Learning to kitesurf in Tarifa
I made my way down to the beach with the firm conviction to learn to fly over the waves. The first thing I noticed lining the coast of Tarifa were little islands of people centred around flags that represent the many different kite schools in the area. Windswept and sandy, they were all there to dominate the wind. “You need to be pretty fearless to do this,” is the primary thought to cross my mind. While scrambling to understand all the equipment and battling against the wind, experienced windsurfers were flying by like birds, a reminder of all the things that I was still unable to do.
Your first time out, you’ll probably swallow your fair share of salt water and have to deal with more than a little sand in your eyes. How on earth do they make it look so easy? Patience. You’ll only need around five days to master this so-called extreme sport which will reel you in hook, line and sinker. “Kitesurfing changes your life. For good and for bad. Compared to skateboarding, snow and windsurfing, it’s also pretty easy,” explains Ingo Maes, director at Dragon Kite School in Tarifa.
Kiteboarding is taught using a simple system that divides the sky between nine and three o’clock. Twelve on the dot is the neutral position where the kite remains stable directly above the riders head and out of the power zone. On the second and third day the aim is to gain control over the kite using one hand and keep it diagonal to the sea. Once you’ve taken control of the kite, you’ll learn the water start using the wind to get help you get up onto the board. After getting the kiteboard onto your feet, use the power of the wind on your kite to roll your weight forward and get on top of the board. “After four days I managed to ride for ten metres in the water. That was it. I didn’t want to get out. I was hooked!” jokes Nick Thames from England.
Kitesurfing is all about overcoming your fears. You have to learn to coordinate up to four movements at a time, the power of the wind can seem uncontrollable and you’re surrounded by other kites… but with practice you’ll conquer the fear. “Some people have two left feet, but after seven days even they can do it,” laughs Sam Teplickz, the 27-year-old Slovakian instructor. “It’s a little harder for the girls, but only because they are more preoccupied with safety than most guys, not because of their physical strength,” he adds.
Any helpful tips? Avoid the weekends in the summer when there are more people on the beach. Check the wind predictions before heading to Tarifa to make sure there won’t be more than 25 knots or it will be too hard for beginners. The best months to learn are May, June and September. Don’t forget to use a helmet before kitesurfing. Also, sign up with an authorized kiteboarding school. It’s worth it in the long run. Once you’ve decided this is the sport for you a set of equipment (including board, harness, wetsuit, life jacket, helmet and kite) will set you back around €900 second-hand or €1,500 new. The main difference with skiing is obvious. You don’t need to buy a pass to be on the beach.
At the end of a five day induction to kiteboarding, every muscle in your body will ache. But having touched the sea and the sky, this will be the last thing on your mind. With kiteboarding, you’ll be hooked and itching to hit the waves again!