If you're an adrenaline junkie, kite-surfing is one of the coolest ways to indulge yourself in Sri Lanka - and Kalpitiya is the place to do it. We went to Kalpitiya recently, and although we didn't try it out ourselves (we'll tell you why), we spent the afternoon with an instructor who gave us a step-by-step guide to this extreme sport.
Kite-surfing is basically strapping yourself to a giant kite, and being dragged on a surfboard over the sea, by the wind. It sounds quite cool and not that complicated, but this is actually an extreme sport with a training period of three days. Also you can break a leg if things go wrong (hey, these were the instructors words, not mine!).
But don't let that deter you because with the proper training, you can kite-surf like a pro - we saw a lot of noobs trying it out, so it can't be that difficult. An easy way to do it is through your resort - we had it arranged through Ruuk Village
in Kalpitiya, who set up a day with kite-surfing expert Susantha. Do make sure you call first and check it's all set before making the long 4.5 hour trip from Colombo though. You can also arrange classes directly, like at the popular camp Kitesurfing Sri Lanka
(they were on the same beach stretch as us).
- Season: The ideal time for kite-surfing is May to September, but it's not necessarily limited to this, because the weather just needs to be a little windy (we saw people doing this in October).
- Time: The training period is about 15 hours, depending on your ability. You need to be able to swim to be allowed to do this (this is why I couldn't, also afraid of being carried away by kite to Madagascar).
- Cost: This is expensive, whether you're a local or foreigner. It will cost you about 25-30 euros per hour, which is around Rs. 60K if you complete full training. We were told this is because the equipment is pretty pricey and the training is very thorough.
There are two kite-surfing stretches in Kalpitiya. One is called Wellai island, and the other is where we went: a thin long Sand Route on the west end of the Kalpitiya lagoon (check our map). On one side of the sand stretch is the lagoon, and on the other edge is the beach.
Meet Susantha. He's a local trainer in Kalpitiya - most of the trainers there are actually foreign. He's pretty friendly and surfs like a pro - he's been training for three years. He guided us through the setting-up process.
1) Inflate The Kite
. Kite-surfing kites come in a lot of sizes - from 1 foot to 20 feet, and the bigger it is, the more experienced you need to be to handle it. Ours was one of the bigger ones. These kites have 'ribs' that make up a sort of kite-skeleton - when you pump air into the kite, the air enters these ribs and stiffens the whole structure.
2) Attach Bar To Kite
. The bar is your steering wheel. If you pull it close, it speeds up the kite, and pushing it away from you is how you keep slow and steady. You can also turn it right and left to steer yourself. This is attached to the kite with long strings.
3) Attach Harness To Bar
. The harness keeps your waist attached to the bar in your hand. If things start to go bad or you think you're losing control, there is a button between the harness and bar that you can press - to detach from the kite.
4) Kite-Surfing Boards
come in a few sizes too. So find the one that best suits your body size and fit your feet firmly into the cushioned foot-holds.
Training, like we said, takes about 15 hours, over the span of 3-5 days. There are several stages of training. First, you start on land, to learn how to control your kite. Gradually, depending on how well you perform, you might be able to enter shallow water on your feet after 3 hours, with your trainer.
Next you try it without him or your board. And finally you get on your board. It takes loads of practice to get it right so don't be surprised if the kite falls the first few times. There are rescue teams on boats ready to pick you up from the sea whenever. Beginners train on calm waters like the lagoon while the more adventurous go for beach waves.
Kite-surfing is as epic as it gets, where water sports are concerned. So if you can swim and you're the type who has things like water rafting and bungee jumping on their bucket-list, you definitely have to give this a shot in Kalpitiya. There's probably nothing cooler than the feeling of wind pulling your kite and you over water. And if you're a fast learner, you won't have to pay so much since the fee is hourly.
When kite-surfing, keep your arms outstretched and don't give in to the urge to pull the bar close to you - it speeds the kite up. Also lean way back for smooth sailing.