In all the years I’ve been in the sport, I’ve seen many different types of instructors. Don’t be fooled by gawdy displays of gear ow showmanship on the water. Your instructor, first and foremost, needs to be a communicator. They need to have put a lot of thought into how to keep you safe and how to communicate a set of skills. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk of injury and at risk of wasting time and money. At the minimum, your instructor has to have the following:
1) Your instructor needs to have a way of retrieving you in the water should your kite go down. Boat, jetski, paddleboard, etc…
It’s sad, but most kiteboarding instructors teach off the beach. If you stay close, there’s no safety issue. If your kite goes down, you can swim it back or they can swim to you. But should you go 100 yards or more off the beach, it can be a safety issue. You may get blown further out and may be risking your safety. This type of instruction limits your ability to travel in the water with the kite since the emphasis is staying close – not on developing skills. Traveling with the kite is the point of kiteboarding. The beach instructor will want you to stay close so they don’t have to swim after you. Choose an instructor who has a way of retrieving you in the water and a system for doing it efficiently and safely.
2) Your instructor needs to be able to communicate with you when you are more than 50 yards away.
Ever watch a kiteboarding lesson where the instructor is yelling at the student? Most instructors do this. The fact is, if you are attached to a kite, it’s going to pull you away from your instructor as you are practicing a skill. You drift 3-4 miles an hour when the kite is in neutral, and much faster when the kite is powered up. What happens to the lesson once you travel beyond earshot of the instructor? Lesson over. You aren’t being adjusted for the mistakes you make, you might as well be out there on your own. Anything can happen. It’s now up to you, regardless of your skills, to return to the beach with no instruction – without hurting you or other people. I’ve seen instructors swimming in the water for 45 minutes after their students on windy days. At Boston Kite School we use radio helmets to communicate with you while the kite is pulling you. This not only means you will learn the sport faster, it means you will know your instructor will talk to you to help you return to the beach.
3) Your instructor needs to have a lesson plan – ask for it
Too many times students spend money on lessons only to be faced with a “whatever” style lesson. An instructor shows up with some gear and no real plan. Very little is learned without a lesson plan since there is no achievable list of skills. Good teaching requires an instructor to have a lesson plan based on measurable benchmarks. They need to breakdown each benchmark into mini-skills. They need to model each mini-skill. They need to observe you performing the mini-skill .They need to evaluate your performance of the mini-skill. Ask your instructor for a lesson plan before you sign up.
4) Your instructor needs to be insured
Stuff happens in kiteboarding. If you land your kite on someone in the water and they sue, do you want to be dragged into a lawsuit? Make sure your instructor is insured.
5) Your instructor needs to be certified by a recognized world or national organization such as PASA or IKO.
Not only that, your instructor needs to have their lesson plan approve by this organization. PASA and IKO exist to standardize methods of instruction, to ensure safety, and to protect access to the sport. Going through and passing a certification program means your instructor took the time to become a professional in the sport. They took the time to learn a system of teaching which has been proven to work.
Asking the tough questions of your instructor up front means you will save time, money, and be safer during your lesson.