Kiteboarding started picking up speed in the late 1990s, and it’s now one of the fastest-growing twists on surfing. The basic idea is to balance on a relatively small and lightweight board while controlling a powerful kite, attached to a seat-like harness that wraps around your waist and thighs. In the right wind conditions, this equipment allows you to accelerate across the water and perform some awesome flips, turns, and other tricks. Even if the sea is fairly calm, a skilled kiteboarder can catch 30 or 40 feet (9 or 12m) of air. This extreme sport takes at least few days to learn and much longer to master, but the intense adrenaline rush it instantly creates will encourage you to keep at it, especially in these 10 spots.
Tarifa, Spain: This southernmost European spot on the Andalusian coast is widely considered to be the mecca for kiteboarding because of its mighty wind and relaxed vibe. The Moorish town, just 13km (8 miles) north of Africa, is situated at the meeting place of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, where there’s an ideal collision of offshore levanter and onshore poinente winds. A major pro event usually takes place here each year in early July. www.hotelhurricane.com.
Cabarete, Dominican Republican: Life in Cabarete—on the Dominican Republican’s north coast—pretty much revolves around three things: kiteboarding, partying, and resting up to hit the water again. The best time to visit is between December and April or June and August, when the wind regularly reaches speeds of around 25 to 30kmph (15–20 mph). Frequent sporting events, such as the Kiteboarding World Cup and the Red Bull Masters of the Ocean event, continue to draw pros as well as spectators to the world-renowned area. The main beaches for kiteboarding are Bozo Beach and, farther west, Kite Beach. www.laureleastman.com.
Ceará, Brazil: From mid-July to mid-January, there’s almost constant wind and big white-crested swells off the pristine coastline between Fortaleza and Jericoacoara in northeastern Brazil. This area has become the South American hot spot for kiteboarders. As warm air from the Amazon in the south hits trade winds from the north, Ceará gets steady and strong gusts. Cumbuco, just 32km (20 miles) away from the Fortaleza International Airport, is the best place to begin your kiteboarding adventure. Paracuru and Prea are also popular destinations along the coast. www.kiteadventures.com.
Mui Ne, Vietnam: This unassuming fishing village and resort town in Vietnam’s quiet Binh Thuan Province, about a 5-hour drive from the chaos of Ho Chi Min City, is one of the most popular kiteboarding destinations in Asia. The allure is the consistent crosswinds from December to May that encourage long glides over and above the South China Sea. Lessons in this area tend to be fairly cheap. www.stormkiteboarding.com.
Viuex Fort, St Lucia: This tropical paradise gets strong prevailing winds that average between 18 and 20 knots in the winter and 14 and 16 knots during off-peak season, though the best weather usually comes between December and August. Upping the adrenaline ante, a high-tech kiteboarding school opened in fall 2009 at the Coconut Bay Resort and Spa. It offers state-of-the-art equipment including walkie-talkie–like radios on all the helmets and video coaching, so that instructors can review and help improve performances while you’re on the water. www.2elements.co.uk.
Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A.: Kiteboarding isn’t just a sport in Maui; it’s an obsession—especially at Ka’a Point, on the western end of Kahana Beach (also known as Kite Beach). Set in a valley between the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala, wind funnels across Kite Beach, creating a thrilling mix of conditions. Fairly predictable trade winds are common from May to October, while more diverse onshore winds typically blow through in the winter. www.ksmaui.com.
Traverse City, Michigan, U.S.A.: From June to September, consistent onshore winds and clear water create optimal conditions for kiteboarding along the almost 180 miles (290km) of shoreline in Traverse City. You can choose from stretches with flat water, perfect for learning new tricks, or other locations with big freshwater waves. Close to Chicago, Detroit, and Cincinnati, this area of northern Michigan is the Midwestern hub of kiteboarding. www.broneah.com.
Hood River, Oregon, U.S.A.: If you drive about an hour east of Portland between June and August, you’ll see a rainbow of kites soaring over the Hood River along the Colombia River Gorge, where steady wind gusts can reach between 20 to 40 mph (32–64kmph). As kiters take off from the popular launching spot on Kite Beach, known as “the Spit,” they speed across the rippling waves created by the warm air blowing upstream from the Pacific Ocean that passes through the drier region east of the Cascade Mountains. www.brianswindsurfing.com.
Outer Banks, North Carolina, U.S.A.: Each summer, the sand-dune-speckled islands of the Outer Banks attract kiteboard enthusiasts from all over the world. Pamlico Sound, off of Cape Hatteras, is one of the area’s most renowned spots because of its steady robust winds and smooth shallow water. If you’re just starting out, one of the best places to learn is at the Kitty Hawk Kiteboarding Resort in Rodanthe on Hatteras Island. www.kittyhawkkites.com.
The Best Odyssey, various locations: The Discovery is a Lagoon 570 catamaran that sails around the world, offering 10-day adventures to some of the earth’s most remote waters and rarely visited islands. To get on board, you have to purchase a yacht share for around $20,000, which gets you one trip per year with a cabin that sleeps two people. Most cabins include flat-screen TVs, DVD players, and air-conditioning. The boat’s got piles of kites and kiteboards, surfboards, scuba gear, and paragliding equipment—among plenty of other toys for water lovers. In 2010, the Discovery itinerary includes trips to the Andaman Islands, the Maldives, Chagos, Madagascar, and Mozambique. In 2011, it will sail to Tanzania, Kenya, the Seychelles, or the Red Sea. www.offshoreodysseys.com.