Where The Winds Take You


This blog entry about the events of Monday, January 10, 2005 was originally posted on January 14, 2005.

DAY 450:  My presumption of kiteboarding was that it would be similar to snowboarding, only with no snow.  From what I had seen of the pro kiteboarders of Boracay’s Bulabog Beach, riders strapped into a board like one would on a snowy mountain, and lean back and forth to maneuver and keep balance.  Kiteboarding was a bit harder than snowboarding though, as I discovered on my second day of IKO certification class at Hangin.

BEFORE CLASS AT TEN IN THE MORNING, there was a final “see you later” as it was Tito Mike’s last morning in Boracay before taking the boat back to the airport on Panay Island and flying back to Manila to get back to work.  We went out for breakfast that morning — all three of us finally — at the all-you-can-eat breakfast at Le Soleil.  At last the situation was “more Filipino;” the uncomfortable silence was gone and I ate a lot of corned beef hash.  I was happy that Tito Mike, Tita Josie, and I were finally able to share a meal together after the miscommunications of the past couple of days.  The winds were finally blowing my way.

The winds were blowing nicely at Bulabog Beach, but it was the tides that weren’t cooperating yet.  “[We have to wait for the tides to come in,]” Merck said.  “Maraming [many] sea urchins.”

This didn’t stop the pro boarders (picture above) from taking to the boards and the surf.  Merck pointed out who was who in the Boracayan kiteboarding scene as we sat on the sidelines.  “That guy’s fourteen.  He’s a beginner, but he’s good.”  “[That’s Doughboy,]” he said, referring to the aquatic daredevil who had caught some air and did some spins 8 ft. up. 

Wow, I can’t wait to get to that level, I thought.

The tide came in and we geared up.  I put my harness and aqua shoes on and then set up a five-meter kite by myself, with Merck supervising.  He led me out to the lukewarm water of the bay and had me continue my body dragging exercises.  Twelve to three, three to nine, and back again.  The kite grabbed the upper winds, harnessed its power, pulling the cords attached to my harness to pull me away.  It was a great feeling to have some sort of control of the wind as it took me at its whim.

Tita Josie stopped by to check out the scene; she hadn’t seen kiteboarding yet and wanted to see what my fuss was about.  “[He’s good,]” Merck told her.  “[He can control the kite very gently.]”

Merck went out for a ride to not only show off his technique, but the one trick he’d mastered:  riding on one foot, a balancing act easier said than done.  He passed the kite and board to another rider and came back to shore.  “So what’s your plan for the day?  Should we go to the boards?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

I unhooked the cords of my steering bar to the five-meterer (Can I say “five-meterer” like “five-footer?”) and connected them to the ties of an eight-meterer.  A difference of three meters doesn’t sound like much, but it is.  One square yard of drag is enough to slow a falling body by twenty percent, I recalled, a tidbit I remembered from a Dan Brown novel.

Merck kept the kite at twelve and walked it out to the bay for me.  “Okay,” he signaled for me to detach the safety rope from his harness to hook to mine, then dislodge the “pig tail” safety latch from his hook so that I could hook into the steering bar myself.  I strapped in and held on.

“Do you feel the power?” he asked.

“Oh yeah,” I replied.

Power was right; that sucker really caught some air and anytime I strayed away from the neutral “twelve” position, I’d start to get carried away, quite literally.  Sometimes even at twelve I’d feel myself being lifted up.  Any kite bigger than an eight-meterer and I’d probably start flying up in the sky like Gonzo with those helium balloons in the original Muppet Movie.

Steering the kite was hard, but manageable, and it definitely required a lot more concentration and balance.  I kept from flying away with the help of Merck holding me via the support handle in the back of my harness. 

Once I got the hang of it, the board finally entered the picture, putting the board in kiteboarding.  It was similar to a snowboard with a configurable stance of step in bindings on the top.  I had to keep the kite at twelve while trying to mount in — a feat easier said than done.  Luckily Merck was there behind me to keep me from falling down or rising up.

“Okay, eleven, then two, fast.  You have to pump the kite,” my instructor said.  By pumping, he meant to catch a gust by lowering the kite in a rapid motion.

I did as told and tried to stand on the board, but it just sank; I hadn’t pumped the kite hard enough to provide enough drag to keep me afloat.  It floundered out of control.  “Save the kite!  Save the kite!  Don’t pull on the bar, don’t pull on the bar!” Merck called out, but I wasn’t fast enough to bring it back to twelve in time and the big eight-meterer crashed into the surf.  Merck took the reins and tried to do his magic of relaunching the kite without having to walk all the way over to manually reset it into the air, but after some time, he had to do the “walk of shame” for me anyway.

The winds were too weak on that attempt.

TAKE TWO.  Same set up.  I kept the kite at twelve and mounted the board.  “[Okay, you have to pump the kite.  Go lower,]” Merck instructed me.  “[Lower the kite to give it more power.”

Okay, more power to provide momentum.  I can do this.

We waited for the area to clear of other kiteboarders and windsurfers and then I pumped from eleven to three.  The winds really caught in and pulled me up to stand on the board — and then violently slam me into the water like a belly flop.  Salt water went all up my nose and I lost my sunglasses.  Underwater, I still felt the power of the kite pulling me.  I stood up but the kite went crazy and I lost control of it.  It flipped and slammed into the surf.

The winds were too strong on that attempt.

Suddenly I knew why the arch of the kite was rigid with only inflated air and nothing solid; I might have killed someone.  I really started to see the potential dangers of kiteboarding that I had heard of.  Margo, my dive instructor/buddy at Aquarius Diving, told me she had once tried kiteboarding, but would never do it again after the traumatic experience when she lost control of a kite and almost slit a guy’s throat with rope burn from one of the cords.

MY SUBSEQUENT ATTEMPTS were more of the same; either the kite wouldn’t be pumped hard enough to keep me upright, or it’d be pumped too hard, causing me to lose control and crash.  After almost every crash, Merck would have to walk all the way over to the kite to launch it in the air, then walk all the way back to me to help me mount in.  I could tell that after many back and forth walks, he was getting pretty tired of it.

“Okay, last one,” he told me, cueing my final attempt of the day.


“Remember the quick release,” he reminded me, referring to the safety measure installed in the steering bar to prevent a runaway kite.

This is it; don’t get scared now.  Concentrate Erik-san.  You can do it! I thought, citing quotes from Home Alone, The Karate Kid, and The Waterboy.  I balanced the kite at twelve, mounted the board, and pumped the kite from eleven down to three.

Save the kite.  Let the wind take the kite.  Don’t pull on the bar.  Remember the quick release.  Don’t cross the streams.

The wind took the kite.  Upright I became.  Forward I went. 

Wooo hoooo!  I’m doing it!  I’m kiteboarding!  Wooooo!

The momentum didn’t last so long because I didn’t keep a consistent drag going.  Still, it felt amazing to finally get the hang of it.

“Astig!  Okay, again!” Merck called out, cheering and smiling.  “I said it was the last, because the last is the best.”

“Yeah, best for last.”

Same set up.  Balance, mount, pump.  This time I didn’t get it, but I didn’t crash the kite and managed to hop back on the board for another attempt.  That attempt failed to as did the next.  Man, did I lose the power?

“[Okay, this is the last one,]” Merck said.


Balance, mount, pump.  Like magic, the winds caught on and took me forward, this time for quite a while, maybe three times more than I had gone before.  I lost consistency in the drag and sank, but still felt good that I got the hang of it on my last try of the day.  “Two or three more days and you’ll have it,” Merck said.

“Yeah, I just need to practice.” 

We ended the session on a high note and went back to the office to already file the paperwork; due to the travel schedule imposed upon me by my Tita Josie, I could not stay another day in Boracay to finish the third and final official certification day of IKO training.  I got an IKO certification card anyway, with the third section blacked out; I could use that card to finish the training in another center, should I come across one in my further travels of the Philippines.

“You have to stay one more day!  [You almost have it!]” Merck said.  He pleaded with me to stay in Boracay to complete the training, like the way Yoda did on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back before Luke Skywalker cut his Jedi training short to go fulfill his destiny — and to ultimately discover he was bound by the Relatives Factor.  (“No… I am your father.”)  Alas, the winds of my travels were also dependent on the Relatives Factor; Tita Josie and I were expected to stay that night at her friend’s house in Kalibo on the neighboring island of Panay.

“YOU’RE LEAVING ALREADY?” Margo said when I bumped into her on our way back to the ferry station to leave Boracay Island later that afternoon.  “You don’t like it here?”

“No, it’s not that,” I said.  “Uh, we just have to go.”

“We hardly got to do anything.”

I sighed.  If only I had one more day.  “Yeah, I know.”  I remained optimistic.  “I’ll be back.  And you’ll be here.”  We parted ways, not knowing if that would actually happen.

The spider boat ferry took Tita Josie and I passed a rowing crew from Boracay back to the island of Panay as the sky got darker and darker.  Soon it started raining and eventually it turned into a massive storm, one that continued through the night until morning — a storm that might have put a damper on any diving or kiteboarding activities in Boracay if I stayed that extra day anyway.  Funny how fate works; to quote a line from arguably* the deepest philosophical movie of 2004 (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle), “The universe tends to unfold as it should.”

Perhaps the storm was my cue to just accept that the Relatives Factor was all a part of the Fate of my travels — my destiny like Luke Skywalker if you will — that I’ve come to believe in.  Nothing is coincidental; somethings are simply out of my control.  In kiteboarding as in Life, the winds take you and carry you to new places, new experiences, and new discoveries.  Sometimes they blow in your favor, sometimes they don’t; sometimes you can control them, sometimes you can’t.  Either way, it sure is one hell of a ride.


Next entry: Super-Size Me

Previous entry: Let’s Go Fly A Kite

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Comments for “Where The Winds Take You”

  • * I say “Harold and Kumar”  is ARGUABLY “the deepest philosophical movie of 2004.”  Let us not forget it was from the director of “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and that it also gave us the great movie quote from Neil Patrick Harris (playing himself), “Yeah, I’m in the mood for burgers.  FUR burgers.”

    It’s no Empire Strikes Back, but hey.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  05:14 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM THE ATI-ATIHAN FESTIVAL 2005 from Kalibo, Panay!  It’s pretty much the Philippines version of Brazil’s Carnivale…  street parties, costume parade contests, and lots of beer!

    MORE TO COME when I sober up…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  05:19 AM

  • Sounsd like fun to be kiteboarding - but I’ll stick with diving!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  09:48 PM

  • twelve to three, twelve to nine, eleven to three…what about six to nine?  aah…maybe next time…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  11:38 PM

  • Come and knock on our door. We’ve been waiting for you. ... kisses are hers and hers and his, three’s company too. ... Lisa’s favourite show from the 80’s!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  12:12 AM

  • Ever notice how Yoda from Star Wars and Grover from Sesame Street have the same voice?  Maybe someday Yoda will be ordering the “arroz com poYO!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  02:05 AM

  • KiteBoarding sounds fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  02:12 AM

  • This sounds funtastic…. guess wot? I am headed to Mumbai tomorrow and Cuckoo is headed to Delhi. I leave Mumbai on the day she returns. So I guess I shall just be saying hi, to her workstation and her computer, which I shall be using

    sad isnt’ it. we were so looking forward to meeting up and discussing travel etc etc

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  01:06 PM

  • ERIK-SAN: Kiteboarding looks fun! Almost slitting someones neck from the rope - not fun.

    I LOVE that you get on the computer when you are drunk!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  03:30 PM

  • hold on…who DOESN’t get on the computer drunk?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  04:26 PM

  • MICHELLE:  So glad to see your name before a destination again.  BTW, I’m thoroughly hungover writing this right now… wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  01:59 AM

  • ...And I’m totally high, harold n kumar style, but i got work in the morning:(  I just saw that movie, laughed my butt off, it’s gonna be a classic! 

    Just catching up now, great posts and pics Erik!!  450, damn, I remember day 28 as if it were just yesterday, does it feel like that for you too…bet not, lol!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  04:18 AM

  • DUSTY:  Oh, that’s too bad, but I’m sure the city of Mumbai will keep you entertained.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  12:11 PM

  • HARRY:  I was just telling someone how “time flies”... until I looked up DAY 28 just now.  Waiting for standby tickets to the Galapagos… that was AGES ago!  (Literally!)

    “Learn how to make some coffee, you whore!”
    -Kumar to bag of weed

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  12:14 PM

  • A sidenote:  Anyone wondering about the real Asian-American from New Jersey experience needs to see Harold & Kumar.  It’s so real on so many levels.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  12:25 PM

  • I’M BEHIND AGAIN… More to come as they become available!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  12:26 PM

  • Erik, day 29 was one of my favorites, when you posted the pic of your turd, I knew this blog was gonna be good, lol! Damn, that could have been a whole side thing, ‘turds throughout the world’ gallery.

    Kumar cracked me up, that dream sequence is like my favorite music video now.  The other was the interview/phone call in the beginning, I knew from that scene it was gonna be good.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/17  at  04:03 AM

  • Erik,
    Do you have a picture of the Gustavo that you wrote about in your Ecuador log (long time ago), the one from the Limon y Cafe bar? I was there in december and am trying to track a guy with the same name. I am pretty sure he worked there (met him in La Panga). I haven’t got any other info, hopefully you can help me… Thanx..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/17  at  07:08 AM

  • Erik TGT: do you think KFC is still open?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/17  at  12:23 PM

  • hi!
    i am finally reading the december entries.
    how ironic reading about tata young once again. i always thought the name seems common when i just realized that i was listening to one of her tracks often in november while reading your blog.
    the local radio station had that quiz where you could win a trip to bangkok and always played one song of her.
    the world is so small..


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/17  at  01:14 PM

  • When I was in Bangkok last week and 2 weeks ago, I heard that Tata Young song NON-STOP.  The three biggest hits of Khao san road:

    Dhoom Dhoom mataley
    Crazy in Love by Beyonce
    You promised me by In Grid

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/17  at  04:16 PM

  • came across your blog while planning my own round the world trip, great stuff!  i hope i can do as much as you did on my own trip!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/18  at  03:27 AM

  • Yeah i finally caught up with you on the blog, so i am reading this blog in nearly real time these days;).
    you should travel till the end of april so i am always entertained until i stop working here, you did atleast give me a hell of good time in the last months with that blog.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/18  at  11:35 AM

  • ERIK: That’s one of the best, most true to life closing paragraphs/epiphanies I’ve ever read!

    ...and thanks for bringing kiteboarding into my scope of reality. It looked so easy on TV.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/18  at  01:41 PM

  • i’ve fallen behind on the blog again. :( at least i have a reason.  i was in the ER friday night and doctor’s appts abound.  i need to catch back up on the blog!  it’ll be good medicine.

    Posted by Alyson  on  01/18  at  02:12 PM

  • Great pic’s!  Last night I heard a huge shout of hurrah across the continent when the end of AR6 came.  They finally got eliminated!!!  Anyone else out there happy about the outcome??? (I tried to not let the whole cat out of the bag!) LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/18  at  06:33 PM

  • Erik, first time poster here. Great stories, I’m addicted. I’m trying hard to catch up but I just finished October (sketchy hippies in India). Anyway, I’m taking a 10-day trip to Europe for my honeymoon and just booked RT tix from JFK - London on bootsnall.com. Do you ever buy tix from their travel agents? Any positive or negative input? Reading about your adventures makes it so hard to wait for my (short) trip to begin!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  01:13 AM

  • DOGGER - when i met up with Erik in Brazil last February I tried using bootsnall to book, but I found Onetravel.com have a cheaper rate…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  01:31 AM

  • AR6 Watchers:

    Now we can enjoy the show again…too quote another website.. “Ding Dong, the Dick is gone”.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  02:12 AM


    Just spoke with Erik.  He is sitting on a sunny beach someplace in Bohol with his laptop. Still on NIZ.  more exciting & fascinating entries to come. He is flying back to civilization this afternoon.
    We are sitting on snow & frigid weather here in NJ..
    LIZ,  heard about 6.2 earthquake the other day.  Hope you are alright.. Do you ever get used to it?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  09:09 AM

  • Erik’s Mom:  Tokyo didn’t feel very much of the earthquake.  Thanks for asking smile  I’m weird because I actually like them… as long as they aren’t too big and don’t last too long LOL I figure lots of little ones are good - it releases the pressure.  Of course other people think lots of little ones means a big one is coming wink

    Posted by Liz  on  01/19  at  12:57 PM

  • what happened to the blog?  this is a long NIZ!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  12:59 PM

  • We’ve had longer.

    Alyson: What happend?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  04:57 PM

  • Td0t: i had two bizarre attacks in two days of a weird feeling coming over me, with my heart pounding fast and then the shakes in my lower body and flushing in my chest/neck. i went to the ER when the second one happened.  don’t know for sure what it is yet. i’m not gonna be to pleased if it ends up being panic attacks.  :|  i prefer to be mentally sane.

    Posted by Alyson  on  01/19  at  09:54 PM

  • Alyson - hope all works out ok with the medical tests

    Posted by Liz  on  01/20  at  01:00 AM

  • Liz: Thanks. So far, so good. I find out more on Monday.

    Posted by Alyson  on  01/20  at  01:53 AM

  • BELATED REPLIES:  Sorry about the delay; I thought I had explained that in the Philippines, my itinerary isn’t fully under my control and that the entries would come in spurts…

    HARRY:  Turds throughout the world.  Hmm… I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

    JANTINE:  Can’t seem to find a picture of that guy… in fact, I don’t even remember what he looked like.  Man, that was AGES ago! 

    Sorry about that.  Welcome aboard.

    MARQUEE:  Glad I could inspire, even near the end of my trip.  Welcome aboard!

    ALYSON:  Get well soon!

    AR FANS:  I caught a glimpse of the new season… could they have casted the most annoying people or what?

    DOGGER:  Welcome aboard!  The first half of my trip was booked with AirTreks.com, through BnA…  Good stuff.  If you can help it, DON’T go with BnA’s travel insurance (theft isn’t covered as I found out)... go with STA or another (after reading the fine print).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  06:20 AM

  • Reminds me exactly on what was my experience with kiteboarding in Egypt this summer. It was great but unfortunately I had no luck with the wind and i?m stuck exactly at your level. One time on the board but this was it. I?m looking forward to snowkiting. Some say it?s easier for the start and a good entry for more fun on the water.

    Enjoy your trip!
    Greets from Vienna, Austria!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  10:31 AM

  • Your blog is great stuff.  Before reading this entry, I was undecided on traveling to S’pore alone by bus from KL as I’ve never done it before.  But then, I thought What the heck, just do it and have fun.  So, thanks for sharing your experiences and good luck on your journey.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  06:03 AM

  • MARKUS:  Hellooooo Vienna!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  08:47 AM

  • VIVIAN:  Have you sorted through getting S’pore and Malay visas yet?  I heard it’s more involved than I thought.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  09:27 AM

  • I’m Malaysian so I think there’s not much of a problem with visas.  Just scared of going alone! I’ve just finished high school and going there to visit a friend during the coming weekend.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/22  at  06:21 AM

  • “Don’t cross the streams.” Damn I love that movie! “Tell him about the twinkie.” Cool adventure kiteboarding.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  08:58 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Super-Size Me

Previous entry:
Let’s Go Fly A Kite


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