Secret life

“As I loosened the harness off I noticed a black scorpion run down my leg”

Reading-based optometrist, Catherine Freeman, shares her kite boarding adventures with OT 

Kite boarding

My husband and I have four kites between us, boards and a whole wardrobe of wetsuits for summer and winter.

We take our kit around the world. I think Brazil is the best place in the world for kite boarding. You have got waves, lagoons and good flat water conditions. The variety is what makes it special. For my fortieth birthday we hired a guide and we kiteboarded 200km of the coast. We had a buggy following us with our luggage. We would pull in, stay the night and carry on.

Kite boarding is frightening on one level but it’s addictive. You never get bored of it. You think, I’ll only do one more jump because I’m going to be really sore tomorrow but then you do more loads more and can’t get out of bed the next day. When you’re in the air it’s such a lovely floaty feeling and there’s the thrill of the height.

When I went to the Western Sahara, I had a few issues with my kite and it drifted further out to sea than I would have liked. Out there, there were a whole pod of dolphins. They were diving around us. Intermittently you would see one moving through the water and coming out.

I saw a sea snake slither across my husband’s board in Brazil. My husband has allegedly seen a shark but I have never seen such a thing. Turtles are the main thing that I’ve spotted, as well as dolphins and fish. You might go to do a jump and you will see this little turtle try and get out of the way.

"When you’re in the air it’s such a lovely floaty feeling and there’s the thrill of the height"

I was tightening up my harness on Rodrigues Island once and I felt this almighty sting in my back. As I loosened the harness off I noticed a black scorpion run down my leg. My husband ran off to get help thinking I would need hospitalisation. He came back with a woman carrying the classic Rodrigues Island cure for everything – limes. Scorpions are not poisonous on the island but more like a really bad bee sting. It was sore for a few hours and then I was fine.

My work screensaver has a photo of me kite boarding and my patients are always asking, ‘Where are you going now? What are you doing?’ They are always inquisitive about my life because I have been at the same independent practice in Reading for 23 years. Patients don’t always remember what it is 100%. They say ‘Was it that parasailing thing you do? Do you jump out of aircrafts? Is it windsurfing?’

I never ever for a minute thought I would be able to do any of these tricks. As a kid I was one of those children who was scared of doing a handstand. I was nervous of letting myself go. For some reason, I seem to have really pushed myself in this. It has changed my approach outside of kiteboarding. Whenever I have had things that are challenging, you realise that you can get through most things, even things that you don’t think are possible.

Image credit: Mintautas Grigas