Hitting it “Switch”
For me Kiting is and has always been about “Freedom”. Yes with a capital F. Freedom to be totally connected to these wild element that are so eluding to capture… The Wind, the Ocean.
Within the constraints of having a kite and board attached to you of course, it is still one of the most liberating experience one can feel, especially in the Ocean. The speed, the power, the glide, the flight. It does seem to offer it all.
The biggest limitation in our experiences is generally our brain. It often doesn’t allow us to fully embrace the experiences, the “Freedom”
Due to Biological and Genetical reasons, the majority of people are right handed as opposed to “lefties”. That generally translate in the most common stance on a board to be “Natural” (Left foot forward) as opposed to “Goofy” (Right foot forward)
Off course with time, which ever stance you favoured on that first boarding experience tends to become part of your very essence. And so you spend a life time facing one way because your brain tells you it’s the only way to go.
But then came Kiteboarding, a liberating sport in which a twin tip board meant that you went both ways.
As expected, long time surfers, when going the “wrong way” went: “??? This Feels Weird”.
But snowboarders do it, Wake boarders do it…
Then came the waves
With the development of kites specifically suited to wave riding, the opportunity came to ride waves with cross shore winds from both sides. After taking my first tacks on a Twintip in the dark ages of Kiteboarding , I slowly got more and more into wave riding and soon enough was having a whole lot of fun on a surfboard.
Spending a lot of time in Cape Town meant lots of wind from the left and therefore riding backhand. It was fun, it still is, but…
Then I befriended Anthony Berzack who is one of those guys who rides Regular and Goofy equally well. But he also rides a unicycle and juggles 5 balls, I thought; “the dude is a freak”.
For years I avoided the option of going “goofy” thinking I just couldn’t do it and that it was too late to learn… But wait! What about the freedom?
Anthony riding “Natural” Photo: Andrew Miller
Anthony riding “Goofy” Photo: Andrew Miller
Being Stubborn, I decided to tackle this and teach this old dog a new trick.
Getting into Switch stance
Ok I can hear all the surfers going “Nooit bruu”, and it was my first reaction too. But having done a lot of twin tip riding, some snowboarding, and having started my ocean wave riding career as an egg beater (waveskier), I thought Ok how hard can this be? I am not that conditioned? Yeah right!
The first attempts felt really awkward. Any waves bigger than 2 foot, I would immediately switch back to regular or sometimes end up riding my surfboard backwards when in a tight situation. But every session i would try for a while and feel like a total dork.
Then on Anthony’s advice, I got myself a Carver Skateboard. A Carver is a board with a double joint front track which allows to get movement by weaving the board from side to side. I practically duct taped myself in goofy stance to the board and rode like a man possessed.
Muscles ached, body felt out of line, balance was challenged, but slowly with every Carver session I became more stable and comfortable.
After a long session I would find myself forgetting I was in a “Goofy” Stance.
Then it was back in the water. I stuck to straps so that I wouldn’t have to worry about feet slipping out and the improvement was very noticeable. I had gone from feeling like a total kook to actually being able to hit sections and floaters
So now I finally had the freedom to face a left breaking wave, or backhand it if I felt like it. Then I took the straps off
I’m feeling more and more at ease on my Goofy. I will admit, when it gets gnarly I still favour my natural side, but it’s an ongoing process which has opened a world of possibilities.
I have proven that with a little perseverance it is possible to learn to ride switch, and it has improved my riding tremendously. After all, it is all about balance, Yin Yang, light and darkness and all that stuff. I am a firm believer that one should challenge the “comfort” zone and push the boundaries to ultimately have… more freedom.
Next hurdle: Switch backhand.