Total newbie to this sport here, 3 days in the water. I've found it useful to read about other experiences and questions on the various forums. For other newbies out there, and perhaps some of you more experienced riders, I thought I'd share some of my experiences thus far. For the record, I am 6'-0", 160 lbs, I have scuba dived for 15 years, windsurfed for a day, am a very good swimmer and in good shape.
I was taught by an instructor out on Long Island. The first day I spent about 4 hours on the beach learning the various components, techniques, safety issues, etc. The beach was packed - maybe 10 kitesurfers at various skill levels. Towards the end of that day the instructor launched a 6 meter Naish school kite, 20 meter lines (2 line, asym. lines, leash) in 12 - 15 mph offshore winds, 4 - 6 feet of water. We then piggy-back bodydragged for 10 minutes or so, killed the kite, brought it to neutral, relaunched from the water, killed it again, relaunched, secured it, and self rescued back to the beach. End day 1.
2nd day we went over everything from previous day on the beach. Conditions were similar to first day. Following, I body dragged for about 4 hours with the same 6m. This amounted to about 6 sessions. Throughout the six sessions I practiced killing the kite, relaunching it, securing it, and self rescuing, assisted launches, attaching and releasing from the harness, switching hands, etc. Towards the end of the day I launched a 10m Naish school kite and bodydragged with that for a while. I should mention that the 10m kite felt huge to me. We were also constantly shifting further downwind throughout so we always had to hike back to the launching area (300 yards or so). At one point I had been a little further downwind than intended and was moving towards a rocky outcropping. Knowing the approximate time involved in safely killing the kite I did so about 150 yards off the rocks and self-rescued back to shore.
3rd day was 2 weeks later. This is where things became interesting as it was time to get on a board. Hurricane Gustav had been kind on that day and was helping with 30-40 mph offshore winds. It was howling. One or two windsurfers were about without much success. No other kiters anywhere in site. At that time I was nervous as hell, adrenaline coursing through my body giving me some minor shakes. The instructor had us scale down to a 4m naish school kite and re-rigged to 10m lines. It felt strange to trust what we had learned previously about the procedure for setting up the gear and getting ready for the launch. Considering the extreme weather the setup could not have been smoother. I give credit to what appeared to be minor techniques at the time when we first learned - everything from the orientation of the leading edge, to securing the kite with sand, to laying out the lines, to proper orientation on the beach. Having the instructor there to ask questions and guide us was essential.
Throughout the setup we were constantly measuring wind conditions, determining fluctuations and direction changes and watching the water. We got wet and learned the basics of slipping a directional board on our feet, the position of the kite in high winds at launch, procedure for powering up the kite to pop onto the board, and located the safe zone for bringing down the kite. At this point the instructor determined that we could launch. My buddy held me down at the back of my harness and I launched the kite around 3 o'clock and slowly brought it to neutral. The control was astounding in the high winds. Although it was more power than we were used to this was not difficult and very smooth over all. There is no doubt in my mind that the various techniques that we practiced enabled us to control the kite and stay focused. I remember thinking to myself that we were totally mad for trying to get on a board the first time in such winds and being surprised at how calm and relaxed I was. I kept the kite in neutral through variety of gusts for about 2 minutes to get comfortable (I don't remember how much time it actually was).
I powered the kite ever so slightly and remember being popped onto the surface of the water. All I saw was the motion of the kite and the direction of my travel in relation to land. Next thing I knew I was wet and quickly de-powering the kite and getting back to land. I have no recollection of actually standing on the board, much less of riding. I was subsequently told that I had been on the board for about 10 seconds which, all things considering, was a rush unlike anything I had felt before. At no point in this process did I feel overwhelmed or confused. Again, I credit all the previous practice.
Adrenaline rushing I went out again. Same procedure, same control. Popped onto the board and was actually aware of riding. Kite was a little difficult keep steady due to the gusts. It swung into the power zone and I got launched off my board perpendicular(away from shore), superman style(told later it was about 4 feet vert., 8 feet hor.). I let go of my bar in the air and the leash engaged. I then quickly killed the kite and walked back to land(water depth was about 5').
A little later liquid air time. It was gusting towards 60 so we called it a day and peacefully travelled back to the city and celebrated.
Throughout these first 3 days I was totally jacked in and fueled. Although a little overwhelmed because everything was knew I never felt like anything was beyond my control. The biggest part in this was the trust I had in being able to kill the kite, self-rescue, and being totally aware of my environment. The instructor was phenomenal throughout.
Its been an amazing 3 days in the water. I am hooked, call it a project.