Maddie Hursthouse didn't have an easy time learning how to kite. Trying to accomplish her goal, the fuller size rider from the UK went through an odyssey of setbacks and hurtful comments. Maddie's inspiring story shows a women full of determination and enthusiasm for the sport encouraging many others to not have anything hold them back to live their dream.
Hi Maddie, thank you for sharing your story with us! Where are you from and what's your home spot?
I am from Weymouth, Dorset in the UK. So my home spot is kiting in Portland Harbour. Although I’d say I’ve spent more time on the water in Dakhla then in Portland!
What sparked your interest to learn kiting?
I went on a with a guy who casually dropped into conversation that he kitesurfs. Instantly, he’d went from a 6/10 to an 8/10. My mind’s instantly catapulted back to watching guys on Weymouth beach kitesurf, engrossed by the freedom they seem to have. But the idea, I could one day join them never entered my mind. Fast forward five months and first date man and I have been dating a while, and have booked a trip to Cape Verde. It just so happens to my now boyfriend’s complete ‘surprise’ that you can kitesurf there, of course, he reassured me it’s just a coincidence. To his genuine surprise I announce I’ve booked a taster lesson, I pretty much had to scrape his jaw off the floor.
What were your doubts at first when considering to learn?
You see, I’m not an extreme sports kinda girl, well not an any sports kinda girl. Although I loved sports and especially Watersports when I was younger, my round ball shaped figure and short stumpy legs didn’t really lend its self to be an athlete. Although I love the outdoors, there was always something holding me back both physically and psychologically – my weight. For a fat girl I was relatively fit, and by fat I mean not cute chubby and squishy – but more carrying and extra tractor tyre! Before my first lesson, I was petrified, not scared of the kite, or the water or the potential physical injuries. But scared they wouldn’t have equipment to fit me. I sent emails to the kiteschool prewarning them of my size. Who were so caring and understanding. The day arrived for my first ever kite lesson, and my worst fear became reality: I was stood in the shop closely watched by my new partner, the kite boys try to squeeze me into a harness. The lady manager was sympathetic and quickly whipped it off me “don’t panic” she reassured “we’ve got another one”. It took three men, a lot of pulling around but I was finally in a harness. I couldn’t breathe and felt like I was in some weird Victoria chastity belt – but I was in! My taster got me excited, although only two hours. I knew this was something I wanted to pursue. I felt relieved that it was possible and I was optimistic about my kiting future. After doing a couple more lessons in the UK (after buying my own harness so I didn’t have to go through that debacle again) I decided, I was going to be a kitesurfer!
How did your kite journey go on from this point?
It all went wrong then. After sadly things didn’t work out with 8/10 kitesurfer man, the only way to mend a broken heart was a month long trip to Kalpitya, Sri Lanka. Already a little broken from heart ache, a confidence at an all time low, I was met at my first day with “you, you, really, you want to kite”. The shock on the kite school’s managers face, whilst he looked at my bulging belly, then at his kite disclaimer, I immediately became beetroot red and wanted to run a bury my head in the sand. Unfortunately, the humiliation didn’t end there. The kite boys stared and giggled as I thrashed around in the water. The other kite instructors muttered under their breath. I tried to push it to the back of my mind and continue with my goal ahead. To finally get up and riding! One morning I sat eagerly waiting for the kite truck to take us to the lagoon, trying to convince myself the stares and horrible words were all in my head. I over heard the kite instructors briefing next to me. “Who’s taking Madeleine?” said the manager. “Not me” they all protested. “She’ll never get up, what’s the point, she’s going to need an 18 meter kite”, said another. “Her kite control is alright,” muttered the instructor, “She is a paying customer!” With that, I fought back the tears and wished to be anywhere, anywhere but there. But for some reason, head held low I dragged myself on to the truck. “You’re going to need a board the size of a door” whispered an instructor to her boyfriend. Again down at the lagoon I was stared out, one man writing the number 18m in the sand and pointing at me and laughing. Now I had clicked the heavier you were the bigger board and kite you needed. You won’t be surprised that I didn’t get up and riding that day. Instead I dived the kite with anger and aggression and did nothing but do an impression of Dawn French in a superman outfit. Then the wind died. I went away from the camp for a while and when I came back magically instructors attitude had changed. It was as if they knew that my returned proved I was determined. I never cracked riding, I got up, but was nowhere near independent and knew this was going to be a very very long journey.
The setbacks you had to go through are really upsetting. What was the turning point for you?
The Sri Lanka ordeal sure did knock me back. Then the fear came back that I couldn’t do it. I’d wasted so much money on lessons that I felt so ashamed that I was a failure. I was too scared to kite anywhere but especially in my local area, I couldn’t face locals tormenting me. I was about to give up, but I reached out to the Women’s kitesurfing community on Facebook. I was drowned with positive and inspirational messages of support. BigBlue boards helped and guided me in what steps to take now in my kiting. With new inspiration and motivation, I decided to book another kite trip. In Mexico, Cathy Padgett and Johnny from Holbox Kiteboarding finally got me up and riding and couldn’t have been more supportive. Then in Playa Del Carmen I got used to flying much bigger kites 15/17m due to the wind conditions. Now I had to stick to kiting, not only for myself – but for all the women (and men!) who supported me.
Did you end up kiting at your home spot in the UK?
Yes, I did! With two inspirational local women by my side (thank you Pauline and Hayley) and a wetsuit that fit perfectly, I was willing to tackle my local area – in freezing temperatures and gusts of 35 knots! Did the locals laugh at me? No, they cheered as loud as I did as I began to ride further and further…
Kiting is big in the UK, have you been to any events?
Yes, I volunteered at the Hayling Island Kitesurfing Armada this summer, where I met Pete Cabrinha himself! The Cabrinha guys did a tow up, and a red arrows display which was pretty impressive to watch!
What is your current gear set up?
I use a Cabrinha Tronic 145cm, a 12m XO Switchblade (which is my favorite kite) and a Recoil OD bar.
What's your advice for anybody with a plus size and in doubt about learning to kite?
Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you stop you doing what you want to do. You will be surprised how many people will be routing for you to succeed. Pre warn any kite schools of your size to check they have equipment that will fit you. Never say never. You must really believe you can do it, and remember that confidence is attractive. Just own it! I strut down the beach with my nappy harness on, blue sun cream all over my face and I am fully aware that I’m no model. My most important thing is to have fun. Nothing else matters.
What is #livefreeridefree for you?
Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life, and kiting is my way of life. I have met so many incredible people and travelled to so many unique places I wouldn’t of dreamt of if I didn’t kite. Kitesurfing makes me feel free. As I’m kiting, I often think of Moana and how she’d be staring at the ocean for as long as she can remember, but it’s true I feel like I was always meant to kitesurf. Even if my body did make the process difficult.
How would you say your trips changed you and what's your next destination?
I always loved to travel, but always spent so long planning my adventures and was anxious I wouldn’t meet any like minded people. Now, solo travel is easy! I have a set list of when to go and where. I just follow the wind and I know I’ll meet other kiters along the way. Been determined to crack kiting gave me a sense of confidence that I haven’t experience with anything else. I’m currently researching Mauritius for my next kiting spot, but I’d also love to do a kite safari in Brazil!
Thank you Maddie for sharing your story and encouraging others to just go kite. Good luck for your kite progression and see you on the water!