Kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, is a relatively new sport. It was invented by two Frenchmen, brothers Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux, from Breton. They began experimenting with the idea of using kites to propel themselves across the water in the 1980s, and invented the inflatable kite. But it only officially became a sport in 1998.
Today it’s a trendy sport that’s gained a lot of momentum around the world, one that has taken firm root in Puerto Rico. The island offers the perfect environment for the sport, and schools like 15 Knots in San Juan and Goodwinds in Dorado have made it accessible for anyone who enjoys being in the water.
A Puerto Rican native named Jaime Torres is credited as the island’s first kiteboarder. Juan Carlos Morales, who founded 15 Knots, was among the early pioneers of the sport and the youngest kiteboarder in Puerto Rico when he began boarding at age 12. He founded his school in 2008, and it is the island’s principal school today.
Kiteboarding is a combination of three sports: waterskiing, windsurfing and paragliding. And while it looks like a complicated and high-skill sport that takes years to master, it’s not as difficult as you might think. It only takes one to two days to pick up the basics and give you the skills you need to get in the water.
There are a few reasons why people shy away from the sport. For one, it looks like you need to be a real athlete to do it. Watching an athlete control a kite as he or she gets pulled across the water seems challenging, and looks like it requires serious arm strength, balance and flexibility. Many people also fear the kite. It’s a large, unwieldy and powerful tool, and you might think that if you lose control, it could drag you across the Caribbean or even pull you airborne and completely out of your comfort zone.
The reality of kiteboarding is far more enjoyable and safer. The sport has advanced rapidly, and safety measures are in place to assure that you stay in control. The key to kiteboarding is the harness, which absorbs much of the arm strength you would otherwise need to control your kite. Once you learn how to use your harness and the bar that helps you navigate your kite, you’ll see how easy it is to stay on the water and stay in control.
It’s surprisingly easy to learn this sport, but kiteboarding isn’t something you can pick up on your own; you do need expert instruction. The good news is you don’t need a certification to kiteboard, and you don’t even need a wetsuit or other gear beyond what your school provides. You can learn how to kiteboard in just one day, or enroll in a weekend course that will help you master the techniques and tricks of the sport.
Safety is paramount, which is why you’ll first learn the movements and basics of kiteboarding on the sand, before you ever take your kite out on the water. Your first hour will be spent getting you familiar with the equipment and how to use it.
This is a sport that people of all ages can learn, and that includes people with disabilities. 15 Knots became the first kiteboarding center in the world to offer tandem kiteboarding lessons, which allows an instructor to ride with the student on a larger, custom board. The school has taken blind and handicapped kids and adults out on tandem rides.
15 Knots is serious about promoting the sport. It offers a free introductory lesson on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 am. The school is located on Isla Verde Beach, an easy cab ride from the Sheraton Old San Juan and the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino.
You can enjoy the sport practically year-round, as long as it isn’t raining too hard and the wind holds up. The ideal conditions for kiteboarding occur when wind speeds reach15 knots.
If you already know how to kiteboard, 15 Knots and Goodwinds provide equipment rentals. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll be in for a treat. This is a tremendously fun sport that is easy to learn and thrilling to experience.
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