On the back of the current 2012 Olympics furore, I would like to draw peoples’ attention to one little story that may have slipped through the media net. Kiteboarding, a major passion of mine, has made it into the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) recently took a vote to include kiteboard racing at the 2016 games at the expense of the windsurfing class.
Image courtesy of kevincole
This is a big deal for a sport that has only been commercially viable for a little over 10 years. Now the fastest growing water-sport in the world, it is a mixture of sailing, windsurfing and wakeboarding. Racing is just one of many different disciplines.
Putting together this list is no mean feat, with lots of countries laying claim to the windiest spot in the world. I’ve gone for places that are not only excellent spots for kiteboarding, but also offer a variety of other no-wind activities to feed the travel bug. I’ve tried to avoid the major hotspots such as Tarifa, Fuerteventura and Maui and some other famous places. Whilst offering up amazing kitesurfing, they don’t offer much in the way of new culture and travel experiences.
So without further ado, the top 5 places around the world to travel and try out this still relatively new and exciting sport are:
Cabarete - Dominican Republic
Kiteboarding has taken off in a big way on many of the more well known Caribbean Islands such as Jamaica, Antigua and Barbados, but the small town of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic remains the daddy and home of kiteboarding in the Caribbean. Initially a windsurfing mecca, kiteboarding came to Cabarete very early. The main beach, creatively called “Kite Beach”, is a hive of boardshort- and bikini-clad foreigners mixed with local Dominican kids who routinely upstage the more illustrious pro-riders when the world tour comes to town each year. With a year-round windy season, locals quote that “8 out of 10 days are windy”, but history suggests that the windiest times of year are generally June to September.
Other spots along the main strip of sand include “Bozo Beach” and further up the coast is the world-famous “La Boca de Yasica”, a perfect flat water river mouth where countless internet videos have been filmed.
Apartments or little villas are easy to rent and hiring a moped is the easiest way to get around. Kite schools line the beach and getting lessons certainly isn’t difficult, and in the evening you can kick back on the beach with Spanish-influenced Caribbean cuisine and a bottle of Presidente.
“New-Cal” arrived on the world kiteboarding scene following the release of an online video by the 5x world freestyle champion showcasing crystal clear, mirror-flat water and amazing coral reefs. A special collectivity of France, New Caledonia is located 1500 miles east of Australia and remains particularly expensive to get to from Europe and North America. For this reason, one would expect it to remain fairly devoid of kiters for some time. There are a couple of kite schools located in the capital Noumea and one or two tour operators that will take you around the island to the various spots on offer.
The language and cuisine has a heavy French influence and is considered some of the best food in the South Pacific with local delicacies such as Civet de Rousette (bat stew!) and coconut crabs common features on the menu.
New-Cal is another of those places that boast year-round wind stats with the months boasting the most amount of wind in the last few years taking place November through February.
Boracay – Phillipines
The mecca for kiteboarding in South-East Asia, Boracay has fast become known for stunning beaches wild parties and epic flat water. However, the development of kiteboarding on Boracay Island is fast outgrowing the infrastructure in place. In recent times, issues over the water quality in the lagoon and waste management have arisen, but the simple fact remains that it is really windy and has a great atmosphere for any traveling kiteboarder.
Another former Spanish colony, San Miguel and tequila flow freely to compliment the November – March windy season and if you go when the Kiteboard Tour Asia rolls around, you can be sure of a good night out. Kite schools and beach-side villas and hotels are numerous and it’s a worthwhile trip if you find yourself getting hot and sweaty, stuck in Manila.
The East African Coastline – Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique
This is a collection of spots, rather than a singular town, beach or island. Kiteboarding is exploding on the East coast of Africa with a number of tour operators running “kitesurfaris”. Diani beach and Che Shale are probably the most well known of Kenya’s offerings, with the white sand beaches serving up flat water on the inside and waves breaking out on the reef. This is repeated in many places along the West African coastline and this whole area is just waiting to be explored. Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island is another up-and-coming kitesurf destination with near guaranteed smooth 15-20 knot winds throughout the summer months. Here, kite schools are abundant and you can be sure of excellent learning conditions to go with some interesting mix of cultures.
An even more remote destination, Murrebue in the north of Mozambique, just across the border from Tanzania offers very similar conditions to the rest of the west coast. Currently there are only one or two places offering lessons and only a few places to stay, meaning a very small community of kiters, a relaxed atmosphere and empty beaches.
Ceara – Brazil
Finally, as a nod to the 2016 Olympics, the final top choice for a kiteboarding destination has to be Brazil. With many pro-riders making a pilgrimage to Brazil, the State of Ceara has fast exploded as the holiday destination. Spots like Cumbuco, Taiba and Prea all within a couple of hours driving of the main town of Fortaleza offer flat water lagoons, perfect peeling waves and solid windy conditions from July through to February. There are lots of companies offering tours, hotels and villa rentals so finding somewhere to stay is easy.
By Sam Wickham