Island Life Magazine Ltd December 2008/January 2009 - Page 54

life JAMES KERR Kitesurfing The Island is best-known for yachting, but it provides some of the best conditions for other watersports in the UK. There’s been an explosion of interest in kitesurfing, which is a fusion of surfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, paragliding, as well as kite flying, and the Island has plenty of top spots for this extreme watersport. Kitesurfing, also known as kiteboarding, incorporates massive and incredibly powerful kites and small wake-style boards. Riders traverse the waves generating the speed to attain massive jumps in which the rider can glide up to 100 metres in the air. Kite sizes range from 5 to 15 metres while boards are 1–2 metres in length. A starter set-up will cost around £800, plus wetsuit. The north of the Island is excellent for beginners. Ryde and Seaview, with wide sandy beaches at low tide, offer superb learning conditions and are patrolled by lifeguards during summer. Thorness Bay is another good learner spot; it’s used by the schools for kitesurfing classes, but watch out for strong tides. 54 The south-eastern side can be more challenging. Yaverland has a fairly wide, sandy beach and is a good spot for learners at low tide, although the beach is heaving during the summer months. Spring and Autumn winds and Atlantic ground swells will challenge the most experienced riders off the western beaches; unless you really know what you’re up to, get your binocs and watch the local legends from the headland at Compton and Brook! Islander Tom Court is one of the best kitesurfers in the world. The former British Kitesurfing Association champion designs his own boards and is sponsored by North Kiteboarding and Animal Clothing; he has also appeared on Channel 4. When he's not competing around the globe, Tom loves to get out at Freshwater Bay and says the Island is a great place to kitesurf because “it has a wide range of exiting conditions, from beginner’s beaches to spots that can challenge even the most experienced kitesurfer”. One of the leading extreme sport activity centres on the Island, X-Isle Sports in Bembridge, is one of the UK’s largest kitesurfing schools. It offers 1- and 3-day beginner’s courses. The 1-day ‘High as a Kite’ course costs £115.00 mid-week and £125.00 at weekends; the 3-day course is £275.00 and courses run from March to October inclusive. At the end of a course, participants will know how to set their kit up and undertake a basic risk assessment before they set out. This is crucial – it’s imperative that you are not out in the briney with downwind hazards. It’s also crucial to determine wind direction; direct on-shore winds are no good for kite surfing because you’ll be dragged straight back onto the beach (or the Military Road!) but you should be OK to venture out in cross-shore or cross-on shore winds. Always check the conditions before you go out. The White Air website, at www. whiteair.co.uk features an excellent beach guide as well as local weather and wave reports. The Island's new funky radio station www.wightfm.com