Zandvoort, Holland, my first season working as a Kitesurfing Instructor. I’m an Italian guy, not yet in my thirties, at the time of the global economic recession. I just refused a Permanent employment and choose to venture to the Netherlands.
My good friend Marco has just moved to Holland and works as a Kite Instructor at a big sports center, on a crowded beach half an hour from Amsterdam. He knew that I wanted to change my life and so offered me a job for the season, and I accepted without overthinking it. I quit my job and 10 days later, I’m already there.
Why not start my new career in the best way: with a Gaffe!
At that time, I just took only the first part of the instructor course from IKO (International Kiteboarding Organization), actually a pre-course of three days to get the qualification of “Assistant Instructor”.
On crowded spots during the high seasons, instructors are never enough, and therefore I was called in as reinforcement. I had already given some lessons during the IKO pre-course, but only in Italian and always assisted by my Tutor. So I follow Marco on a “shadowing lesson” to get ready to teach in English. [A “shadowing lesson” is a lesson in which a junior instructor follows an experienced one to observe his methods. Or, alternatively, a senior instructor can “shadow” to make sure that everything said and done during the lesson is correct].
I feel ready.
My First Kitesurf Lesson as an Instructor
At the reception of the center, they introduce me to my first students: a German couple on holiday. I give them all the equipment for the lesson (wetsuit, harness, helmet, lifejacket, Lycra shirt) and after they dressed up, we walk down to the beach. After some theory and some first exercises with a trainer kite, we move on to an explanation on how to set up the actual kite sail.
I’m always surprised when the students do not expect that the kite has to be inflated: the shape of the kite is maintained by the inner latex tubes called “bladders” (basically giant condoms), inflated by a double action pump. There are also “foil” kites on the market, very similar to paragliders, but rarely used for lessons.
How much do have I to pump?
A very common question from students is how much the Kite should be inflated. Pumping the Kite takes a little bit of effort in pressing and pulling up and down the handle of the pump for a few minutes, until the Kite is ready for use.
The couple is setting up the Kite as I explained, the girl starts inflating and, predictably enough, asks me:
“How much should I pump it?”
I launch myself into a thorough explanation of how much the bladders are the “skeleton of the kite” and urge her to inflate it well, so that it won’t deform while in flight:
“It must be HARD! Squeeze it with your hand, can you feel it’s soft? You want it to be Hard! Keep pumping it… Now touch it, can you feel it’s Hard now? “
The girl can’t help it and starts laughing out loud, right in front of me.
Since that time, I permanently replaced the word “hard” with “firm”.
A Tip for Junior Kite instructors
If you decide to become a Kitesurfing instructor, your aim is to travel the world while kiting, and certainly not to get rich or have a permanent guaranteed job. So do not fossilize on the same spot and move!
It will happen that you have to give lessons in foreign languages (English being the main one of course). Do not improvise but prepare your lessons in advance, so that they are fluid. Prepare a speech, learn the glossary of the technical terms in the language you need, and think about the questions you might be asked.
It worked very well for me to watch some French Kite lessons on YouTube to prepare my lessons.
When I was hired in Fuerteventura, it was because I wrote on my resume that I could speak French, which is true, but I had never given Kite lessons in French before and didn’t know the technical terms. So I prepared my lessons in advance and it went smooth all summer long.
Till date, the place in the World where I spoke the most in French therefore remains Spain.
One of the videos I whatched to prepare mysel to teach Kitesurfing in French. Merci, Logan!
Follow One Launch kiteboarding on YouTube (also in English).
Normally during lessons, students are thought how to pump the Kite slightly less on very hot places to prevent the kite from exploding because of the inner air expanding due to the heat. Honestly, all the kites I’ve seen exploding in the air blew up as a result of their general conditions (especially age) rather than internal pressure.
Truth is that the Kite must be firm in order for it to maintain its shape in the air and relaunch easily from the water. Pump your Kite slightly less if you know that you risk crashing it, because you’re still learning or want to try new tricks.
The fanciest kite pumps dispose of a little pressure gauge, you can refer to the area marked in green for pumping your kite.
Watch out if you use a compressor, do not over-inflate and do not press the nozzle too hard on the sail to avoid damaging the internal bladder.
For several years now, modern kites are equipped with a convenient“one pump” systems that allow one to inflate all the bladders of the kite simultaneously through a single valve. If they try to sell you a Kite which requires the struts to be inflated one by one, it’s probably a petty old model.
Legendary Dimitri from Epic Kiteboarding seems to agree with me about pressure in this video but, unlike me, he keeps using the word “hard”.
Sometimes you change
After 5 years working as a Kitesurfing Instructor during summer and Snowboarding Instructor during winter, my dear friend Marco has become a resident in Holland and is now a mogul in the vape and electronic cigarettes business.
If you like vaping, find his ecigs store here:
He became a great entrepreneur, so that he recently also opened his own kite shop:
(Marco, you owe me drink …)