Standing on Kanaha beach on Maui's northwestern coast, I watch the expert kiteboarders skim and soar over the Pacific. By steering their sail-like kites, they can harness a gust's full force and launch themselves with enviable grace off the lip of a wave.
Kiteboarding is a cruel seduction, so evidently difficult and yet completely irresistible. Everyone has a horror story: the guy who got pulled onto the road, or into a tree. But when Jay, an Action Sports Maui instructor, headed for the beach with the smaller kite they use for beginners, I cinched up my life jacket and willingly followed.
During my first kiteboarding lesson, I absorbed the basics of how to hold, guide and keep the kite aloft, and how to release it if need be. Eventually, we moved into the surf no board yet to get a feel for being pulled through the water and, for brief moments, above it. It's exhilarating, but like any activity where small movements have large consequences, it can be frustrating. And punishing: once, the wind picked up just as I moved offshore, and the kite billowed. I was yanked forward and face-planted in the shallow water.
The first lesson lays the foundation, and getting on the board during the second lesson is not out of the question. If you don't mind some bruising of the body and the ego, it's a great time in a beautiful place. www.actionsportsmaui.com
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