There are many ways to learn to kitesurf. Most involve pricy hourly lessons or half day packages at some resort. If you’re lucky and don’t injure yourself in the process, you can learn the basics at the hand of a patient friend with gear, or go wholesale and buy the equipment, watch some Youtube videos and hope for the best. Lessons usually involve mastering the kite on land first, which is hard to do in a 1-2hr session, and only if you’re an exceptionally fast learner will you then progress to slapping a board on your feet at the end for a rushed attempt at surfing on the water. Since it truly is a sport where the subtleties of kite flying prevail over the youthful strength of wrestling the wind into submission like on a windsurfer, kitesurfing is well suited to the over 50 physically-fit crowd, who have learned through other life lessons the reward for patience and perseverance.
In our experience, it is a skill best mastered over time. Our 3-day immersive learn to kitesurf safari beach camping experience up Great White Sandy National Park in Queensland, Australia with www.KitesurfNoosa.com was the perfect fit. I first stumbled into them through the East Coast Australia guide book by Lonely Planet, and then checked them out a little more online. KitesurfNoosa offered not only the opportunity to learn in an ideal open sandy beach environment with absolutely nobody else around, it also was a unique chance to experience a pristine coastal area that few travelers will see, right across from Fraser Island, by driving up the beach road in a 4 x 4 with a local guide and instructor.
Of course you have to be OK with camping, but let’s assume if you’re reading this, that sleeping on an air mattress in your own tent on a pristine white sandy beach, cooking and dining in the open air with a few bugs and critters about, is something that actually sounds fun. If you’re not comfortable with camping, you’re likely best to take that gold card and head to a resort for packaged day lessons.
Our instructor/guide Brian was a former sound engineer roadie that toured Australia with many prominent bands in the 80s, including KISS. Being our age, we had an instant connection through music, and felt much less intimidated then if we were in a large group of 20-30 year olds. It was just the two of us, myself and a girlfriend from Vancouver, so it amounted to semi private lessons, touring and accommodations for three days. The fact that two women in their 50s had a fit man-servant guy making up our beds, cooking up some fine meals and cleaning up, was reason enough to love him, but receiving private one-on-one instruction over 3-days made it even better!
We started our adventure out of Noosa, where Brian had arranged to pick us up from our Airbnb in the morning. We edited our carry-on luggage down to beach and camping essentials in duffel bags for the adventure, while Brian supplied all the camping gear, right down to sleeping bags and pillows. Our first stop was Woolworths, an Aussie grocery chain, to pick up food together while meal planning, and of course the BWS bottle shop for some wine to chase it down. We certainly ate well, and although we giggled at the “meat and potatoes” hearty meals that we knew our sons would devour in seconds, we managed to vacuum everything from our plates daily after a big day on the water.
Once provisioned, we headed out of Noosa and took a short ferry to the North Shore and the Cooloola Recreation area. We drove along the highway for a while but eventually turned at Rainbow Beach, where Brian had secured permits to drive the beach access road at low tide, through the National Park area. It was a total blast to open the windows, and the sliding side door of the van for air, and barrel along a white sandy beach for 20km to reach Inskip Point where ferries depart for Fraser Island.
Brian was quick to set up camp, pulling out individual tents for each of us, while he slept in the van, jokingly noting, “I like to be safe from the creatures.” While Australia has a generous population of bush turkeys that harmlessly cruise around campsites with curiosity, there are few other food predators like in Canada where we would be offensively protecting against raccoons and bears. While we did see one very large goanna up a tree one morning, which would freak you out if you had a thing for oversized lizards or snakes, we were told they aren’t venomous, so simply treated them as part of the experience on the way to brush our teeth! To be fair, Australia does have some nasty creatures – snakes and spiders among them, but according to Brian, “We’re too far north for the great white sharks, and too far sound for the crocks.” By this stage we were fully committed. It was best to just believe him.
Day one was rounded out with some beach instruction and an introduction to kite flying with a small simulator kite to get a feel for how to control, accelerate and turn while manipulating the wind. Brian also demonstrated and we each had a go with one larger kite, harnessed in, learning some of the terminology such as “chicken loop” and “donkey dick” to attach the kite. It became all about respecting the power of the wind, while dealing with the subtleties of kite flying. A brief humidity thunderstorm rolled through late day, but it was short lived, and we dined peacefully at sunset on the beach. There wasn’t a sole around us, and the full moon rising over the beach later was just the icing on the cake!
Our second day was full on kite flying practice, learning to drag and steer in the water, first in pairs – to hold each other from becoming air born by accident, and then solo, to master not only being able to keep the kite in the air, but also steer it and be able to return to shore using the power of the wind. We checked out the western side of Insfil Point, by the ferry terminal to Fraser Island (if cars waiting in cue on the sand can be called a terminal) initially since it was an open and shallow expanse of water, but returned to the eastern side of the point for stronger winds. Anything less than 10-15knots made sustaining the kite in the air a challenge for novices. Kite surfing is 90% learning the kite and 10% steering the board, so the time spent up front without time pressure, to master the kite and wind, was an investment in the learning curve that would be hard to achieve in anything less than a 3-day camp immersive environment. Day two ended with another fine meal, a beautiful sunset and another rising moon over the Pacific. We fell into bed exhausted, appreciative of the hot summer evening air and the peaceful silence all round.
Day three was a celebration on several fronts. We welcomed my 56th birthday, and we both got up on the boards! I had last celebrated my 22nd birthday in Noosa while on a post university backpacking tour, so the day felt a little like reliving my 20s during my first visit to Australia, with the benefit of decades of experience, and a bottle of anti-inflammatories on my side.
Being a Friday though, some pre-weekend campers joined us by the afternoon, sporting fishing rods on the beach and a large pink flamingo floaty toy. While our steering practice had been good with an open slate on day two, navigating around inflatables and fishing lines proved a little more challenging as we practiced more kite flying and dragging, while waiting for the wind to pick up and enable powered water starts. It was unfortunate that the early afternoon wind died down, but we were finally able to add the board to our feet, while balanced by Brian initially to “power on” our kites by diving them to pull us from the water. After several ejections into building waves and wind over tide, we finally both mastered a glorious run across the water into a setting sun. It was just enough to ignite the desire to want more, and offered the ultimate “money shots” to be posted on Facebook and Instagram, to our friends back home who had been following the grand adventure.
Fortunately our late evening kite surf prevented us from making the low tide timing for the beach highway drive back. I say fortunate, since we experienced an engine overheat short of Gympie, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and had it happened on the beach, the disabled van would most certainly been swept out to sea at high tide.
While the evening trip back to Noosa was long and riddled with Brian’s heroic efforts to fix the van, which at one point involved stuffing a broken hose with a toothbrush, and our attempts to shuttle cooling water from an abandoned service station toilet sink, we eventually ended with a flatbed tow – and one hilarious story involving the two of us as stowaways inside, for fear the tow truck driver would deny us a lift, not being able to accommodate three people in the cab along side him. We hadn’t anticipated that Brian’s bed, an inflatable air mattress which we laid on to hide our presence, would turn the van into a mini bouncy castle, once hoisted on the flatbed with no suspension. There were a few flying objects, fishing rods, and an inappropriately placed wind chime on the roof, that threatened Kim’s vision at every bump, which we eventually fended off wearing helmets. The visual still makes me laugh! Stories created during this last leg of the journey have in hindsight become some of the magic of the tour. Brian was most appreciative of our easy-going nature about it all, and was likely fortunate to have had us rather than less accommodating guests during the whole mishap. He’s a super capable guy, right down to what he provisions his toiletry bag with, and an excellent instructor. But it sure made for one authentic Aussie bloke story! Did I mention he “busted a plugga” in the middle of it all? Leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com if you require translation on that one…
The whole experience was magical, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. Learning over three days was the perfect introduction to kite surfing. Brian has also assured us that the engine head has been totally rebuilt, and the van has never run better!
Connect with Brian at www.KitesurfNoosa.com through firstname.lastname@example.org He offers reasonably priced 3 and 5 day learn to kitesurf camping experiences, and also hosts many returning client visits for multiple day camp and kitesurf tours. When he is in town, Brian is also available for hourly lessons out of Noosa.
Lonely Planet Guide Books have been my go to source for travel planning over the years. I relied on the East Coast Australia guide heavily while planning before and after this kitesurf camp. It was indispensable for finding the best routes, places not to miss and best kept secrets for accommodation and dining while touring down the coast from Noosa and Brisbane to Sydney. I also put it to work while in Melbourne. Money well spent!
While in Noosa, before and after the kitesurf trip, we stayed at an Airbnb in the Noosaville area. It was a pretty posh place on Shorehaven Drive – a planned community around one of Noosa’s many waterways. But there’s lots of accommodation in the area, and many private places listed on Airbnb as well as Booking.com – both online rental listing resources we’ve had great experiences with. Our place was a bit of a hike by foot into the main drag area of Noosa and the beaches, but totally doable if you like the exercise or have a vehicle. Noosa is starting to crack down on Airbnb’s that are not owner occupied though, and there’s a lot of push from the travel industry to have stiffer regulations. It also depends on what you’re looking for in a particular location. Many professionally run Airbnb’s cross list on Booking.com, where credit cards are accepted and often cancellation terms are a little more forgiving, and you can easily compare listings with broader commercial offerings.