Hahaha what a loser! Such a shame to waste good gear on a guy like him.
October is the wind season in El Salvador. A friend in Playa El Tunco put me in touch with Heidi, a kite surfer who was looking for a partner to practice. As opposed to surfing, the kitesurfing community in general is humble and cool. Due to the risky nature of the sport, kite surfers tend to look out for each other. I had not kite surfed for a year and a half but I told her to count on me.
When I met Heidi, I freaked out. She looked too much like she-who-must-not-be-named. She too was slender, tall, and blond. She had the same freckles on her cheeks, the same deep clear eyes, the same beautiful smile. But that wasn't it. Heidi had the same South German accent when she spoke English, the same facial expressions, the same dry sense of humor. I thought of that quote: “Sometimes, God sends an ex back into your life to see if you’re still stupid.”
There was a kite surfing spot north of San Salvador, a windy lake in a valley. My gear was in La Chichona so Heidi offered to lend me hers. She picked me up on the highway and off we went. The lake was far away in the back country. We drove through hills, forests, and bumpy dirt roads to reach the spot. There were two other cars, a raggedy boat, and what looked like an abandoned barn. We found a space for the car near the water and unloaded. Trees surrounded the area, their roots feeding deep into the lake.
Three men were preparing their gear. We joined the crowd, shared snacks, and made small talk while the wind picked up. One guy was a bit awkward. He looked like that nerd that everyone bullied in high school. He had a helmet on, a life-vest over his harness, and a dumb content expression that perspired failure. He had been kite surfing for years, and admitted being terrible, for years.
The weirdo was the first to launch. Due to the lack of space, he entered the water through the swamp as I held his kite. To stretch his lines, he swam further into the lake only to realize he had forgotten his board in the car. I was trying not to laugh. Heidi brought him the board. After several clumsy attempts, he managed to take off. Hahaha what a loser!
In his defense, the spot was difficult for beginners. The launching area was tiny and the surrounding hills made the wind gusty and impredictible. After him came Heidi. She too had brand new gear. I held her kite while she entered the water to stretch her lines. She raised a thumb up and in one swift motion, she rode out like a pro.
Meanwhile, I played my harp on shore. The wind had picked up a lot more since they left. Heidi came back for a break, I helped her land and started warming up. It was my time to shine. I had never kite surfed in a lake before but if that weirdo could do it… I borrowed Heidi's harness, her kite and her board, and entered the water. Heidi helped me launch and in one swift motion, I rode out like a pro.
The feeling was intoxicating. Faster. I pulled on the bar and blasted at full speed, drunk on adrenaline. In the middle of the lake were waves big enough to surf. I started fooling around when a gust pulled me violently. My feet left the ground and my body was projected forward. I lost control and landed headfirst, bouncing on the surface in a perfect ricochet.
It was brutal. My head was ringing as if someone had slapped me really hard on the ear. Somehow the kite was still flying. I had my lycra shirt on, the harness around it, and nothing else. The speed of the impact had pulled off my shorts and the board. The kite was pulling me, butt naked, toward the shore. By the time I recovered my dignity, the board was out of sight and I was drifting downwind, fast toward the trees.
Fighting against the current, I aimed for the launching area. I kept my body tense to reduce the drag and held the kite low. Within ten minutes, I had tasted the lake water and felt the first shoulder cramps. I would have given up my gear, but this was Heidi’s, so I held on. Half an hour later, my limbs were numb. I foresaw the kite torn off by the branches, me apologizing and making promises. Her, disappointed.
As I accepted my fate, I saw the weirdo waving his hands. He was still wearing his helmet! He pointed toward a swamp downwind and disappeared behind the trees. Then, he emerged on a tiny boat under the low hanging branches. The current brought me close enough to land the kite on the boat. He caught it ten meters before the trees and pulled me up. My hero.
I hugged my savior, gave the gear to Heidi, and returned with the boatman to find the board. It took us two hours through swamps and brambles but we spotted it in the mangrove. The board was a little scratched but that was it. Everything else was as good as new. Heidi was relieved.
The guy I mocked and looked down on came to my rescue, and the girl I tried to impress was disappointed. When I asked her why she let me use her gear without a second thought she said, “I don’t know, you seemed...trustworthy”. She had me at trustworthy.
Arrogant, judgemental and incompetent, but trustworthy...
God, I am still stupid.