Learning to kite surf in Sri Lanka
- Posted by Stoked for Saturday
After an exciting few days at the Cinnamon Travel Blog Conference & Awards in Colombo, Sri Lanka (where we won Best Travel Video Blog!) we decided to head up the West Coast to Kalpitiya for some R&R and a little kite surfing.
Kalpitiya is known as a kite surfing paradise. It is hailed as one of the best places in the world to kite surf as it delivers consistent 20-26 knot wind speeds daily (May – October) and offers diverse conditions for all skill levels. One side of the peninsula is the Indian Ocean, perfect for free-ride and wave riding, while the other side is the Kalpitiya Lagoon – a perfect spot for beginners and freestylers. Neither one of us had tried kite surfing before, but it has been on our list for some time. I used to see tonnes of kite surfers in Lyall Bay whenever there was a strong Southerly and always thought it would be a sport I’d enjoy with the combination of surfing and paragliding.
So when we found ourselves in one of the best kite surf locations in the world, we jumped at the opportunity to give it a try. Our instructor Yan, who manages the kite surfing school from the Bar Reef resort, loaded up the van with the gear and drove us 30mins north to the Kalpitiya Lagoon. As we drove along the water towards our little beach shelter, I couldn’t believe how many kites were already cruising on the lagoon at 10am! I must have counted 50 whizzing back and forth and up and down the lagoon! And the wind – wow! I thought Wellington was windy but this wind was relentless!
The morning was spent learning about wind direction and kite surf theory. We learned about each of the components of the kite and how to setup the lines and launch the kite ourselves. Once we were airborne, it was time to get in the water and start learning kite control.
Now this lagoon was a perfect place for beginners as it was very shallow – between knee and shoulder deep. The only downside was the bottom was VERY mucky with lots of shells that cut your feet. I made the mistake of going bare foot the first time (not knowing any better) but after that first session I made sure I wore either my keens or borrowed some wetsuit booties. It was surprising how much thought and precision is required to control the kite. Very light movements of the bar, steering it almost like a bicycle, is what it takes to keep the kite from nose-diving into the water.
While we took a break for lunch, the expert Naturalist from the resort noticed a local woman cooking clams by the water. He took us over to her and we learned she was 62 years old and had been harvesting clams from the lagoon to make a living for many many years. She boiled a few dozen at a time in an old steel pot over an open fire, and once cooked, peeled the clams out of the shells that she would later sell in the local markets for 400-500 rupee per gallon ($6-$7). She told us she was only able to harvest every few days because digging in the mud was hard on her fingers. It was humbling watching her and learning about her story. The people in Sri Lanka have been so friendly and warm, one of the things I’ve loved most about visiting this country.
That afternoon we spent a few hours in the lagoon doing ‘body drags’ with the kite. Basically we’d lay in the water on our side, using one hand to steer the kite and the other like a rudder steering our body, zig-zagging back and forth as we learned better kite control. Watching some of the other kite surfers around us, they made it look so easy as they whizzed by us. Seeing how they cruised through the water, even getting some wicked air, made me want to get better at this sport even more!
After a long day at the beach, I was really looking forward to some much needed relaxation. We spent the first two nights in Kalpitiya at the Dolphin Beach resort – a secluded resort with luxury tented accommodation on Alankuda beach. Scattered amongst a grove of coconut palms, the spacious tents and beachside lounges offered a perfect place to chill out after a big day on the water. We indulged in some delicious local Sri Lankan cuisine as we sipped freshly squeeze lime juice on the beach at sunset.
The next morning we were back at the lagoon ready for our next lesson. We started out with more body drags in the water, this time holding onto the board as well just to add in a bit more complexity. By the end of the day we were ready to put it all together and try to actually get up on the board and kite surf! Jordan was a natural (as expected) and within a few tries was able to get up for a few seconds at a time. His snowboard skills really gave him an advantage, but in between a few successful runs though there were a couple pretty brutal face plants in the water! If only I had the camera ready 🙂
I was a little less coordinated (likely due to my minimal snowboard experience) and struggled to get up as well a Jordan. I came pretty close a few times but ended up running out of time before I could really get the hang of it. That has only made me more excited to try it again soon and hone my skills on the kite board!
Our last night we spent at the Bar Reef Resort. Just a few minutes down the road from Dolphin Beach (and its sister resort), this is where you go for pure solitude and tranquility. Private villas and cabanas set within their own private enclosures amidst beautiful natural surroundings, this place was heaven on earth! My favourite part was the open air bathroom and outdoor shower letting you become one with nature within the privacy of your own cabana.
Enjoying a dip in the beautiful salt water pool overlooking the Indian Ocean was a perfect way to end the day. After a busy few days earlier in the week, spending our last few days in Sri Lanka up in Kalpitya was such a treat. I wished it had been the summer season as well so we could have taken in some of the other outdoor activities in the area like dolphin/whale watching, snorkeling and kayaking. Guess we’ll just have to come back!