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The famous line from the classic 1950’s U.S. television show “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” could almost equally apply to the sport of Kitesurfing, also known as Kiteboarding. Some say it’s a surfing sport since there’s the use of directional surfboards that can ride in the waves. Others, including World Sailing who has added kiteboarding as an official class in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, claim this is a sailing sport since the kite acts like a sail to carry the rider over the water. Either way, there’s one thing that is unmistakable. Kitesurfing is popular.

We ask the Experts, “Where to Kiteboard in the Caribbean”

“Kiteboarding is the fastest watersport in the world,” says Tommy Gaunt, a pro kiter who in 2014 started his same-named kitesurfing school at Keel Point, on the British Virgin Island of Anegada, where the miles long beaches make it possible to kite in any wind direction. “It appeals to a very wide range of people and ages.”

Kitesurfing is best learned through instruction rather than trial-and-error on your own. That said, there are many kiting schools located throughout the Caribbean. 

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“Anyone from 7 to 77 years old can kitesurf,” says Emmanuel Demanez, who established his Wind Adventures St. Martin on Orient Bay, between Kontiki and Kakao beaches, twenty years ago. “It is a technical sport, and requires kite control skills, thus the fundamental skills are kite control. You can learn first on land, and then with your body dragging in the water. Then, you will start to take the board and experience the first water starts and rides.”

While you don’t have to know how to surf, windsurf or sail to learn to kitesurf, there are two important prerequisites, according to Jon Dodds, who owns Kite Club Cabarete, in the Dominican Republic and is an International Kiteboarding Organization (IKO) instructor. “You should have a reasonable fitness level and be a confident swimmer. We offer private or group lessons for complete beginners or kitesurfers.”

The fact that the IKO, the largest kiteboarding organization in the world with over 4,000 instructor members in over 60 countries, is headquartered in Cabarete speaks to the quality of conditions for the sport at this destination.

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“Kitesurfing can be learned in about 10 hours of instruction, to where a person can ride upwind, perform a basic jump and able to turn around without stopping,” explains Roland Boyce, senior and IKO kitesurf instructor at his Endless Kiteboarding school and shop, on Silver Rock Beach in Barbados. “Six hours is the minimum time needed to get on a board and ride. More lessons or practice is needed depending on the student and what they want to achieve. In kitesurfing, there are many riding styles; much more than in other watersports. You have freeride, freestyle, wave riding and foiling. There is also downwinders… long downwind rides for a few hours, speed …who can go the fastest and big air …who can jump the highest. These are skills that a normal kiteboarder can learn to do; not just pro riders.”

For those who already know how to kitesurf, most schools also both rent and sell equipment. This includes kites (different sizes, twin tip, strapless and foil), kiteboards and harnesses. Rentals span from the hour to half- and full-day or even weekly.

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Beginners and experienced kitesurfers can even make their sport part of a vacation. For example, Gaunt offers weekend, long weekend and 5-day pro in a week kitesurf and accommodation packages in conjunction with the Anegada Beach Club. Wind Adventures St. Martin provides weeklong crewed charter yacht and kitesurf trips where it’s possible to enjoy a variety of venues and wind conditions.

Those who want to see if they’re a bird, plane or champion kitesurfer can register to compete in top Caribbean competitions. Upcoming, there’s:

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.