Move over Aruba and the Dominican Republic, both named among ‘The World’s Top 10 Kiteboarding Spots’ by Discovery News in 2011. An ideal combination of wind conditions, full-service facilities and international events is giving Puerto Rico a reputation as the Kitesurfing Capital of the Caribbean.
“Kitesurfing has been a hit in Puerto Rico since the sport began,” explains Nick Leason, who owns MHL Custom, an Aguadilla-based shop that specializes in building high-performance boards. “We were among the first to receive the first two line kites from Naish Kiteboarding in Hawaii and have watched the sport steadily grow for over a decade. At first it was a core group of Puerto Rico’s windsurfers who pushed the limits with jumping and wave riding. Over the years, the equipment has become much more sophisticated and has opened up kitesurfing to novice riders. Today, you see many people around the island riding the wind on any given day.”
Conditions for kitesurfing in Puerto Rico are ‘world-class’, says Art Wible, owner of San Juan Paddleboarding, located in the Condado Lagoon, and part-time weather observer for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). “Winds typically blow 10 to 15 knots or more from east to west. So you get side-shore conditions along the southern coast, like in La Parguera, and the northern coast, especially around Ocean Park and Isla Verde.”
Puerto Rico also offers a wide variety of scenarios to match the skill level and personal taste of each type of kitesurfer, explains Olympic Windsurfer Karla Barrera who with husband Phil Morstad own Goodwinds, a company that teaches kitesurfing and other board sports on a watersports-only beach at the Dorado Beach Resort. “We have beautiful flat water spots that are great for freestyle tricks and cruising and we also have great wave riding in the north of the island, which is possible due to Puerto Rico’s geographic position in the Caribbean and exposure to cold fronts that come down from North America.”
There’s a mix of local riders and people traveling to Puerto Rico to enjoy its excellent kitesurfing conditions.
“Kites are easy to carry on planes,” explains Manuel ‘Kiko’ Dalmau, who plans to open a new kitefoiling school for non-novices this winter at Punta Las Marias Beach, located just outside of San Juan between the Condado and Isle Verde. “My recommendation would be to bring your kite and get at least a couple of kitefoil lessons and buy or rent a foil here.”
Take lessons when you are ready to invest some time in the process, says Goodwinds’ Barrera. “Kitesurfing isn’t difficult to learn, but it does take a few days to master the basics. I would recommend starting to learn from mid-November to the end of August when the winds are most consistent. Buy gear after you finish the lessons because the lessons provide you with an opportunity to try different types of equipment and really figure out what is best for you.”
Those who want to immerse themselves in the sport can check out Sotavento Watersports at the Tres Almas Inn, in Ocean Park. Here, professional windsurfer Albir Agresar will be offering package deals this winter that include accommodations, equipment rentals and perhaps even meals.
Looking ahead, plans are underway to host an international hydrofoil race in the San Juan metro area in February. “The hydrofoil has become the fastest sailing craft in the world from small sailboats to the large catamarans seen in this year’s Americas Cup,” says MHL Custom’s Leason. “The world’s best kitesurfing racers are making the switch and they saw it first with our local Puerto Rican riders. The event will attract the top athletes in the sport and will be one of the most colorful events that the public has ever seen on the island.”
The Kite-Surfing North American Championships will be held in Puerto Rico July 7-13 2014.
“Puerto Rico is still, for the most part, a hidden gem for kitesurfing,” says Goodwinds’ Barrera. “However, thanks to exposure by the international media, we expect 2014 to be a very big year for positioning Puerto Rico as one the world’s ultimate destinations for the sport.”