Lost your moves during lockdown?

Mark Shinn is here to make you feel better. He has too!

This is Mark’s 82nd Kiteworld column

Lost your moves during lockdown?

Mark Shinn is here to make you feel better.

He has too!

This is Mark’s 82nd Kiteworld column

As the deadline for these ramblings approaches, the need to find a topic to discuss in my one-man debating society becomes more and more pressing. It’s easy to capitulate and start writing about the most currently trending topics and this month is no different. Everywhere I look and everything I listen to has the same basic content and recurring themes (though often contradictory or fake, of course). I find it hard to believe that every human on the planet (well, more or less every human) has suddenly become singularly interested in only one topic. Surely there is something more out there; something in our not too distant past worthy of exposure?

I feel like the cartoon of the guy staring into a darkened room shouting, “Is there anyone out there?”. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. So here it is: my opinion on the one burning topic that defines the times we live in; a world changing event... a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence or the start of a new reality… Yes, I’m talking about Olly Bridge making a 35 second jump and capturing it on video! Holy cow – 35 seconds? Are you kidding me? We’re not talking about some crazy thermal or updraft either – just a windy day with a lot of other kiters around. Rumour has it that he did plenty of jumps that day, each of which would be equally mind blowing.

“It’s not just the time in the air that’s so impressive, but also the distance travelled. I’m pretty sure if he pulled that trick in Cape Town on a standard summer’s afternoon he would have collected around 54 other kiters in his lines along the way!”

It’s not just the time in the air that’s so impressive, but also the distance travelled. I’m pretty sure if he pulled that trick in Cape Town on a standard summer’s afternoon he would have collected around 54 other kiters in his lines along the way!

After watching this video a handful of times I have to confess it’s had a negative marketing effect on me. I’d love to have a kite that lets me do that but the lake I habitually kite on is simply too small so this is probably NOT the right kite for me. If I owned such a kite and DIDN’T manage to jump over 20 seconds it would mean I am half the kiter Olly is and I’m just not sure my ego can stand to travel down that road! Well, thanks Olly for not only raising the bar, but putting it onto another planet entirely and in doing so stoking my interest in all the other disciplines of kiteboarding. I (like many of you) recently had a ‘break’ from kiteboarding. Not entirely my own decision of course, but nonetheless some weeks off the water were had. As with all things there were some positives; my van is now the absolute model of order and cleanliness, all my bars have been serviced and there isn’t a single little job around the house left to be done that could hold me back now that my water access has been restored. I also learned a lot during that period. For example, I had no idea how many of my friends were secretly hiding their other passion and specialism – that of being an online sports coach and fitness instructor!

Mark, lakeside in Poland, where they had a short lockdown and a return to ripping before most!

Mark's tack, usually totally locked-in Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail

Mark's tack, usually totally locked-in Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail

My first session back was epic. My second was great but by the third I couldn’t put the thought out of my mind that I was a bit rusty. Tricks and moves that I would previously be doing without a second thought suddenly seemed a little disjointed and awkward. I’d normally expect a 95 to 100% foiling tack rate each session, but I would say I was actually only managing 50% or less. I’m well aware that the path to improvement is not a lineal progression but a series of steps and plateaus, however I’m at a loss to explain why after a few weeks out I felt like I was riding so poorly. Being the slightly competitive person that I am (even if it is only myself I am competing against these days), the situation forced me to take a step back to re-imagine how the move should work and try to remember and rediscover the little elements that make it possible to achieve consistency in any physical activity. It’s a well documented fact that you are only able to focus on one aspect while performing a move and this is the foundation of one of the fundamentals of sports training: repetition. Repeat, repeat and repeat until the motion becomes ingrained and intuitive and only then can you start to concentrate on smaller aspects of the movement – because your body can now perform the other actions on autopilot.

Most manoeuvres involve a complicated series of muscular actions performed in a sequence. There is truly no way you can consciously control each one of them, but we identify individual actions during the trick that can help our bodies to continue through the sequence.

Being the slightly competitive person that I am (even if it is only myself I am competing against these days), the situation forced me to take a step back to re-imagine how the move should work and try to remember and rediscover the little elements that make it possible to achieve consistency in any physical activity.

This is the magic ‘trick’ that you hear people talk about. For example, they might say, “I tried a thousand back rolls without landing one until someone told me to turn my head and now I land them all”. This one moment of concentration acts like a road sign for your body; a redirect so that instead of once again traveling down the path of failure, that one conscious thought or action redirects the progress onto a successful path.

Turn your head: one of the magic triggers of trick success in kiteboarding. Rider: Marek Rowinski Jr Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail

Turn your head: one of the magic triggers of trick success in kiteboarding. Rider: Marek Rowinski Jr Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail

“Muscle memory is a funny thing; it’s takes a long time to achieve, but once you have it it’s normally then just a case of making some small corrections if things start going wrong to get back in the game.”

The sign of a successful sports coach is the ability to identify these moments and to be able to create the needed road sign or ‘trick’ to put you back onto a successful pathway. In reality most of us don’t have a coach (though probably we should have) but fear not; what we do have is a massive library of videos that a great many riders have uploaded online and this is an invaluable resource. If you have a move that is frustrating you, take some time to watch examples of both professionals and regular riders. Watch them over and over again. If they’re completing the move and you’re not, the answer why should be right there in front of you. Try to identify the point at which you diverge from their path of successful completion. If you have a riding friend or partner that can film you, even if just for a few attempts, or if you have a GoPro that you can mount in your lines you’ll have all

the material you need to break the trick down and figure out what the moment of truth is in your riding. Some riders can do all of this naturally, but most of us aren’t like that and a few tips and tricks can save days, weeks or even months of frustration. I’m fortunate in that I have plenty of footage of myself riding to look back through and after a couple of frustrating weeks feel like I’m getting back on track. Muscle memory is a funny thing; it’s takes a long time to achieve, but once you have it it’s normally then just a case of making some small corrections if things start going wrong to get back in the game. KW

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