My Kiteboarding Ah-Ha Moment

I had paid the big bucks, something like $600, for the 3 day long weekend of instruction, from one of the best kiteboarding schools, taught by a great group of guys, in one of the best places to learn, in the country.


We started off learning the basics of kiteboarding in the classroom in town – the equipment, some terminology, safety concerns, and key concepts like the “wind window.”  Oh, “And, please don’t forget to sign your release from liability waiver before we head out to the van.” 🙂

We drove out to Grand Traverse Bay situated to the north of Traverse City, Michigan.  The water is beautiful – clear and blue.  There is no current to contend with.  Along the eastern shore there’s an enormously long and wide sandy shallows.  And, the wind blows fairly consistently and constantly. All perfect conditions for the kiteboarding newb!

On the white, sandy beach we learned how to set up our equipment, and each got some time flying a trainer kite.  We put on our harnesses and ventured out into the water to practice flying a larger kite.  We pushed the board under the water and tucked our feet into the bindings while simultaneously maneuvering the kite.

My moment-of-terror came when I realized that it was time to do the unimaginable.  I was now expected to execute way-too-many complicated steps simultaneously and sequentially, in a very precise order, while also adjusting for conditions of wind and water,  none of which I had down, individually, with any level of competence, all while attempting a dangerous maneuver.

My mind couldn’t conceive, and my body had no muscle memory for it, but I was supposed to, in less-than-an-instant:

  • Float upright in the water, facing and maintaining a direction in the water in relationship to the kite in relationship to the hard-to-ascertain and ever-shifting wind window
  • Feel and fly the kite, some 75’ above my head while floating, in the correct direction, within the wind window (fly, float, wind window – yup, got it!!)
  • Time the start of my power stroke, to pull myself out of the water
  • Know how to and execute a precise power stroke within the wind window (between two certain points – no less, no more, or else…)
  • Keep various parts of my body in a particular position in the water, which I then had to uncurl and stand upright while simultaneously controlling the kite to adjust for the wind, and hit two different points than on the power stroke
  • Then I needed to know what to do upon emerging from the drag of my water my body in the water
  • Then I had to fly the kite for the conditions that then existed after exiting the water
  • And if I made it that far, I was then expected control the angle of board against the water in order to move through the water

What I did do was come back too far from my initial power stroke, launch myself 10 feet into the air in the opposite direction of the one I had intended to go, and did a superman pose as I hit the water.  I drug myself out of the water to see the horrified looks on the faces of my husband, 17 year old daughter, and just about every instructor and student in the class.

And my “Ah-Ha” moment??  That came when I realized what a perfect example all of this was for how poorly instruction and skill transfer is and has been done, how the practice of skill transfer hasn’t evolved in any significant way, from an art to a science, and how even those who are at the top of their game, are doing it so poorly, because of the lack of a precise, methodical approach to skill transfer.

I realized that there was absolutely no way for us students to have successfully learned how to kiteboard, through no fault of the student or instructors.  It was here that the early seeds of RSTP really began to grow in my mind (see “Rapid Skill Transfer Protocol™ (RSTP™) and Skillsopedia™ – The Quest Begins”).  Later I would uncover “The Problems with Traditional Skill Transference.”  All I knew at the time was….

  • The students and instructors were trying to accomplish far too much in too short a period of time.
  • There was not enough time to learn any single piece to the point of unconscious competence, much less successfully methodically aggregate the pieces to the point of unconscious competence at each aggregation point along the way – in order to aggregate the entire skill sequence into the student’s unconscious competence.
  • Multiple skill segments were expected to be executed in a complex pattern of simultaneous, sequential and complex movements – asking for the impossible!!

And now I know, RSTP is the solution for methodically laying down skill sets so that they can be reliably reproduced and acquired by the novice.

And the day I know I’ve proved that is the day that I find myself skimming across the shimmering waters, doing something most would consider to be very dangerous, but that has been taught in such a precise way as to eliminate most of the risks involved – for me kiteboarding is the ultimate validation test for RSTP (see “Kiteboarding as the Ultimate RSTP Validation Test”)

Kiteboarding, Coding, and the Epic Quest for the Holy Grail of Skill Transference

For a long time, one of my little personal mottos has been “Under, Over, Parachute in Behind.”  By this, I mean that whenever confronted with life’s inevitable challenges, there is always a way to get from where you’re at, to where you want to go, by countless, imaginative means – that you can go under or over the wall in front of you, or, if the situation requires drastic measures, you can even parachute yourself in behind.

Back in 2009, I failed miserably in my attempt to learn how to kiteboard – there were two particular times when David watched in horror as I launched, board strapped to my feet, 9m kite strapped to my waist, some 10 feet into the air off of Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan, before doing a super-man landing in the shallow waters.  Those moments cemented (for the time being!!!) my fear of the sport.  But, the whole experience also cemented in me the idea that the currently accepted methodology for learning a new skill is terribly flawed, and that there had to be a better way, a more precise, methodical approach to learning that would lead to greater success for both the instructor and student (see “My Kiteboarding Ah-Ha Moment”).

That's Jess

That’s Jess on the same trip

Since then, I’ve been researching and working on building out a language-based, fill-in-the-blanks, Mad-Libs-type skill transfer protocol that codifies the skill transfer process from an expert in any field to a novice who would like to possess that particular skill set.  And pursuing this project has required its fair amount of creative tactics to continue moving forward.

So, fear not, to all those brave souls who wish to pursue whatever great ends (for any pursuit worth pursuing is, indeed, great!!).  The road will, no doubt, be long and treacherous, full of obstacles, dead-ends, circling back and an endless number of heartbreaking setbacks.  It will be asking a million questions, and looking for the next answer and the next, over and over again.  But, if you employ all your creativity to surmount each and every one of those hurdles, you will be rewarded for your fearless efforts. Continue reading