By Mark Cosslett. Photograph courtesy Mark Cosslett
I’ve had many friends ask what they should do to prepare to join me on a Hawaiian inter-island kiteboarding crossing, all of them expert kiters. Here's what it takes.
My first suggestion is to bike, run, swim, or whatever for fitness training. The kite skills are pretty basic, but without proper endurance even the best kiter will become shark bait in short order.
Learn How to Be Safe
Get all the safety gear and learn how to use it. Would you go out into the backcountry with a ski partner and only one avalanche transceiver between you? No. How about a shovel and probe? They’re not much good unless everyone has them. Well, the same is true with ocean safety gear. They call the satellite emergency response device a PERSONAL Locater Beacon (PLB) for a reason, it means every person should have one. Early on, I joined a group on a failed attempt to kiteboard from Molokai to Oahu where everyone thought a chase boat was the “catch-all” safety plan. We got lucky, all six of us. I’ve never “rolled the dice” that way again.
Use Technology, But Have a Backup Plan
Equip yourself with all that modern technology has to offer: satellite phone, PLB, waterproof cell phone, GPS, marine radio ... even an iPod in a waterproof case, if so inclined. Then, assume ALL those devices will catastrophically and simultaneous fail just when you need them the most. That means you must also follow all the traditional safety protocols: register a “flight plan,” start early and have a cut-off time that allows enough daylight for a rescue, and report your position as frequently as feasible. It also means you must carry all the traditional safety gear: marine flares, a signal mirror, dye markers, a life preserver, and provisions to survive at least 24 hours out at sea by way of food, water, and a wet suit thick enough to stave off hypothermia. And, hope the sharks don’t start to circle....
Become an Great Kiteboarder
Then practice, practice, practice. Just because someone can zig-zag back and forth, boost big air, and do tricks within a quarter mile of the safety of the beach doesn’t mean he or she has what it takes to maintain an awkward point-of-sail in overhead ocean swells to make another island upwards of 40 miles distant. There’s no landfall on other points of sail for the Hawaiian inter-island kite boarder, except perhaps Tahiti, Australia, or Japan.
As for those pesky sharks.... More on that in the next blog.