My December

A bright beautiful morning on Key Biscayne

It’s January 2012.  2012.  I can’t believe it.  I have been intending to write about my experiences at the end of the year right after they happened…but I am a terrible procrastinator….!!!

Shinn demo with Miami Kiteboarding

My December started out with traveling down to Miami earlier than expected.  I had planned to travel down on the 5th of December for my ITC (Instructor Training Course with the International Kiteboarding Organization), but discovered that Miami Kiteboarding was holding a Shinn demo the weekend prior.  Despite having done a demo of the boards only a few weeks prior, I decided to drive down for the event to give support as their rep.  It was a great demo!  The wind cooperated for us again, which was fantastic.  It was my first demo on my own without Mike or John, but it allowed me to learn from the experience!

My ITC course consisted of a CPR certification course and then a 5 day course for the actual ITC.  I had debated on whether or not to take the course.  All Out Kiteboarding had spent a lot of time training me and I felt very confident as an instructor under them.  However, after giving the certification a lot of thought, I decided it would be beneficial to me (if only to meet other instructors).  The CPR course was a good refresher of what I had been taught while in the Army, with the added benefit of obtaining an official certification.  It also allowed me to get to know some of my ITC classmates who also needed to complete the certification!

I think it is necessary to introduce my ITC classmates…

Rich “The Ripper”:  Rich is the quintessential California surfer!  The “Ripper” nickname comes from a TV show he was in called “Beach Clash”, which he mistakenly told to one of our classmates!  From that point on, we gave him a hard time about it, but he took it all in stride.  Rich now owns and manages a successful art studio.  He is a big surfer and, as he is getting more into kiteboarding, decided to take the instructor course.  This guy was probably one of the nicest people you will ever meet!  He is definitely the kind of person that would take the shirt off his back to help you out!

Phil Midler (or as he entered on my iPhone “The best looking guy on this phone”): Phil is the owner of XL Kites, so it was really neat to have someone with that level of experience in the industry as one of my classmates!  Phil came from a very different background, having studied

Phil (left), Etienne (center), Rich (Right)

Physics and pursued that career path prior to entering the kiteboarding industry.  He has a dry sense of humor that keeps you laughing and someone who loves to tell stories.  I think we all learned a lot from the experience Phil has teaching over the years and I especially enjoyed the opportunity to pick his brain about his relationships with different reps.

Yann (Canadian, but he makes sure to let you know he was born in France): Yann was definitely the quietest one in the group.  He lives in Canada and works in the IT Industry.  Yann was my teaching partner over the course.  We all paired up while teaching lessons in order to provide each other feedback.  Despite being a quiet person, Yann really opened up as we went through the course.  He struck me as a truly genuine person and I was happy to have had the opportunity to work with him!

Luigi (Italy): Luigi has a funny personality.  He has been in the industry for some time and teaches mostly kids.  Luigi is definitely a people person, as well as serving as sort of a class clown for us!  Despite having a lot of knowledge and experience, Luigi tended to stay in the background when it came to exercises in the class.  It was a lot  of fun having him around.  He called me “my girl” or “our girl”, which both singled me out as the only girl in the class and also made me feel like more of the group.  Lots of love to Luigi for bringing me a bagel on the second day when I said I wouldn’t eat a donut!

Etienne (France): Etienne came from a sailing background in France, so he was quite knowledgeable!  First impressions of Etienne was that he was “too cool for school”!  However, after getting to know him, he turned out to be a lot of fun to be around!  Etienne wasn’t outspoken, but when he did say something, it was usually hilarious (or if not actually funny, his French accent made it so!).  I will at least always remember Etienne as the classmate who peeled a large man-of-war off of my foot!

Alex with his amazing snacks!!!

Alex (Russia…?): Alex brought the most amazing snacks in the world!  He is (or was) on a raw diet, so we got lots of healthy snacks everyday (to go along with our cuban coffee and assortment of unhealthy pastries or donuts).  I spent the most time with Alex out of the other classmates and can say that I would certainly count him as a friend (but that isn’t to say that I wouldn’t say that about any of my other classmates!).

So, those are my classmates.  It’s a brief description that doesn’t even come close to describing how cool everyone was.  Everyone brought something different to the class and we all came together nicely during our time.  I wish the course had been longer so I would have had the opportunity to spend more time with all of them!

I won’t go through every day of the course-partly because it isn’t necessary and partly because I should have written this when I remembered all of the details!  The course was amazing.  It was an appropriate mix of classroom time and practical application.  The course required us to go pre-course materials and tests.  I thought that this was really helpful as it allowed us to skip through covering a lot of things that were covered in the pre-course.

This course gave us a lot of practical time teaching and, luckily for us, the wind cooperated.  It was helpful to go through the teaching with a partner, allowing everyone to observe one another and provide feedback.  Additionally, after each teaching session, we came back together to talk about what happened where we again shared different teaching techniques.

The course also included a very basic riding test: upwind riding, toeside riding, jumps and a self rescue.  This riding test was basically just a treat for us to get away from the classroom.  We had gotten together a few mornings before class for a short session, but not everyone had come.  We were given about 15 minutes to “warmup”, which was play time and then we were tested.  As soon as the test started, I got a man-of-war on my foot.  It was small enough that I just peeled it off and continued riding.  Unfortunately, as soon as I pulled my safety for the self rescue, a bigger one completely wrapped my foot (amazing).  If you don’t know anything about these terrible creatures…they keep stinging you until you remove the tentacles.  It had wrapped my foot in a way that there was no way I could get it off in the water.  So, I swam my kite and board in.  By the time I got to shore, it hurt to walk.  Luckily, Etienne and Alex were there finishing their self rescue too and Etienne patiently peeled it off my foot.

Not the same man-of-war, but you get the idea...

We also got some experience on the boat picking up a kite.  This looked a lot easier than it was-of course I have also spent very minimal time in the past few years on a boat (forget about piloting a boat).  This is a part of the course where I really felt IKO should have devoted more time to.  After doing this, it became quite clear to me that a lot of time needs to be put in to effectively teach from a boat.

The course concluded with a final day of observed teaching by the examiner and a written test.  Overall, I felt like the course was very useful-especially for people with little to no experience teaching.  I enjoyed networking with my classmates and learned quite a few new teaching techniques.  Personally, I enjoyed the course and think that the certificate will lend some validity to me as an instructor.  I would say that I think the students would benefit for a longer course (maybe up to two weeks?).  With that being said, I do think that the price of the course is a little high for five days.  I also had some issues with validating my previous teaching hours.  Despite having provided a detailed student log and a letter of recommendation from my PASA school, the examiner still gave my trouble about my hours (the examiner had previously assured me that the log and letter were more than enough, especially since I had 4x the hours required).  I think IKO needs to have better communication with their examiners.

After the course, I spent almost the rest of the month in December (with the exception of going home for a week and then returning to Miami).  Going down to a new spot to teach was pretty different.  They have really shallow conditions.  At “high tide”, the sandbar is about chest high and it is much more like teaching on Tybee.  During low tide, you need to walk out quite far in order to be in water that is more than 1 foot deep.  The biggest hazard in the area are the man-of-wars, which are apparently “mild” in the winter.  They were absolutely everywhere.  Even if it was

Photo by Talin Bolin

warm enough for a shorty, the jellyfish made it necessary to wear a full suit.  Although the wind tended to be onshore or side-on, there was plenty of space because of the sand bar and it was really nice to walk after a student as opposed to swimming after them.  The downside to such a  nice spot was the amount of instructors in the school area.  On a crowded day, this really cut into the amount of usable space you had and could create some close calls.

The team at the school there was really cool and did an amazing job of making me feel welcome.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to spend time down there and get to know everyone.  There are a few highlights to the trip that I will talk about, but the rest of the time we were waiting on wind!

Daniel taking a nap while we wait for wind....

We ate A LOT of Cuban food-it was cheap, good and easy for a group of people who were mostly recent and temporary transplants in Miami.  There was a cafe called Oasis on Key Biscayne that we went to, on my part because the food was incredible, for the guys, because there was a cute girl working there.  I would highly recommend this cafe if you visit the island!

There were a few days paddleboarding at the end of the day (one day we actually went out for a long time looking for a lost anchor).  It was really nice as the water was incredibly clear.  I saw a lot of starfish (the huge ones), sting rays (and even a spotted eagle ray), sea cucumbers and lots of different fish.  It was nice to get out there and it made me miss the Florida water.  I even played around with doing a headstand on the board-not so successful, but the other instructors got a good laugh out of it.

On Christmas day, a group of us went down to Marathon Key to go kiteboarding.  It was a lot of fun, despite the wind dropping out on us.  Brandon and his wife went to the store while we were setting up and brought back beer and food to grill.  The day was spent

Ready to go out

struggling with some light winds, grilling and enjoying everyone’s company.  It was a pretty memorable Christmas and we kited until the sun started going down!  Because the wind was so light, I spent a lot of time on the Capri GT.  That board is so crazy-great upwind ability and it carves like a champ.  On the way back, we stopped at the best Mexican restaurant I have ever eaten at.  It was a total hole-in-the-wall, but well worth it.  Those small places always tend to be better than a bigger restaurant anyways!

Brandon demonstrating the proper way to eat a burrito

We also drove up to the cable park one day-we were bored and there was no wind.  It was a lot of fun!  They did make us go around the lake once on kneeboards since we had never been there before.  I would be lying if I said that didn’t annoy me.  There were three of us that had to do it and none of us made it around the first turn!  The park was cool though, I spent a lot of time on the Capri GT there and it was amazing to play with it there-again, it carves so smoothly!  One of the guys that came had a hard time making it around the turns (I think he only made it around the lake once).  So, to appease his hurt pride, we drove 15 minutes out of our way to a Chipotle (by the way, amazing).

After my time was over, I drove home on December 29 and on December 30, I started my road trip to the Northeast (blog and photos about that amazing trip to follow soon!).  Miami was an excellent experience, but despite my nomadic nature, I found myself really missing Savannah (You can only spend so much time in Miami)!  Thank you so much to everyone down in Miami that went out of their way to make me feel at home while I was there!

Sunset on Key Biscayne

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