Category Archives: kiteboarding

Turks and Caicos, January 2012

A couple of weeks ago I spent the week in the Caribbean, in the Turks and Caicos islands.

I went with a handful of fellow kiteboarders, and we stayed in a private villa on the southeast tip of the main Caicos island, about 15 minutes driving from Providenciales, the capital.

The trip was a blast.  I won’t cover all the details here, but even so this will likely be a boring post for most.  It’s more for my own record, for future trip planning.

The villa itself and its location were great.  It’s on Long Bay, which is the undeveloped side of Caicos, the opposite side from Grace Bay where all the big resorts are.  This means we had the beach entirely to ourselves most of the time.  And by that I mean literally just us, no one else.

The water at our beach, and everywhere else, was amazing.  Very clear, very clean, 78-80 degrees all the time.  You don’t need a towel, even, as you can just air-dry without a problem.  We were swimming, kayaking, SUPing, and obviously kiteboarding, in the water for most of every day.

The villa owners, Ritama and Kabir, live there, and they’re super nice.  They were great hosts, and they both kiteboard themselves, so they’re aware of the gear and the setup required.  This was one of the reasons we chose this specific villa.

Specifically, they have a variety of light-wind and beginner boards (read: big boards), suitable for beginners like me in all conditions.  That means you don’t have to bring your big board on the plane, freeing up space in the gear bag for other things.  Good to know for the future.

They also have a working air compressor right on the beach, so you can power-inflate your kites without needing a manual pump.  This is a nice luxury.  Kabir fixed the hose on the compressor right away when it ripped, too.

Of our 7 days, about 3 days had awesome wind all day, and 2 had wind that was too light for me as a beginner, but the other folks in the house still got out there.  That’s a lot of riding, more than we expected. Kiteboarders are always at the mercy of the wind, and it was plentiful this time around.

On the low-wind days, I went scuba diving, and had some of the best dives of my life.  I used Caicos Adventures, on the recommendation of fellow divers from Boston, and they were great.  Fifi, the owner with the funny nickname, is a great guy.  The big catamaran boat they have for serious dives is excellent: new, clean, really well-equipped.

The dives were amazing: lots of fish, big and small.  We went fairly deep, saw plenty of (non-human-eating, hopefully) reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, big eels, and more.  The water is again clean and clear, with great visibility and warmth.  I was very comfortable in my 3mm shorty wetsuit, even at 100ft depth.  The wall dive concept is fun, too.  There’s a very “Abyss” feeling to it at first.

I also did a lot of SUP, stand-up paddleboarding, and improved my skills there.  I find it pretty calming and a good workout at the same time.

Most days all of us were up at or near sunrise, to do a so-called “dawn patrol.”  This is often when the water was smoothest and calmest, making for good times if there’s wind.   We’d make breakfast in the villa or head to town for a diner we liked.

Around lunch time, we often grilled or made lunch in the villa, to minimize time away from the water.  Then back in for the afternoon, until sunset, where a lot of folks had really nice sunset sessions.  (I didn’t do any of those, since I’m still a beginner, kind of afraid to get lost downwind in the emerging darkness.)

(The above picture is from Kiteboarding Magazine, who went to the same area we were last year, and the kite is just about the same as mine.  I hope Luke and the magazine are OK with this attributed use ;)).

Most nights we tried to go out, but there wasn’t much in terms of night life.  This was fine since we were tired from the long day on the water, but I found it surprising.  We thought it’d be high season, but most of the bars / restaurants we checked out were nearly empty.  It doesn’t seem like a late-night scene, making it different from Cabarete, another noted kiteboarding destination.

There was much guy bonding, naturally, making for a very fun trip.  We’re already talking about plans for the next one, with some folks going to Hatteras later this year.  I’m not joining that trip, but I’m sure I’ll see this crew again.

We have plenty of video and still footage, but it’s dispersed among many cameras, and we haven’t exchanged them yet.  I hope we’ll do that soon, and then I can post some stuff here.

Really good "intro to kiteboarding" video

Once or twice a week, a friend or colleague asks me how to get started with kiteboarding.  I can explain it, but this video does a pretty thorough job, and (unlike most such videos) actually has nice high production values.  Watch it in 720p HD.

It covers setup, launch, relaunch, landing, packing, the wind window, some safety precautions, and more. A really good video.  All you need is a trainer kite, and you can get started without going in the water, getting a harness, or anything else.

Good choice of instructor, too 😉

A week in the Dominican Republic, learning kiteboarding

Earlier in February, Alli and I took a week off from work to travel to the Dominican Republic, in order to learn kiteboarding.  Apparently many folks don’t know what kiteboarding is, so you might want to watch the video below.

We learned about a small town in the Dominican Republic called Cabarete, which has excellent beaches and schools for the purpose of kiteboarding in particular.  It’s not a big town and not a huge tourist attraction, although we were not the only ones there.  It’s a fairly simple, cheap place: no big luxury resorts.

We stayed at the Kite Beach Hotel, which was great.  From our initial emails all the way through our stay, the hotel was awesome.  Janina, the guest relations manager, as well as all the staff, were very courteous, friendly, and helpful.  The price is right, and the hotel is literally right on the beach: you can easily stumble to the beach once you wake up, no need for shoes or anything else.

We took kiteboarding lessons at Kitexcite, the school attached to our hotel.  Our instructor, Jonathan, was patient and friendly as we struggled.  Although we didn’t get up on the board by ourselves, we made progress through the learning stages: flying the kite on the beach, controlling it in the water, body dragging, and other exercises.

I vastly under-estimated how much power these kites produced.  I got bounced and dragged around several times, including a nice one on the beach in front of a bunch of folks, losing some good patches of skin in the process.  Those injuries are still healing.

The kites, and the sport, are impressive and addictive.  It’s much harder than it looks on TV or in videos such as the above.   But both Alli and I are hooked and are purchasing our own gear.  We’re also planning future trips to Cabarete and other kiteboarding sites.

One cool thing about the hotel is that it’s small and has one (good) bear restaurant / bar, so all the guests hang out there.  You meet everyone, from all over the world, sharing stories and hanging out.  Everyone was more experienced than us, naturally.  Many people come back there regularly, and some had even bought condos / apartments / houses in the area.

The town itself is nice and small.  There’s a beach-front area with a few restaurants, a couple of which also have dancing / club areas.  There’s one main street with a few shops on it, nothing fancy.  There are also a couple of local restaurants which are very cheap and simple, which we really enjoyed: Sandro’s and Padarilla Luis in particular.

Overall, it was one of our best vacations ever.  We were there a week and felt like it was short.  We are already planning a return trip in the future, and anxiously monitoring weather (wind) conditions for good timing.  Both the hotel and the kiteboarding school are recommended.

Our pictures are up on Flickr, but you need to be friends with me on Flickr to see them.