3 great kiteboarding instructors in Cape Town

You’ve got to start somewhere, and the best way to learn the basics is with a few lessons. A good kiteboarding instructor will not just teach you the techniques — they’ll pass on the right attitude. Here are my top three instructors around Cape Town.

1. Dimitri Panagiotibis

WindChasers, Langebaan

“It’s absolutely vital to go for lessons for the simple reason that safety should be your absolute top priority,” says Dimitri Panagiotibis, who has been teaching since 2002. “Getting into the water safely is as important as having the skills. It’s not something that you learn on your own.”

WindChasers kiteboarding school has been around since 2004. It is one of only two International Kiteboarding Organisation centres in South Africa and was the first kiteboarding school to use radio communication to teach (in 2006). And it’s based in Langebaan — a great location for kiteboarding.

2. Bruce Gonlag

Best Kiteboarding School, Table View

Bruce has been a kiteboarding instructor for 12 years. He learned to kiteboard in England, and teaching others is something that has come quite naturally to him. “Having battled my way through it myself, I found myself spending more and more time helping other people on the weekends,” he says. “That’s when I learned about the qualification and after I completed it I became an instructor.” He hasn’t looked back since!

3. Lewis Crathern

High Five, Sunset Beach

If you prefer something a bit more social and fun, then this is the school for you. High Five is essentially a set of three neighbouring beach houses in Beach Boulevard that offer accommodation and a gateway to the many adventure sports in Cape Town. “Last night we had a huge barbecue,” says Lewis Crathern, who runs the kiteboarding school, “and we’re all about the good vibes.” He recommends group sessions to start with, because they’re cheaper and can be more fun.

Cape Town’s a year-round top kiteboarding destination. Here’s why…

Kiteboarding is made possible by a combination of wind strength and direction, with a suitable locations to safely launch your kite. Here’s a look at what to expect in Cape Town in terms of wind, and where to kite according to the conditions.

Cape Town lies just north of the Roaring Forties — the latitude that got its name from the strong and consistent westerly winds that blow around the entire circumference of the Earth. It is also here that the Benguela current drifts up the western coast of southern Africa, creating freezing cold water off the shoreline.

These climatological factors create powerful winds that run in opposite directions during the winter and the summer months, respectively. They will largely dictate how much kiting you get done, and where you do it.

In the summer months — November to March — the hot interior landmass and the cold Benguela current create a powerful south-easterly wind: the so-called Cape Doctor (named because it is said to blow the pollution out to sea). It’s this wind that forms the famous “tablecloth” of cloud over Table Mountain, and  makes Cape Town one of the best kiteboarding locations in the world.

In the winter months, smaller low-pressure systems detach from the Roaring Forties and head north, reaching landfall in Cape Town. These are the winter storms that batter the city in the months from May to September, and provide strong north-westerly winds for your kiting pleasure.

In other words, Cape Town receives regular and strong winds from both directions pretty much all year round!

The Cape Doctor creates perfect conditions along the entire west coast, but the two most popular locations are Blouberg Beach and Langebaan Lagoon, the latter about an hour and-a-half’s drive from Cape Town, north along the R45.

“Blouberg  is very special,” says Mike Engelbrecht, store manager at Best Kiteboarding. “It’s a long stretch of beach with every imaginable condition available. From long flat sections to proper waves, all within a few kilometres of each other. It’s not just the variety, but the availability. With the constant winds we get here, Blouberg is the place to be.”

In the winter months, the north-westerly wind blows offshore along the stretch of coast between Kommetjie and Cape  Point and in False Bay, on the other side of the Cape Peninsula. Witsand Beach, near Slangkop, is a popular launching spot when the north-wester blows.

Learning to kiteboard: everything you need to know

From choosing the right spot to selecting the best equipment, the importance of a few lessons and basic kiteboarding etiquette — here’s everything you need to know when starting out.

From choosing the right spot to selecting the best equipment, the importance of a few lessons and basic kiteboarding etiquette — here’s everything you need to know when starting out.

The first thing to do is choose your spot: Blouberg is the closest kiteboarding destination to Cape Town, but the hour and-a-half trip up the coast to Langebaan Lagoon is worth it for beginners.

“I have travelled extensively and Langebaan is one of the top 15, maybe even top 10, places to kiteboard in the world, especially if you are a beginner,” says Dimitri Panagiotibis from WindChasers, a kiting school based in Langebaan. The consistent winds, flat water, large areas of shallow water and relative warmth of the water make it ideal. Panagiotibis’ school also offers accommodation at the WindChasers Lodge in Langebaan.

As far as equipment goes, you will probably want to get some second-hand equipment in order to test the waters, as it were. “Getting started is expensive, so second hand equipment makes financial sense,” says Cape Town kiteboarding expert, Gaelyn Quixley-Smith. “Also, you’re likely to damage your equipment while you’re learning, so don’t break the bank on your first batch of gear.”

Fortunately, most retailers offer second-hand equipment and will give you some advice on what exactly to purchase for your skill level.

“I’d strongly recommend an all-round kite like the Rocker model for beginners,” says Mike Engelbrecht of Best Kiteboarding. “Different models have different strengths but when you’re starting out you need something that will do whatever you need. You need something that you immediately feel comfortable in, and something that is forgiving.”

Lessons are important for two reasons: safety, and etiquette. Kiteboarding is an extreme sport, so you should learn how to avoid the hazards of the sport. And etiquette does have its local quirks, so it’s always a good idea to chat to some locals before launching.

“Basic etiquette in Cape Town is to lay your lines down — not across — the beach if you are launching at a busy spot,” says Quixley-Smith. “If you are learning, rather walk 100 metres up the beach and avoid the busy launch zones. And always look upwind to see if there is someone on the wave already riding — they have right of way.”

Bottom line? Be safe, be respectful and have fun!

Top 3 places to get your kiting gear in Cape Town

First things first. If you want to fly, you’ll need some wings and in the Cape Town wind they’d better have good feathers. Here are some of the very best and most trusted stockists of the gear you’ll need to harness the elements.

Most kitesurfing shops on the Cape peninsula are single-brand stockists. On one hand, this is good because you’ll get passionate and knowledgeable sellers who will vouch for the products they’re selling. On the other hand, you may want to visit more than one shop to source gear that’s right for your level of competence, and to compare prices.

Here are the top three distributors in Cape Town:

1. Cabrinha Kiteboarding

Eden on the Bay, Bloubergstrand

Cabrinha is the largest global kiteboarding brand, and this shop in Bloubergstrand is the largest one of its kind in South Africa. Cabrinha-sponsored athletes also make sure it’s one of the most visible and respected brands. They have all the top gear and accessories, but also sell pre-owned kites and offer rentals and lessons. It’s the classy showroom that most beginners aspire to, but with an accessible side that makes it easier to approach.

2. North Kiteboarding

Horizon Bay, Bloubergstrand

One of the most established outlets on the coast, North Kiteboarding bills itself as an innovative and inspired kiteboarding brand. The brand strives to keep its fingers on the pulse of global kiting trends by receiving input from its teams in kiting hotspots all over the world, and developing their products in-house. This is where you go if you want a bit of an insider tip on the latest technology. Well stocked, and with great service.

3. Best Kiteboarding Africa

Portico Building, Table View

The friendliest kiteshop in Cape Town! The owners of Best Kiteboarding, Shane Scheckel and Lanral Riddock, have been involved in the scene since anyone can remember. And their enthusiasm is infectious. If your budget’s a bit tight, these are the guys you need to speak to. They are located directly opposite the beach and offer a wide range of brands for all skill levels. They’re your friendly neighbourhood kiting store that will have a beer with you after a session and discuss your technique and tomorrow’s weather.

Wind, wind and more wind makes this an epic kitesurfing destination!

Luke McGillewie was one of the youngest riders on the Kiteboarding World Tour, but these days he spends his time in Cape Town testing equipment for Liquid Force. He explains why this is one of the best kiteboarding destinations in the world.

Cape Town is such a popular kitesurfing destination because of the wind. We have so much wind. From about November all the way through to March or April, we have the cleanest wind around. And we have such a variety of conditions — the strongest winds, the lightest…

And if there’s no wind here there’s guaranteed to be wind in Cape Point, or somewhere along the Peninsula, or up the coast.

So for foreigners to come out here on holiday, there are so many benefits. First of all, with the exchange rate going the way it is, it’s ridiculously cheap. Secondly, they’re pretty much guaranteed to get wind almost every single day, if they’re willing to look for it. Cape Town is without a doubt the most popular destination in South Africa for kiteboarding — and should be one of the world’s best too!

My advice to kitesurfers coming to Cape Town is don’t be shy to drive. Sometimes you have to drive to find wind. If there’s no wind in one spot, there will definitely be wind somewhere else. You just have to spend a bit of time driving to find it.

More skilled kitesurfers are coming to Cape Town on holiday. Every year we have the world champions out here training. Because we have such a huge variety of conditions in the water, it give s them a  great all-round training experience for whatever they are likely to encounter on tour.

You can have a variety of conditions all in one day, so you’ll have 100% perfect conditions in the morning, and then in the evening you have absolutely crazy conditions, and in the afternoon you’ll have everything in between. It really helps the pros on the World Tour.

For beginners we have plenty of flat-water spots for guys to learn on. For the beginners there is Langebaan Lagoon [1,5 hours north of Cape Town on the R45] or Breede River [2,5 hours east of Cape Town on the N2]. But Cape Town is a perfect base location to reach both these spots.