Pressure or pleasure? How to avoid stress in kitesurfing

Kitesurfing is a funsport. So it should be fun, right? 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. But also a lot of „normal“ riders who don’t participate in contests set theirself under enormous pressure that affects 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.)
So what then? Jumping. Backroll, Frontroll, Grabs. First unhooked attempts. And so on, and so forth. Some go for strapless riding. Or foiling. Whatever!

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, impressing the others, being better than the others.

 

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Bigger, better, faster, more. The ambition to get better is part of the game.

 

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 and to see one’s own skills expanding.
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 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.

The problem is, that for some kiters their constant motivation to get better covers 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 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 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. Not good.

 

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Crashing is also part of the game. But being too dogged may end in accidents.

 

The reasons why kitesurfers put theirself under pressure are various – it’s not only excessive ambition that puts stress on people. Wether it’s doggedness or fishing for compliments – it depends on the very own character of a person. (Some guys are always easy-cheesy and relaxed. Lucky ones … but this people are not the ones I’m talking about here).

What we 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!

 

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Some kiters go for their session with one motto in their mind: “When the crowd starts watching, the glory begins.”

 

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. 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.

All this can end up in stress. And do we need stress in kitesurfing? Absolutely not.

 


Stress in kitesurfing:
My personal story

Well, let me tell you some things about me. I had lots of crappy sessions in the last years. Lots, lots, lots. I don’t know how often I came out of the water without a smile, 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. 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. Then I was totally pissed – with me. On the one hand cause I couldn’t manage to get this trick done. On the other hand cause I messed up the chance to have a joyful session.

 

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I had many sessions without this smile on my face – cause I was too focused on landing this and that.


Of course it wasn’t always so bad. But there have been days when I was not nearly as stoked as the other kiters in the evening. Cause I couldn’t win in my very own competition. My gaze for the beautiful aspects of kitesurfing was 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. But he was absolutely right.

 

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Sometimes it goes wrong and that’s normal. There’s no reason to screw up your fun due to excessive ambition.

 

So, did I change?
A little bit, yes. But to be honest, I am still this very ambitious person. I am still competing with myself on the water, pushing me to finally this and that. And yes, there are still days when I can’t really enjoy a session cause nothing has worked as I wanted.
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. Mainly cause I don’t want to hurt myself!

 


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 during kiting is to ask yourself what acts behind. Most probably you’ll find the reason for your stress in yourself!

 

Choosing the right kite size is a matter of experience. (c) H. Fuchs
In the meantime try to relax myself even before I go for a session … cause when I am on the water I often forget it 😉

 

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. There will be other days/sessions with better vibes for training this.
  • 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.

 

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Don’t forget to stay chilled – everything will work out better if you’re in a relaxed mode.

 

  • Reminder: Doggedness and impatience make you tensed – and the less relaxed you are, the less things will work. Staying chilled offers so much more space for the flow.
  • 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.

 

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The connection with nature is one of the most beautiful aspects of sports like kitesurfing.

 

  • “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.
  • 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 relaxed.

 

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Kitesurfing is an activity that should make you smile!!!

 

  • Music! Sometimes I take a waterproof MP3-Player with me to listen to my favourite happy 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. 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 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 think they are. Try to stop comparing with others – it will make your (kite) life so much better.

 

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No, the crowd is not always watching you! 😉

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? Curious to hear your stories!

Aloha, Anja

 

 

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