Best UV Protection Sunglasses for Watersports

Whatever your watersport is, it’s vital to use good quality UV protection sunglasses even when it doesn’t seem all that sunny.

The effects of UVA and UVB on the eyes is now well-known and prolonged exposure can cause long-term damage such as eye cancer, cataracts, macular degeneration and Pterygium (“Surfer’s Eye”).

The problem is that whilst sunburn on the skin is obvious straight away, damage to the eyes is not immediately noticeable. But if you’ve ever come in from a session on the water and experienced tired, aching or watery eyes, then that’s probably a sign of some damage.

What Makes Great Watersports Sunglasses?

I’ve owned a wide variety of watersports shades over the years, and the biggest problem I’ve personally found is that, if you can’t see clearly, or they’re not entirely comfortable, I end up taking them off at some point during a session on the water.

And I’ve lost more than a few pairs over the years because the retention system didn’t work.

This is before we even start with whether they actually do the job of  protecting our eyes!

Then you get into polarized/not polarized, colour, amount of UV filtration scratch resistance.

So let’s list the main features you should be looking for:

Lenses

It’s really important that the lenses are up to the job. If you use sunglasses that seem to work because they filter out visual light, but don’t filter the invisible UV, this can actually be more dangerous to the eyes than wearing none.

The pupils of the eyes react to light and close to let less in when it’s brighter. By tricking the pupils into widening, because you’ve filtered out a lot of the visible light, you’re opening them to greater exposure to the UV that gets through inferior lenses.

The main features to look for in the lenses are:

  • Material – Whilst glass has the most scratch resistance, it’s fragility and weight make it unsuitable for watersports sunglasses. The most frequently used materials are polyamide, polycarbonate and trivex. All of these have a good degree of impact resistance and are reasonably resistant to scratching.
  • UV400 Lenses – You’ll see this label on any decent pair of sunglasses. It means that any UV rays equal to or less than 400 nano-meters long are filtered completely. That means that 100% of the damaging UV is filtered. But don’t always believe what you read – if the label doesn’t say that 100% of UV is filtered then that should set alarm bells ringing. And in cheaper lenses, the UV filtration efficiency can break down over time.

  • Category 3 –This refers to the Visual Light Transmission (VLT) as opposed to UV. each category has a range of how much VLT gets through the lenses to your eyes. Category 3 has a range of 8 -18% transmission. Category 2 has a range of 18 – 43%. The main effect of VLT is glare. It’s generally accepted that Category 3 is the most appropriate for watersports, although in mixed or cloudy conditions, a lens in the low end of Category 2 might be more appropriate.
  • Polarized – Light waves oscillate in all directions until they hit a horizontal surface. As they reflect off the surface, such as water or snow, they become horizontal and this is the glare you get when you look at sunlight on water. Polarized lenses only allow vertically oscillating light waves through, so cut out this reflected glare. This is generally better for water or snow sports or driving.

  • Non-Polarized – The exception to this is when the sun is directly overhead at midday, when the light passes vertically through the water surface and reflects back vertically. This has the effect of making the water surface less visible – the “see-through” effect, and can make it hard to judge the surface. That can be an issue particularly on very still water and is really the only time non-polarized would be better for watersports.
  • Types of Polarization – Not all polarization is equal! In cheaper lenses the polarization is usually achieved by having a polarizing layer effectively bonded onto the outside surface of the lens. This is very vulnerable to wear and scratching and can also “de-laminate” i.e. become detached. The best lenses have the polarizing layer directly injected into the lens material where it is not going to wear with time.
  • Colour – Contrary to a lot of people’s understanding, the colour does not have an affect on the UV efficiency of the lenses. But it can affect how much visual light gets through and the contrast of colours. Blue, green, brown and grey based lenses are all good for watersports and will give good contrast in a water based environment. In bright sunshine, blue and grey in particular will be good but filters out a lot of the blue and white light. This can make them less good in more overcast light, when brown or rose based will allow better contrast. Brown is a good all-rounder. But a lot of this choice comes down to what colour you like to see the world in!
  • Hydrophobic – One of the biggest problems with watersports sunglasses is that as soon as they get splashed, the salt water leaves splodges on the surface of the lens. This is at best irritating and at worst dangerous as it impairs visibility. A hydrophobic coating repels the water splashes so that they roll off the lens before the salt has time to crystallize. There are hydrophobic sprays available but in all honesty I’ve found them to be useless. So a good quality hydrophobic lens is best.
  • Oleophobic – The other issue with any sports lens is sweat, sun-tan lotion and grease causing smudging that impairs your vision. Oleophobic lenses repel oils, sweat and dust and help keep the lens clear.
  • Anti-Fog – Particularly when the air or water is cooler, condensation can be a major problem, as water and sweat evaporates off the face and condenses on the cooler lens. Whilst there are anti-fog sprays available they rarely work for long. A better solution is to have sufficient venting around the lens frame to allow condensation to vent away.
  • Scratch Resistance – The more resistant the lenses are to scratching the better. But nothing will stop scratches if you wipe them when there’s still sand or salt residues on the surface. So at least swish them in the sea before wiping them, but better still, swill them first with fresh water.

Frames

  • Material – If you’re kitesurfing it’s very likely that at some point you’ll have a wipe-out. If the frame material isn’t strong and flexible it will break and the best case is you don’t have your shades anymore. The Worst case is they damage your face. The best material for the frames is TR90 which is extremely strong and flexible and returns to its original shape after flexing.
  • Size and Shape – For any water sport the frame (and lens) needs to be wider than for a pair of everyday shades. This is because light is reflected from all angles and can get to the eyes from above, side or below. They also need to sit close enough to your face to prevent light, wind and water from getting in as much as possible.
  • Vents – I mentioned condensation before. The fact is spit, soap or any of the “anti-fog” sprays you can buy for your lenses, will only work until they get the first dunking in the water. An efficient venting system around the lens will blow the condensation away as soon as you start moving again.
  • Comfort – No matter how good everything else is, if they rub, squeeze or pinch anywhere you’ll probably end up taking them off. So it’s important. Padding around the nose is the minimum you need, but ideally the frames need to be flexible enough to not squeeze your head.

Retention System

Most watersports sunglasses have at least some sort of head strap to keep them in place. But not even that works if you end up face-planting into a wave! The better systems also have a small leash that can be attached to a soft necklace or a wetsuit zip. If yours don’t have this it’s easy to make one.

I’ve learnt the expensive way about this and donated many pairs of water shades to the ocean – until I found the ones I use now!

Not All Water Sports Sunglasses are Equal

If you look on Ebay or Amazon you’ll find some pretty cheap sunglasses claiming to be ideal for watersports. I’ve tried a few of these over the years and found a lot to be a waste of money – they smeared, fogged, broke or were plain uncomfortable.

But there are some great options, and I’ve written another article on the three that I would recommend as the best UV protection sunglasses for water sports.

Head on over to my review of the best water sports sunglasses.

 

 

UV Ray Damage and Kitesurfing

The dangers of Ultra Violet (UV) radiation are now well-known. And we all love kiting in the sun right?! But it’s so easy to prevent UV ray damage by taking simple measures to protect ourselves that it’s crazy not too.

When I was a kid our parents didn’t know this stuff and we used to play in the sun all day with no sun protection. I’ve had a few nasty looking moles removed over the years, maybe as a result of this, maybe not. Fortunately none were malignant, but it’s made me wake up to the risks.

Do We Need Protection When it’s Cloudy?

This depends a lot on how cloudy and what type of cloud, as well as other atmospheric conditions such as ozone levels. UV light is not filtered by clouds, but the amount of UV reaching the Earth’s surface is dependent on these factors.

Even on a cloudy day, up to 80% of the sun’s damaging UV rays reach the Earth’s surface.

Where in the world you are also makes a difference as the angle of the sun’s rays hitting the atmosphere in high or low latitudes (furthest from the equator), particularly in the winter months, means that the rays pass through a deeper layer of atmosphere. This is because they’re travelling at a sharp angle rather than straight down.

The best measure of this is the UV Index. This was developed by the World Health Organisation and standardised across 417 countries, including the USA and Australia. It’s available from the main weather forecasting authority in each country, In the UK for example this is the Met Office.

The general rule of thumb is if it’s more than 3 then consider using protection, particularly if you have fair skin or are sensitive to the light. But this is for “normal” people, not us kitesurfers who are out on the water for hours at a time amongst all that reflected light.

Anything above 5 and we should all be using protection.

And the problem in countries like the UK is that the weather can change very quickly. I’m writing this article on a day in late September in the UK. This morning we had bright sunshine and temperatures over 20C degrees. And right now it’s raining.

As a matter of interest I’ve just checked the UV index. This morning it was 4 and now it’s 1. If I’d gone out kitesurfing in rain like now I wouldn’t have considered using sun protection. But if the weather had changed the other way round I’d be at reasonable risk of damage.

Of course most of me would’ve been covered by a wetsuit – but not my face and eyes.

Temperature has nothing to do with it either.

So the answer is to check the UV Index forecast, but if there’s a chance it’ll change while you’re out, slap on that sun-screen!

And as far as the eyes are concerned, if it’s light enough to wear sunglasses without impairing your visibility it makes sense to wear them.

UVA and UVB

The two types of UV that reach us are UVA and UVB. UVA has been proven to cause long term cell damage to the skin and eyes and is now linked to skin and eye cancer too. It’s the one that causes premature skin aging and wrinkling.

UVB is the one that causes sunburn and is directly the cause of skin cancer and eye damage.

So whatever we protect ourselves with has to be effective against both UV light risks.

UV Damage to Eyes

The problem for kitesurfers or any other water sport fanatic is that we are surrounded by highly reflective water. And as kitesurfers we are looking either up at the kite or at the water. So whatever UV light there is, there’s no hiding our eyes from it.

And whilst we won’t notice any damage at the time, the long term effects are proven causes of cataracts, macular degeneration and “Surfer’s Eye” or Pterygium.

Surfer’s Eye is a growth that forms on the white surface of the eye and can spread towards the iris and cause loss of vision or blurring. It’s actually the least worrying (although the most noticeable) risk but is linked to exposure to UV and wind or dust.

Suffice to say, you don’t want any of these things, especially as, with the right sunglasses it’s avoidable.

There are a number of major considerations when choosing the right sunglasses for any water sport, particularly kitesurfing. And in another article I explore these and make some recommendations.

Rash Vests

It’s tempting to believe that the bit of our skin that’s covered by a rash vest is protected. But that’s not necessarily the case. When the lycra type material gets wet it’s quite possible for UV to get through, However, a decent quality rash vest often has an SPF rating, so that’s worth looking out for.

Personally though I tend to put sunscreen everywhere, even if I’m wearing a rash vest.

What Kind of Sunscreen?

There are a number of regulations governing what sunscreen manufacturers can now claim.

SPF is the major confusion – Basically it means Sun Protection Factor. If your skin would normally burn in 10 minutes of sun exposure then SPF 20 should mean you have 200 minutes of protection i.e. 20×10 minutes.

Where this fails though is that it’s based on a certain amount of the sunscreen being applied and doesn’t take into account how long it stays on. It doesn’t work if it’s not there!

And the other thing is that UVA doesn’t cause direct sunburn so isn’t taken into account in the SPF.

The other thing here is that you’d think that SPF40 would give double the protection of SPF20. But it doesn’t. Once you get to SPF35 you’ve got about 95% protection, and at SPF70 it’s 98%. Medical experts generally agree that SPF35 is sufficient for most people – as long as it stays on.

Broad Spectrum – Look for a sunscreen that has “broad spectrum” or UVA and UVB protection.

Chemical or Physical (also known as “Mineral”) – There are a number of chemical sunscreens, some of which advertise as “once a day”. P20 or P30 is the best known of these. The problem with these is that they contain a range of chemicals that are actually banned in other applications. Firstly they can cause hormone imbalances, and secondly they are damaging to sea-life. The main culprit is a chemical called oxybenzone, but anything with “benzo” in the description should be avoided.

Physical or “mineral” sun-screens on the other hand place a physical barrier on the skin to reflect away the harmful rays. The main active ingredients are zinc-oxide or titanium-dioxide. Neither is harmful to us or the environment (as long as you don’t eat it).

Spray or Lotion – Whilst sprays can be convenient to reach those difficult bits, the problem is that it’s difficult to judge how much you’ve applied and whether you’ve covered everywhere. Another risk is that it’s easy to inhale them. And minerals that give us the skin protection can cause lung damage. So stick with creams. Lotions or sticks.

Water-Resistance – Manufacturers are no longer allowed to claim their product is waterproof. The maximum they are now allowed to claim is 80 minutes, so that’s the best you’ll see. Not very helpful for us kitesurfers! But the important thing here is to go for a sun-screen that’s been tested by water sports people and has at least 80 minutes protection.

Enjoy Yourself!

Come on cheer up! I know all this sounds a bit kill-joy, but it really isn’t. We’re in the great position now to know about the risks and fortunately there are great products out there so that we can go out and totally enjoy the sunshine and howling wind and still be safe. We just need to use them.

Ride hard and be safe! And let me know whether this has been helpful.

How Dangerous is Kitesurfing?

A question a lot of people ask me when they’re thinking about taking up the sport Is “How Dangerous is Kitesurfing”.

It’s a fair question because let’s face it we’re out on the sea seemingly getting dragged around behind a large kite and doing crazy-looking aerial moves!

In 2016 Christiaan van Bergen a Dutch orthopaedic surgeon, and keen kitesurfer carried out a survey on the rate of injuries per 1000 hours of participation for various sports. His findings were that for kitesurfing it was about 7 injuries per 1000 hrs of participation. This compares with 36 for American football and even 19 for Soccer.

So on that basis it would seem not to be dangerous.

However, I believe this hides a lot of potentials for kitesurfing to be a lot more dangerous. And one of the main reasons it is less so is that a huge amount of work has been done by kiting organisations like the IKO and BKSA as well as the general kitesurfing community, to educate would-be newcomers to the sport that they MUST GET LESSONS from a suitably accredited kite school.

And nowadays you shouldn’t be able to hire kitesurfing gear from a kite school without a basic certificate from the IKO or equivalent body that you’ve reached an intermediate level. This means that it should be pretty difficult for a complete newcomer to hire kit and then go out completely unprepared and probably badly damage themselves or others.

So, if you’ve already had kitesurfing lessons and been certified to go out alone, you should be safe right?

Well yes maybe. But there are still a lot of things that can go wrong and it’s easy to forget the basic safety rules once we get out to the beach armed and ready to go.

Bruised buy still smiling…carefully!

I think that people who’ve been doing it for years can get blasé and think they’re invincible. I personally had a nasty accident a couple of months ago – completely my own fault – launching the wrong kite for the wind speed in my eagerness to get on the water. I got hoisted in the air and came down front first on hard sand – lesson learned the hard way and some nasty bruising, but extremely lucky to have not been more badly damaged.

And things can easily go wrong even when they’re not our own fault – but it’s knowing what to do when it happens that can make the difference between a drama and a catastrophe.

So let’s look at how to kitesurf safely and at least minimise the risks.

Equipment

A big proportion of kitesurfing “incidents” are down to either failure of our kit or using the wrong kites for the conditions.

Kite

  • By far the most common mistake is to launch the wrong sized kite for the wind conditions (guilty as charged), particularly in strong gusty winds. I often see people standing in the car park with a wind meter and setting up a kite-size based on this. But the fact is that the wind 25 metres above sea-level or a few hundred metres out will often be up to 10kts stronger than in the shelter of a car park.
  • Far better to check what other people are using and take a view on it based on their size and level of ability. And if you don’t know any of the people already out there, ask a local. In fact, ask a local anyway.
  • My mistake was thinking I could hold down an 8 metre kite when all my buddies were on 7’s or 6’s. Bad mistake!
  • Another issue is using old kites that don’t have the same amount of de-power or wind-range of more modern kites.
  • So the moral here is if you haven’t got the right kite for the wind – “better to walk away and live to kite another day”!
  • Another thing is to make sure the kite is pumped up hard and not leaking. A floppy kite can cause all sorts of problems with control. It’s good to regularly pump it up and leave it for a while to make sure it’s holding air.

Know Your Safety System!!

Quick-Release (Primary)

  • This is absolutely vital! although there’s been a lot of work in recent years to standardise Quick Release (QR) systems there are some differences in how different QR’s work. Most have a push-away collar just above the chicken-loop, but not all. One or two have a twist system. So if you borrow or rent someone else’s kite make sure you know how the QR works. And better still, fire it off in a safe place so that you remember when you really need it.
  • What probably saved me from serious injury in my recent incident was that I was mustard at firing the QR and have practiced with that particular one numerous times. If I had been fumbling to release it I don’t like to think how bad it could’ve been!
  • And know how to re-assemble it, and practice. Because if you have to release in deep water it could make the difference between a long swim and being up and riding again within seconds.

Leash-Release (Secondary)

Releasing the safety leash is obviously a last resort as it separates you completely from the kite. But in the last resort it probably means you’re in potentially a lot of trouble – so check you know how the secondary release works too.

Lines

  • A snapped line can send the kite into a continuous “death-loop” spinning out of control and powered-up. But it is almost completely avoidable if you check your lines each time you set-up. It’s dead basic – run your fingers along the lines as you straighten them out – all 4 (or 5) of them. And if there are any frays or weak looking sections, don’t go out with them.
  • And check the power and safety line that runs down from the “V” too, including the bit that runs through the trim-cleat, as this is a section that does get worn more quickly. It’s not just a snap that can be a problem here – a worn trim line can slip and instantly power-up the kite.

Bridle

  • It’s really important when you’re setting up to make sure the bridle lines aren’t worn or tangled up. And also that any pulleys are free-moving and not damaged. A snapped bridle can have the same effect as a snapped line.

Board

  • It’s easy to overlook the board, but a snapped foot strap can be nasty, particularly mid-jump.
  • It’s also important to check the straps are a snug fit but not too tight that you can’t release, especially if you alternate between wearing wetsuit boots and barefoot.

Carry Out a Safety Assessment

This is particularly important if you’re planning on going out at a beach you’re not familiar with. The main things you’re looking at here are:

  • General lay-out of the beach – if it’s a curving bay, there may be a point where the wind is offshore for example. And is there a specific kiting zone?
  • Any obstructions like rocks (hidden or exposed), breakwaters, groynes, trees, boats, mooring buoys.
  • Other beach-users, jet-skis, power-boats, sunbathers, children. It’s bad enough if we hurt ourselves, but taking out a non-kiter is a big no-no!
  • Launching/landing area. Check there’s enough clear beach, including downwind, to launch safely and without putting other beach users at risk.
  • Wind direction – Offshore is generally considered bad, although there are places you’ll see kiters out in offshore winds. Quite often in these places there is a rescue service, but check whether you need to get a permit (such as in Tarifa).
  • What’s downwind? This is where you’ll end up if you have to self-rescue or the wind drops, so check it out.

Weather and Water Conditions

  • A good knowledge of the local weather is essential. There are some great apps such as XCWeather, Wind Guru, Windy that give really good hour by hour forecasts. But they aren’t all accurate for every location.
  • For example, at my local beach I find that XCWeather gives a reasonably good idea of the long term wind forecast, say 3 days ahead. But when it gets down to the hour by hour it is often under-predicting the wind speed by up to 10 kts. Windy is better for the hour by hour prediction.
  • So it’s really important to get a feel for the visible indicators – things like sand being blown across the beach (usually means it’s at least 20 kts). Don’t treat the forecast as gospel true.
  • Have a Working Knowledge of local weather systems.
  • Where I currently live, in the British Isles, and all down the North Western coast of Europe, our weather is dominated by Atlantic weather systems. This often means that the weather can change massively in a very short space of time. So we need to know the signs.
  • Things like a sudden change in the clouds, tall dark cumulonimbus with rain under it usually means a squall. So if you’re out on the water and spot this you need to be prepared to get off the water and get your kite on the ground. And if you’re still on the beach, maybe wait till it passes.
  • And in a lot of hotter places I’ve kited there’s a big change in the wind around late morning/ early afternoon, due to thermal conditions. So if you’re a beginner you need to not get caught out when it picks up.
  • If you’re in a new place ASK THE LOCALS.

Water Conditions

  • Don’t underestimate the difficulty waves can cause you if you’re new to this or used to kiting on flat water. Be aware that often the wave height will increase as the tide comes in, due to a gradient in the beach at high water.
  • And a big shore-break combined with directly onshore wind can be challenging even for experienced kiters

Etiquette and Right of Way (ROW)

There are basic rules of the water that everyone is supposed to adhere to (although don’t assume anything).

A lot of this is just down to common courtesy, and if you have a basic rule that you give everyone else plenty of space, this should cover most things. But you still need to be aware of the general rules, particularly when it’s crowded.

General ROW Rules:

  • Power gives way to sail – this relates to small powered craft such as jet-skis and speed-boats, but is often over-ridden by the next rule.
  • More maneuverable gives way to less maneuverable. So as a kite-boarder you should generally give way to most other craft on the water, including windsurfers, surfboards and dinghies, and definitely large boats.
  • Starboard tack has right of way over port tack on a collision course. For us starboard tack means right hand and foot forward (unless we’re riding toe-side). This means that if you have your left foot forward i.e. on port tack and you’re heading towards another kiter or sailor on starboard tack you should bear away, slow down or take any other evasive action. But don’t ever assume that if you have ROW that the other person knows or will comply with this.

Special ROW Rules for Kiters:

  • Kiter on the way out has right of way over kiter on the way in. This applies on the sea as well as on the beach. The main reason for this is that the kiter heading out is probably less maneuverable than the one heading in as they are heading into chop or waves. And the guy or girl heading into the water is less able to maneuver than the one already out on the water.
  • If you’re overtaking a kiter travelling in the same direction, the guy or girl you’re overtaking generally has right of way. This is more in relation to kite position. So if you overtake upwind then you should put your kite high and give them plenty of space. If you decide to pass downwind you should again give them space but put your kite low.
  • Downwind rider has right of way (unless you’re overtaking downwind).
  • Downwind rider should put kite low (below 45 degrees). Upwind rider should put kite high (above 45 degrees)
  • Port tack rider should put kite low and starboard tack rider puts kite high if heading towards each other.
  • On waves, the rider nearest the lip of the wave has right of way.

Other Riding Precautions

  • Always look all around you before you turn or jump. Bear in mind that when you turn you’ll need space downwind of you to move your kite and then bear back upwind.
  • Before jumping assess where you’ll end up – usually way downwind – and check the coast is clear, and that you won’t end up on the beach or in too shallow water.
  • Leave at least 3 line lengths between you and other kiters heading towards you.
  • Same goes for other obstacles or water-users.
  • Whilst they don’t necessarily have ROW, give extra space downwind to anyone riding toe-side. They can’t maneuver as easily.
  • Keep away from learners, kite lessons or anyone entering the water.
  • If the rider in front of you is near the beach or heading towards an obstacle – THINK AHEAD – give them space to turn and expect them to do it without warning.
  • Know your limits – By all means push them but why go a mile out when you can stay within a few hundred metres of the shore and still have as much fun. Always consider how long it will take you to get to shore if you have to swim.

Personal Safety Equipment

  • Helmet – you don’t see many kiters wearing helmets unfortunately. I guess we don’t think it’s cool. But as a learner it’s pretty important, and any kite school should supply them. If you’re more advanced then at least consider it before trying out any new tricks.
  • Impact vest – same thing applies here.
  • Eye-protection – Even in relatively cloudy conditions UV light isn’t filtered out. And as kitesurfers we tend to be looking up a lot, especially when we’re learning. Add to that the effect of reflected sunlight from the water and sunlight can cause real long-term damage to the eyes. So, particularly in Summer or in sunny climates I’d recommend getting high quality water-sports sunglasses.
  • Sun-screen – Even in cloudy conditions the UV light, which isn’t filtered by clouds will have a damaging effect on exposed skin. This risk is increased by reflected light off water. And skin cancer is on the increase all over the globe. So a suitable waterproof sun-screen is wise all year round and is vital in sunny climates.
  • Wetsuit/dry suit – It’s obvious whether you’ll need a wetsuit or dry-suit, but make sure it’s adequate for the water temperature. If something goes wrong in even slightly cold water the effects of hypothermia can take hold really quickly.
  • Line-cutter. A lot of harnesses come equipped with a line cutter. if not, make sure you have one attached to your harness. If you end up in the water with a line wrapped around you, or someone else, it could save a life.

If It All Goes Wrong

  • Breathe! – the worst thing you can do is panic. Try to relax and assess your options.
  • Learn self-rescue – and practice it. If your kit fails out on the water you need to be able to safely pack down your lines and know how to use the kite as a flotation device.
  • Your safety is more important than your kit – Be prepared to ditch your kit and swim to safety.
  • Don’t be a hero! – trying to rescue someone else usually ends up with two of you in trouble, unless you have training and experience in it. Instead, assess what the problem is and let them know you’re getting help. Then head ashore and get help.
  • Be insured – It’s really important to have at least basic third party insurance in case you hurt someone or damage their equipment. It’s cheap and available automatically with membership of kiting organisations such as the IKO or BKSA. And if you’re going on a kiting holiday, bear in mind that standard travel insurance doesn’t cover sports such as kitesurfing.

Final Thoughts

Okay, that was a pretty serious article! But most of it is common sense. This sport is all about freedom and pushing your skill levels on, but there’s a time and place for everything.

Nothing here is designed to put anyone off enjoying kitesurfing.

And the answer to the original question “How dangerous is kitesurfing?” is that it is as safe as many other sports – most of the time – but being sensible and reducing the controllable risks makes it safer for all of us.

Ride hard – and be safe!

I’d love to hear your views on this and whether I’ve missed anything obvious – please leave your comments below here.

Kiteboarding in Cape Verde – Sal

I’ve been kiteboarding in Cape Verde twice so far, both times in the Island of Sal.

And it’s one of those places that is on the radar for another visit definitely.

Located 570kms off the Peninsula of Cape Verde in Senegal, NW Africa, out in the Atlantic, This archipelago of 10 volcanic islands enjoys a great combination of constant warm climate and almost constant wind for 8 months a year.

Sal is the most populated island and the one that is home to the capital, also Sal. It’s also recognised as one of the best kitesurfing locations in the world with the GKA (Global Kitesports Association) wave-riding event regularly being held at Ponta Preta on the West coast.

The main destination for holidaymakers and kiters on Sal is the small town of Santa Maria, which has a chilled out feel and a main street with every variety of food and very laid back bars. There’s also a promenade which has recently been made along the length of the bay with a range of beach bars.

The other islands have been pretty much off the travelers’ radar until recent years and the next biggest island Boa Vista is also now becoming a popular destination.

As a former Portuguese colony it has an interesting combination of African and European culture and feels very like a Caribbean island – but with the benefit (for me anyway) of being only a 6 hour flight from most European countries.

The combination of wind, sun and endless pristine golden sandy beaches makes kiteboarding in Cape Verde a must if you want to get away from brutal North European winters.

When to Go

The temperature is almost always in the range 25-30C in the daytime and rarely less than 18C at night. And the water temperature is around 25C all year.

But the wind tends to be pretty sketchy or non-existent in the rainy season between end of May to end of September.

Between October and May is the dry windy season and the windiest months are February and March. But both times I was there for Christmas it was windy for at least 10 days out of 14.

The Wind

The islands get North Easterly Trade winds that blow down from the Sahara pretty much constantly during the windy season and vary a little between North easterly and Easterly.

When it is windy it tends to be pretty much all day, but is usually strongest between about 9am and 3pm. So plenty of time to party and sleep it off ready for tomorrow!

The BeachesLocation Map Sal Beaches

Sal is surrounded by fantastic beaches but I have to admit to only having kited at Kite Beach (Shark Beach) and Santa Maria. When you find the perfect spot it’s sometimes difficult to pull yourself away!

There’s a whole range of beaches up the West coast which tend to be offshore and are famous for big waves. But the two main beaches for kiteboarding in Sal are Kite Beach on the South East coast and Santa Maria Bay just along from it on the South coast.

Kite Beach- Also known as Shark Bay, but don’t let that worry you – there are only a few munchings each year! Only kidding – there aren’t any sharks, it’s a name given to it by the first Portuguese settlers and it’s stuck.

This is where most of the kiting happens here. Pristine golden sand and a 3km long beach.

The wind is on-shore or slightly cross-onshore. The water is not exactly flat, there’s usually a bit of wind-blown chop and decent waves at high tide. So not perfect for absolute beginners, but a great place to learn how to ride chop and waves in safe conditions.

At low tide it’s still kiteable across the whole bay but does get shallow near the beach so be aware of how much water is under you before you boost large!

There aren’t any kite schools at Kite Beach, but all the schools in nearby Santa Maria take their students to Kite Beach when it’s appropriate.

Because of its lack of facilities and constant wind it tends to only attract kitesurfers and windsurfers so you won’t be bothered by normal people!

Quite honestly one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve kited from!

There’s only one small beach-bar shack and no toilets, so go prepared.

The best way to get there assuming you stay at Santa Maria, is by taxi – a 15 minute ride for about 5€

Santa Maria Bay- As I mentioned earlier, Santa Maria is the main holiday destination in Cape Verde and is where most people stay. The bay is right in front of the small town with the town at the Eastern end of the bay.

It lies on the South Coast, just around a headland from Kite Beach and sweeps round to a prominent sandy headland at the Western end of the bay.

Conditions vary depending on where you are on the beach. But at the town end the wind tends to be cross-offshore and a bit gusty. As you move further down the 3km beach away from town the wind becomes cross shore then cross on at the far end, because of the shape of the bay.

Because the wind is travelling across the headland between Kite Beach and here it tends to be less strong than at Kite Beach.

But it’s still a great place to kite if you pick the right part of the beach in the right conditions. But I made the mistake on my first visit of writing off a couple of days because the wind wasn’t strong enough, before I discovered that everyone was blasting all day at Kite Beach.

Whilst kiting in offshore winds is not really advisable for a beginner, as long as you don’t stray too far out then it’s pretty safe as the headland at the Westernmost end will catch you if you get in trouble.

I have to admit, this advice is based on me making the mistake of getting too enthusiastic and going too far out. The result was a lost board and a long body-drag to the headland, then a walk of shame to get back to the main beach.

I’d like to think you live and learn!

Most of the kite schools are around the middle section of the bay, where the flat conditions are pretty beginner friendly. And there’s plenty of places to get refreshments etc.

Ponta Preta- Apart from Maui in the Hawaiian islands, this is probably one of the most famous beaches for wave kiting. A 10 minute drive from Santa Maria, up the West coast it’s worth a look, even if you don’t feel up to kiting it.Ponta Preta

Definitely a place for advanced kiters who like waves, the wind is offshore and the waves vary between 3-6metres high normally.

So if you venture here to kite, treat it with the respect it deserves or take your passport because the next stop’s Brazil!

Where to Stay

There are plenty of good hotels in Santa Maria and all are within walking distance to the town and the beach.

Which you choose is really down to your budget. Both times I’ve been I’ve stayed in apartments at Porto Antigo. This is the tiny old disused harbour at the Eastern end of Santa Maria Bay, next to the Odjo di Agua Hotel. A stones throw from the main beach and a 5 minute walk to town the apartments in this development are peaceful but handy for everything you need.

All the main hotels and apartments are available on Hotels.com.

If you want to go for an all-in kiting package with tuition and kit included check out Book Surf Camps.

Tell Us Your Thoughts

Overall, Sal is a great place to kiteboard and a place I’ll definitely return to. But if you’ve already been or are considering it, please leave your comments below or email me at adrian@kitemadworld.com

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, and, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make as the result of clicking a link

Kiteboarding in Barbados – The Windward (and windy) Isle

Kiteboarding in Barbados is just great!

With warm water and climate all year round and Trade Winds that blow constantly most of the year, It’s a kiter’s dream.

I’ve been kiteboarding in Barbados twice and it’s definitely up there on my list of places I’d go to again. There are a lot of reasons it’s one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean, with a great mix of cool vibe, warm climate and great winds.

Situated on the southernmost rim of the Caribbean and with one side facing out to the Atlantic, Barbados is one of the windiest islands in The Caribbean.

And with it’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere, abundance of golden sandy beaches, and restaurants of every sort, there’s something for everyone.

And don’t miss the Friday night “Fish Fry” at Oistins. It’s like a carnival, every week. But then the Bajans love to party.

The main kiteboarding areas are on the southeast end of the island, between Oistins and the airport.

This is where the trade winds and Atlantic swells blow in, but head a few miles up the West coast and the water is calmer and the winds lighter.

The West coast is where most of the main towns and holiday resorts are situated, including St Lawrence Gap, Hastings and the capital, Bridgetown.

The East coast is more rugged and good for surfing but not great for kiteboarding as most of the beaches are very rocky. But well worth a look for the stunning scenery.

When to Go

The best time to go for kiteboarding is beginning of November to end of June. In July to October the winds tend to be lighter and it’s the rainy season. It’s also when it’s hottest so humidity is high.

That said, the daytime air temperature rarely varies from the range 27 to 30C. And the water temperature never varies outside 26 to 29C, so forget the wetsuit!

The Wind

The prevailing winds in Barbados are the Trade Winds that blow from the East varying slightly between NE to SE during the windy season.

Generally the wind starts around 8am and tends to drop in the afternoon after about 12.30.

And it varies between 15-22kts generally, although will sometimes get up to 25kts.

In all the kite beaches the prevailing wind is cross-onshore from the left but can vary to more on-shore depending on its variation between NE and SE and depending on the location.

The Beaches

There are three main kiteboarding beaches in Barbados – Silver Rock, Silver Sands and Long Beach.

Maxwell Beach on the West coast is also popular but tends to attract more non-kiting holidaymakers so you’ll be sharing it with sunbathers.

None of the kiting beaches have formal rescue services, but the kite schools and fellow kiters tend to keep an eye out for anyone in difficulty. As the winds are generally onshore or cross-onshore you’ll usually wash up ashore at some point if you get in trouble!

Silver Rock

The main kiteboarding beach, in the area of Christ Church near the small but bustling town of Oistins.

It’s a little bit difficult to find from the main coast road, but head into the small township of Christ Church and just keep heading coastwards down the little lanes between the pretty pastel coloured “chattel houses” and you’ll find it.

This is where most of the kite schools are. Silver Rock Beach faces pretty much South East and, whilst not massive in length, about 500 metres there’s a reasonable amount of space to launch and land.Silver Rock

There can be a bit of shore-break at high tide that’s a bit challenging for a beginner to get out through, but if you pick your spot for entering the water it’s okay.

This tends to be worse when the wind’s directly on-shore.

The reef is about 600 metres out and is enough below the surface at low tide that you won’t hit it, but it’s pretty sharp if you try and stand on it!

The bottom is pretty much sandy all the way inside the reef.

Inside the reef it can be a bit choppy and there’s a lovely breaking wave over the reef if you fancy practicing your wave-riding skills. But overall the water inside the reef is pretty much beginner friendly, once you’ve mastered the basics.

The first time I went I was a relative beginner and I had no problem.

Silver Sands

Silver Sands is directly next to Silver Rock Beach, going west and the two are separated by a small rocky headland.

It’s smaller in length than Silver Rock, about 300 metres and the beach is narrower so a bit of care is needed at high tide when you’re launching and landing. But this bit of beach tends to be quieter than it’s neighbour.

Both times I stayed at the Silver Sands Hotel, two steps from the beach. But unfortunately it closed down some years ago and is now empty.

If I had $15million I’d snap it up!

When the wind blows from the North East or East the water inside the reef is a bit flatter than at Silver Rock but the shore-break is pretty big if it’s on-shore i.e from the South East.

If you’re a beginner it’s a bit more challenging than Silver Rock because of the relatively small beach, and if you end up being carried down-wind the next beach is Miami Beach (not the one in Florida!) – a 3km walk of shame to get back on the coast road!

But if you’re okay with kiting upwind it’s a good option if Silver Rock seems a bit crowded.

Long Beach

Again, a bit difficult to find from the road but head out of Oistins on the coast road towards the airport and look for a lane off to the right – well worth it!

As its name suggests this is the longest beach on the island, about 2kms long with a headland and rocks at each end.

There’s always plenty of room for the few kiters who head there and good for beginners. Just make sure you launch at the far right end so you’ve got plenty of room down-wind.

The beach is right at the end of the airport runway but there are only a few flights in and out each day so not a problem.Long Beach

Maxwell Beach

This is a kilometre long stretch of sandy beach just before you get to St Lawrence Gap coming from Oistins.

Because it faces South the wind is mostly cross-shore here or slightly cross-onshore. The water tends to be a lot flatter than the other kiting beaches and hardly any shore-break, so great for beginners.

The main reason it’s not used by more kiters is that it can be a bit busier with “normal” people. But get there early and it’s ideal.

Where to Stay

There’s plenty of self-catering apartments and reasonably priced hotels all over the island, but if you want to be within walking distance of Silver Rock and Silver Sands then it’s got to be either Silver Point Hotel at the Westernmost end of Silver Rock Beach.

A more laid-back alternative is the Moonraker BeachHotel (which is actually apartments and studios) with the ubercool and laid back Surfers Bay Beach Bar and Restaurant right in front of it.

Moonraker is at the other end of the two beaches 200 metres to the West of Silver Sands on it’s own tiny cove.

When I stayed at the now closed Silver Sands Hotel we headed straight here every day and it’s still run by Steve Campbell, the first guy I saw kitesurfing way back at the start of the sport!

Surfers Bay View

I’ve found the best deals, whether for self-catering or hotels are generally on Hotels.com

Getting Around

If you’re staying at either of the accommodations I’ve mentioned you’re right on the kiting beaches.

But it’s worth hiring a car to get out and see the rest of the island or to get to Long Beach. The driving in Barbados is pretty friendly although traffic on the coast road going up the West coast can be busy.

It’s worth experiencing the “Reggae Buses” which go all round the island and cost very little to use. And there are plenty of taxis.

Silver Rock and Silver Sands are 15 minutes from the only airport, Grantley Adams.

Tell us about it!

If you have your own experience of kiteboarding in Barbados or have any questions, please leave them in the comments box below or email me at adrian@kitemadworld.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, and, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make as the result of clicking a link

Kiteboarding in Turkey – Gokova Bay

If you’ve wondered about kiteboarding in Turkey then Gokova Bay is well worth a visit.

I’ve been 3 times so far and will definitely be going again.

If you think of Turkey as being mass tourism hell and over-commercialised, think again. And check out this little-known gem of kitesurfing heaven! And the great thing is, it’s a great destination for non-kiters too, so everyone’s happy (if you catch my drift).

The Location

Situated at the head of the Gulf of Gokova which is a steep-sided inlet with mountains on either side, Gokova Bay is about an hour’s drive from Dalaman Airport and 2 hours from Bodrum Airport.

At one end of the bay is the  village of Akyaka, which is where most people will tend to stay when they visit the area.

Akyaka is a far cry from the usual holiday resorts like Marmaris or Fetyhe and is mainly made up of residential holiday homes, small hotels and a self-catering apartments.

This little area  hasn’t attracted mass tourism and remains largely unspoilt and has a very traditional Turkish feel to it.

Because the majority of vistors are Turkish, apart from the kiting community, the cost of food and drink here is generally half of what you’ll pay in large resorts. And you don’t get any of the hussle that’s become part of a Turkish resort holiday.

The bay is shallow and at the back of it there’s a network of small rivers and streams flowing in through a kind of wetland that is similar to a very small scale version of the Everglades. Well worth  a boat trip up the river before the wind cracks in!

There are plenty of small bars and restuarants in town catering to every taste from traditional Turkish, vegetarian and some great seafood, but if you want  buzzing nightlife you’ll need to go to Marmaris or Dalyan, which are both about 30 minutes away.

The Wind

Because of the surrounding mountains and narrow Gulf of Gokova, the wind here is caused by a thermal effect of air rising from the warm land and drawing wind in from the sea, which gets funneled into the bay.

As long as it’s hot the wind is pretty much guaranteed. And the wind is almost always onshore or slightly cross-onshore.

It starts at about 11 am at about 12kts and builds up during the day getting up to usually between 18 to 25kts by mid afternoon and then dropping again from about 5pm. Although on very hot days it can carry on until 7pm or later.

So it’s a great location for everyone from beginner to advanced.

When to Go

May to October is the best time for the thermal wind, and the temperature ranges from about 25C at the earlier and later part of the season to 35-40C in August.

Outside of those dates, you’d probably better looking at other destinations.

I’ve tended to avoid August because it can get too hot and have been in June and late September and kited every day for 2 weeks.

Water temperature is about 18-25C. Although right next to the beach where mountain springs flow in, there can be a few cooler spots, which are quite welcome when it’s 40C on the beach!

The Kite Spot

Kite Beach is about 1.5km from Akyaka at the the opposite end of the bay, left when looking out to sea. If you’re staying in Akyaka it’s an easy walk along the beach from the village, accessed by crossing over a footbridge across the main river from the harbour.

You can get there by car by turning right onto the main trunk road to Dalaman and then, after a few hundred metres, right again onto a dirt track which is signposted “Kite Beach”.

The main Kite Beach is fairly short, about 500 metres, but if you head right (looking out to sea) towards the village there’s plenty of space and a narrow strip of beach stretches all the way to the harbour at Akyaka.

To the left of the beach is a large man-made spit of land. On the far side of this the wind tends to be stronger and that’s where the advanced riders hang out.

There’s nowhere to launch and land on that side of the spit as it’s all scrubland, so it’s a case of either tacking backwards and forwards upwind to get out past the spit, or launch on the main beach then walk to the far side with your kite in the air.

The water is shallow pretty much to the end of the spit (200 metres) and sandy bottomed, so great for kiting.

Water conditions are pretty much flat to about 100 metres out then a bit of chop and small waves out past the spit.

There are about 6 kiteschools on the main part of the beach, all next to each other, and most sell food and drink and have toilet facilities.

Where to Stay

There’s plenty of self-catering accommodation available at reasonable prices in and around Akyaka. And the village is laid-back and very friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve stayed at No22 Riders’ Inn, right in the middle of Akyaka. It’s a small, friendly 14 bedroom hotel geared up for kiters and is used by a number of kiteschools.

The location is perfect if you want ease of getting to the kite beach and the village, and it’s nicely located near the edge of the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other times I’ve been on family holidays and stayed about 3km outside Akyaka in villas.

This means hiring a car though so maybe not suited to everyone, although driving in this part of Turkey is pretty worry free and there are plenty of car hire firms at the airport.

It’s worth hiring a car for a few days anyway as there’s a lot to see in and around the area.

Useful Links

Hotels.com

Wind Forecast

Kitesurf Camp

Feedback

I’d love to hear your own experiences of Gokova Bay and any other locations in Turkey. Please feel free to make any comments below or email me direct at adrian@kitemadworld.com

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, and, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make as the result of clicking a link

Kite Beach Cabarete

Kiteboarding In The Dominican Republic – The Home of Kiting In the Caribbean

If you’re looking for a chilled out kiting holiday in tropical paradise, then Cabarete is the place!

Enthusiasts of the sport have been kiteboarding in the Dominican Republic pretty much since the beginning of time – measured by when kitesurfing started!

Situated on the same island chain as Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, on the Northern rim of the Caribbean.

The North side of the Dominican Republic is still unspoilt by mass tourism and is a place I’ve been to twice at different times of year, and I’ll be going back as soon as I can.

The main centre for kiteboarding in the Dominican Republic is Cabarete, situated on the North Coast, only 20 minutes drive from  Puerto Plata Airport.

Although it does attract non-kiting holidaymakers, they are far outnumbered by kiters, surfers and windsurfers.

So the place has a laid-back and friendly vibe, with great beach bars and a main street that boasts a host of chilled out bars and restaurants as well as street-food stalls and small shops.

It’s also a lot less expensive than a lot of other Caribbean destinations.

The Cabarete area starts at Encuentro at the North West end and stretches South East to La Boca, which is a narrow flat-water estuary at the mouth of the River Yasica.

The main two kiteboarding beaches are Bozo Beach, just to the left of the main beach as you look out to sea, and Kite Beach, a kilometre to the left of that on the other side of a small headland.

And of course, the wind is perfect 300+ days of the year with cross-onshore winds from the East (right), which start gently about 11am and pick up gradually through the day.

So time to sleep off the hangover if you’ve over-indulged on the very morish (and cheap) local rum, or the local beer Presidente. The Cuba Libres and Mojito’s are highly recommended!

The wind conditions are ideal for beginners in the morning and more experienced kiters in the afternoon.

One of the great attractions of Cabarete is that you can find whatever type of conditions you prefer, from flat water to chop and great waves at Encuentro and out at the reef at Kite Beach and Bozo Beach (about 600 metres out).

And with water temperatures ranging from 26C in December to 29C in August, there’s no need to pack a wetsuit!

Even in the “winter” December to February, the daytime temperature is around 28C rising to around 32C in August.

When to Go

The best times to go for wind conditions are beginning June to end September, and mid December to End of April.

During January to April there is more chance of storm swells from the Atlantic.

And it’s worth bearing in mind that, although it usually doesn’t get directly hit, August is the hurricane season and The Dominican Republic has been hit in recent years on occasion.

I’ve been at end of June and for Christmas and New Year and had great kiting both times, although there were a few non-kiting days on the winter visit.

The Wind

The North side of the Dominican Republic benefits from almost constant trade winds blowing from East to West. And in the Summer months this is amplified by the thermal effect of hot air rising off the land drawing cooler air in from the sea.

It generally kicks in around 11 am at about 10-12kts, building to 18-25kts by late afternoon.

May is the worst month for wind usually and October to mid December are also less consistent.

The Beaches.

Playa Encuentro- Is about 4kms to the North-West of Cabarete town. It’s mainly suitable for surfers and I’ve read recently that kiting is no longer allowed. It’s known for it’s great waves, so not ideal for beginners anyway.

Apparently there’s no problem if you want to land there after a downwinder from Kite Beach or any of the other locations upwind of Encuentro. Most of the kite schools in Cabarete organise downwinders with lifts to the launch and landing locations.

Kite Beach- This is where it all began in Cabarete. It’s located about 2kms from Cabarete town going North West and has ideal conditions with a shallow reef about 600 Meters out.

Inside the reef the water is generally flat with nice waves breaking over the reef.

There are a number of kite schools here and it can get a bit crowded in the Summer months, but if you head a few hundred meters out you’ll always find space.

A word of warning – the local kiters seem to have no consideration for life and limb and you’ll frequently see them throwing down some insane moves right next to the beach, often ending up on it! So work out who they are and give them space. It’s their home beach after all.

The beach gets fairly narrow at high tide with palm trees just behind it so you need to be a bit careful not to end up in a tree!

Bozo Beach- Is Just around the headland of Punta Galeta, from Kite Beach, going back towards Cabarete.

It’s actually just the left hand side of the main Cabarete Beach, less than 1 km from Cabarete town. This area is dedicated to Kiting, with a few kiteschools.

Conditions are similar to Kite Beach, with flat water inside the reef and a decent wave breaking on the reef.

In the winter months there can be a challenging shore-break to get through, so  it pays to pick your launch spot carefully.

Bozo is a very popular place for pro-kiters to hang out and compare their stuff and you’ve got a good chance of seeing some of the famous names giving it large, which is always impressive.

Cabarete Beach- To the right of Bozo Beach is the main Cabarete Beach, with sun loungers plenty of beach bars and restaurants and “normal” holiday makers.

Whilst I don’t think kiting is forbidden here, there’s no need and you won’t see anyone launching or landing there.

This is a good place to park a non-kiting partner as it’s only a 5 minute walk down the beach to Bozo, but beware of how time flies or you might be going home alone!

The windsurfers tend to hang out to the right of Cabarete Beach.

There are also a number of places that rent out SUP gear so a good place to try it out in the calm mornings or rare no-wind days.

In the evenings Cabarete Beach comes alive with beach front restaurants and bars offering a wide selection of cuisines. The sea-food is amazing. But expect to pay a bit extra here than on the main street just behind it or the lanes running off the main street.

Cabarete East- To the right of Cabarete Beach is a small headland, Punta Cabarete.

If you walk around the headland you come to a seemingly un-named beach, which is a pretty much deserted stretch of golden beach running for about 4kms down to La Boca at  the mouth of the Yasica River. Along this stretch are a number of Condo developments behind the beach.

Both times I’ve visted I’ve stayed at Barefoot Beachpad, a small 12 apartment set-up about halfway between Cabarete and La Boca. And I’ve kited from right in front of the apartments.

I’ve only ever seen two other kiters on the water there, so if you want to get away from the crowds it’s ideal. But the reef is further out so the water is a  lot choppier and there’s a fairly big shorebreak at some points.

Adrian Popping One in Front of the Beachpad

A good place if you’re confident with self-launching and landing but you’re usually on your own if anything goes wrong.

La Boca- At the far end of the “un-named beach” is the mouth of the Yasica River and La Boca. This is a flat water spot where the pros come to practice their freestyle tricks.

A number of the kite schools will take beginners there to learn the basics, but the estuary is pretty narrow, with tropical forest on both sides so it’s not ideal for beginners to go to alone.

Buen Hombre- I have to admit I haven’t visited Beun Hombre yet, but I’m hearing and reading great things about it and will definitely be checking it out next time I visit the DR.

It’s about a 3 hour drive from Cabarete, heading West and is known as a secluded paradise spot, a lot less hectic than Cabarete can be.

Check out the links for yourself and let me know if you’ve been there!

Getting There

By far the easiest airport for Cabarete is Puerto Plata (POP), a mere 20 minute drive away. But if you can’t get a flight to Puerto Plata, then Santiago is 1.5 hrs (US$100 by taxi.

Santo Domingo is 4 hrs away (US$200), and Punta Cana, the main all-inclusive holiday destination, 6hrs (US$400).

Getting About

The preferred mode of transport around Cabarete is the motoconcho. Basically locals with mopeds who will happily take one or two passengers on the back for US$1 anywhere in town.

If you want a bit of luxury there are plenty of taxis.

I’ve spent many an hour sitting at a bar on the main street watching the locals driving past, often with a whole family and a gas bottle on the back of a moped!

Car hire is available in Cabarete, but the driving is pretty mad and most places are within a walk or motoconcho ride.

Last time I was there we befriended a motoconcho driver and offered him some cash to drive us for the day in a hire car, so we could get out and see some of the roads and beaches less traveled. An amazing experience and a new friend for life!

All the kiteschools offer storage facilities so you can leave your gear there, which is a good option.

Where to Stay

There’s an abundance of accommodation in Cabarete, ranging from luxury hotels (some all-inclusive) right on the beach to self catering villas, apartments and studios.

Both times I’ve visited I’ve stayed at the beautiful and laid back Barefoot Beachpad.

The owners, Ben and Evelyn and Evelyn’s brother Hector, have become great friends, and their manager, Andre can’t do enough to help you.

The 12 bedroom aparthotel is situated just East of the small neighbourhood of Barrio Blanco, a 20 minute stroll from Cabarete town and one step from a deserted golden beach.

KIte Schools

If you’re after kite lessons or kit hire I’d totally recommend Cabarete Kite Point, run by Tracy Shayhorn (or “Racey Shay” due to her previous life as professional racing car driver).

Here’s the link to her website    www.cabaretekitepoint.com.

The school is right in the middle of Kite Beach and she can sort out accommodation close to the school.

There are a number of dedicated “kitesurf camps” in the Cabarete area and also at Buen Hombre. Don’t be put off by the term “camps” – some of them are located in the luxury beach front hotels and condos.

These are a great way to maximise your kiting time and most include the options of other activities, such as jungle excursions, kayaking, SUP and yoga.

Helpful Links

Wind Forecast

www.cabaretekitepoint.com

Hotels.com

Kitesurfing Camps

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, and, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make as the result of clicking a link

Kitesurfing In Tarifa – A Guide to Europe’s Kiting Capital

I’ve been visiting Tarifa for the last 25 years and I can’t get enough of it! And I’m not alone, it’s become a Mecca for kitesurfers from around the globe.

So I’ll share why kitesurfing in Tarifa has become an obsession, and some tips on how to get the most out of this fantastic place where Africa meets Europe and the wind blows 300 days a year.

I still get a buzz of excitement as I drive over the headland that stands behind Tarifa and see Africa on one side and the beautiful golden sandy bay of Tarifa stretching away below – usually with kites clearly visible on the sea.

Video Provided Courtesy of Freeride Tarifa

Tarifa is the most southerly point in mainland Europe, at the very southern tip of Spain, a mere 11 kms from Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Its geographical location is what causes the wind to blow so regularly.

With its cool vibe and 10km of pristine beaches to make kitesurfing in Tarifa a must for anyone planning to travel to Southern Europe to enjoy our great sport.

Add to this the fantastic old town of Tarifa with it’s labyrinth of narrow streets and squares, tapas bars, street cafes, bars and restaurants and it’s even great when you’re not kiting!

Tarifa actually forms the southernmost point of the well-kept secret Costa De La Luz (Coast of Light) with chains of golden beaches stretching right up to Portugal.

It’s easily accessible via a number of international airports, the nearest being Gibraltar, a 45 minute drive away. It can also be accessed from Malaga (2½ hrs), Cadiz (2 hrs), Jerez (2hrs) or Seville (3hrs).

With Spain’s fantastic road network it’s also accessible by road trip from anywhere in Europe. I’ve done it in 2½ days from NW England.

This is literally the point at which the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. In fact if you stand on the Harbour at Punta Tarifa you actually have the Med on one side and the Atlantic on the other.

Behind Tarifa and all along the southern coast of Spain are a series of mountain ranges. And on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar are the Moroccan Atlas Mountains.

More on the wind later, but it is this combination of warm Med, cooler Atlantic and the funneling effect of the mountains that causes the wind to blow so constantly.

Kitesurfing In Tarifa - Location Map

When to Go

Being the most southerly point in mainland Europe, the air and sea temperature is pretty warm all year round but the most popular time for kiters is June to October when the wind is more predictable, although I use that term with tongue-in-cheek as it can swing around within a day!

Water temperature ranges from 20-24C and air temperature can get into the high 30s at the peak of Summer.

Spring (March to end of May) and Autumn (September and October) sees temperatures from 15 to 20C and water temperatures of about 18C.

The place is starting to come alive with most of the bars and restaurants re-opening in March and staying open into October, but it’s a lot quieter. The winds are pretty predictable at this time of year too so, if you don’t want to be sharing the beaches with the Summer crowds, it’s a good time to go.

Winter (November to end of February) is pretty quiet. Air temperature ranges from 10-18C and there’s more chance of rain. Water temperature is around 18C.

But the Poinente tends to be the more prevalent wind in the winter and it’s still a great destination if you’re reasonably nearby. But if you’re looking for a warm beach holiday maybe choose somewhere else at that time of year.

The Winds

There are 2 main winds that blow across Tarifa and the whole of that coast of Spain.

The Levante – This is the famous and notorious wind that blows from East to West out of the Mediterranean and across Southern Spain. It can veer from South Easterly to North Easterly depending on the precise conditions that are causing it.

Without going into a very detailed meteorological lesson, it’s basically caused by lower pressure cool air over the Atlantic north or south of Tarifa and high pressure warm air over the Med.

This causes the wind to blow out of the Med and through the narrow channel of the Strait of Gibraltar, which causes a venturi effect to accelerate the wind.

The Levante can blow for days on end but seems to go in up to 15 day cycles during the summer months.

When it blows it can be up to 50kts, but more commonly between 25-40kts at Tarifa. It is generally gusty and blows offshore to cross-offshore depending on its precise direction and the chosen location.

There’s a great rescue service set up called Sea Angels Tarifa that allows you to buy a card for between €30 to €50. This entitles you to a number of rescues and is valid for the whole season.

Well worth it if you don’t want to restrict your kiting to when the Poinente blows. And a lot cheaper than the charge of €100+ if you need to fished out of the sea without one!

Real care needs to be taken when the Levante blows as offshore is not a great direction for kitesurfing.

However, there are locations where it is less powerful and cross-shore, such as Punta Paloma, at the northernmost end of the bay of Tarifa, or Los Canos de Meca about 40kms north of Tarifa.

The Poinente – This is the more friendly Atlantic wind that blows from West to East and is caused mainly by the prevailing Atlantic winds being accelerated by the thermal effect of hot air rising from the Spanish mainland, which helps pull the wind in from the cooler Atlantic.

The Poinente also benefits from the venturi effect of the air speeding up to enter the narrow Straits of Gibraltar, but to a lesser extent than the Levante.

The Poinente is the kiter’s friend, being onshore or cross onshore at pretty much all locations and is generally more gentle than the Levante, averaging 15-25 kts. It’s also more constant and less gusty.

When the Poinente is in play, the mornings tend to be calm with gentle breezes and the wind picks up early afternoon.

During the summer months the two winds make up roughly 50% each of the windy days and there’s sometimes (but not always) a quiet few days between the Levante dying down and the Poinente cracking in.

Even during periods when neither wind is blowing there’s still good kiting to be enjoyed in late afternoons, caused by the thermal sea breeze as the land heats up and air rises off it, sucking the cooler air off the sea.

The Levante is more common in the Summer and Poinente in Winter.

The Beaches

Kitesurfing In Tarifa - The Beaches

Punta Paloma – At the far end of Tarifa Bay is a huge sand dune that can be seen from miles way. Where this meets the sea is Punta Paloma.

This works well in either Poinente or Levante as it’s where the bay curves around so it’s onshore or cross onshore in Poinente and at worst cross-offshore in the Levante.

It tends to be quieter at this end of the bay as it’s a 10km drive from Tarifa. This beach can be kited all year round without restriction.

Valdevaqueros – As you drive out of Tarifa, past the famous Hurricane Hotel, there are a couple of tracks leading to the beach with car parks and beach bars/kiting centres.

Parts of the beach are set aside for bathers in the Summer but the kiting areas are clearly marked. Out of the Summer months there is no restriction.

A beautiful 3km stretch of beach that is great in Poinente and can be kited with caution in some Levante winds when it can be cross shore. There are a couple of kite centres on this stretch of beach and some laid back beach bars for a well-deserved beer or juice after a hard days kiting.

In the Summer I tend to head to this end of the bay as it’s usually a bit quieter than the beaches closer to Tarifa town.

Los Lances Norte and Los Lances – This is the main stretch of beach running from the football stadium at the south end right up to just south of the Hurricane Hotel.

Kiting is allowed here all year round but there are clearly marked no-kiting zones in the Summer months on the main Los Lances stretch, south of the Rio Jara road bridge. Los Lances Norte has no restrictions.

Like all the beaches at Tarifa, both have a wide golden beach so plenty of room to try out your stuff, although it does get pretty hectic in the Summer.

This part of the bay works best in Poinente but is usually offshore and gusty in Levante.

Los Lances Norte has most of the kite schools and plenty of cool beach bars to choose from. There’s ample parking all the way along, although in the Summer it’s worth getting out early to get a space.

Playa Los Lances and Lagoon at Low Tide

 

Rio Jara and the Lagoon – The Rio Jara is the river that flows into Tarifa bay. The stretch of beach either side of the river is what’s known as Rio Jara.

Technically it’s just a small section of Los Lances. The river mouth is a no-go for kiters as its got a strong current that will catch you out.

Behind the beach is a lagoon that gets pretty small at low tide. You’ll see a lot of kites on here at high tide when it’s at its largest.

But a word of warning! It’s  illegal to kite on the lagoon and apparently the police do come down every now and then and turf kiters off. I have to admit I’m not sure if this is a myth to keep the lagoon free for the locals! Up to you if you want to test it out though!

Town Beach – This is the main beach nearest to Tarifa town and kiting is forbidden from 1st June to 30th September, but not restricted outside those dates. It works well in Poinente but is mostly offshore in Levante.

Balneario – This is the small stretch of beach right next to the port of Tarifa and is frankly a bit dodgy, with some submerged rocks. You will see advanced kiters on here in a Levante as it kicks up a lot of chop and some decent waves, but I’ve always avoided it.

Where to Stay

There’s an abundance of hotels, hostels, apartments and camp-sites in the Tarifa area so you won’t struggle to find something to suit. I’ve always found great deals on apartments and hotels on Hotels.com.

However, if you’re new to the sport, travelling alone, or just want a hassle-free all in kitesurfing holiday, I’d thoroughly recommend you take a look at the great packages offered by Book Surf Camps.

They offer a full range of options, from hotels to self-catering apartments, along with fully IKO accredited instructors to get you started if your new, or to help with your progression if you’ve already had some experience. Their partners also offer tuition for absolute beginners right through to advanced kiters, with prices to suit every budget.

Other Beaches Nearby

When the Levante blows really hard it’s not ideal at most locations in Tarifa bay, apart from maybe Punta Paloma.

But a lot of the locals will head to other beaches along the coast that are more user-friendly.

Los Canos de Meca- This is the bay in front of Cape Trafalgar (where the battle took place) and is a personal favourite of mine.

It’s about 40kms north of Tarifa town heading towards Cadiz and the beautiful Moorish white town of Vejer de la Frontera.

When the Levante is at it’s strongest it blows cross-shore at this location and gets some great waves breaking over the reef at the end of the cape. It is more of an intermediate to advanced spot though as there are rocks at low tide and at all times at the cape end of the bay.

It’s also a great spot when the wind isn’t blowing with a real bohemian feel to it and some very cool beach bars and restaurants.

Los Canos de Meca

Getares – is a small bay about 10kms east of Tarifa before Algeciras. It works well when the Levante is mental at Tarifa, being more sheltered and onshore.

Palmones – Is a bay a few kms beyond Algeciras going back towards Gibraltar. There’s a small river estuary with flat water.

Again, this is a lot more user-friendly when the Levante is blowing, although it’s known to be a bit smelly as the Levante blows fumes from the nearby oil-refinery at La Linea across it.

Heading Home!

You’ve probably detected my love affair with this place! As I write I’ve already got a trip booked for in 3 weeks time and I fully intend to be living there in the next couple of years.

What more can I say? But here are some useful links to check out before you decide for yourself.

Hotels.com

Book Surf Camps

Wikipedia

Windfinder

Tarifa Direct (property rentals)

Please don’t hesitate to post your own experiences or questions below or email me at adrian@kitemadworld.com

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, and, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make as the result of clicking a link

Kitesurfing Holidays – How to Find Great Kiting Destinations

Whether you’ve already taken your first steps towards being a kiter or are looking to try it for the first time in perfect conditions combined with a holiday, going on a kitesurfing holiday is a great way to quickly learn the basics or boost your progression.

We learn anything better when we’re relaxed and able to focus on the job in hand. And what better way to do that than to spend a week or two chilling out and kiting in perfect conditions with great instructors and like-minded people.

I’ve kited in some great locations and I’ll share some of these with you. I’ll also offer some guidance on what to look for in a kitesurfing holiday destination.

Go It Alone or Package?

There’s a huge amount of info on-line that will help you find the ideal destination and most kitesurfing locations have a great community spirit. So if you do go it alone it’s easy to hook up with like-minded people once you get there.

The main advantages of booking a kitesurfing package deal are:

  • Proven location with plenty of info on best time to go
  • Qualified instructors
  • Structured tuition
  • Safe environment to learn and progress in
  • Abundance of up to date kit provided
  • Guaranteed to be with like-minded people
  • Storage
  • Non-kiting facilities and refreshments
  • Predictable/known cost

If you’re new to the sport or in your early days It’s definitely the best way to go, and certainly if you’re travelling solo. But of course a lot will depend on whether you’re holidaying with a non-kiting partner, family or friends.

A lot of kitesurfing package holidays offer great facilities for non-kiters, so you can choose something for everyone.

If you’re more experienced and have your own kit, there’s nothing wrong with going it alone. I’ve done both and sometimes combined the 2, spending some of the time independently and using the facilities of a kite-club for part of the holiday.

The main draw-backs of going it alone are:

  • Transportation of kit to the destination
  • Storage of kit at the destination
  • Getting from your accommodation to the kiting location
  • Lack of fellow kiters
  • Additional costs for use of facilities, rescue services etc.

I’ve discovered some great kiting locations by doing it independently, but if you’re a beginner I’d definitely recommend you opt for a package.

If you’re going down the route of the package kiting holiday there’s basically two main ways of doing it:

Independent accommodation and use of a kite club/school at the location – This is not a bad way to go if you have non-kiting people with you. Check out the kite clubs and schools at the location and definitely contact them to see if you need to book in advance.

There are usually options to book lessons/rental by the day or for a longer period, so you can mix it up with other activities.

Kitesurfing camps – These have sprung up in recent years and are now available in most locations around the world. Don’t be put off by the term “camps”, The accommodation offered varies from shared hostel type places to 5 star apartments or hotels.

The main thing is that the package is geared towards time on the water and coaching or tuition. They also cater for more experienced kiters who maybe don’t want/need any tuition, but just want everything geared towards a great kiting holiday.

Most also offer a range of non-kiting activities, so everyone is catered for.

Where to go When.

I guess it’s obvious but it’s vital to check that you’re going to the right place for the time of year!

The International Kitesurfing Organisation (IKO) has a great website with a destination finder tool that allows you to select the time of year. That’s a great place to start narrowing down your options.

https://www.ikointl.com/destinations

Some destinations are great all year round for wind but not great for a beach holiday (I notice the UK shows up as an option in December on the IKO tool – great wind but you need 5mm wetsuit, gloves, hood, boots!).

If you have a destination in mind, check its wind stats and forecasts with the following link that also gives a summary of each location:https://www.windfinder.com/forecast/tarifa_hotel_hurricane

Personal Favourites

The great news is that there’s always somewhere warm and windy, even in the middle of winter. Personal favourites (that I’ve been to so far) are:

Tarifa, Spain Windy all year but most popular May to October for temperature.

Barbados – Silver Rock Pretty good all year round but best time is July to December. I’ve had a great Christmas and New Year there.

Cape Verde – Santa Maria on the Island of Sal – Best time to go is November to April. Another Christmas holiday I’ve enjoyed.

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands – Best May to October.

Egypt – El Gouna – Best May to October, but I’ve had pretty good conditions there in December (Okay, I like getting way from the UK for Christmas!)

Dominican Republic – Cabarete Best winds February to August but pretty good all year.

Turkey – Akyaka Village on Gokova Bay  – Best May to end of September for predictable thermal winds.

United Kingdom – I had to mention it as it’s my home! and we’ve got an abundance of fantastic beaches all around our Islands. Not great for guaranteed sunshine as our weather is notoriously unpredictable. And the best winds are in the winter. But there’s a reason some of the top world professionals, Aaron Hadlow, Hannah Whitely and Lewis Crathern are British.

If you’re looking to visit the UK for great beaches and kiting, some of my favourite places include Rhosneigr in Anglesey, Broadhaven in Pembrokeshire and Black Rock Sands in North Wales. My home location, Wallasey Beach (in front of Derby Pool pub) is awesome for kiting and accessible to Anglesey and the rest of North Wales. Here’s a nice little video of some of my buddies.

Video courtesy of Tim Collins Videography, Derby Pool Kitesurfers.

All the above destinations will be covered in more detail in separate articles.

Travelling with Kit

If you decide to go it alone on your kitesurfing holidays you’ll either need to hire kit at the location, usually from a kite school or club, or take your own.

Prices for kit hire vary depending on the location but will typically be in the region of €100 a day in e.g. Tarifa, with discounts if you hire for a block of days.

It’s a more costly option but good to know all the most up to date kit is available and you have no worries about not packing the right sized kites.

Whilst wetsuits (if needed) and harnesses are usually provided (usually at extra cost), it’s best to take your own if you have them.

Taking your own kit can be a minor hassle if you’re flying, but I do it all the time and it’s just a case of knowing what and how to pack. Airlines all offer a sports gear option and the allowance ranges from 20 to 32 kilos usually.

A good tip is to not be restricted by booking it as kitesurfing gear. Often the golf or windsurfing gear option gives a bigger weight allowance for a bit more money. As a guideline I usually pay between £30-£45 each way depending on the airline and destination.

There are some great kite bags available which will take 2 boards, up to 3 kites and all the bars etc you need.

Split boards – A number of board manufacturers now offer a range of split boards. These split in two across the middle and are fixed together with overlapping flanges and screws.

Being totally honest, I’ve always been skeptical about whether these will work, and assumed that there would be a compromise in performance due to unwanted flexing. I would never previously have bought one. However, I was lucky enough to win one in a prize draw recently, from a company called Kite Elements.

I’ve been using the board at my home beach to try it out and can completely endorse the quality and performance. I would not know that it was a split board when riding. And I’ve put it through its paces in all kinds of conditions, and it’s now the board I choose to ride most of the time.

The advantage is that the board will fit in a large hold-all or suitcase. And with a bit of careful planning I can get all my gear plus enough clothing etc in the hold-all without having the hassle of an extra kite bag.

A lot of airlines let you pay extra for more weight allowance on your check-in bags, so that’s the way I’m doing it on my upcoming trip to Tarifa.

Here’s a great video from professional kitesurfer Sam Light with a few neat little tricks I have to confess I’ve used myself more than once. (I often pop my foot under the kite bag as I put it on the check-in scales hehehe!). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HJc240xYxg

Insurance

Whether you’re going on a kitesurfing camp, kit hire or go it alone kitesurfing holiday, it’s important to bear in mind that standard travel insurance won’t normally cover you for anything that happens when you’re participating in a range of sports, including kitesurfing.

It’s not just the cost of damaged or lost kit you need to consider here. A far bigger risk is that you get injured and medical costs won’t be covered by your travel insurance.

Fortunately there are a number of companies that specialise in sports travel insurance. It costs a bit more but I’d recommend it for peace of mind. And most will cover non-kiting travel companions as a package.

Big Horizons!

What better way to see the world than by travelling to places where you’ll meet like-minded people who share your passion. Most of my trips abroad are kitesurfing holidays and a major benefit is that you find stunning locations that are off the beaten track for the average package holidaymaker.

I’d totally recommend it!

Most of the matters covered in this article are covered in separate more detailed articles so please check out the links to these.

And if you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below or email me at adrian@kitemadworld.com

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, and, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make as the result of clicking a link

Kiteboarding Harnesses – 6 of The Best

Here I feature 6 of the kitesurfing  harnesses I believe to be amongst the best available for a beginner, or for that matter any kiter with a bias towards free-ride (all-round) kiting.

In my article “Kitesurfing Harnesses – What’s the Best Type to Buy as a Beginner” I describe the main types of kiteboarding harnesses and what types would be most suited to a beginner.

Others are available, obviously, and there will be some great harnesses amongst them. However, these are harnesses I’ve either used myself or have discussed in detail with kiters who are using them at present and whose judgment I can trust completely.

I haven’t featured any seat harnesses here, mainly because I feel it is a very small market-place these days with so many great waist harnesses available with innovations that eliminate most of the advantages that seat harnesses used to have over waist harnesses – mainly the tendency to ride up.

There are now 2 main choices in type of kiteboarding waist harnesses – “Hardshell” or “Soft”.

The hardshell harness was invented by Ride Engine and has now been adopted by a number of leading brands. They come at a bit of extra cost but for most kiters the advantages are clear.

Because of their rigid construction they can be far less bulky and lower in profile, whilst offering the same or more back support than a larger profile soft harness. This offers more flexibility of movement.

Another major advantage is that they don’t distort and compress under pressure from the pull of the kite. This makes for a much more comfortable session overall.

That said, the “soft” harnesses I’ve featured here offer as much support as you can get without going to the hardshell option, and will give you hours of comfort in each kiting session.

A note on spreader bars – Most harness manufacturers now offer a choice of traditional fixed hook spreader bars or a variety of sliding spreaders.

Whilst the sliding spreader has a number of advantages for more advanced riders, particularly for wave riding and toeside riding, they are slightly more complicated to use in terms of how you attach the chicken loop.

They also take a bit of getting used to. If you’re a beginner I would recommend you go for the fixed option to start with. The spreader is an inter-changeable part so you can easily swap to a sliding spreader when you get further down the line in your progression.

Dakine Pyro

Dakine has been at the forefront of harness design for decades, going back to the early days of windsurfing. And the Pyro reflects this.

Whilst being a “soft” harness, the Pyro from 2017 onwards has a very rigid back-plate, and this has allowed it to be relatively slim in thickness for a soft harness. The back support is substantial, which is a good thing for most riders.

I’ve used a Pyro for years and never suffered any discomfort, even after kiting for 4 or more hours non-stop. And the newest models from 2017 onwards have some great innovations that make them a very close contender to the more expensive hardshell options.

Main Features:

  • Large back support plate with pretty rigid construction (reflecting Dakine’s entry into the hardshell market).
  • Thermo-foam interior padding which moulds to the contours of your body with body heat, creating a really snug fit that won’t ride up.
  • Really robust waist-belt and dual compression straps which pull the outer structure and spreader bar together to create a tight but comfortable fit so that the harness doesn’t start to feel loose under strain.
  • Rear handle/handle-pass strap.
  • 2 “D” rings at the sides for leash attachment.
  • Down-strap to keep the spreader bar from angling upwards.
  • Choice of fixed or sliding spreader bars.

 

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Ride Engine Prime and Elite

Ride Engine was the pioneer of hardshell harnesses and the latest Prime and Elite is the culmination of all the innovations from their earlier models.

With maybe a few exceptions in style of riding (wave, some free-style) where the rider actually wants a harness that can be worn slightly loose and move around, The hardshell is probably the future of harnesses.

The main advantage is that, because the body of the harness is constructed from a rigid carbon polymer or fiberglass material, less bulk is required to offer the same or more support. The harness can also be slimmer in profile i.e less surface area.

Additionally, because the harness doesn’t distort under strain, there is less tendency to squeeze the torso when you’re riding full-out and powered up.

This all makes for more comfortable sessions and greater flexibility, because of the lower profile.

The early hardshell models had a slightly questionable fastening mechanism involving a PU tube loop that had a tendency to stretch.

However, from 2018 onwards Ride Engine adopted a more traditional fixing mechanism that has solved the early problems completely.

The interior and edges of the harness are nicely padded with memory foam and the hardshell backplate has a concave curve that hugs the lower back to prevent it riding up and to offer subtle yet firm lumbar support.

Main Features:

  • Hardshell exterior. Two versions available – “Elite” is made of carbon polymer which is stiffer and lighter than the “Prime” which is made of fiberglass.
  • Dual compression straps.
  • Memory foam interior.
  • Low-profile back-plate, offers comfort and flexibility without compromising on support
  • Concave back curve, hugs the back and prevents ride up.
  • Side D rings and rear handle-pass strap for leash attachment.
  • Choice of fixed hook or sliding spreader.

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Dakine C-1

The C-1 is Dakine’s answer to the hardshell.

It’s main body differs from the Ride Engine harness mainly in that the hardshell is in 3 parts with a back plate and side plates, with a flexible join in between.

The hardshell has a little more flexibility than the Ride Engine harness and is designed to mould to your body shape within a few uses. It therefore offers a good halfway house between the full-on hardshell and soft harness.

The profile is minimal in shape so is great for those wanting a bit more flexibility, particularly for wave riding, but still offers hardshell levels of support.

The interior has nice moulded padding for grip and comfort.

Main Features:

  • 3 piece hardshell, offers some flexibility and moulds to body shape.
  • Dual compression straps
  • Rear handlepass strap and leash attachment point on spreader bar
  • Choice of fixed hook or sliding spreader
  • Down-strap to stop spreader tilting upwards

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Mystic Warrior

The Mystic Warrior is the biggest selling soft harness on the market and is obviously loved by many riders for its comfort and support. And it’s basically a great all-round harness that does what it’s supposed to.

It has a good level of back support and a fairly minimalist amount of interior plastic moulding that does the job and is particularly comfortable if you’re riding without a wetsuit or with just a rash vest.

Main Features:

  • Soft exterior offers great comfort and plenty of support.
  • Dual compression straps with Mystic’s patented quick release slide and click fastening.
  • Rear handlepass strap, side D rings and additional leash attachment on the spreader bar for short leashes.

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Mystic Diva

The Mystic Diva is specifically designed for females and is a soft harness. It has a lower profile to fit the curves of the female body and has soft rubber back padding to hug the back and prevent ride up.

It’s the most popular female specific harness on the market for good reason. Although I haven’t used one myself, my female kite buddies who do, swear by this harness for its comfort and support.

Main Features:

  • Soft harness offers flexibility and comfort but with plenty of support.
  • Interior soft rubber back and side inserts for comfort and grip.
  • Dual compression straps with Mystic’s slide and click quick release fastenings
  • Rear handlepass strap, side D rings and spreader bar leash attachments.
  • Down strap to prevent spreader bar tilting upwards.

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Mystic Gem

The Gem is Mystic’s most recent female specific hardshell harness. I’ve discussed this harnesse’s benefits with female buddies who have used both this and the Diva and whilst the Diva is a great harness, once they’ve tried the hardshell they wouldn’t use anything else.

The Gem comes at a higher price but will give years of hard use so is a great investment if you can stretch that budget a little bit.

It features “Bionic Core” hardshell material that allows a degree of diagonal flex where it’s needed but great stiffness and support.

The hardshell support allows for a more comfortable low profile shape and the edges are nicely padded with thick neoprene and soft “flexknit” material to make it extremely comfortable when not using a wetsuit.

The interior has similar soft rubber moulding to the Diva to enhance comfort and grip.

Main Features:

  • “Bionic Core” hardshell exterior, for low profile lightness and maximum support.
  • Padded edges
  • Soft rubber back and side padding.
  • Dual compression straps with Mystic slide and click quick release mechanism.
  • Down strap to prevent bar tilting upwards.
  • Choice of fixed or sliding spreaders.
  • Rear hadlepass strap, side D rings and front spreader leash attachment points.

 

 

 

 

 

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All of these harnesses will give you great comfort and support. Which in a kiteboarding harness is exactly what you need to keep you on the water longer and in comfort.

If you can stretch to the hardshell options you won’t be disappointed, but the soft harnesses featured here will do a great job at less cost.

Make sure you pay attention to the manufacturer’s size guide and don’t be tempted to try to fit into the wrong sized harness because of cost or availability….it won’t work.

If you have any comments on this article or would like any advice on these or other harnesses, please do leave a comment or email me at adrian@kitemadworld.com

Happy Kiting!

Adrian

 

Affiliate disclosure:   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I have also have arrangements with other companies which means, as the owner of this website I may also receive a small commission for any purchase you make  as the result of clicking a link on this website.