Kiteboarding has been on my Impossible List for a long time.
I tried it a few years back in Aruba – before my blogging days – but never got the hang of it and spent most of the time getting dragged around by a kite, involuntarily chugging salt water and living in constant fear of losing my board shorts.
Ever since, I resolved that I would figure the sport out.
This weekend I finally got that chnace.
One of my housemates and I decided to go on a random adventure last weekend. We jumped in a bus on the way to Puerto Plata (a beach town on the north side of the Domincan Republic), despite having no idea what we were actually going to do or where we would stay.
We figured that we’d figure it out on the way – that always works out well, right?
We showed up at the bus stop in Puerto Plata and walked about an hour along the beach. After buying a cheap pair of sunglasses from a Haitian vendor and sitting down for drinks overlooking the water, we started to see kites flying around in the ocean. Like insects to a bright light we caught ourselves staring and moving in that direction once we finished our drinks.
Sure enough, 1/2 mile or so down the beach – there was a kiteboarding club, school and shack.
We walked up, and after staring at the kites and boarders flying around off shore, I think I blurted out something to the extent of “I WANT TO DO THAT!”
We walked up to one of the Domincans and met Fernando – the owner of Kite Club Puerto Plata, asked about lesson. As we talked with Fernando, we found the shop was the only one in Puerto Plata and that lessons usually take only 3 days – the exact amount of time we had planned for the trip! (See, those things DO work out).
Let the learning begin!
We were actually surprised by seeing any kiteboarders at all in Puerto Plata. While the DR tends to have great kiteboarding condistions and locations, usually when people talk about kitebaording they’ll talk about Cabarete (the same place Tammy Camp set her kiteboarding world record) – a town about an hour east of Puerto Plata – a place that, while it has great winds, is incredibly crowded and bit of a tough place to learn since you’re dodging other kiters all the time.
Learning To Kiteboard
The first day we got to play with a toy kite. Seriously, it was maybe 3 meters wide – I’m pretty sure I’ve flown bigger kites on my own before. We did a bunch of training exercises, learned to steer the kite and was about 3 meters wide and we learned to steer. We started pretty late the first day, so after an hour or two with the training kite, we were done for the day.
Day 2 was reminiscint of Aruba. While we got to upgrade to a big 4-line kite 7 or 8 meters wide, we spent almost all day in the water learning the reaction speed differences that come with a larger kite. We did a ton of exercises where we started on one point in the water and used the kite to drag us to the other side of the beach while you stretch out – full superman style. They called this body dragging – the first few times I did it, I thought it should be called drowning.
As we got better, I started to drown less and less and actually started to get a feel for what I was doing and understand how the kite was going to react to my actions. By the end of the day, I was actually controlling the kite pretty well.
For Day 3 we had enough of the training, it’s time to jump right in. We did a few more body drags (much less drowning this time), we jumped on the board with an even bigger 9 meter kite.
The first time on, I tried to stand up and bit it hard almost immediately.
Yes, it’s on video.
[click to watch video in email]
On my second try, I managed to get up, and start riding for 50-100 yards or so before biting it hard.
Yes it was also on video
[click to watch video in email]
After that – I was pumped and built up enough confidence that we spent the next few hours kiting down the beach until I crashed, running the kite back up the beach, doing some more minor drills here and there when I lost my board and having a blast.
Like I said, I was pumped.
[you can see just how pumped i was here]
I dont’ know how it happened, but we managed to spend 5 hours on the water and it seemed like maybe 90 minutes at the most. I looked up and it was almost 4pm like *that.* The only thing that could tell that it really had passed that fast my was my ridiculous farmers tan from rocking the impossible shirt underneath my harness.
But, when we came out of the water, we had done everything we needed to for our Level 2 IKO certification and Fernando had our certiication cards ready for us. BOOM.
This could very well be incredibly addicting. Now, next time I head to a beach with decent winds, you can bet I’m scouting it for a kite rental, a solid board and a good place to crash excessively. I still need to spend some more time on the water before I can start doing flips, jumps and all sorts of ridiculous tricks – but that’s just another good reason to come back.
Overall, kiteboarding was incredibly fun, fast and challenging – and like most of the impossible things I do, definitely worth all the crashing and burning I did to learn.
I’m working on incorporating more video into the adventures I go on. We actually have a lot more video from this adventure that I’m editing as we speak. This should be ready in the next few days. Stay tuned (I’ll update the post with it when it’s done).
Big thanks to Tammy Camp for recomending Kite Club.
Disclosure: Fernando hooked me up with a deal to do this with him. 1 because he’s a baller and two because he’s nice like that. If you’re on the north shore of the Dominican Repubic, hit him up at Kite Club Puerto Plata – he knows his stuff. You can find them on facebook. Thanks for the lessons Fernando.
Roy Marvelous says
Well, done! I was thinking of doing this when I was in Aruba but tried windsurfing instead – which was lots of fun too!
The Chad says
Yep, the best things seem to happen when you simply walk around with eyes and mind open for adventure 🙂
Dotan Negrin says
I went there in September of 2011. Great Place. Fernando will hook you up. If you go back, he may even let you Kiteboard for free for an hour.
I ended up getting my license there. It was really inexpensive compared to getting it at Cabarete.
DR and Puerto Plata is one of my favorite spots to travel to. I love the people. My friend lives there now and when I go there we rent motorcycles and go up into the mountains. The people are some of the most generous and humble Ive ever met.
Kurt Swann says
Excellent! Looking forward to more video!
Tim Moon says
That looks pretty fun. If you’ve ever done water-skiing, how does it compare to that?
Thanks for sharing the videos.
There are now Certification Levels and licenses for kiteboarding? I did not know that.
I took a kiteboarding lesson a couple of years ago. I never got past the “crash and burn” stage. I think your course was much more practical and effective for learning the basics. The course I took was one day, we went in the water right away, and after a few basic body-drags we started trying the board. I think it would have worked much better for me — maybe I’m a slow learner — to start out with a land-based trainer kite, then advance through the steps like you did.
The kite people I’ve talked to here (you’re familiar with the north shore of Oahu and the Mokuleia beaches) have always been pretty dismissive of training kites. They’re very much into the jump-in-and-go approach, assuming it’s so easy that anyone can do it… and anyone who CAN’T do it right off is a loser.
That’s a problem with learning “impossible things.” Many times the people for whom something is NOT impossible, no matter the skill, are dismissive of n00bs, particularly n00bs lacking a natural affinity for the skill. I’m glad you found a good instructor who walked you through the basics and helped you develop a solid foundation before sending you out to crash. That way, you could actually learn from your crashes because you had a sense of what you SHOULD do, and you probably had a feel for what went wrong. Ultimately, you were able to succeed because you’d mastered the small steps on your path to the main goal.
By the way, going from part-time parcel delivery guy to living near the beach on a tropical island in only two years seems like a pretty impressive “impossible” accomplishment to me! Congrats on making that happen!
(I don’t suppose you’re gonna clue us in on how to make a living while kicking back in the DR, are you?)
Joel Runyon says
I might have to do that :).
I *love* it..thank you for sharing this adventure! I live in So Ca…I am an amazing sailor and one day a surfing friend said since I am familiar with wind patterns and current why don’t I try kiteboarding. Ha! My skills did not transfer over…the ocean ate me up and spit me out several different ways. I lost my fear only when I realized I hadn’t died yet, so might as well keep going 🙂 Lots of lessons in adventuring and they are all intertwined. You were open to possibility, recognized it when it was present, and enjoyed all of it…what a wonderful affirmation of life! And, very inspirational 🙂
You’ve got me hooked. Thanks.
I’ve always fancied kiteboarding. I found surfing difficult but enjoy snowboarding, what would you say it’s more similar to?
Joel Runyon says
It’s iike surfing without having to wait for any aves 🙂
I loved going to Cabarete to surf Playa Encuentro nearby last year. Didn’t get the chance to learn kitesurfing there, but plan to now that I got more time and know people in the area. Glad you got to try kitesurfing!
Hi Joel…I’m living in the D.R. right now and stumbled across your blog while I was looking for kite surfing in Puerto Plata, since that’s the closest beach to where I live. Do you remember how much it cost?
P.S. I perused through some of your other blog posts and I have to say I really love your impossible list! What an awesome adventure.
Joel Runyon says
It really depends on whether you just do a one-day lesson or you do a three-day package. You can find more at their site here – http://www.kiteclub.com/kite-club-puerto-plata/
Fernando is a great guy and Puerto Plata is no where near as crowded as Cabarete, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
wow, quick response, that was impressive. Anyways, thanks again for the info, I sent the company a message asking for more info. Hopefully I’ll be out there in the next week or two. Good luck on all the future adventures.
Dolphin Guy says
I live in Fort Lauderdale and have seen many kite surfers but never thought I could do it too. Maybe the next time I am in Puerto Plata, I need to try this exciting activity.
It looks like they have closed.
On the other hand Bibby Burgos is an IKO instructor giving lessons and renting/selling equipment from the same spot. He’s also super nice 🙂
He can be reached at +1 809 603 5860, or [email protected]
PS: It’s not a bad idea to bring water shoes if you have some.
Followup: while the school is officially closed, Fernando just came back after a year off. So there are now two instructors in Puerto Plata. I believe Fernando can be reached through Kite Club Cabarete.