What Kite Surfing Can Teach You About Writing

Female kitesurfer --- Image by © Jakob Helbig/cultura/Corbis

This post on Medium went viral a few months ago. It’s easy to see why:

  1. The title is great: How a Slight Change in Mindset Accelerated My Learning Forever.
  2. The content is surprising, helpful and pithy.
  3. The “slight change” can apply to almost any skill you’re trying to learn (such as writing a novel).

The writer of the post, Tristan de Montebello, wanted to learn kite surfing. In his first lesson, his instructor gave him this important tip: “Pull your kite in one motion into the power zone (almost to the horizon) — This will pull you out of the water immediately and get you moving.”

He noticed that most of the other beginners were bobbing in and out of the water, unable to gain speed or momentum. He spent some time observing the other kite surfers, comparing the beginners with the experts.

This is what he realized:

“If you don’t pull hard, your kite moves slowly and gives you less power. It’s not rocket science, yet 99% of beginners only pulled half way. When it was my turn, I shut my brain off, and did exactly what the pros were doing. I pulled hard, and waited for my kite to get low before pulling back. I was out of the water speeding on my first try. So why do most beginners only pull halfway? Because they feel shy. They aren’t comfortable in this new situation so they tiptoe around instead of ‘jumping in.'”

This is great advice if you’re the kind of writer who takes endless notes on what you’re going to write, spends hours online or at the library tracking down one more tidbit of research, or gets caught up in worrying about whether you’re up to the task. (Guilty as charged.)

As de Montebello writes:

Fast learners know this trick of the mind and apply it all the time. Refuse to be shy. Don’t overthink it. Once you know what to do, do it all the way. Jump in. You will learn faster, and you will have a lot more fun in the process.

Fast learners take the plunge and go all the way. They harbor the crazy hope that they might get it right on the first try.

And sometimes they do.

What Kite Surfing Can Teach You About Writing

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