What do you look for in a travel destination? Good food, warm sand, blue seas? If youâ€™re a kiteboarder, youâ€™re mainly in search of something other travellers go out of their way to avoid: high winds. Gales? Fantastic. Cold air roaring up from the Antarctic? Bring it on. The great thing about kiteboarding is that it sends you to places you might not have considered otherwise â€“ because who in their right mind would go somewhere windy?
How do you find the right places for your kiteboard? Itâ€™s not quite as simple as combining fast-moving air with wide stretches of water. Each kiteboarding destination has its own quirks, from the enormous differences between lake, lagoon and sea water to the varieties of wind type according to their source. Take the wind hitting Tarifa, a town on the coast of Andalusia â€“ as the air funnels between Africa and Spain, it accelerates and dramatically grows in strength. Variations in air density and temperature can also change conditions significantly.
Iâ€™m no expert – in fact Iâ€™m only a beginner – but I’ve already had the opportunity to visit 4 major kiteboarding spots in 3 different countries, and each had a unique feel and required a subtly different set of skills. Thereâ€™s also the travel aspect to consider â€“ if you get a buzz from throwing yourself into different cultures and environments, the more places you go kiteboarding, the more fun youâ€™ll have and the more youâ€™ll learn about the world.
Here are my four favourite places to date.
1. El Gouna, Egypt
This was where I was tested the water with kiteboarding, taking a few lessons in this resort town next to the Red Sea. El Gouna is traditionally famous for its scuba diving, but the year-round winds combined with baking warmth have recently turned it into a kiting hotspot. El Gouna offers access to miles of desert landscape, studded with lagoons containing the coral reefs that have attracted so many scuba enthusiasts. Itâ€™s a place of golden sunsets and stunning desert beauty, reflected and enhanced by the golden shades of the town’s unique architectureâ€¦
Of the many kite schools on offer, I chose to receive my lessons from Red Sea Zone
2. Tulum Beach, Mexico
Tulum is a beach on the YucatÃ¡n Peninsula, much beloved by tourists for obvious reasons â€“ itâ€™s beautiful, easy to get around, and combines unspoilt beaches with a tropical climate and plenty to see nearby (including Mayan ruins). By happy circumstance I woke up in my Cabana to find Iâ€™d accommodated myself next to a kite school. Extreme ControlÂ kite school is in a picture-postcard location on the beach, bordered by turquoise water and palm trees. Itâ€™s not as flat as El Gouna, and offers a different variety of surf suited to more experienced kiters â€“ so if you approach it as a beginner, you’ll acquire the skills to kite pretty much anywhere in the world. I learned a lot at Tulum Beach â€“ mainly from the comfort of a hammock, watching how the professionals did it.
3. Western Cape, South Africa
Cape Town offers one of the most exciting kiting experiences in the world, thanks to its fierce winds (including the southeasterly summer wind nicknamed the â€œCape Doctorâ€) and some spectacular surf. These environmental factors have turned it into a playground for advanced kiteboarding athletes and champions of the kiteboarding world. Big Bay is where the heart of the action is – long golden-sanded beaches pummelled by strong winds â€“ and itâ€™s not really or beginners unless theyâ€™re there under strict supervision. If you can brave the fierce conditions, Big Bay offers one of the most spectacular views of Table Mountain youâ€™ll find in the area.
Drive further up the Capeâ€™s west coast and youâ€™ll find Langebaan – a small town with a distinctly Greek / Mediterranean climate including almost year-round sunshine. As you might have guessed, itâ€™s also excitingly windy. Its turquoise waters are flanked by mountains covered in fynbos, the areaâ€™s heathland vegetation that relies on fire to propagate. Langebaan offers kiteboarding opportunities for advanced riders, but thanks to a sheltered area known as Shark Bay (donâ€™t worry, theyâ€™re not that kind of shark), it also caters for beginners – and offers everyone spellbinding African sunsets comparable to those seen at Big Bay. There are plenty of kite schools in Langebaan, I did a safety lesson with WindchasersÂ before hitting the lagoon.
Written by Lezaan Roos