Rolling IKO-Kiteboarding-Instructor

In June 2019 I had the pleasure to be the first wheelchair user with spinal cord injury to participate at an IKO Kiteboarding Instructor Course.

Deutsch: Rollender IKO-Kitesurf-Lehrer

It finally happened … a successful participation at an IKO Kiteboarding Instructor Course. As I had to cancel my first attempt due to private reasons, the organizers kindly gave me the opportunity to repeat the course. This time I managed to stay until the end.

Let’s start at the beginning

After I heard that there would be a kiteboarding instructor course on Tenerife, I knew I had to seize that chance. A certificate of the IKO could be really useful for my future plans to organize adapted kiteboarding events. That I’d be the first attendee to use a wheelchair in everyday life, did admittedly boost my motivation even more.

A group of people with 2 IKO flags. One of the group is a wheelchair user.
After a nice breakfast the crew was ready to get going.

So at the first day of the workshop at 9am sharp I arrived at the doors of Sognicanarias, the organizing kiteboarding school. But before it should kick off, the whole crew enjoyed a nice breakfast with everything one could be wishing for. The perfect beginning of trainer course … easy cheesy with fresh croissants.

From dusk till dawn … reversed

On hindsight the course itself was not as easy cheesy. 10 days from 9am to 6pm, one hour lunch break. In the evenings, instead of croissants, we would get some homework and learning to do. Conclusion: Already at around 10pm I would mostly find myself lying half dead in my bed.

To be in class on time, my alarm usually rang at 6:15 in the morning. One or the other of the seated folk will probably be able to sympathize with that … a little extra time for the bathroom visit in the morning never hurts.

Coffee and sand

A second coffee right before the first theory session of the day should help my brain to get going. From aerodynamics over meteorology to didactic details, we basically covered everything a kiteboarders heart desires or might be overstrained by. After a short lunchbreak (and a third coffee) the workshop would continue on the beach. With real kiteboarding-students it was now time to put the theoretical knowledge into practice. It was mainly this part that caused difficulties for our trainer Max as well as for me. Although with the support of the whole crew I could somehow reach our training site on the beach, I from then on could only follow the lesson partially.

While the head instructor shows his student how to inflate a kite, the group of instructor-aspirants watches and learns. Most people wear helmets. A wheelchair user is slightly aside.
Trainer Max shows his student Daisy how to inflate a kite.

Kiteboarding lessons on the beach are dynamic. That means you usually don’t remain on one particular spot but more likely move around within a radius of about 50 meters in a barely comprehensible pattern. As I couldn’t follow that pattern without slowing down the rest of the group, I mostly observed the activities from a certain distance. This did not bother me too much. As a wheelchair user it’s part of every day life to not be able to take part in everything – you learn to arrange yourself with it. For outsiders though this can be difficult to process. Which was exactly what happened to Max. The fact that I was a little excluded on the beach did visibly gnaw at him.
Anyway, we both knew one thing for sure: For me to really benefit from the workshop, we’d need to find a proper solution for the teaching-on-the-beach-problem.

Toeside or starboard?

Sitkiter in shallow water with board and kite. Next to him on the right two able bodied men watching.
Ready to be evaluated?

The following day though was reserved to evaluate the riding skills of each participant. As the forecast for the rest of the workshop was not promising, it was now that we would get wet and have our skills judged. Doable. Still … required manoeuvers like toeside jibes brought a fundamental problem to daylight … they do not exist in seated kiteboarding. To compare: Have you ever seen a skier do a backside-turn? Well, neither have I. Luckily in my case Max settled with a classical, let’s call it … sitkite carving jibe.

The whole crew in a boat. Some make the hang loose sign with their hands.
The whole team in the boat. No one is seasick … so far.

The next afternoon we spent in a boat. Max taught us the most crucial parts of teaching kiteboarding from a boat. The preparation of kite & bar as well as launching and landing from a vessel was our main focus that day. An adrenalin junkie steering a 700hp machine was the cherry on top of it all  which only by luck I managed to somehow keep in me during the bumpy ride – figuratively speaking.

Communication skills

Even though the lousy forecast should come true in the upcoming days, we at least had enough wind to keep on training our teaching skills on the beach. This time also I could participate actively and maltreat innocent kiteboarding students. The solution we found was as simple as brilliant. While one of the other instructor aspirants took on the role of my assistant and stayed with the student, I directly communicated with the latter via headset. Eureka!

from left to right: wheelchair user with headset, head instructor and the kiteboarding student with helmet and harness and the kite conneted to it. With the student is another instructor - also with helmet.
With headset and an assistant like Andrea the training on the beach turned out to be really fun.

This teaching experience generated two insights for me. The first one would be that I really enjoy teaching. Secondly I learned that it’s hard to teach something, you have never done before yourself. I’m talking about inflating and preparing a kite … but let’s keep this to ourselves. So while with my first student I was pretty occupied to cover up my lack of knowledge, the next day I did already know what I was talking about and therefor enjoyed teaching even more. A flame was sparked.

Towards finishing line

The end of the trainer course consisted of a short presentation by each aspirant as well as, unsurprisingly, a final written exam. I myself could report about the particularities of waterstarts in seated kiteboarding. A very interesting and demanding subject as it forced me to take a closer look on the difficulties and each individual step of this basic maneuver. By also completing the exam successfully, I finally had the course in my pocket. So now all I need are 20 hours of shadowing with an experienced IKO-instructor to be certified. I’m really looking forward to this.

A group of men, all with IKO t-shirts making the hang loose sign with their hands.
The course is finally over and everybody passed successfully!

As everybody passed the course successfully, it was time to celebrate with a nice dinner. Great company, tasty food and nice wine were the recipe of an unforgettable evening …  at least for most of us.
Regardless of the dinner, the workshop meant a significant personal gain for me. It was nice to be part of a team again and to benefit from the experience and knowledge of the rest of the group. Also I do have the feeling that adaptive kiteboarding sooner or later will earn its spot in the watersports-universe as well as in the IKO. So maybe pigs don’t even have to learn to fly before the first disabled IKO-Instructors are hired by the kiteboarding-schools of this world.

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– IKO:
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– ProKite Academy (Center of our examiner ‚Max‘ in Egypt):

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