Kiteboarding

Kiteboarder surf rides on his hydrofoil kiteboard.

On windy days, the sky in Ocean Park becomes spotted with colorful kites. I watch the kiteboarders on the ocean as they perform high leaps in the air using aerobatic moves. I have always enjoyed kite flying in front of El Morro. Therefore, I was interested in how my simple kite was able to expand to a water sport.

The history of the use of wind energy dates back to Persia, around 500 A.D. and to China in 1200 A.D. These two ancient societies used the energy of the wind to power grain mills and water pumps. In the 5th century BC, the Chinese philosophers Mozi and Lu Ban are credited with the invention of the kite. Kitesurfing/Kiteboarding was invented by Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise, of the Netherlands in 1977, but it wasn’t until the late 70’s and early 80’s that two brothers, Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux, from the coast of France, developed kites for kitesurfing.

Because of beach erosion and the changes in wind patterns, the sport has shifted from Isla Verde’s beaches to Ocean Park. Many Kiteboarders can be found at Numero Uno Beach House and Kiteboardng School. The hotel is now offering lessons to men and women. I was surprised to learn that just as many women enjoy the sport as men, and children as young as eight can learn, as long as they have the physical strength and can focus.

“I watch the kiteboarders and always wonder, does it require upper body strength?” I asked the hotel’s front desk manager, Leidy Rosario.

“No, the kite line is attached to a harness. The harness secures you to the kite. Your arms hold on to the handle, which is used to guide the kite. However, it does take good balance and strength in your legs. If the surfer is familiar with skateboarding, wind surfing or sailing, this helps them with the classes.”

Q: “Do your classes teach students how to understand the direction of the wind?”

“Yes, understanding wind is the first lesson we teach in our school. There are many terms used to understand where the wind is coming from. There is upwind, downwind, off shore and crosswind, to name a few. These terms are important to know and understand so that you will be safe navigating the water.”

Q: “The kites come in so many colors and sizes. And I noticed that there are pumps to fill them. Are the kites like balloons?”

“No, the kite frame is filled with air to give it form and help it catch the wind. Kites come in many sizes because people come in many sizes. Also, depending on wind strength, many kite boarders changes kite size and/or line length.”

“Q: If I wanted to take up this sport and purchase the equipment, what would my approximate outlay be?”

“Our school supplies the equipment when you take classes. We include a helmet with a radio so that the instructor can keep track of you , the kite, bar/line, harness and safety latch to be attached to the kite, impact vest and of course, the board. If you were to purchase the equipment the approximate cost would be around $3,300.00.”

As I sat on the beach at Numero Uno with a cold drink in hand, I watched the activity. I could feel the excitement of the kiteboarders as they prepared their kites for their ride on the waves. It was a great day to spend on the beach.

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