Rule #1 when you’re learning kite surfing: when it gets challenging, too strong or scary, just let go of the bar. The bar is how you steer and control the kite flying above you, this fabric and lines that captures the incredible power of the wind and propels you forward with it. It takes practice to be comfortable and consistent in manoeuvring the kite well, and in the meantime you’re making mistakes and getting thrown around by the force of the wind. The first thing you learn is the golden rule of kiting: when it gets to be too much and too strong, all you have to do is let go of the bar.
When you let go of the bar, releasing it away from your body, the lines slacken and the kite loses its force and comes back down to the ground (or water). It’s still attached to you so you won’t lose it, but you are safe and you can’t get pulled, as the kite no longer has any power over you. You can take a breath… and try again.
It is this release, this surrender in light of ‘too much’ that first attracted me to kite-surfing.
You see, I’ve noticed in myself that when I get scared and when I panic in real life, my natural reaction is to bring my panic closer to my body, to bring my stress back into myself. In the world of kite surfing this would be the equivalent of bringing the bar closer to you instead of away from you when the kite feels unstable. This is disastrous because in this way you tighten the lines and give the kite more, not less, strength…and that’s when things get super crazy and the kite spins completely out of control, taking you along with it for a hellish ride. In this panic you can easily hurt yourself, and you endanger other people and kite-surfers in the water with you.
In a moment of ‘too much’ in kite-surfing when you react with more fear, tension and closing in on your body, you only create more trouble, give more strength to the kite and end up falling flat on your face. Instead of freaking out when it gets too tough, you just have to let go.
This past June I really freaked out when my own life got to feel like ‘too much’ and my plans and projects in Haiti came shattering down. I reacted by applying more tension on the events and ended up putting even more stress and pain in my life and in the lives of those affected by my decisions. The result was a sudden and dramatic departure from Haiti, and many weeks of healing and reconciliation with myself just to be able to breathe again. I could have let go, I could have ‘released the bar’, but I reacted with panic and fear instead. This did not serve me at all.
Of course I’ve known about letting go and surrender for a long time and I did my best to apply the theory to my life. But it also really helped to feel this ‘letting go’ directly in my body as I went through the kite-surfing course, learned, screwed up and then had to release the bar. The ten-ish hours I’ve spent on the beach this past week learning kite-surfing has shown me time and time again, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that releasing in times of fear and panic is the only safe and sane thing to do. If you don’t you’re likely to not only hurt yourself but you can also easily hurt and scare others. Just like back in June. Just like well… so many other situations in life.
Right now, it is irrelevant whether or not I continue working in Haiti in the future, just like it’s irrelevant whether or not I continue kite-surfing. What matters is that in this moment, in order to release the pressure of ‘too much’, I learned to completely let go. So that I can take a deep breath, come back to centre and… start again.
That being said, kite-surfing is a pretty sweet sport. With my instructor’s voice in my ears ‘suave’, ‘despacio’ and ‘suelta la barra’ ringing in my ears, my appreciation of kite-surfing and of its golden rule grows stronger every day. Plus, it’s an amazing workout and you get to hang out on the beach and in the water – what’s not to love?
As an aside, if you’re ever in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, look up Aryen of AGK: www.AGKiteboarding.com He’s a great teacher and professional and also has tons of experience teaching kids. And when you do, don’t forget to tell him that you already know about the golden rule of kite-surfing… at least, in theory :-)