I am standing on a wind-swept sand dune trying to fly a kite, completely frustrated. It’s a perfect blue-sky day here in the Magdalen Islands of the Québec Maritime (Les Isle de la Madeleine), where I’ve come to relax and try surf kayaking and kite-buggying. Relaxing and surf kayaking are easy, but kite buggying is another story.
The buggy is small three-wheeled vehicle that looks like a go-cart. To accelerate and slow down, the driver maneuvers a kite attached to the back of the buggy. Kite buggying is usually done on the sand, and you can fly along at up to 70 miles per hour and even jump 50 feet in the air. Kite buggying is like kite surfing, because in both, the rider is pulled by the same kind of kite. The main difference is you kite surf (synonymous with kite boarding) on a surfboard in water. Learn how to control the kite, and you can pretty much do any power kite sport including kite skiing in the winter on snow.
“Go to three o’clock!” calls Eric Marchand, my instructor. I try to maneuver my kite in the sky towards that position, but instead, my kite crash-lands in the sand. “You’re yanking too hard,” he says. Relax your body. Bend your elbows.” Easy for him to say, considering he’s a world champion snow-kiter, and owner of Aerosport, a kite sports school in Les Isle de la Madeleine. The kite is not the kind you see kids flying. It’s aerodynamic and wing-shaped and seems to have the power of a plane, though to me it’s more like trying to ride a glider through a wind tunnel. The wind is blowing around 40 mph—no wonder Les isle de la Madeleine has been ranked in the world's top ten destinations for wind sports. Problem is, even with all this wind, I can’t keep my kite in the air more than a few seconds. After about a half hour of dismally failing, Eric hands me a helmet, walks me towards the buggy, and says “Let's go."
WHAT? I’m going in the buggy now? But I don’t know how to do this! What if the kite pulls my buggy into the air with me in it? How will I get down?
It turns out I’m not going alone. I’m going to be a rider behind Eric. “It takes a long time to learn how to control the kite,” he says. “You’re certainly not going to get it in just one session.” Relieved, I get into the little go-kart, the kite lifts into the sky, and we’re off, tearing across the sand dunes on three wheels. Now that I only have to enjoy this and not be the driver, I scream above the wind, "Faster, faster! Do a wheelie!”
"I can't," he yells back. "I can't go fast with two people in the buggy."
Instead, we make huge figure eights in the sand until its time to stop.
I’ve had my wind therapy, now it’s time for the spa at Havre sur Mer, the cozy Inn where I am staying, and where my room faces the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I can open the door and sit on my deck or walk 100 feet to the beach. I head to the spa for a Deep Tissue massage and am so soothed by my therapist’s hands—not to mention the sound of the waves lapping to shore—that soon I am sound asleep, dreaming of flying in the air.
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