The feeling of flying a huge 8 meter kite overhead and riding on a kiteboard through the water is amazing. I could only ride in stretches of about 50 ft at a time, but it felt so great after struggling all day to gain control of this huge kite and master the skills to get up and ride.
I first saw people kiteboarding in 2005 when I was in Brazil. I drove past a beach and saw over 35 kiteboarders in the water and knew from that moment that this was a sport I would love. Kiteboarding is a cross between snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding and flying! Fast forward 5 years to September 2010, my chance finally came. My friend Jak started kiting and once I heard that he was doing this locally in Ocean City I was ready to join him.
Kiteboarding is one of those activities that you really need to have a buddy around to do it safely. Jak was totally into it and I had the opportunity to head to Ocean City Maryland and give it a shot. My first lesson went well and I was hooked! I almost should not have giving it a go, because now I am totally addicted.
When I started dreaming about this Latin American adventure I researched places along the way that I would be able to kiteboard. Its a very tricky sport because the winds, location and conditions have to be perfect. Its not a sport where you can just pick any body of water and get out there and go.
The first potential place was in El Salvador. I was not feeling that great in El Salvador and it was also a bit pricey so I gave it a pass. I knew I would have better chances in a few weeks so was not that disapointed. The next place on the list was Bahia Salinas, Costa Rica which is where we were last week. This place is the epic center for kiteboarding in Central America. The bay of Salinas is really the perfect storm for kiteboarding and other wind sports. The wind comes over the mountains from the east and blows straight over this large shallow empty bay. It mostly blows side on shore which are the perfect conditions for kiteboarding success.
The first day we arrived the conditions were not good because the winds were around 40 MPH. Optimal wind speed for beginners is around 15 mph and 20-25 for advanced. In addition to being 40 MPH it was extremely gusty which makes it even harder to handle the large kites.
After a sitting out a day the next day winds settled down slightly and we had our shot to get on the water. Because it had been 6 months since my last and only lesson, to be safe I decided to get another day of lessons. This is not a sport you want to learn on your own! We started with the basics of kite control and body drags. Body dragging is an exercise where you fly the kite in the water and use your body as a human rudder and try to tack back and forth to get upwind or back to where you started. After a couple hours of sucking down sea water I was ready to give it a shot with the kite board.
I was up and riding pretty much right away, but I was going straight down wind which is not really what you want to do. It is normal for beginners, but the ultimate goal is to be able to tack back and forth, like a sail boat, and stay in one spot or even come back up wind a bit. After 4 hours of lessons I was done for the day and would have to pick up again the next day.
The next day I was doing much better. Still not riding exactly upwind, but feeling much more confident and doing a decent job of not riding directly down wind.
It would have been very nice to get another couple of days under my belt, but that will have to wait until we reach Panama. The conditions there are said to be excellent, with constant side-onshore winds and warm water.
Check out how the video of our two days kiteboarding in Bahia Salinas, Costa Rica: