Bodies in Motion
|RIDE THE WIND: Kiteboarding has a steep learning curve, but it's worth the extra effort (Digital Vision)|
Anyone who's been to the beach lately is almost certain to have seen kiteboarders zipping across the water on a small surfboard, harnessed to a powerful parachute-like kite. Onlookers tend to have one of two reactions: "Sign me up!" or, "Have you gone completely mad?" If you're in the latter group, don't worry, you're still in the majority (for now). But those entranced by the idea are in luck, as kiteboarding schools are popping up as fast as those big winged kites on a blustery day.
What it takes: Introductory classes include six to 12 hours of instruction (the more the better), usually spread over three days. By the end you should be able to launch and beach your kite, navigate up and down wind, avoid collisions, and possibly do some basic jumps. But don't get too far ahead of yourself—as with most sports, the high-flying acrobatics you may have seen take years (and plenty of face-plants) to master. Most kiters buy their own gear, but rentals are available at many locations for those still new to the sport.
Who can do it: Kiteboarding is tough sport, and you should be physically fit and a good swimmer to take it up. That said, it's a true rush, and smaller kites and shorter lines can make learning the basics easier. Some schools even offer kiteboarding for kids.
Where to go: The town of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic is a kiteboarding mecca, with year-round winds and a shallow sheltered bay. It's also got nice beaches and a laid-back vibe that is forever seducing travelers to extend their stays. Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding (www.laureleastman.com) is a highly-recommended shop in Cabarete, owned and operated by one of the world's top kiteboarders. Eastman and her team cater to first-timers, emphasizing safety and fundamentals (as opposed to rushing you onto the water, as some shops do).
Tip: In February, Cabarete hosts the "Master of the Ocean" competition. It's a triathlon of sorts, with events in kiteboarding, windsurfing, and surfing—whoever does the best in all three is the winner.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication