Kitesurfing—harnessing the power of the wind to glide across the water and into the air on a board—is guaranteed to help your spirit soar.
“[It] feels like what I imagine it must be like flying around heaven,” says Brendon Held, owner of inMotion Kitesurfing magazine.
When it comes to giving the sport a whirl, few places rival the Turks and Caicos. This dreamy collection of islands north of Hispaniola and east of Cuba dazzles with miles of warm, shallow turquoise water and sand so fine it feels like fairy dust.
Indeed, the Caribbean nation is “beautiful by nature,” as its license plates proclaim. Factor in locals who exude a relaxed, friendly vibe, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect tropical adventure.
> When to Go:
Head to Turks and Caicos for kitesurfing (also known as kiteboarding) when the trade winds blow, generally from November through June, following hurricane season. To save a few pennies, avoid high season, which is mid-December to mid-April.
> Getting Started:
Touch down on the main island of Providenciales (or Provo, as it’s popularly known), then head for Long Bay. You’ll see colorful kites dancing across the sky at the northern end of the beach, where kite schools—Big Blue Unlimited, Kite Provo, and Turks and Caicos Kiteboarding among them—set up shop when the wind starts to kick up.
Beginners should commit to several days of lessons in order to get a feel for the sport. You’ll start out flying a trainer on shore, then progress to using a full-size kite to pull yourself through the water (known as body dragging). Once you’ve gotten the hang of the kite, you can start learning how to get up on the board—usually on day two or three. Be sure to make reservations in advance.
> Essential Gear and Tips:
Kite schools can set you up with all of the gear you’ll need, but you’ll need to bring or wear the following to your lesson:
- A bathing suit, or wetsuit if you tend to get cold. Note that the water is fairly warm all year round.
- Sunscreen—and lots of it, including a high SPF lip balm to keep your smackers from frying as you look up at the kite all day
- Sunglasses equipped with a floating leash or Sea Specs (a cross between sunglasses and goggles)
- Booties (optional). Turks and Caicos sand is pretty easy on the feet, but use booties if you don’t want to worry about where you’re stepping.
- Water and snacks
If you decide you want to take kiting to the next level and head out on your own, you’ll need a board with bindings, a harness, pump, power bar with lines, and a leash. You’ll also want a quiver of two to three kites ranging from 9 to 14 meters. Kite size depends on weight and wind speed.
For Turks and Caicos, you’ll want 9-, 12-, and 14-meter kites, at least. A 17 can be handy for men on days with low wind. Though optional, an impact/flotation vest is recommended.
> Where to Go:
Long Bay: Long Bay is a bit like a bathtub—warm, flat water for miles—making it the ideal kiteboarding training ground. The shallow water and sandy bottom make it easy to relaunch a kite or retrieve a board after a fall. Another plus? Prevailing onshore/sideshore winds will blow you back to land if anything goes wrong.
Turtle Tail: This protected bay at the south end of Provo presents more of a challenge than Long Bay. The small launch area is accessible only at low tide, and gusty winds keep kiters on their toes—not to mention crabs that nip at your feet. But the effort pays off.
Grace Bay: When north/northeast winds blow, the surf break at Grace Bay lures advanced kiters who like to play in the waves.
Downwinders: A downwinder—which starts in one place and ends in another—is the ultimate kiteboarding adventure. Long Bay to Turtle Tail is a favorite route. If you aren’t comfortable doing a downwinder on your own, hook up with Big Blue Unlimited for a kite safari. The instructors there can take you to all sorts of hidden spots.
> Other Top Kite Surfing Spots for Beginners:
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (USA): A narrow spit of land that stretches for 70 miles, Cape Hatteras offers the protected waters of Pamlico Sound on the west side and the playful waves of the Atlantic on the east. To get started, visit the well-oiled machine REAL Watersports or Kite Club Hatteras for a more relaxed experience.
Bonaire, Caribbean: Trade winds blast Bonaire with stiff breezes year-round. Kiters have laid claim to Atlantis Beach, an idyllic stretch of sand at the island’s southwestern tip. The wind blows offshore, so you have to be proficient at riding upwind or willing to hire a boat escort. Kiteboarding Bonaire can take care of you.
South Padre Island, Texas (USA): Flat, shallow water and steady winds throughout the year make South Padre Island an ideal learning ground.