Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mui Ne: Kite Surfing

 Mui Ne is situated along the South China Sea, far enough south that the water is warm, yet far enough north that the seas are affected by cyclones out in the open ocean that create a strong, year-round surf.  There is also an unceasingly strong wind that blows along the coast.  While beach combing you may lose your hat or your mind if it's not pinned down properly.  Due to these unique conditions, one of the most popular activities to do along the main beach is kite surfing.  Apparently back in the 1970's and 80's people tried to put kites on everything - ice skates, roller skates, canoes, surf boards, etc. It was a golden age of recreation. While most of these kite-related activities have fallen out of vogue, kite surfing is alive and well where the proper conditions exist.
 Kite surfers get their massive 12m nylon kites into the air while on the beach.  It is a precarious process, but once the apparatus is soaring high above them, the surfers amble into the water with their board , strap into their bindings, and make their way into the angry sea.  Once up, their kites propel them through the waves, allowing more advanced riders to jump through the air (sometimes over 50 meters) and do fancy tricks.
Apparently, the Russians have been doing this sport for years on frozen ponds and bleak, snowy fields, so the entire stretch of the main beach is littered with tall, muscular, tanned, tow-headed Russian men, barking orders at their small Vietnamese assistants.  Mui Ne was only recently discovered by the sporting community and within the last five years the denizens of Sankt-Peterburg are escaping their frigid winters and arriving in hordes.  Each and every menu/paper/ad in town is in Russian, sometimes even eschewing Vietnamese and English.  Vietnamese folks are prodigious complainers, so take this with a grain of salt, but we consistently heard that Russian visitors in particular can be rather standoffish and unkind to staff at restaurants and bars.  Is this a misinterpretation of the thick, naturally harsh tones of the Slavic languages or simply a knee-jerk reaction to the poor service that is predominant in Mui Ne?  I don't know, but at least this takes some heat off of the perpetual whipping boy of the traveling community - Americans.
What a sight to see, a stunning white sand beach, a blue sea full of crashing waves and hundreds of colorful kites flying through the air.  Although it made swimming a bit hazardous, it was worth the risk to sit back and watch people literally flying through the air.  After talking to a few instructors we met there, I think I will bite the bullet next time we're in Mui Ne and learn to kite surf.  I want to fly as well.


Carol said...

The kites don't look like they have people on them....especialy not tall tan Russians.

Nellie said...

Mom- I guess I was a bit unclear, the people are on boards in the water and the kites fly about 30 feet above them in the air. However, when the people jump off waves, their kites pull them up into the air and they fly several meters.

Isis said...

Nellie -

Do you and Gavin actually have jobs? Ha ha ha !!

Being that everytime I look y'all up, you're on some awesome vacation.... I so loved those pictures of the red earth and blue sky. So Beautiful.

Actually, I was in the South China Sea at Tioman Island, hope you go there, it's really romantic. Off the coast of Malaysia, where they filmed "South Pacific" ..... amazing hiking trails, all these locals sitting around ONE TELEVISION watching an antiquated American or European tv show and us drinking lukewarm Guiness. Pick your fish or crab from the local fishermen on the beach and they cook it. Ah, those were the days !!!!

SF is really great ..... I'll send ya an email about it later .....

Love that you're having so much fun !!! xox Isis.

Isis said...

PS: Your writing is awesome !

Ned said...

You mean you didn't try it? I would have in a second! I wish there were a beach to go to near Durham... or at least one where your ears didn't freeze and fall off from the wind off the North Sea.

Anonymous said...

If the Russians have been flying kites similar to these for years then why are they so disrespectful to the sport by not following basic safety guidelines. By not following the safety aspects of this sport they put other people in danger.

Safety is the key to kitesurfing and the majority of Russian kiters on the waters of Mui Ne have not got a clue about that. Try going up to one and giving a little advise on how to be safer and follow the international rules to keep this sport safe,you will probably leave with a black eye or worse. If anyone out there has contact within the Russian kiteing community please do something about the ever increasing dangers and irresponsible kitesurfing from the Russian community.

PS not all the Russian kiters are unsafe, but the majority of the short term tourist Russian kiters are.

Please kite safe its not just you out there.