Day 1 – Windswell Kite SUP Coaching Session With Bretto
The kite stand up paddleboard coaching session with Bretto starts relatively early on Sunday morning. Enough time to grab coffee and beach gear and meet him at Windswell’s spot in Port Douglas – the park at the southern end of Four Mile Beach.
Before heading out on the water, Bretto briefs the crew with helpful info and a few tips about SUP equipment and basic techniques.
Basic SUP Skills
The fun thing about SUP is that with only minimal instruction, most beginners can stand and start paddling shortly after hitting the water for the first time. Some practical skills to master for rookie SUPers include standing up, balancing, falling, and getting back on.
Practicing on land to stand up on the board helps to get used to the movements without the instability of water.
Getting Geared Up: SUP Board, Paddle & Kite Wing
During this first part of the training, we learn that different boards excel at different disciplines, such as recreational paddling, surfing, touring, and racing. The most common type of paddleboard is the hard fiberglass type with one or more fins to help the board track in the water.
Inflatable paddleboards are also very popular and have other benefits and features that differ from the hard boards. However, both types of paddleboards are great options depending on ones lifestyle and needs.
Paddleboards come in different sizes and shapes. For beginners there are wider, longer, and thicker boards that provide the greatest stability. Bretto is extremely helpful and a great instructor and he will guide anyone interested in renting gear from him to make the right choice.
The paddle resembles a stretched-out canoe paddle, with a blade shape that is angled forward for efficiency. The correct length of the adjustable paddle should reach the wrist when holding the paddle vertically in front and raising the arm above the head.
Among Windswell’s range of the latest high-quality equipment to suit all students and conditions, in this session, we discover the new kite wing. This is the ultimate handheld inflatable surfing kite. This appears to be a unique cross between kitesurfing and windsurfing, but with no rigging, no hardware, and no strings attached.
By exploiting the wind, this kite wing is able to change the SUP into a whole new riding experience. At this point, everyone is impatient to experience the new wind-powered thrill.
Safety Pointers And Good Practice
Before entering the water, Bretto makes us aware of some of the risks associated with the marine environment and the weather. His local knowledge is invaluable in assessing and managing risks associated with dangers.
During the wet season here in Far North Queensland (November to April/May), it is wise to wear a full-length lycra suit to avoid nasty jellyfish stings and get protection from the sun. Wearing sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen is also always recommended in any outdoor water-based activity.
As with the jellyfish, saltwater crocodiles are found in the area and are most active between November and April. Like the jellyfish, they seem to favor sheltered creeks rather than open beaches and rough waters. They are not likely to take someone riding a board, but swimming in the creeks or close to river mouths certainly has a higher risk than our chosen spot.
The SUP boards are pretty big, and on a windy day, they are going to catch a lot of wind when you pick them up. Therefore it is important to be aware of wind direction and carry the board on the downwind side.
SUP Fun Into The Water
It’s finally time to get out into the water. Windswell’s spot at this end of Four Mile Beach allows us to launch the board easily.
Standing alongside the board, we push it into water deep enough that the fins don’t hit the bottom and we hop on with both knees.
Before attempting to stand up on the board, Bretto integrates our SUP training with a full-body workout plan that aims to increase strength in core muscle, building endurance in the shoulder and arm muscles, and add cardio time.
We are all asked to use our hands to paddle by lying down in the prone position, like a surfer, heading out to the anchored buoy, propelling the board around it, and back to shore. The way to stow our paddle is by putting the blade under the chest with the power face against the board.
The next training challenge aims to increase paddling ability standing on knees on the board and holding first the paddle in the hands to use as a balance tool. As soon as we establish balance, we can then start paddling as fast as we can towards the buoy, around it and back to shore again.
This great full-body workout re-introduces us to muscles that haven’t been used for a while. Balancing on the board requires shifting the bodyweight, legs, knees, and upper body to accommodate the movement of waves, and to do paddle strokes.
On Your Feet and Paddle
At first, standing on the board may seem intimidating, but once everyone masters the basic SUP skills, which is easy, there is no problem enjoying the fun of the sport.
With Bretto’s tips and a little practice, anyone can paddle away like it’s no big deal.
The first step is to hop on with both knees and hands on the board, and hold the paddle in the hands to use it as a balance tool.
Then, we are able to stand up by setting one foot in front and the other to follow with a slow and steady movement. The ideal position is to stand in the center of the board. For more balance, it is essential to look forward to the horizon.
At this point, the right way to hold the paddle to get the most power from the stroke is angled forward. Taking the stroke too far away from the side of the board is going to change the direction of the board. Pulling the paddle in a straight line allows the board to go straight.
In order to get the full power of a stroke, the whole blade should be into the water. Turning occurs by paddling from back to front on the side of the turn’s direction, and by keeping the stroke a little bit away from the board. By moving the feet one or two steps back, it gets easier to turn and maneuver the board.
It’s Time To Put The Wing On
The first aspects to learn are how to hold the kite and how to kneel or stand on the SUP. The best way is to hold the wing vertical in the wind window and standing slightly diagonal to obtain balance side-to-side and forward and aft.
For this first session, we test the 4.2m F-one Swing kite or wing in about 20/25 knots of wind. Like a kite the wing must be steered through a wind window.
Since the wing is not attached to the board, we use the front and backhands to steer the kite horizontally or vertically. When riding, the attention should focus on holding the kite high over the head.
Riding back and forth and staying upwind while successfully returning to the beach without need of rescue seems a pretty obtainable task. Everyone seems to enjoy the activity and having lots of fun!
Falling And Getting Back On
Despite everyone’s best effort to stay balanced on the board, it is normal to fall in the water. Even experienced riders take a plunge from time to time.
When losing balance, it is important to aim to fall into the water and not onto the board. This mistake might cause an injury. Ideally, by hanging onto the paddle while falling would avoid getting separated from it. If this is the case, the best way to go is to retrieve the board first, get back on, then paddle with the hands to reach the paddle.
The easiest way to get back on the SUP after falling is by kicking the legs while pulling the handle at the center of the board and sliding the body back onto the board.
Looking Forward To More Coaching Session This Season
Stand up paddle boarding, it’s a fun, easy way to play on the water and get a full-body workout. The added benefits also include the unique vantage point for viewing what’s under the water and out on the horizon.
The simplicity of the kite wing SUP without the harness and lines is appealing and rewarding.
Port Douglas – Four Mile Beach offers incredible boarding conditions with consistent south-east winds and a warm tropical climate. This one-stop location is the perfect gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, both World Heritage Listed National Parks.
Windswell offers daily SUP sessions off the beach and on a nearby rainforest river. Surfing Windswell’s website is an easy way to learn about courses, gear rental and other available tours out to the reef.
We have no excuse not to be on the water every day, and we are looking forward to attending more Windswell Coaching Session with the sea legend Bretto soon!