My name is Bart Miller. I’m an IKO Examiner and owner of SoCal Kitesurfing in Southern California. Over the years I've had some very interesting insights and experiences. This is a chance for me to share those with you. As kitesurf instructors, when students come to us, we try to find their true motivations. When we ask them why they're learning to kite they may say, "oh, I'm here 'cuz I have a gift certificate, or I have the day off, or I just wanted to try something new." But this is probably not the whole truth. You see, kiting is a challenge, and there are some big life challenges that are presented to people. Some people view kitesurfing as one of them. It's right up there with walking on the moon, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or making a million dollars before you turn a certain age—learning to kitesurf is right up there as one of those big life challenges.
“Kitesurfing is a big life challenge.”
Some people do come to us just to learn the sport, but most people come because kitesurfing is a big life challenge. It represents that in their mind. Learning to kite has a lot of expectations and achievements associated with it… life achievement, overcoming obstacles, facing fears, things like that. What I've found in my students is that as we get to know them better, we find out that when we ask them why they want to learn to kite, the reason they give us when we first ask is just a superficial reason. There's a real reason. In most cases there seems to be a deep, powerful, underlying reason in their life that is the real reason, the real cause, the real motivation that they are with us. I encourage kitesurf instructors to get to know their students better by finding out what's really going on in their lives that led them to us. You may find something such as they're turning 30, 50, 60, or 100. The fear of getting older is one possibility, but you may find something much more significant. We have a lot of our students who have faced a life or death situation, or survived an accident, or struggled with an addiction. Many of them are cancer survivors. Many of them are struggling to fight cancer.
“I encourage kitesurf instructors to get to know their students better by finding out what's really going on in their lives.”
These are some of the life challenges that bring students to us. When we understand this, and we have them in our care, it's more than just a kite lesson. Now we become a big part of their ‘treatment’ and resolution of their life challenges. Divorce, job loss, starting a life over—these are very common life changes that bring students our way. All the time we get students that have just moved to the area and they're trying to start a new life. They imagine their future self as this person who is a kiter, and has kiter friends, and has a wild and adventurous life. That is who they really want to be, and we give them a chance to be that person. We're there to teach them to kite, but we also help them achieve that ideal life.
“Divorce, job loss, starting a life over—these are very common life changes that bring kitesurf students our way.”
What about those who need a big personal achievement? This is often an important one. I had a very, very interesting experience with a student who took a lesson. He was entering the water and suddenly he just fled for no reason, he just ran to the parking lot. The instructors looked at each other like "wow, what happened to this guy?" It was totally unexpected. After about an hour he had gathered his courage and came back to apologize for running away, and he shared with me his situation. He told me that some time ago he had shared with his father his secret dream was to learn kitesurfing. Then unexpectedly his father passed away. A lot of time went by and he never faced his dream he had shared with his father. Now it was not just something that he wanted to do, but something that he needed to do to complete his relationship with his father. What’s more, he also feared that he couldn't do it, that he wasn't going to be able to do it. If he wasn't able to kitesurf, he would not be able to complete the relationship with his father. Wow, this was kind of a big one!
“If he wasn't able to kitesurf, he wouldn’t be able to complete his relationship with his father.”
I had recently seen the film, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which is very similar to this situation between father and son where through skateboarding and taking on some adventures, Walter was able to complete his relationship with his father. So I told my student that his homework was to watch this movie, and come back tomorrow, and that tomorrow we were going to do this together.
And that's what happened. He learned to kite…and that was a big, big deal. I know I helped him pass through a big portal of life that he needed to get through. So finding the real reason why our student is with us is not just teaching people how to fly the kite, but finding out why people are really there, and with that the instructor has the opportunity to do much more.
“We're not just teaching kiting. We're actually helping people grow and changing their lives.”
Looking at other situations, a lot of people come with a social need. They are trying to find a community. They're trying to find a healthy community, and they're looking for that idyllic beach life that's in all the movies but doesn't seem to exist in real life. And we provide that too. We're not just teaching kiting. We're actually helping people grow and changing their lives. And I often say that we're really painting a new life for these people. We're creating this painting for them that they want. It's in our world of wind, sand, water and kitesurfing that is the palette we use to make these changes. I've become more and more aware of this over time. I'm always looking to help people – not just with the kiting, but with their whole situation.
“It's in our world of wind, sand, water and kitesurfing that is the palette we use to make these changes.”
So many people we've introduced into the sport changed their living location by moving near the kite beach, they changed their friends to kite friends, and changed to a job that allows them to kite and travel. It's hard evidence that we're really having a big impact on our students' lives. I've even had quite a few of my students and instructors that through my introductions have met, fell in love, married, and had little kiters. We really are changing lives in many ways and that's one of 'em.
I hope that my story brings you a little bit of introspection about the true importance of kitesurfing. Instructors, make sure you help your students in every way possible. Students, if you are looking to learn kitesurfing, you are in for a surprise. Yes, you will learn kiting and so much more!