Calling all adventure enthusiasts with a taste for extreme sports! Travel down to Kite Beach in the Dominican Republic and try something new, kiteboarding. Also known as kitesurfing, kiteboarding is a surface water sport using wind to pull a rider through the water and into the air. Russ Juskalian takes on the challenge and shares his extreme experience!
“FROM shore, David flashed a thumbs up: the signal for me to go ahead. I pulled down on the control bar attached to the harness on my waist, and the 20-foot-wide kite emblazoned with a dragon arced across the sky. Instantly, a jolt was transmitted through the lines that connected the kite to the harness, and I shot across the water.
Moments before, as I bobbed in the clear, warm sea off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, a thought came to mind: Wouldn’t it be more relaxing to lie on the beach with a cold Presidente beer? The thought was replaced by exhilaration as I surfed under kite power for a few seconds before tumbling into the water with an anticlimactic splash.
“That was really good for your first time,” said David Santos, my Dominican kiteboard instructor. “But you need to fly the kite more aggressively or you will lose power and sink.”
I noted the advice, but was thrilled at having, even fleetingly, stood up on the board. I had signed up for three days of beginner lessons, figuring that if John Kerry could master the sport, it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to learn. (Apparently, I had underestimated Senator Kerry.)
Kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) is one of the fastest growing of the so-called extreme sports, expanding from a few pioneering — or crazy, depending on one’s perspective — enthusiasts in the mid-1990s to over half a million active riders worldwide, a number John Bryja, editor of SBC Kiteboard Magazine, says is based on industry estimates.
The basic concept involves using a kite to pull a rider over the water on a small board, but experienced kiteboarders are able to do all sorts of wakeboard-inspired tricks by using the kite to whip themselves up 30 or more feet into the air. Early kiteboarders used improvised equipment — homemade kites, water skis, experimental boards hacked together from other sports — with limited safety features, and pieced together the mechanics of riding by trial and crash.
“There was a lot of garage experimentation going on,” Mr. Bryja said when I called to ask him about the history of the sport. Today, he said, kiteboarders can spend up to $2,000 on a full setup available from over 30 equipment manufacturers, and learn the sport from experienced riders who teach a standardized progression of skills.
Kite Beach, between the villages of Cabarete and Sosúa, on the northern shore of the Dominican Republic, is a particularly good place to learn, and, because of the competition among dozens of kiteboarding schools, the price is right. I paid $298 for my private lessons from a company called Kitexcite when I visited last month with my girlfriend. We based ourselves in Sosúa, about eight miles from Kite Beach.”