I crawl, take 10 minutes trying to get it off and then take another 10 minutes trying to get it back on again. My arms are drained of strength and I’ve lost the will to live. I am so wiped out I’ve had to ask Kevin for a glass of water. And we have not even got to the beach!
How I am not in tears by now is beyond me. I’ll be honest — my wetsuit ordeal has been so intense that if I don’t receive some sort of National Award for Bravery I shall be umbraged beyond belief. All the same, I have sucked it up and am now standing with life preserver over my chest, helmet on my head and a harness around my nether regions. Bring on the terror.
Kevin, who has not stopped laughing since I arrived, has given me a one-metre kite to get used to. It’s on two lines and we stand, on the sand, as he teaches me about the “wind window”, how the kite catches the power and why and when the kite hits neutral and stalls. It’s much, much harder than I anticipated but after about half an hour, Kevin thinks I’ve progressed sufficiently to move up to a six-metre kite.
This is a different prospect altogether. There are four lines, the front of the kite is inflated and it’s so powerful it’s attached to my harness by a thick rope. Kevin stands behind me and helps me get used to using the long bar that controls the direction of the kite. He holds his hands over mine on the bar until he thinks I’m used to it and then, when he thinks I’m ready, he lets go. It’s like that moment your dad takes off your stabilisers on your bike and you’re either going to ride or fall. The kite arches upwards. I pull the bar to the left and bring the kite into the power zone. It veers down and as it fills with wind, I suddenly feel its strength.
It’s breathtaking. I am dragged about 50ft across the beach. I am screaming every inch of the way. And I can’t lie. It feels amazing.
I get to be dragged hither and thither by that kite for the next two hours. I love every minute of it and Kevin is not only the most wonderful teacher, but he takes his top off too.
Having begun the day terrified I am ending it genuinely fired up and giving serious consideration to taking this up as a sport.
There’s only one downside. I have to take the wetsuit off.
• Kitesurfing makes its first appearance as an Olympic sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The kitesurfing lesson was provided by KA Kitesurfing (07766 303876, kitesurfinglessons.co.uk). A three-hour land-based course costs ?65, a one-day course costs ?99. Accommodation was provided by the Boathouse near Norham (01573 226711, crabreeandcrabtree.com), which sleeps five and costs from ?1,300 a week
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