CABARETE, Dominican Republic- Cabarete is one of the Kitesurfing capitals of the world. People come from all over the world come here to be pulled through the waves attached to a giant kite.
Kitesurfing, or kiteboarding, is just what the title says it is: surfing with a kite.
The equipment for this venture is a rectangular mini surfboard — which is not much wider than the breadth of a man’s shoulders — a large kite that looks like a cross between a parachute and a paraglider that can be pumped up with air, a harness, and a cable that stretches from the bottom side of the kite to a handle that the rider holds onto.
The premise is that a surfer will fly his kite into the air, jump onto his board in the surf, and then be pulled through the waves as the kite is used as a sail. Kitesurfing speeds have been recorded at over 90 km an hour, though the kitesurfers that I observed at Cabarete seemed to be going at a vastly slower, dare I say laid back, pace.
I sat on the beach and watched the kitesurfers prepare to go into the water. They began the process by pumping up the cavities of the kite up full of air with what appeared to be an over sized bicycle pump. They then attached the kite’s cables to their harness. They then set the kite afloat into the air like one would a standard kite, and, as the sport needs a steady onshore wind of at least 10 to 35 to be executed properly, a little toss and a few running steps was enough to get it flying in the air. They then walk over to the surf with the kite still flying, set their board down in the water, step on it, and go.
I asked an English kite surfer if he really came all the way to the Dominican Republic just to go to this beach. He answered quickly in the affirmative, as though I was either nuts or severely uninformed for even asking that question: this is one of the few epicenters for this sport in the world.
“We came here to kite surf but there hasn’t been much wind,” the English kitesurfer admitted. “You see those people over there,” he spoke as he pointed to a group of kite surfers trying hard to keep their kites in the air and themselves afloat, “they are struggling. Today is our last day and we are hoping that the wind picks up a little.”
I looked up in the sky: dark waves of clouds were rolling by in torrents, the wind was jesting at knocking the hat off my head, and little Petra’s eyes were squinted closed in the face of the onslaught. The wind was blowing, as far as I am concerned, rather hard — but, apparently, it was not blowing hard enough for kitesurfing.
But others were out in the water, dozens of kites were dancing together in the sky, like a water sport version of a Chinese lantern festive, all the way down the beach.
“So, when you are out kite surfing, how far away from the beach do you go,” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, about out to the reef,” the Englishman answered.
The reef was at least a few hundred meters away.
“Do you do any tricks?”
“We do some jumps, but not that many tricks, no.”
The wind soon picked up a little more, and I was able to watch kite surfers ply their sport in full glory. It seemed enjoyable — much more so than surfing where you paddle out into the water just go be brought back to land in less than one minute.
The kite surfers could stay afloat and moving for a relatively extended duration of time: they would ride the waves parallel to the beach in one direction for around 200 meters and then turn around and go back the other way for 200 meters to repeat the routine again.
I wonder how far someone could travel down a coast kitesurfing?
Video of kitesurfing in Cabarete