Returning to Your Happy Place After Injury - Getting Back On The Board
TeamVivida member Heidi Wright takes us through her recovery journey after injury and tips for getting back on the water after she suffered a broken leg from a kite accident. She shows us that getting back to normal isn’t just about the physical, but the mental rehabilitation as well. ✨
Words by Heidi Wright
2020 Kiting goal: Learn to foil
June 2020: my happy place on the water is crumbled when I broke my leg doing what I love: kite surfing.
I’m not writing this to tell you about how hard it was hear about other kiters fun sessions on the water whist sofa bound; or how important it is to look after your mental wellbeing and how difficult it is not to be checking the wind forecast every morning before you get out of bed: I want to talk to you about getting back on the water.
6 to 8 weeks. That’s how long a broken bone takes to heal, I was very wrong; 14 weeks of immobilisation wrote June, July, August and September off for me.
I sought out a rehabilitation clinic and started weekly rehab sessions from week 8 of my recovery. By the time I could begin to remove my boot and walk unaided I had little muscle wastage and could already take a few steps.
#1 Get early rehabilitation help
Within 30 minutes of being discharged from the fracture clinic and told to start doing things ‘normally’, (when going up the stairs on my bum had become my new normal!) I turned up at the beach. Knowing kiters were out, I leapt out of my car, for the local guys to tell me what a great new car I’d got.
Er... Hello... Look I’m walking! Look at my oddly tanned legs! I want to go kiting, right now!
Three days later I needed to kite. I needed to get out on the water to allow my mind to remember the freedom, time for me and escape that kiting gave me. Yes, it was too early for me to be kiting in terms of physical recovery but my mind needed it.
#2 Look after your mental health
My local kite , Frinton-on-Sea in Essex UK, are stars and were all happy to help me get back out. My first challenge was to untangle my lines, from how they had been left from my accident, less volunteers to help with that bit!
When it came to put my kite in the air I did feel sick. Sick with fear. Sick with determination.
#3 It will be scary going back out. That is ok.
I stood in the shallows feeling the wind through my hair and the sea lapping at my ankles, holding my kite in its happy place. I just breathed. I had to get out of my head my last memories of being in this spot.
I took steps into the water and began a gentle body drag. That was ok. I could handle that. I did it again, and then I picked up my board.
One of my kite friends who had been standing on the shore the whole time for me, said that I didn’t have to put my board on and that I had already achieved a lot. But I needed more.
I held my kite in its happy place, slid my feet into my foot straps. Dived my kite down, stood up and smiled. Smiled as I could still do it. Smiled as I had overcome the fear of getting back out there. Smiled because I was proud of me.
I went back out the next day but came in in tears. My leg hurt. I felt like I couldn’t do it. I had to remember that I had only been walking unaided four days now. I hadn’t really got enough strength back in it to be out on the water full stop!
#4 Accept you will have to take a step backwards to move forwards.
Four weeks after learning to walk again I decided I was ready to start working towards my 2020 kiting goal: learn to foil.
I mastered taxing to my left very quickly. But when it came to trying to go to my right (the leg I broke weight baring direction) it was like I couldn’t even remember how to fly a kite, let alone get to my board and put my foot into the foot strap.
I was scared. I was afraid of my right leg. I was annoyed with my mind for letting me be scared.
#5 Don’t give up. It will be hard.
It was now December, and every weekend the weather had not been suitable for me to have another go on the foil since my lesson in October. I had been practising weight baring and balancing on my right leg and had so much determination to still achieve my 2020 kiting aim.
My mum telling me that 2020 had not gone to plan for many people this year and its ok not to achieve that goal and that there is always next year made me feel even more determined that I would do whatever it took to will confidence into my right leg!
On the 20th December the weather was perfect for foiling. Clear skies, flat water, medium winds. I was ready. I could do this. I was nearly down to single figured days of 2020.
I had to go to my right to get away from the beach. I did start a little wobbly, over working my kite, falling forwards and some body drags needed.
Lots of encouragement, talking out loud to my leg (yes silly I know but it worked!), and the floundering in the water ended as I dived my kite, stood tall and strong and went 1km to my right. Just like that. I was up and riding. I could do it.
I managed 15km smiling and riding on the foil. I reckon it felt more amazing and special to me than if I hadn’t had a setback. I was proud of me. Proud of me not giving up.
Ok yes I was only taxiing and very small micro flights but that made me grin from ear to ear.
Thanks to Dave and Dan at Push kiting kitesports school for the encouragement and patience in helping me find a new happy place on the water.
#6 it will feel more amazing than if you had achieved without a setback.
So what’s the goal for next year? Learn to use a kite wing… maybe…
Heidi Wright is a kitesurfer, sailor, swimmer, skier, wakeboarder and proud Vivida Ambassador.