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Kite surfing in Kenya

kite surfing first begun in the late 1970's, being the Kcreation of two French brothers. They later patented the inflatable kite in 1984. The first commercially available inflatable kite was introduced in 1997. Since 1999 the sport has become mainstream and spread worldwide, overtaking its predecessor, windsurfing. Unlike windsurfing, kitesurfing allows participates to learn the sport relatively quickly, requiring less practice and being far easier to master. It is also a great activity to do as a family. Its rapid popularity is also likely due to the fact the sport combines many popular sports, such as windsurfing, paragliding, wakeboarding and snowboarding. Furthermore, kitesurfing as a sport has become more commercial over the years and in turn 'user friendly', with a broad range of kite surfing brands and equipment being easily accessible.

The sport has also gained huge popularity along Kenya's coast, with several popular locations, each offering a different experience from the other, each with its own uniqueness and charm.


Diani

Diani is probably the most popular place along the coast for kite surfing, having the highest concentration of kite schools in Kenya. Diani boasts the best beach in Africa, as voted 6 years in a row by World Travel Awards and in turn has a high turnover of tourists each year. Kite surfing is certainly more commercial here than at other locations, therefore it is a great place to start, with many kite surfing schools to choose from. Diani offers a variety of conditions from flat water lagoons to wave riding on the outer reef. All styles of kite surfing can be practiced, such as foiling, directional surf board and twin tip free riding. Another appeal for many kite surfers is the variety of accommodation availability. Although we can't name them all, here are a few of our favorites. H2O Extreme Watersports, the centre opened in 2003 and was the first kitesurfing school along the South Coast. H2O Extreme are also the creators and hosts of the Kenya Kite Cup, a kite surfing competition that occurs in January each year in Diani. The event allows kite surfers from all over the world to show off their skills and compete for the Kenya Kite Cup Trophy. The event raises funds for Local Ocean Conservation based in Watamu, raising around $3,000 in 2019 for the charity. Accommodation for H2O clients is available at the Kenyaway Kite Village.

Other centres include Quest Kiteboarding, based at Diani Sea Lodge and Diani Watersports, based at Safari Beach Alliance. Check out their websites for further information;

Diani Watersportwww.dianiwatersports.com

H2O Extreme - www.h2o-extreme.com

Quest Kite Boardingwww.questkiteboarding.com


Malindi

Malindi is another small town north of Mombasa and is another great spot for the more experienced kiter, although there is no certified centre within Malindi, Che Shale, a kite centre, can be found near to the town. Offering funky accommodation, kite lessons and experiences, including a wild mangrove 1-night kiting expedition, big game fishing and a variety of other excursions and experiences. To add, Che Shale is also the first ever kite school in Kenya, opening over 16 years ago! Check Che Shale's website out for further information;

Che Shale - www.cheshale.com


Watamu

Watamu is located between Mombasa and Malindi and also provides world class kite surfing conditions. It is especially good for flat water spots due to exposed sandbars at low tides. Mida creek is well protected during high tides, creating excellent flat water conditions as well.

The creek itself is a beautiful location with extensive mangroves

and a hotspot for migratory birds. Therefore, if you happen to be a birder and a kitesurfer, this place will be right up your alley. Watamu is a small town but does have its own watersports centre, Tribe Watersports. Tribe Watersports offers a range of experiences and activities, check out their website for further information.

Tribe Watersports - www.tribe-watersports.com


Lamu

If you are looking for a less commercial experience then Lamu Island, a small coastal town north of Mombasa, is the perfect spot. This charming Arabic town has a mix of Swahili culture and an array of Arabic style buildings. This alone makes this

particular location rather unique. The Cabana's Lamu is based on Kizingoni beach, the more private side of the island. The Cabanas Lamu offers its guests a combination of wellness treatments and extreme sport experiences, this is demonstrated in their new package, Surf and Soul, a new kitesurf and yoga hub at the centre. Shawn Richman, a professional kitesurfer from Hawaii, has set roots here due to the year-round world class kitesurfing conditions. Shawn teaches both beginners and advanced and caters for the specific needs of the client. The other charm to The Cabanas, is the fact that kitesurfers can literally pump up and kite from their doorsteps. There is also a beach bar and beautiful accommodation available, making this a perfect retreat for kite surfers, families and friends. Check out their website for further information;

Cabanas- www.thecabanaslamu.com

Surf and Soul - www.islandsurfandsoul.com


The sport has certainly increased in popularity in Kenya, bringing kitesurfers from all around the world. This has seen an increase in kite schools now opening up along the coast. Katharina van der Linde, manager of H2O Extreme, who has been kitesurfing since 2011, has witnessed this increase, advising, that they now employ far more instructors than they had to in previous years. However, although accessible for everyone who are open water swimmers, the sport does not seem to attract many individuals from the Kenyan community, with many clients being international or from the expat community. Kathi hopes that as the sport grows, so will the Kenyan clientele, explaining that the sport is accessible for everyone, who are open water swimmers, that strength and fitness are secondary but not as important for

learning the sport. One recent initiative that has come out of the surge in kiters in

Kenya is the East Africa Board Riders (www.eastafricanboardriders.org), a charity organisation that began in 2017. The organisation helps raise awareness and funds for local charities in East Africa that contribute to the conservation of both the environments and local traditions. This is achieved through expeditions, events and other similar initiatives. One such expedition in 2017 saw several kitesurfers surf along the Kenyan coast from Lamu down to Zanzibar, Tanzania, raising over £10,000.


But why Kenya?

There are many kitesurfing hotspots in Africa, from South Africa, all the way up to Egypt. However, Kenya has a geographical advantage, the fact that it is so close to the equator means the winds have always been here, historically these winds would have been used for traders along the coast, which is where is gets its name trade winds. There are two windy seasons, the first being the Kaskazi season, starting from mid-December through to mid-March, and the Kuzi Season, which starts from mid-June ending around mid-September. Furthermore, Kenya offers all- year-around tropical water and weather temperatures, which

makes kitesurfing far more enjoyable. Whether you are looking for something to do while on the coast or are an avid kiter, Kenya offers immense variety for kiters, along with culture and

nature, a perfect activity and holiday for groups, families or for the solo thrill seekers out there!



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