Kitesurfing Tarifa

Let’s go fly a kite – learning to Kitesurf in Tarifa

As a teenager I spent many summers at the local lake learning to windsurf, sail, kayak, drive motorboats etc, so it’s no surprise this fairly new sport had caught my eye. With the European surf forecast looking rather flat, the autumnal weather a bit hit and miss but a week booked off work, this was our chance to give it a go!

Tarifa is a small fishing town located at the most southern tip of Spain is overlooked by the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and comforted by both the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas. It’s also the most renowned Kitesurfing and Windsurfing destination thanks to the strong winds from the 14km wide Straits of Gibraltar.

Prior to arriving in Tarifa, we booked ourselves in with one of the local Kite Schools, HotSticks, for 4 days of 3 hour intense sessions. With a background of different water and land based sports between us, we were hoping we would pick it up easily. Although if Wiki’s explanation of Kitesurfing is anything to go by, we still had a lot to learn!

‘Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding,snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding,Skateboarding and gymnastics into one extreme sport’

Day 1 – in control
Learning to fly the kiteAlthough rather wet, it was windy which meant lessons were on – yippee! With many elements to get to grips with – board, kite, wind (power) window, water starting… getting to understand the kite is the starting point. We started out on a small basic foil with two standard lines, getting a feel for the pull of the wind and response of the kite (an understanding of the wind window through windsurfing/sailing was beneficial here). Once we’d shown we were capable of keeping the kite in the air for 5 minutes, we moved on to a proper water-kite.

Being shown how to rig one of these, it’s clear the power-kite is a lot more advanced – inflatable sections keep the kite afloat allowing for an easy(ier!) relaunch from the water, and the two lines turned into 4; which are all attached to the control bar. The control bar also has a safety line called the chicken loop which attaches to a kite harness; not too dissimilar to windsurfing, allowing you to utilise your body weight to control the power.

Day 2 – body dragging!
Having learnt the fundamentals to kite control, day 2 was our first in the water. This is the most fun part of learning as a beginner! Using the power of the kite, this was the first time you could allow it to take you with it, body-dragging through the water whilst still in “control”. With a little bit of (surprising) surf, getting out through the waves was the most challenging part – trying not to swallow the sea water whilst keeping the kite out of the power window but still in the air! But a few figure of 8 power loops and we were bouncing across the water along the beach.

Of course, still not experts in kite control, we also had to learn how to re-launch the kite from the water – most definitely the hardest past so far – especially with a fairly small kite in lighter winds (must remember to push the bar out!!)

Day 3 & 4 – water starts – eek!
After a day’s forced rest due to a drop in the wind (but glorious day snorkelling was had instead), our 3rd and 4th lessons were our first with the board. By this point we’d realised that what the experts make look easy; is actually pretty difficult. With multiple elements to think about, not only did we now have to control the kite but we had to attach a board to our feet and launch too. This can only mean one thing – face plants!

Attempting water starts on the lagoon

Attempting water starts on the lagoon

This is where experience in snowboarding and wake-boarding comes into play – using the weight of your back leg and the pull of body weight to propel you and board forward as the kite comes back through the powerful zone. Sounds easy enough, but when you have a kite and a board to control it’s really not that simple.

Having managed to stand for only about 5 seconds towards the end of our final lesson (although I had managed to keep the kite flying which allowed me to keep attempting my starts in one go), I asked the instructor how many more hours it would take before being competent riders, but apparently this is just the start and as much as we thought we may be up and riding by the end of the week, seems we’ll need at least another 10 hours before being comfortable and at ease. Looks like another NY resolution to fulfil!

Not knackered enough from a week of a full body work out, we followed this up with a 3 hour mountain bike ride up the mountain for a 360 view over Tarifa, Spain and Morocco. Obviously.

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