Kitesurfing is a funsport. So the main reason we do it is because it’s fun and makes us feel good! And that’s what it is for all of us. Really? Always?
I am not talking of pro riders. Of course it’s not always 100 % fun for them when they have the pressure to achieve a good ranking in competitions and to live from the sport. But also a lot of „normal“ riders who don’t have to proof their skills in contests put theirself under enormous pressure that – oh wonder! – affects all the fun.
Bigger, better, faster, more!
I’ve often noticed it on other kitesurfers and friends (… and I am not an exception, not at all): At the beginning of your kitesurf career the primary target is to ride in both directions. After achieving this target most kiters want more – cause it gets boring (I am not talking of ALL kitesurfers, some are pretty happy with just riding.)
Regardless of which kitesurfing style they do – there is one thing most kiters have in common: The wish to improve. Going higher, faster, more powered, doing more difficult tricks (and often also: impressing others, being better than others).
Well, the attempt to get better is not bad at all, right? Being ambitious is important to stay motivated and to avoid stillstand. And of course it’s also big fun to learn something new, to see one’s own skills expanding and push your limits to the max!
But sometimes there’s just a narrow ridge between ambition and doggedness – which kills the fun factor of kiting. A fact that I had to experience personally.
Stress and pressure in kitesurfing:
No one needs that!
So, again: What’s the sense of activities like kitesurfing? I would say that – aside from the fun – it’s about feeling pleasure, clearing the mind, being active, getting in contact with nature, feeling free.
Of course it’s good to push one’s limits. That’s nothing bad and for some people it’s lifeblood, a way of life. The problem is, that excessive constant motivation to get better and better may cover up the positive aspects of kitesurfing.
(Again, I am not talking of pros who compete. That’s another story, cause this includes the competitive factor and improving constantly is a must. But of course also they aim to have fun whilst riding – otherwise it would’nt make sense.)
I know it from myself: If your main target for a kitesession is to land a certain trick, the possibility that you have a lousy session is fifty-fifty. Quite a high risk, isn’t it? And, aside from the fun you miss out due to stress – being tensed up whilst riding or pushing too hard increases the risk for accidents. Definitely not good.
The reasons why kitesurfers put theirself under pressure are various – it’s not only excessive ambition that puts stress on people. Sometimes it’s also just doggedness or fishing for compliments – which definitely depends on the very own character of a person. Some guys are always easy-cheesy and relaxed and never care about what others might think or say. Lucky ones … but this people are not the ones I’m talking about here.
What we all can’t deny: Kitesurfing is a sport that comes with a lot of image and vanity. As you are mostly not alone on the water, the other kiters and your friends can see what you do. People on the beach can see what you do.
Remember the words: „When the crowd starts watching, the glory begins.“ There are not only a few kitesurfers which live – or kite – according to this motto. And are also people who really seem to can’t live without the unconditional admiration of others and always need to show off. Not to forget the guys who try to impress the girls … ok, ok, that’s normal. But now and then they really want it too much!
More examples: Some kiters engage in competition with their friends or other guys on the beach. Sometimes girls think they have to do everything like the boys (which for sure they can!). Especially for girls the competition factor may also be higher on spots with only a few female kiters – cause they tend to compare theirselves with the other girls.
Well, let’s be honest: How we perform on the water is mostly way less interesting for the others as we may think. Cause outside a competition there are no judges who are responsible for grading what we do out there. The constant striving to proof whatsoever to whomsoever is just exhausting.
It’s pure stress. And do we need stress in kitesurfing? No, absolutely not.
How to avoid stress in kitesurfing:
My personal story
Well, let me tell you some things about myself. I had lots of crappy sessions in the last years. Way too many, actually! I don’t know how often I came out of the water without a smile, full of anger, sometimes nearly crying. And, to be honest: It was always my own fault.
What happened? I made myself totally dependent on the force to land a certain trick. Without any compromise. But, as we all know, kitesurfing is a sport that is strongly influenced by the weather conditions. And there are some days or conditions when it’s just not clever to train something new – for example it’s not the best idea to try new unhooked tricks in 25+ knots with a small kite. But as I am a super ambitious person, I mostly ignored that fact.
What I did instead was trying harder, sometimes for hours and hours till both my body and mind were totally empty and my head hurt like hell from crashing heavily. Then I was totally pissed off – mainly about myself. On the one hand cause I couldn’t manage to nail this trick. On the other hand (and that was way more frustrating!) cause I messed up the chance to have a joyful session.
Of course it wasn’t always so bad. But there have been days when in the evening most of the other kiters were super stoked and I was far away from feeling like that. Why? Because I hadn’t won in my very own competition. My gaze for the beautiful aspects of kitesurfing was definitely blinkered.
For a long time I was not really aware how much fun I was missing out due to the pressure I put on myself. It was my husband who always reminded me how dogged and impatient I acted. He told me to relax and that it wouldn’t kill me even if I wouldn’t now or even never achieve to land a certain trick.
He also asked me very often for which reason I exhaust myself like this. And he made me aware of the fact that kitesurfing had become just a compulsion for me … not a pleasuring activity as it should be.
Of course I didn’t want to hear that. Which was all the more a proof for that he was absolutely right.
So, did I change?
A little bit, yes. With emphasis on “a little bit”. I am still a super ambitious person, it’s part of my character. I am still competing with myself on the water, pushing me to finally land this and that. And yes, there are still days when I can’t really enjoy a session cause nothing has worked as I wanted it to.
What has definitely changed is that I am more aware of how bad I am treating myself when putting me under pressure for no reason. And also I try to adapt the things I train to the current conditions – which means no unhooked stuff in 30 knots and so on, haha – cause I am not a pro who has to train for comps and so I don’t have to push my limits that excessively. And as I already have a damaged knee from a heavy motorbike crash a few years ago I don’t want to hurt myself again.
How to avoid stress in kitesurfing:
Some tips & tricks
I wish I could tell you all the psychological tricks which help if you are in any of the above mentioned situations. But firstly, I am not a psychologist. Secondly, it’s hard to find a strategy for every special situation and every individual character.
In my opinion the most important thing if you feel any kind of stress or pressure during kiting is to get aware of it – and to ask yourself what acts behind. Because most probably you’ll find the reason for your stress in yourself!
What I can do is tell you the tricks I found out for myself as well as strategies from which I know that other people use them successfully.
How to minimize stress in kitesurfing
- When I want to practice something new, at the beginning of my session I try to feel if it’s the right day or session for this trick. If I don’t feel like it, I let it be (which is hard, but makes sense in the end). There will be other days/sessions with better vibes for training a certain move.
- I try to adapt the tricks I practice to the conditions. It’s just not worth to hurt yourself cause you took too much risk. For example, when it’s super cold it’s harder to train new stuff cause you are not as relaxed as when it’s comfortably warm. It’s also harder to fully commit cause you always have in mind that a longer swim after a crash is dangerous in cold waters.
- It’s quite normal in kitesurfing that there will be periods when your skills remain static – or even drop. That’s completely normal – and it makes life easier to accept this fact. Because progress will come again – and practicing some patience makes definitely sense. You can also use such zero phases for some training sessions that will definitely support your kitesurf skills.
- When I notice that I again tend to push myself too much, I ask myself: Are you a competition rider? The answer is: No! So for which reason do I essentially have to land this trick? Just for my own excessive ambition. No one else expects me to nail it cause the truth is: Everyone else gives a sh.. about if I can do it or not.
- Reminder: Doggedness and impatience make you tensed – not only in your head, also all over your body). The less relaxed you are, the less things will work. Staying chilled offers so much more space for the flow – and being into this flow-state will make it way easier to progress.
- During my session I remind myself to pay more attention to the things around me … especially nature. I mean, how cool is it to be connected with the elements, looking to the sky and to feel the absolute freedom? How important is it in this case to do this or that trick? Focussing on the essence of things makes me totally relaxed.
- “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” I think that says it all. We can’t affect nature, but rather respect it. So we should align ourselves to nature-given conditions like wind conditions, waves etc. instead of fighting against them. It’s way safer and more fun to adapt your riding style to given conditions.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s important to have the ability to laugh about yourself! So if you notice that you’re stucked in a self-induced stress situation, allow yourself to laugh about you. It works wonders. You’ll be immediately feel more laid-back.
- Music! Sometimes I take a waterproof player with me to listen to my favourite happy, uplifting songs. Riding with music for me feels totally different than without. I don’t want to have it all the time, but it puts a smile on my face and sometimes I also sing during kiting (only when I’m sure that others can’t hear me, haha). It’s kind of relaxation to me.
- Talk to others! If you talk to other kitesurfers you will wonder how many of them experience similar feelings and situations. You’re not alone. Everyone has some quirks and it feels so good to talk (and laugh) about.
And last but not least:
- Impress who? Let’s be honest: Aren’t we all preoccupied with ourselves during kiting? So, in reality the others are not as interested in your riding as you might think they are. So try to stop comparing with others – it will make your (kite) life so much better and more relaxed. And: Your friends like you for who you are and not for your kitesurf skills. Otherwise you should maybe overthink this friendships …
If you want some more tips for better kitesessions, find them here!
What about you – did you experience similar situations? How do you deal with ambitions? I’m curious to hear your stories!
If you want to know how kitesurfing changed my life completely, check out this article!