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Celebrating 10 Years of Kitesurfing

Ten years ago, I stepped out onto a beach in Koh Phangan, Thailand, and took my first kitesurfing lesson.

This sport has gifted me a lot over the years. When you are on the water, there is a solitary calmness that feels like an active meditation. It’s a great place to gather your thoughts and recharge.

Yet kitesurfing is the opposite of solitary; everywhere you go, you make friends and meet interesting new people. There is always a positive, excited and happy vibe around the kitesurfing beaches.

Over the years, I have made friends for life, travelled and experienced new places in the world, pushed my fitness and physical limits, and got into a few dangerous situations… and my passion for kitesurfing is stronger than ever!

Please indulge me as I take a stroll down memory lane…

2013 – Learning to Kitesurf

I was staying at Awe Resort, and every day I could see the colourful kites in the sky from my balcony. I had already decided I wanted to learn this new sport, and so I went for it.

Down on the beach, I met Dani V at his kitesurf school Breeze Kiteboarding and booked my lessons.

After my lessons at Breeze Kiteboarding and a few weeks of practice, I was fully hooked on kitesurfing.

A few weeks later, I was upwinding and felt confident despite putting a kite into a tree. I was addicted, and this was the start of an adventure.

Dani was the reason I took to this sport so well. I was inspired to start learning when I first saw him riding on the water, but it was his enthusiasm, positivity, and love for life that gave me the drive to keep progressing.

We would become very close friends over the years as I kept coming back to Koh Phangan for the wind seasons. Together we made many trips, stories, and memories… and there are many more to come!

Dani V kiting with style in Koh Phangan – February 2013

2013 – My First Kite: North Vegas

After leaving Thailand in March 2013, I was already planning a trip back. When I arrived in Koh Phangan in July, my new kite awaited me.

In hindsight, it wasn’t the ideal kite for a beginner. The North Vegas is focused on wakestyle tricks, and I was nowhere near that level yet.

But still, I loved this kite, and it served me well as I travelled around the world to try new different kite spots.

2014 – Back to Koh Phangan

After the winter started in England, I was back on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand.

I now had all my own gear, a good foundation in kitesurfing, and great friends to share the experience with. It was time to start progressing, and I attempted my first small, basic jumps.

Three months in Koh Phangan went by in a flash, with the days spent on the water and the nights relaxing with massages, partying in the bars, eating spicy food in restaurants, and the occasional hippy ceremony.

One year after learning, I started to feel confident enough to kitesurf in different spots around the world.

2014 – Cold Weather Kitesurfing

Back home in Blackpool, England, we have great wind and water conditions for kitesurfing. There is just one problem; it’s bitterly cold.

I picked up a new wetsuit and took the opportunity to get some hours on the water. At the time, the nearby town Fleetwood had a kite club, and we could warm up with cups of tea and hot showers.

Kitesurfing in the Irish Sea, at the mouth of the River Wyre off the coast of Fleetwood in April 2014

I missed the warmer waters of South East Asia and, by September 2014, I was back in Thailand and Vietnam.

2014 – Another Trip to Koh Phangan, Thailand

Later in 2014, I would visit the most famous kite spot in Vietnam… but first, I had a few weeks back in Phangan. The lack of kitesurfing photos in my albums tells me that there wasn’t much wind.

Fortunately, there are many more things to do in Koh Phangan, and I filled the time playing for the local football team, paddleboarding, eating fresh crab and a little partying.

2014 – Exploring Mũi Né, Vietnam

And so, in October 2014, I was on my way to Mũi Né to try a completely new kitesurfing spot. After a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, I took a cramped overnight sleeper bus and arrived to stay two weeks at Fleur De Vie Bungalows.

This kitesurfing spot was a new challenge. The choppy waters, small beach, and strong shore break made it difficult initially.

I kited from C2Sky Kiteschool and was instantly welcomed by Liz and the team. It was my first taste of luxury at a kite spot – every day, my kite was pumped and set up, launched, cleaned and put away by the friendly beach boys.

It was here that I started to learn a few basic tricks – back rolls and simple jumps – thanks to some tips from professional kitesurfer Lewis Crathern.

The first time I saw or heard of kitesurfing was when Lewis jumped over Brighton Pier and made it into a documentary. The seeds had been planted then for me to try this sport, and now I had met the guy who had inspired me from a distance.

2015 – Progressing Jumps and Tricks in Koh Phangan

By February 2015, I was back in Koh Phangan and, by now, had started getting confident with jumps and simple tricks.

Occasionally a photographer will show up on the beach, and it’s always a good chance to do some showing off.

On a solid wind day this season, we up-winded across the roughly 30km channel from Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. It was something I had wanted to do since learning – it was a great feeling of freedom to be able to hop across to another island using just the wind.

When the wind drops, there are always plenty more things to do on the island. During this year, we explored the island on Stand Up Paddleboards and took trips around the local islands.

One of the best things about kitesurfing – you meet friendly and positive people everywhere you go. The kitesurfing community is strong, fun-loving and welcoming.

It took a while for the swelling to go down after leaving the hospital.

2015 – The First Kitesurfing Accident

While in Phangan in March 2015, I caught the bottom of my foot on a piece of coral. It was a small wound, but it didn’t heal. The cut must have been deep because it landed me in the hospital with a serious infection.

I had the cut for two or three weeks before my leg swelled up, and I felt pain in my groin. The last thing I remember was being on the beach and feeling faint, and when my awareness came back, I was in a hospital bed with doctors and nurses fussing around me.

Fortunately, after three days of intravenous antibiotics, I was fit enough to leave the hospital. The fatigue stayed with me for several weeks afterwards, but I felt fortunate.

I learned some good lessons; always keep cuts clean, get any Coral out of a wound (it’s full of bacteria), and stay out of the water if in any doubt.

This also taught me to slow down a little bit; I had been playing a lot of football, kitesurfing, hiking and pushing my body to the limits. As I recovered, I sat under the tree and watched the old man flying his small kite.

I hadn’t noticed him much before, but he was there every windy day to play with his kite for an hour or so. He loved that simple hobby, and it reminded me that you can find something special in the small things.

2015 – A Trip to Boracay

In October 2015, I took my first trip to Boracay Island in The Philippines. It’s a beautiful, tiny, and windy place with a strange mix of high-end tourism and adventure-seeking kitesurfers.

Boracay is a tiny island and only 7km from north to south. In just 10 minutes, you can walk from the kitesurfing Bulabog beach in the east to the glorious turquoise water of White Beach in the west.

I stayed in a beautiful apartment inside Palassa Residences on Bulabog Beach. The wind is strong, and the Filipino people are sweet and friendly. This wouldn’t be my last trip to Boracay.

2015 – Back to Mũi Né and Phangan

After Boracay, I stopped again in Mũi Né, Vietnam, before finishing my trip with a short stay back in Koh Phangan.

Here in Mũi Né, I joined my first competition in the big air category, and after tangled lines on the beach, I managed only a couple of jumps and finished around the middle. Still, it was a good experience and a great day on the beach.

2016 – I Can’t Stay Away from Koh Phangan

The end of January 2016 took me back to Koh Phangan, and I returned again in September 2016 to catch some more wind and island vibes.

During this year, I started teaching and sharing my passion for the sport with others.

2017 – Kite Anywhere, Kite Everywhere

I returned to Koh Phangan in early 2017 and then took to the water in Dominican Republic, Mauritius, Miami and Egypt.

During my trip to Thailand, I spent a week in Hua Hin during the high wind season.. but fell on some bad luck, I didn’t get a single day of wind, and my kite gear stayed in the bag.

I got plenty of hours on the water this year, but it, unfortunately, ended badly with a serious knee injury on the football pitch.

2018 – The Knee Injury

In December 2017, the ACL ligament in my right knee popped during a bad challenge on the football pitch. I knew straight away what had happened, as I had gone through this 12 years previously.

The scans showed a full ACL tear and Meniscus damage. After the initial frustration, I focused down on the recovery and set my goals. I would undergo surgery in May 2018 and aim to be back on the water in February 2019.

2019 – A Return to Kitesurfing

I pushed hard through the physio and fitness work, and thanks to my physio Jamie Murphy and fitness trainer Katerina I was back to light snowboarding on 11th Jan 2019.

Getting back to sports brought fear. I didn’t want to go through that again, and I didn’t want to damage my knee beyond repair. I built my confidence slowly, pushed through the doubts, and I was soon back to full fitness.

On 22nd February 2019, I was back kitesurfing on the water.

My first session back kitesurfing on 22nd February 2019

2019 – Breeze Boys on Tour in Sri Lanka

In June 2019, we took our first overseas tour as Breeze Kitesurfing Club to Sri Lanka. It was hit and miss if we would go – the country was in turmoil with recent bombings, and we waited to make a last-minute decision.

When we arrived, it fell into place perfectly – the country was quiet, the wind was strong, and we had 10 days of daily kitesurfing together.

On our first day, we almost lost one of our team, Jæger, to the offshore winds and unfamiliar territory. We vowed to look out for each other more, and the rest of the trip went mostly without events.

We spent our days on the water and our sunsets relaxing with a refreshing beer or two. Every day was a glorious groundhog day.

A reminder to stay switched on at all times.

I did, however, come close to a serious accident during a downwind session to Vela Island. I recklessly overtook my friend Bay who was struggling with seaweed in the water, and briefly caught his kite line across my throat as it swung across to me.

This was a wake-up call to take safety seriously. It is an extreme sport with risk, but we can minimise it by always respecting the sport and staying cautious.

By the end of my trip to Sri Lanka, I felt super fit, jumped 9.4m (a personal best) and was so exhausted I slept all the way home on both of my flights.

I was most happy that my knee had held up great during this trip – I only took one day off from the water during the ten-day trip.

2019 – Kitesurfing in Barbados

I ended 2019 with a quick trip to Barbados and another kite spot. There was only time for one day and a few hours on the water, but I made the most of it and ticked off another kite spot from my list.

2020 – Koh Phangan Before Covid

By the time I made my way back to Thailand in early 2020, the Covid pandemic was well underway.

We didn’t take it seriously then. Everyone was wearing masks, but this was typical in Asia. We had seen other potential pandemics (SARs etc.) come and fade away.. and we thought it would be the same.

After drinking Coronas in Bangkok, I made my way down to Koh Phangan, and everything was normal at first. Then we started to get the feeling this might not blow over so quickly.

By March 2020, I had a decision to make. The borders had closed, and flights back home to England were being cancelled. I initially decided to stay in Koh Phangan and see this out in paradise, but an announcement by our Prime Minister voided my travel insurance, and it was time to make my way home.

Travelling home was surreal. The ferry from Koh Phangan was full and completely silent. Nobody was talking or even looking at each other.

In Bangkok, I had never seen Suvarnabhumi Airpot so quiet, except for the crowd at a single check-in desk who were desperately trying to get their hands on tickets.

I negotiated my flight home and picked up a rental car in London to drive back to Blackpool. It looked like the world had been abandoned as I drove down endless quiet motorways without seeing any other traffic.

Arriving back home, I felt like time was standing still. It signalled the start of a “slowing down” that would last for a couple of years.

2021 – Tenerife and Fuerteventura

During over a year of on-and-off lockdowns in England, I didn’t kitesurf once. I had settled into work and a slower life while the world paused for breath.

In June 2021, I would finally get back on the water in Tenerife, where the wind was pumping at 30+ knots. I would manage just a single day of kitesurfing here and focused instead on exploring the rest of the island.

The volcanic, windy beaches of Tenerife

Later in the year, we took a trip to Fuerteventura, which apparently translates as “Strong Wind”. I am not sure I believe that, as we had two weeks there with barely a day of rideable wind.

2022 – A Strangely Quiet Thailand

By early 2022, the world was starting to open up fully, and it was finally feasible to get back to Thailand with minimum quarantines.

I booked my trip, did all my planning, and I was on my way. After a few days in a “Sandbox Hotel”, I was back on the beach in Phangan and reunited with old friends.

I picked up my kitesurfing again and refreshed my quiver. I was now the proud owner of a Duotone Evo 11m and a Duotone Juice 15m. These two kites would see me through to breaking my jump records and progressing tricks.

For this season, I sponsored a few kites for Breeze Kiteboarding, and the logo of my app FreshStore shows bright and proud on the white sails.

The island was unusually quiet during this time. It was clear that the world had not yet woken back up, and there was a deep peace around Koh Phangan. I spent time exploring meditation classes and ice baths and saw a different side of the island.

The wind season was hit and miss this year, and I extended my trip into April to catch a few more days on the water… but I couldn’t stay forever, and it was time to get back to England for new adventures.

2023 – Back to Boracay, Phillipines

While 2022 was quiet in Thailand, 2023 would be the opposite. I struggled to plan my trip and couldn’t find any suitable accommodation in Koh Phangan. Eventually, I decided to return to Boracay in The Philippines.

It was sad not to see my friends in Thailand, but it was a good decision for my kitesurfing as the wind blows here almost every day during the season. I spent over 25 days on the water and felt my riding progress.

I broke my jump height record a few times, finally hitting 10.7m. It isn’t impressive when you compare it to the local record of 20.5m or the world record of over 30m.. but, for me, this feels like a big achievement.

I spent half my time here kiting from Funboard with Hendrick, Simone and Andy and half my time with Padayon with William and the crew. Both spots are great to kitesurf from for different reasons, with Funboard being a great place to practice for beginners and Padyan having a great vibe, lots of activity and a place to meet and make friends.

The main kitesurf spot is Bulabog Beach, and every day it is alive with activity. There are plenty of schools, good vibes, and a nice shallow bay to enjoy. It can be a challenge for beginners – there are always many kites on the water, and the sea urchins are plenty.

After 6 weeks in Boracay, I was sad to be going home and thought about extending the trip a bit longer. But leaving a place before you are ready is always good, so you have the excitement to return.

An End and a Beginning

As my time in Boracay comes to an end, so does my article reflecting on 10 years of kitesurfing. If you made it this far, congratulations, and I really appreciate you reading through.

I wrote this post mostly for myself to reflect on the journey kitesurfing has taken me on. Yet this feels like just the beginning. There are many more kite spots to ride, tricks to learn, people to meet, and records to break.

I want to end this post by expressing my appreciation to everyone I have met and connected with during my time kitesurfing. A special mention goes to my good friend Dani V who introduced me to this sport, taught me a deep appreciation for life, and still inspires me to this day.

With our traditional Valentines Day shirts

Drop me a comment if you liked this post – I would love to hear from you ❤️🪁🏄‍♂️

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2 Comments

  1. That was a nice journey, Carry) You were that guy who inspired me to learn it and one day I will kitesurf as well as you do) Wish you many more great adventures and new achievement ❤

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