The Windsurfer's Dream
'Learning to kitesurf is like learning to skydive,' announced Eric, one of Cabarete's first European arrivals and, like so many in this town, a surfing junkie. He was assuming, perhaps, that I looked like a person who enjoyed jumping out of planes at 10,000 meters, and was now eager to find a new, slightly cheaper adrenaline rush on this stretch of beach 3km west of downtown Cabarete. 'Skydiving, of course, is much safer,' he added with a wry smile.
Other Kite Files:
As far as water-based adventure activities are concerned, kitesurfing (or kiteboarding) is the new kid on the block. It has gradually spread from its spiritual home in France - where it is now partly banned - and has found a natural base along the windswept north coast of the Dominican Republic. The basic idea is to stand on a surfboard and fly a kite - or rather a small parachute - in winds of up to 40 knots. Done properly, you cut through the waves at great speeds and propel yourself into the air and float above the water for several seconds; done improperly, you put your life at great risk. 'It's not a sport if you can't die from massive internal injury!' exclaims Eric, who recently switched to kitesurfing after years as a windsurfing fanatic. He took about three days to learn how to kitesurf, although those with no previous surfing, wakeboarding or snowboarding experience should expect to take closer to ten before they can really start to have fun.
With the exception of Eric and Stefan, the owner of Cabarete's first kitesurfing school, the beach was full of beginners. We were in illustrious company, for the Cuban girlfriend of the French world champion, Franz Olry, was on the beach grappling with a four-stringed, inflatable kite as it tossed about in the stiff breeze. This is how all novices begin their kitesurfing education: getting used to the kite and the force of the wind on the relative safety of dry ground. Olry's petite girlfriend was coping as best she could, although at times she was unable to prevent herself being pulled across the sand like an empty plastic bag. 'She's using the wrong type of kite,' observed Stefan: 'Two strings would be better than four'. The two types of kite in vogue at the moment are the aforementioned inflatable and a two-stringed, 'soft' kite. The inflatable version with two strings is the best kite for learning purposes, as it is the easiest to handle, the safest (letting go of the bar automatically detaches one of the strings causing the kite to fall from the sky), and relatively simple to re-launch. Some soft kites are also suitable for beginners, such as the one made by Windtools with its patented air tubes which are designed to get the kite back in the air as quickly and easily as possible.