Bridget’s Adventures: Catching the wind to go kitesurfing

Journalist Bridget Tan spent not one, but two days attempting to get on the kitesurfing board. But the winds gave up before she did.

SINGAPORE - “We will resume when the first leaf flips,” said my instructor Vincent Lam as we waited a second day for the winds to pick up.

Kitesurfing, I’ve discovered, is a waiting game. Some days the kitesurfers can wait an entire day only to have winds that are too low to bring their kites up.

On my first day of kitesurfing lessons, the winds blew at about six knots, making the learning experience especially tough as it takes additional skill to manoeuvre a kite in low winds. Such conditions require the continuous movement of the kite so as to keep it up in the air.

The optimal wind speed is above 12 knots.

At the end of the first day, I spent more time waiting for wind, than actually getting on the board. It was a practice in patience, and perseverance. 

Day two of kitesurfing brought stronger winds, and a stronger will to get on that board. 

After about three tries and one spectacular faceplant, I managed to lift myself a few centimetres off the water and onto the board in a wobbly fashion. That was good enough for me to feel the exhilaration of skimming across the water, constrained only by how I swung the kite.

I can see why the sport has grown over the years. The adrenaline rush is pretty addictive.

 

In 2015, the International Sailing Federation announced that kitesurfing would be represented at the Youth Olympics 2018 in Buenos Aires. In Singapore, it is yet to be recognised as an official sport but Mr Lam says the winds are changing to its favour. About 200 people are officially registered as kitesurfers in Singapore and the number is doubling year after year. 

As a safety precaution, kitesurfing is only allowed at Changi Beach for members of the Kitesurfing Association of Singapore, and the west of Bedok Jetty. It also cannot be conducted within 5km of an airbase or airport without approval from the relevant authorities. 

Mr Lam conducts his classes at East Coast Park, Bintan or in parts of Malaysia, depending on the monsoon season. He charges $350 per student for a five-hour group class. It takes at least 10 hours for the average person to get on the board. 

Of course, that depends on the wind.


Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that "Kitesurfing is allowed only at Changi Beach and Bedok Jetty, and cannot be conducted within 5km of an airbase or airport so that the kites don’t distract planes when they are taking off or landing."