The Best Sport in the BVI?
- September 25th, 2013
- in Lifestyle
Kite Bite – An Introduction to Kiteboarding in the BVI
Words by Charlie Smith
Photography by Charlie Smith, Marco Bava, Kezzia Gray and Jason Wolcott
The BVI, candidly known as ‘Natures Little Secrets.’ Undoubtedly one of the planet’s genuine kiteboarding utopias, yet despite two world class kiteboarding events held in the territory, the region remains far from being overrun with kiters.
While there are certainly countless other kiteboarding spots in the Caribbean, very few can match the beauty of the BVI or offer such varied riding conditions. My name is Charlie Smith, and I know these things because I’m fortunate enough to have travelled all over the world in search of the ‘perfect kiteboarding destination’ as the BVI’s only resident pro kiteboarder.
As an International Team Rider for Cabrinha Kiteboarding and NP Surf, my sponsors have allowed me to pursue these on-going adventures, which have taken me from the waves of Hawai’i to World Record crossings with Sir Richard Branson in the slightly less tropical English Channel.
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I’ve discovered that there are some really special places around the globe, but I’ve yet to find anywhere that beats the BVI. So what is it that makes our beautiful little archipelago so unique and more to the point, untouched by an influx of mainstream kiters?
Well, there’s no doubt that direct flights to places like the Dominican Republic (DR), Brazil and Venezuela have contributed to the vast numbers of travellers choosing those destinations over the BVI, but there’s a lot more to it than that. After all, kiteboarders are generally very well accustomed to going the extra mile, or flight, to find their own slice of paradise, so perhaps it comes down to space on the beaches?
Kiteboarders use very large kites with 80ft lines to propel themselves across the water, which means they need room to manoeuvre. An example of a popular locale would be Cabarete in the D.R where 200 kiters take to the water most days on a strip of beach less than two miles long. But, Anegada has over 12 miles of kiteboarding beaches and it’s no longer a ‘big secret,’ so space is clearly not the issue for the small number of kiters.
Let’s check off aspects that make the BVI the best spot for kiteboarding:
• Water temperature – perfect year round, with no need for any kind of insulation • Wind – extremely consistent trade winds almost all year round • Waves – not for beginners but again, great for 6 months of the year • Flat water – yes. The North Sound and Anegada both offer flat water which most kiteboarders love • Dangerous wildlife – no. I’ve been riding here almost every day when it’s windy for almost nine years and the only thing I ever worry about stinging or attacking me is the brutal UV rays that bounce off the powdery white sand
So maybe it’s just that the BVI is that little bit more challenging to get to and only those looking for a real treat make the effort. Or perhaps people are following the crowd and are unwilling to risk a new location. Either way, those lucky few who make it to the BVI very rarely leave without having the time of their life. I suggest trekking that extra mile to visit these amazing islands and the activities they have to offer.
So the next question and answer I propose to interested parties is: why should you try kiteboarding and how can you get lessons?
Well firstly, the BVI is a chain of 60 islands surrounded by beautiful waters. The primary reason people visit these islands is for the sea, so being on the water makes a great deal of sense if you’re looking to cool off and have fun – especially in the summer months when temperatures on land can get a bit overwhelming.
I also believe it’s one of the safest watersports to learn. I know, probably not what you’ve heard, but the early days of the sport are over and technology has come a long way.
I have coached thousands of students during my time on Necker Island and although I love and teach diving, sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding and surfing, they all sustain more injuries than kiting.
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If you can swim, you can probably kite – it’s that simple. My students have ranged from 5 – 78 years of age, so it’s definitely not about strength or fitness.
You don’t need any previous watersports experience, though sometimes it does help if you have some basic wind awareness or board skills. Currently there is just the one BVI kiteboarding school called Carib Kiteboarding, which is based at the Bitter End Yacht Club. You can also stay at the BEYC while attending a course or directly next door at Saba Rock Resort – a great place to grab a drink and spectate from their very own dedicated ‘kite viewing’ deck. Try the happy hour Painkillers.
I really wish to inspire people to try the sport as it crosses over with every other board sport going. If you’re a surfer – no more paddling. If you’re a windsurfer – you can now jump a lot higher. If you’re a snowboarder—yes you can kite on snow—no more expensive lift passes. If you’re a wakeboarder – no more costly boats and fuel bills, but all the same tricks.
This finally brings me to the biggest benefit of kiteboarding – no fuel, no oil, just wind. It’s one of the greenest sports in the world. The BVI’s biggest asset is its beauty, so kiteboarding helps conserve ‘Nature’s Little Secrets’ by leaving nothing but footprints and allowing for some great photography to show to your friends.