Kitesurfing Capital of the Carribean

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End May 09, 2008

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Where I stayed
Villa Sans Souci

Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caberete is a touristy town that has developed around the wind. Since the wind here is very strong and fairly consistent, it has developed into a haven for windsurfing and kitesurfing enthusiasts. Since the 1980s, the town has hosted both professional and international competitions.

When you walk along the beach, the air is full of kites, especially around the part of the beach called "Kite Beach". Lots of people doing crazy stunts, jumping high in the air, doing 360s, holding the kite with only one hand, or grabbing the board while flying through the air. The craziest stunts were performed by young Dominicans boys. They were so good, and made it look so effortless! The beach is completely overtaken by kitesurfers. We'd see very few people wading around or swimming in the water, but it actually looks quite dangerous to be in there. If a kitesurfer races down the beach and doesn't see a swimmer, he could easily get run over!

The central area of Cabarete beach has many restaurants and bars, with outdoor seating right on the beach, which is nice. We've enjoyed having happy hour (our dinner) at Cassanova, one of our favorite places, where beer, pizza and pasta are all half off.

We couldn't find a place that could accommodate us the entire time we were there, so we ended up staying in Casa Sans Souci the first couple of nights, which was fine. No hot water for showers but it was clean and was fairly inexpensive. We then moved to Hotel Alegria next door, where we had a little nicer room.

But the main reason we selected Cabarete is than Frank wanted to learn kitesurfing. Below is his kitesurfing log...

Frank's Kitesurfing Log:

Sun Feb-10 - Signed up for Lessons with Kite Club Cabarete
We walked down the main beach in Cabarete after arriving in the afternoon. At kite beach I walked into Kite Club Cabarete to chat with Silke. I had preselected Kite Club Cabarete (IKO certified & good credentials etc). Silke showed me the options I had to learn kitesurfing and I decided to go for the 7 day package with 12 trainer hours and unlimited training time. They call the training time 'supervision' as you get an assistant assigned who will help you, keep an eye on you and helps you carry the kite back upwind. So, all sorted out, I will start tomorrow 12:00 with Norbert, a German kite instructor. Looks like this one is for real... I'm excited!

Mon Feb-11 - My First Session with Norbert
I tried to get some kitesurfing lessons years back in Maui, Hawaii. But the wind did not cooperate and I never got to fly a big LEI kite. So, I met Norbert at 12:00 at Kite Club and first told him a bit about the little experience I have with kites. We then walked over to a small beach and talked a bit more about kitesurfing theory (wind window, 12:00, power zone, figure 8 and sinus pattern, power and depower the kite and safety systems etc). Next step was to fly a little 1.5m stunt kite quickly followed by a 5.5m LEI kite. I exercised launch, land, water re-launch and other basic kite flying. As well I practiced once using the release system. Last thing was sitting on my butt on the beach, flying the kite in a figure 8 and getting dragged a bit by the kite. So, nothing spectacular today... looking forward for tomorrow!

Tue Feb-12 - In the Water, Finally!
Another 3 hour session with Norbert at 12:00. I love walking over to Kite Beach in the morning. It's a nice 30min walk along the beach and the weather is just great. The wind at 12:00 was already a bit strong so Norbert selected again the 5.5m kite for our session. Main goal for today was to learn body drag both sides and downwind. As well I practiced flying with one hand and practicing the basic kite flying. The first couple of times Norbert got into the water together with me, holding on to the back of my harness. I would practice the different exercises and he could closely monitor me and provide instructions. After a few tries I got to exercise by myself with Norbert monitoring from the beach. It was fun to experience the power of the kite. The wind was pretty strong, 20 kts or so, and while flying the figure 8 I got dragged over the water quite fast and twice or so lifted completely out of the water.

Wed Feb-13 - Getting on the Board
Again 12:00 with Norbert. The wind was a bit unsteady today and we had to switch between the 5.5 and the 8m kite a few times. Today we used the longer 25m lines which was quite nice. The kite feels less itchy in the air and the movements are longer. Goal for today was getting on the board and riding to the right side. Again Norbert first got into the water with me and I practiced the water start and getting on the board. He would always pull me back into the water and the exercise would start over. Things went pretty much ok and after a few times he let me try by myself. I dragged out away from shore, positioned the kite at 12:00, got into the board straps and basically tried a few approaches:
Not enough power and I would fall back into the water. Ok, not bad just start over.
To much power and I would jump over the board or crash with my face first into the water. That actually can hurt and I lost a contact lens!
Knees not close enough to the board and I would just push the board before me. Sucks.
A few other variations proved to be unsuccessful.
So, there are actually quite a few things you have to get right before it actually works. But I got it after a while and I was up and riding. For a split second I thought kitesurfing is not as hard as I thought... and then crashed back into the water. I felt pretty good at the end of my session and Norbert told me I'm ready for supervision if I like...

Fri Feb-15 - First Supervision
I skipped a day yesterday since I had to do some research for our weekend escape. I walked over to kite club at 1pm or so and asked Silke for supervision since I thought it's a good idea to practice a bit before my next lesson with Norbert. So she assigned Jose to me. He is a local from the DR and cannot be older than 15 or so... but he knows how to kite. We rigged a 8m kite. I practiced getting on the board and riding to the right for a few hours and made slowly progress, but no breakthrough. At the end I would get on the board but more or less always crash after a few seconds. Once or twice I picked up some (for me) serious speed and then crashed hard since I did not know how to control the power properly.

Mon Feb-18 - Right Side Clicked
I wanted to take another lesson with Norbert today. But he was busy with other folks so I decided to just go with supervision again. After only a few tries my right side clicked. I can now get up on the board and ride for quite a while to the right. As well I manage most of the time to control the power and, after building board speed, park the kite in the wind window around 3:00. I tried the left side a few times without even getting close to get on the board. Weird.

Tue Feb- 19 - Left Side Clicked Today
Again, Norbert was busy and I did supervision only. Today my left side clicked. I'm now able to get up on the board and ride right and left. But I can still only downwind. I settled into a different routine with Jose. I would ride downwind and he would then ride back to my starting point upwind.

Wed Feb-20 - Again Supervision with Jose
What a great day! Walked over to Kite Club around 1pm and had a nice lunch. The wind was great, around 15 kts side onshore. Norbert was busy, so I decided to get into the water with a 10m kite and Jose for supervision. From the start things went very well. I got on the board on both sides and started to concentrate more on my board, trying to carve harder and go less and less downwind. It's now easier for me to kite to the left, back to shore. It's just more natural with my snowboarding stance, I can carve harder and as well it's easier going with the waves.
I had however one scary incident. I had just stopped and was sitting in the water with my kite at 12:00 and about to takeoff to the right. Without me knowing, another beginner directly upwind of me body dragged towards me with an instructor holding his back. He lost control and crashed his kite right into mine and took it down. His kite was ripped and his lines just a few meters in front of me. And my kite on the water dragged me into his lines! I was worried to get tangled into his lines but managed to quickly sort them and move around me... lucky his kite did not re-launch while I was close to his lines.

Fri Feb-22 - Struggle
Today was a bit of a struggle. The wind sucked at Kite Beach. It was pretty light and side shore. Shari joined me after class and we waited and waited and waited. At 4pm it was a bit stronger and I went for a session with supervision. However, with my 10m kite I did not have enough power to practice staying upwind. I had to fight hard and fly the kite in the sine wave pattern all the time. Well, it still was good to be out there...

Sat Feb-23 - Best Session so far & Hip Pain
The wind forecast did not look to good. But Shari joined me and we walked over to Kite Club anyway around 2pm. To my surprise the wind was stronger than yesterday, maybe around 15kts, and side onshore. Great conditions! A quick lunch and off I went. I picked a harness and board but Jose, who helped me today, said "board no good" and handed me one of the brand new EH boards they just got in. Ok. We launched a 10m kite, walked up the beach a bit and I started pretty much right off the beach. Shari took some great pics. My 2-3 hour session was great, better than yesterday. I did not make significant progress, but I'm getting much more comfortable riding both directions. I still can't stay upwind, but got better turning my upper body, leaning further back and putting more pressure on the edge of my board. From time to time I can feel that I go upwind, but then something happens and I lose ground. As well I practiced turning directions faster, without falling back into the water. Not sure what this is called. Works sometimes.
However, after my session I had pretty strong pain in my left hip. I could hardly walk! After looking through the pics and videos Shari took I think I know the reason now. To edge stronger I basically drop my butt lower while my upper body is pulled forward by the kite. I don't stretch my hip out and the result is that I ride at an angle, like sitting in a chair. Doesn't look right. I think I have to concentrate on stretching my hip out. Will have to talk to Norbert...

Tue Feb-26 - Struggle Again
I took a break from kiting on Monday as my back was killing me.  On Tuesday, Shari had an appointment with the local chiropractor, so I decided to go along with her.  I was pretty skeptical, but after he cracked my back, I actually felt better and I was ready for kiting!
The wind was pretty light and I picked a 12m kite.  But somehow I struggled and had a tough time to find enough power to plane.  Every time I edged harder to go less downwind I would lose speed and drop back into the water.
Wed Feb-27 - Another session with Norbert
The wind was much better today.  I took a 10m kite and had another session with Norbert.  He watched me for a while and told me to just stretch my hip forward, grab the bar closer to the middle when planing and as well try to ride with one hand.  And voila... a few more runs and I made huge improvements to stay upwind.  I still had to walk the beach a few times, but I could tell than most of the time I actually stayed upwind.  Only when I crashed I lost ground.

Thu Feb-28 - Upwind Clicked Today!
The wind was light and I took a 12m kite for my 2 hour session.  From the beginning things went great.  I was able to stretch my hip, lean back and put more pressure on my edge.  And stayed upwind!  I walked the beach only once.  As well my turns worked better. 
Fri Feb-29 - Last Session in DR & First Jump
The wind was light again and so I picked one of the new 13m EH kites.  I stayed upwind for the whole session and did not have to walk on the beach at all.  What a nice feeling!  My turns are getting better and I tried myself as well on some toe-side riding.  The second half of my session I actually tried my first jumps... and crashed most of the time.  It hurts.  Anyway, I landed one jump going to the left.  What an awesome feeling to fly.  Great was as well that Shari joined me today and took a couple of nice pictures with my 300mm lens.
So, this was my last day of riding in the DR and I'm pretty happy with what I learned here.  Now I'm looking forward for more kiteboarding... maybe later in Hawaii.
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