Have you ever had the feeling of holding onto a kite and feeling like it wants to blow away with you? How about the slight desire to let it go … just to see what happens?
Kite surfing is your solution: the sport that is, quite literally, holding on to a kite as it pulls you across coastal waters. Enjoy the wind and water spray in your face as you coast along the ocean shore! Even throw in a few jumps and tricks once you’ve got experience—don’t try this at home.
Kite surfing. Tether yourself to a ginormous kite, step onto a board in the surf and get blown out to sea (sorry, a moderate distance from the shore … do not get yourself blown out to sea). Experience the freedom and lightness of whizzing along powered by wind and surf. Watch the coastline and the ocean from a new perspective.
Kite surfing, at the core, is approachable for anyone with moderate physical fitness. A bit more is required if you want to go out to perform jumps and tricks. There isn’t a particular age requirement, although keep in mind that each surfer is out on their own board keeping distance from other surfers so as to not tangle kite lines.
Kite surfing starts on the beach, where you pump your kite up, lay out the lines, and gear up. Launch the kite up into the air and then get on top of a board in the surf, either from a slight laying position or a running jump, off you go!
Of course, an introduction, by a qualified teacher, to detailed rules, best practices, and wind & water comprehension are critical before you start.
The best environments for kite surfing are bodies of water with around 12 knots of wind blowing—enough to lift & blow your kite along. The water itself can be entirely placid, which makes lakes viable options too, if the wind is strong enough
There are quite a few location options worldwide, from warmer tropical temperatures to the more challenging cold-water locals. Because of the global possibilities, kite surfing is viable year-round (each location has its own season).
Here are four ideal locations that range the entire year, each with pleasant temperatures and economic approachability, and consistent winds within a kite surfing range:
The most southern point of Spain, known as the wind sports capital of the world. Borders the Strait of Gibraltar.
Famed as the best kite-surfing destination in Asia, part of a beautiful tropical archipelago.
Originally a fishing village, Cumbco is a top travel destination for beginner kiteboarders thanks to its wide, sandy beaches and gentle, rolling waves.
This beautiful island ocean oasis off the coast of a desert landscape boasts year-round sunshine, white sand beaches, no rain, and a great chance to see sea turtles!
Being able to swim in open water, including staying afloat for at least 15 minutes, and knowing coastline safety (specifically about the tides, currents, and winds) are the top necessities to bring to kite surfing.
Winds are both a necessity and a danger in kite surfing: too heavy of winds (like winter storms) or the wrong kind of winds, like (cross-)offshore winds create a risk of being pushed out to sea. On the opposite hand, inland-bound winds pose their own risk of being … swept into buildings? (True story, apparently.) Respect that Mother Nature can and will do her thing regardless and don’t push your limits … too far, in any case.
Locational dangers are next, in the form of sea life and rocks (seriously, mind the rocks). Jellyfish, whales, sharks, even crocodiles can be in-water risks in certain locations; sea urchins, weeverfish, or rocks can be impediments on the way to or from the water. Keep an eye on your surroundings and pay attention to any posted warning signs.
Personal error: fatigue or hasty equipment checks can cause technical issues, take your time with each step, and know your limits. Again, it’s that important! Be mindful of other people. A little care to not tangle with other kite surfers’ lines or ensnare swimmers—kite surfing rules require 50m (54 yds) distance from swimmers—will save you a headache in the long run!
Finally, make use of waterproof sunscreen, a rash vest and cap, and polarized sunglasses to prevent too much sun exposure.
As kite surfing is a global activity, what sort of wildlife you’ll see depends on the location, like the possibilities of jellyfish, whales, sharks, or even crocodiles mentioned above, but here are some you’re likely to see at our four favorite locations:
Let’s clear up one funny myth: sharks are not so much attracted to shiny things as they are to contrast—so if you’re worried about sharks, minimize the contrast. But also keep in mind sharks rarely attack, seriously … more people died from falling coconuts than shark attacks in 2019.
A stinger suit and reef booties are recommendable if you’re kite surfing somewhere with risky wildlife in the underfoot or stinging-risk areas, like locals with coral reefs, manta rays, or weeverfish baking in the coastal sands.
You only require moderate physical health for the baseline of kite surfing, basically the ability to swim in open water and stay afloat for around 15 minutes. More difficult kite surfing, like longer time spans on the water or performing jumps and tricks, require strong leg, back, and upper body muscles.
A regular cardio/full-body weight training exercise routine will have you in fit shape for kite surfing.
If you’re kite surfing at a cold location, you’ll want a wetsuit. A stinger suit and reef booties are recommended around risky wildlife. A kite pump will be necessary, but check where you’re staying as they may have one.
Safety accessories: some locations require helmets, so check before you go if they require one and if they provide them. Another suggestion is a safety knife, in the event of a tangle that must be cut out of.
Upfront: It is entirely possible to exchange or sell pieces to upgrade your gear. Starting out, boards are particularly fine to buy used. A repeated recommendation is to use the majority of your funds for the best possible kite and bar.
Basic gear price breakdown:
Kite surfing gear packages can be purchased from $2,799 if you’re alright with not individually picking the pieces.
But to get you started, you’ll need some good deals on your first set of gear. Check out Good Breeze Kiteboarding for top brand discounts or iKitesurf Classifieds for fellow kite surfers selling their gear.
This cost varies and is determined by location.
Here are some airline costs, plus getting from the airport to each location—based on the same dates as the accommodations above!
Here are prices for a week’s stay at each of our four locations, using dates from within the next twelve months that are within each location’s kite surfing season.
Tarifa, Spain—April 17-23, 2022
Airbnb: $42-$71 nightly
Expedia: $73-$140 nightly
Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka—May 8-14, 2022
Airbnb/Expedia: $14-$71 nightly
Cumbuco, Brazil—Nov 21-27, 2021
Airbnb: $31-$97 nightly
Expedia: $33-$137 nightly
Sal, Cape Verde—Jan 2-8, 2022
Airbnb: $16-$50 & $100-$215
Expedia: $39-$100 & $180-$250
Certain locations require local permits for kite surfing, so be sure to check your location before you leave, and as always when traveling abroad, you will need a passport (a US passport currently costs $115).
Third-party insurance is sometimes necessary to account for any damage to others or their property, this is especially for competitions. If you are planning to take a class or join a group, that would be another cost.
Last but not least, for taking an adventure… you’ll most likely require time off!
Here’s where we get to the fun stuff: how to kite surf and save money at the same time!
First on the list: the KANARA app. This app actually updated from just kite surfing to multiple water sports within the time the author was researching/writing this article, so the opportunity has grown. But KANARA is built around gamification for water sports, allowing you to compete against other users globally and earn ranking points, which can then be used for discounts on new gear (which can then be used to compete better and earn more points=better gear to compete with … you get the idea).
Yes, because kite surfing is an approachable sport, it can be a full family outing.
Nope. Early teens are winning awards, and kids as young as six are out on the water. It all depends on personal ability.
If you’re in the water already … consider just doing your thing; otherwise, take note of any public bathrooms around about for when you come back to shore.
See Notes on transportation in the Finances & Budget section.
See notes in the “Where and When to Go?” section.
Yes. At nearly every place there are guided tours and lessons to get into the sport.