We take a beginners’ lesson in exciting beach activity
‘They’re huge!’ Time Out photographer Murrindie squeals as we arrive at Sunset Mall Beach one blissful Thursday late-afternoon. I’m in full agreement. For it’s not until mere moments before my first kitesurfing lesson that I notice quite how big the kites are. They’re almost the width of my apartment. Their scale is doing nothing to decrease my looming fear of being dragged away across the sea, into the impending sunset.
‘We fly kites that are around 15ft wide,’ says half Nicaraguan, half Jordanian instructor Ozzy Shihab, 29. Ozzy is the founder of kitesurfing company AWE Kitesurfing, an extreme sports fanatic and my teacher for the day. ‘There isn’t a great deal of wind in Dubai, so we have to use big kites to maximise what’s available.’
Thankfully, Ozzy then brings out a 3ft learner kite, known as a foil, for me to start with. The beach itself is surprisingly busy, and dozens of kites are soaring above the sand as their owners learn to control them. According to Ozzy, while the original Kitesurfing Beach (closer to the Burj Al Arab) is still very popular with kitesurfers, Sunset Mall Beach has recently been renamed Kitesurfing Beach – there’s a new sign to prove it – and is becoming the next hotspot for those addicted to wind.
During any introductory kitesurfing lesson, you won’t get into the water, but instead learn a few basics to fly and control a kite. Once that’s mastered, you’ll then start to factor in the small board, used to pull you across the waves.
My first lesson today is to understand which direction the wind is coming from. ‘When you feel the wind blowing in both your ears, then you’re facing the direction the wind is blowing from,’ Ozzy explains.
Next I unravel my kite, walking into the direction of the wind. Thankfully, it doesn’t launch immediately (the sand scattered over the kite helps). Ozzy then shows me how to handle the spongy handle bar. ‘Your impulse will be to raise your arms high towards the kite [it is], but this won’t have any power over it [it doesn’t]. Instead, keep your hands at waist height and treat the handle like a steering wheel, moving it right and left in the direction you want your kite to move [much easier].’
The first thing I (and my arms) notice as the kite takes off is how incredibly strong the wind feels – even though there is ‘no wind today’, according to Ozzy. The second is how satisfying it is to quickly gain more control over the beast in the sky above me. Already I’m enjoying a oneness with nature, and working out all sorts of forgotten muscles.
After my trial session, Ozzy takes to the water with what looks like a giant anvil made of fibreglass, plus one of the enormous sails (the word ‘kite’ doesn’t cut it).
I’ll need quite a few more lessons with the kite on the sand before I can start factoring in the ‘surfing’ part of the 31-year-old sport from France. But I’m very tempted indeed to spend more time at this particularly beautiful Dubai setting flying through them. Introductory semi-private lesson Dhs250. Regular lesson Dhs350 per hour. Lesson length varies, depending on wind. AWE Kitesurfing, www.kitesurfdubai.ae (050 558 6190).
Mark Andrew Kite School Dhs300 per hour-long one-on-one lesson. www.kitesurfing.ae (050 886 0874).