Season’s Change

Written by Gillian Watson

Email wind updates start to circulate. Cell phones ring again. The hibernating wind chasers emerge. I can hear the familiar noises again: the crisp sound of kites, unused for too long, unfurling, sand rubbing on the ripstop. Pumps squeaking and the excited voices of the kiteboarders rising with the wind. It has been a long, hot summer in Nassau. One without wind. A horrible summer if you are a kiteboarder. Even worse, a kiteboarder’s wife. But it is all finally coming to an end.

I have watched the kiteboarding scene in Nassau develop over the last six summers, as my husband learned to kite and turned his new passion into his source of income when he opened his first kiteboarding school in Nassau in 2001. In the beginning, there were only about three or four regulars; that number has grown to about 15 locals. You had to strain your eyes to pick out who was who…and they were so far away! Times in Nassau have changed.

On a good day (and there are many in winter) when all the locals are riding at their favourite spots for showing off, they stop traffic—literally. Our locals know how to please a crowd. You can hear the collective ohhhs and ahhhs as someone does a particularly daring move.

My job, as a wind widow, used to be sitting on the beach taking photos for the brag book and handing the guys different boards if they wanted to switch out. Nowadays I spend the afternoons answering the questions of the dozens who stop by to watch.

Kiteboarding is catching on around the world and the scene in Nassau, Bahamas is about to explode. Because the island is so small, it is easy to get to one of many kitebeaches if you are looking for the perfect conditions. And because the Bahamas is made up of so many small islands and shallow water spots, it is the ideal place to kiteboard. I have seen more of the Bahamas and spent more time on the most beautiful beaches since my husband started kiteboarding than I did in my entire childhood growing up here. Kiteboarding is the perfect eco sport. It does not pollute. It is quiet. It makes you appreciate, like nothing else, the pristine beauty and awesome power of nature. Kiteboarding in the Bahamas can mean rolling surf straight off the ocean or crystal clear flat water that stretches on for miles. It can mean rippin’ it up at 25 miles per hour or skimming along at a steady 15.

Even though I am not actually out there riding with my husband, I feel the draw of kiteboarding. I study the water as it is thrown off the back of his board as he carves in close to the shoreline. I watch the intricate hand movements that lead to a perfect kite loop. I can feel the earth drop out from beneath him as he catches a huge air and hangs there, suspended, waiting to float (or crash!) back down to the water. My knees instinctively give a little as his board touches back down. Watching kiteboarding is like watching ballet—with a twist. I think it is like that for a lot of people; it is mesmerizing. It draws you in. Often someone will stop and ask me the regular questions about lessons and gear but after receiving the standard answers many then sink slowly to sit onto the sand as they are captivated by the spell of good kiteboarding. They, like me, can sit there for a long, long, time, sometimes hours, and just watch.

If you look at something long enough you begin to see different layers. Watching kiteboarding heightens all of your instincts, makes you much more aware of and connected to your surroundings. You notice the differences in the colour of the water, the shapes and rhythms of the waves and the play of light on the surface of the water. On really windy days the constant fine sand blowing in your face numbs your skin. On cold days you revel in the warmth of the sun and on hot days you relish the taste of clean cold water. You can tell the wind has changed intensity because the leaves of the trees around you make a different noise and you can feel a storm approaching when its cold breath wraps around your shoulders and you dig you toes into the sand looking for warmth. And all of this happens subconsciously.

Nothing makes me more proud to be a Bahamian than when a tourist stops to ask about this awesome sport of kiteboarding and ends up spending the whole day on the beach just watching. Or when my husband takes a visiting student to his favourite spots for the first time. I have spent hours reviewing photographs, cutting and cropping and wishing for better angles and less glare and the thing that always stands out for me is how beautiful it is here and how lucky I am to be able to look out at this ocean every day. Watching kiteboarding gives me the perfect opportunity to drink in my surroundings, to get back in touch with nature and witness this wonderful relationship we have with our world as I watch one man, with his kite and board, harness the energy that surrounds us and go for the ride of his life.
For more information on kiteboarding all over the Bahamas, visit cross-shorebahamas.com •

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