Kiteboarding Guide Sections:
Spring and fall visitors will notice the popularity of kiteboarding on the Outer Banks the moment they ride down a stretch of soundfront highway. In the off-season months, it's not unusual to spot dozens if not hundreds of multi-colored kites lining the skies over the Outer Banks' miles of sound waters.
The sport has exploded on the local beach scene, and thousands of visitors from America, Canada, and around the world flock to this little stretch of North Carolina beach for the best kiteboarding conditions in the country. After all, the Outer Banks consists of hundreds of miles of beaches, consistently breezy conditions, and plenty of local accommodations and amenities. No wonder so many kiteboarders pick this remote coastal location as the perfect spot to soar.
Visitors who have never hopped on a board will find ample opportunities to try kiteboarding during an Outer Banks vacation, with lessons and rentals available from Corolla to Ocracoke. With kiteboarding quickly becoming the Outer Banks most beloved water sport, vacationers are encouraged to follow the trend and join the line of kites decorating the soundfront skies.
Where to Kiteboard on the Outer Banks
As aforementioned, there is literally no shortage of places to launch a kiteboard on the Outer Banks. Simply finding a sandy soundfront beach or any stretch of ocean shoreline can serve as a starting point, and once in the water, there are literally miles of terrain to explore. (The Pamlico Sound alone is about 30 miles wide, from the Dare County and Hyde County mainland to Hatteras Island.) That said, many kiteboarders flock to a number of areas up and down the coast, both for socializing with fellow kiteboarders, as well as fantastic wind and water conditions. These areas span all along the coast, so virtually any vacation area is just a quick ride away from an East Coast renowned kiteboarding beach.
Vacation Rental Home Communities
Many vacation rental home and condo communities offer exceptional sound access, which can include bulk headed lots, a dock for launching, or a sandy or grassy beach area. Vacation properties with a "soundfront," "canalfront," or even "sound access" designation indicates that the property has decent sound access and can serve as a perfect vacation rental for kiteboarders. Some vacation rental companies have even started adding "kiteboarding access" as an amenity to their rentals, making it easier than ever to find kiteboarding vacation destinations on the Outer Banks.
There are a few communities on the Outer Banks, however, that over the years have become hamlets for kiteboarders in the spring and fall seasons, primarily because of their fantastic sound access, both privately along the backyards of rental homes, and publically with community boardwalks, docks, and even restrooms facilities.
One of the most popular of these communities in the Wind Over Waves subdivision in aptly named Waves on Hatteras Island. This subdivision is comprised almost solely of vacation rental homes, ranging from 4 to 8 bedrooms, and many feature private pools, game rooms, gourmet kitchens, and hot tubs for a good soak after a hard day of riding. In the center of the community is a sound boardwalk that arches out into the Pamlico Sound for about 40 or 50 yards, ending with a small dock with waterfront benches for both excellent kiteboard launching, as well as serene front row sunsets.
Perhaps best of all, the Wind Over Waves subdivision is remarkably close to both the Real Watersports and Kitty Hawk Kites watersports centers, making it easy to swing by for lessons, equipment, or just to catch a waterfront drink at either establishments' soundfront restaurants.
Just 15 miles south in Avon Village, kiteboarders also congregate at the Island Creek community, located just a quarter mile within the town's limits. To access the community, renters have to cross a wooden canalfront bridge that borders a small plaza with a restaurant and a large watersports store. Once on the veritable "island" of Island creek, renters have their pick of 16 waterfront rental homes, many with direct sound access. Island Creek also has a community pool, as well as a public boat dock. In the spring and fall, it's not unusual to see Island Creek dotted with kites, boards and wet suits, as this tiny community has been attracting windsurfers and kiteboarders alike for decades.
Just a couple miles south is Kinnakeet Shores, also in Avon. This community is much larger, and spans miles through both the Avon ocean and soundside, however a cluster of soundfront homes in particular have become a Mecca for vacationing kiteboarders. These homes are quite large, ranging from 5 to up to 12 bedrooms, and most all feature large kitchens, private pools, game rooms, and hot tubs. Kinnakeet Shores has several spectacular soundfront beaches, as well as a handful of expansive community boardwalks that lead out to the sound, making it easy to find a launching point. In addition, the community features a community pool, an oceanfront beach club, and a network of walking trails and fitness stations for a little exercise outside the water.
Northern Outer Banks Kiteboarding
Like all areas of the Outer Banks, when it comes to kiteboarding, any stretch of sand or waterfront decking will do, however, in the northern Outer Banks communities of Duck and Corolla, there are a couple of hot spots that attract kiteboarders from all around the area.
Just behind the Whalehead in Historic Corolla lies a large grassy soundfront area. Kiteboarders flock here because of the open access to the Currituck Sound, as well as the phenomenal expanse of space for set-up and launching. (Bear in mind that with the sheer bulk of kiteboarding equipment, particularly the expansive kite itself, having an open space to set up pre-launch is key.) The Whalehead in Historic Corolla is part of the Historic Corolla Park, and as such, there is plenty of public parking, on-site restrooms facilities, and lots of attractions for the non-kiteboarders in your group, including the impressive Whalehead in Historic Corolla itself.
In the village of Duck, kiteboarders can head to the town park, which encircles the Currituck soundfront through a series of wooden boardwalks and gazebos, or head to a sound public access, just north of the main center of town. This launch features ample parking and a wide beach, however, kiteboarders should use caution when accessing the area, as there are a series of power line poles that are ingrained in the water. In short, feel free to launch, but use extreme caution kiteboarding near the neighboring power lines.
Central Outer Banks Kiteboarding
When it comes to kiteboarding in the central Outer Banks, the scene to be seen in is Nags Head, particularly the Jockey's Ridge State Park. This park has been a destination for Outer Banks sport lovers for years, and hang gliders, kayakers, joggers, windsurfers and birders make frequent appearances throughout the year to enjoy the acres of tall sand dunes and waterfront beaches.
For kiteboarders, the park begins and ends at the soundfront, and with a separate waterfront parking area and access point, getting to the water is an easy endeavor. Once there, the park offers large soundfront beaches with open access to the Albemarle Sound for kiteboarding at its best.
Take note, however, that the park closes seasonally, generally from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. depending on the time of year, and that this area tends to get a bit crowded with watersports lovers of all genres. Use caution while launching, as there are usually dozens of kayakers, sunbathers, swimmers and windsurfers enjoying the sound beach.
Just a mile or so south is Windmill Point. This undesignated kiteboarding beach is actually home of the now defunct Windmill Point restaurant. An open area of soundfront bordering grassy beaches and bulk headed terrain along the Albemarle Sound, this area has a somewhat discreet reputation of being a perfect launching point for kiteboarders. Condo communities and vacation rental homes in the area also provide excellent access to this region of the sound, which borders the Manteo Causeway, and therefore provides a wide open playground for kiteboarders.
The town of Manteo can also serve as a kiteboarding launching point, with a wide waterfront downtown that has been popular with kayakers and boaters for decades. Head for the outskirts of the downtown waterfront, past the busy historical streets filled with shops and restaurants, for quieter soundfront public parking areas that also feature picnic areas, and waterfront gazebos. Just use a little caution in this area, as busy Manteo often has a number of private and commercial tour boats skirting along the waterfront docks.
Arguably, Hatteras Island is the most popular destination for kiteboarders, thanks in no small part to its desolate beaches and proximity to the Pamlico Sound, one of the Outer Banks's largest bodies of water.
The Salvo Day Use Area, just north of the tri-villages of Salvo, Waves and Rodanthe, has become a very popular kiteboarding destination in recent years. The "area" is maintained by the National Park Service (NPS) and features a large parking area, seasonally open restroom facilities, grilling and picnic areas, and acres of soundfront beaches. With plenty of elbow room, this area is an ideal locale to launch and take to the sound waters bordering the tri-villages.
In between Salvo and Avon, motorists will notice a number of sandy accesses along the soundside of NC Highway 12. Every one of these remote, unmarked accesses is a potential launching point for kiteboarders, and offers undisturbed access to the Pamlico Sound via a string of small sandy beaches. For kiteboarders who want to enjoy the ride as well as a bit of privacy, any of these paths will do - just be sure you have a vehicle with 4WD capabilities, as these access points are not paved, and the sandy ruts can easily derail a vehicle without 4WD.
Perhaps the most popular kiteboarding location on the Outer Banks is "Kite Point," which is located in between Avon and Buxton, adjacent to Canadian Hole. Canadian Hole was a popular windsurfing Mecca for decades, and as the kiteboarders began to discover the miles of open water access the area boasted, they moved slightly south to "Kite Point," effectively keeping them out of the way of local and visiting windsurfers, but allowing them to enjoy the same unparalleled sound access.
The area has a small parking area which fills up fast, as well as limited parking along NC Highway 12. Many visitors take to the sand with a 4WD accessible vehicle, and drive along the short access ramp to a hard-packed sandy soundfront beach. This is a preferred method of accessing Kite Point, as no hauling of heavy equipment is required - simply park on the beach, take out your board and kite, and go.
This area borders both the stretch of Pamlico Sound in between Avon and Buxton, as well as the "hook" where Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras veer west. As a result, Kite Point offers a contained segment of sound waters which expand for miles and is an ideal playground for kiteboarders. Just be cautious of the power lines that border the entire stretch of Highway 12.
In the spring and fall months, even non-kiteboarders will be wowed by the view at Kite Point, as this area is literally a landscape of colorful kites blowing along the Pamlico Sound, with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the backdrop. Many photographers flock to this area to capture the site, and vacationers will want to bring a camera along to catch the aerial acrobatics of the kiteboarders passing through.
Frisco Woods Campground, which has always been a destination for passing windsurfers, has attracted a number of kiteboarders over the years as well. This local, privately run campground, which hugs the border of the Frisco Woods maritime forest, has ample private parking and camping locations, as well as a wide soundfront beach ideal for launching. Many kiteboarders on a budget consider a stay here an ideal vacation, as the campground also offers a community pool , a seasonally opened store for grub and supplies, and seasonal events with water sports lovers in mind.
Ocracoke Island is ideal for new kiteboarders who want to test out their skills on the ocean. The gradually sloping shoreline combined with consistently gentle waves, and moderate temperatures and wind conditions, makes Ocracoke an ideal experimental playground for kiteboarders.
Off the ocean, kiteboarders can head to the small soundfront beaches that lie off the harbor, including the soundfront beaches of Springer's Point, and other private and public launching points along the small roads bordering the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse.
This kiteboarding ride will feature some spectacular scenery, but kiteboarders should use caution when gliding by the busy harbor front. The water activity here is massive, with ferries, tour boats, charters, and private vessels departing and arriving on a regular basis. This is also a popular spot for windsurfers and kayakers as well, so kiteboarders should use extreme caution and be sure they have an open plain before taking off.
Because of the complexity of kiteboarding, newcomers to the sport have several avenues to advance their abilities. They can take hourly lessons, both privately and in groups, or engage in week-long camps for a concentrated series of lessons and a serious advancement of skill level.
New kiteboarders can expect lessons to last from 2-7 hours for a day session, or up to two weeks for an in-depth camp. While some Outer Banks sports can be picked up in a lesson or two, like Stand Up Paddle Boarding or Kayaking, kiteboarding requires a bit more skill, encompassing both balance and the ability to propel oneself by properly maneuvering the kite.
In larger group sessions, kiteboarding novices can expect to spend a portion of their lesson on the land, learning about safety and the equipment, followed by some time working with a training kite. Private lessons, however, may head straight for the water for a hand's on approach, which is closely monitored by an instructor providing one-on-one tutorials.
The great news is that with the growing wave of popularity, there is no shortage of kiteboarding lessons available. Newcomers can choose to train with a local private instructor, which will guide kiteboarders to local "training grounds" in the sound via a jet ski, and work with students through the basic principles of launching and riding. Private instruction also allows kiteboarding novices to work side-by-side with an expert in the field, as the Outer Banks, as virtually the birthplace of the sport, has many homegrown experts who earn a living through teaching kiteboarding lessons.
The other option is learning the kiteboard through a number of world-renowned watersports companies that consider the Outer Banks a home base. Both REAL Watersports and Kitty Hawk Kites have been instrumental to the local kiteboarding scene, and offer lessons throughout the Outer Banks. Kitty Hawk Kites offers lessons from Corolla to Ocracoke, as their satellite stores service every region of the OBX, while REAL has an intensive home base in Waves, where it conducts both day or half-day lessons, and seasonal weeklong camps.
As for equipment, kiteboarders will find a wide range of options as well. In addition to Kitty Hawk Kites and REAL Watersports, there are a number of local Outer Banks companies that offer kiteboarding equipment for sale and for rent, generally on a weekly basis. The end of the season, typically around Thanksgiving Week, can also be a great time to score some deals on kiteboarding equipment, as local businesses generally close for the winter season, and need to make room for new inventory in March.
For newcomers, all equipment from the kite to the harness to the board is provided for a lesson, allowing new riders ample time to decide if they want to continue and buy equipment of their own.
Regardless of how a rider takes to the water, via a private lesson or through a camp with other new kiteboarders along for the ride, anyone interested in kiteboarding will find there's nothing quite like the Outer Banks. With a variety of lessons available throughout the season, from some of the best experts the sport has to offer, it's no wonder kiteboarding's roots began and still grow in the Outer Banks.
Kiteboarding Events and Tournaments
There are a small number of kiteboarding events that blossom on the Outer Banks, like the annual WindFest. This festival is a weekend-long event at the Frisco Woods Campground that commences every fall and celebrates all wind-based watersports with good food, good friends, and of course, plenty of time on the water.
But perhaps the most famous of the local Kiteboarding events is the Triple-S Invitational, held every year in the late spring or early summer at the REAL watersports compound in Waves.
This event attracts both kiteboarding enthusiasts and visiting passer-bys alike, as it is a showcase of the creme de la creme of the international kiteboarding scene. Considered America's biggest kiteboarding event of the year, invitations are only sent to the best surf riders and wake style kiteboarders in the world. In the sound waters behind the REAL Kiteboarding complex, these invitees compete to be the best, and world famous kiteboarders including Aaron Hadlowm Andre Phillip, Gisela Pulido, and Susi Mai make an annual appearance to strut their stuff.
Kiteboarders also have a chance to get a sneak peak at the newest equipment and upgrades for the upcoming season, as well as socialize with the experts, try their hand at the manmade obstacles the experts are using, and watch the masters of the sport perform at their best.
Whether you are a new kiteboarders waiting to get inspired, or a visitor who wants a glimpse at the heights kiteboarding can achieve, the Triple-S Invitational is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to get a love and appreciation of the sport.
It's hard to believe that kiteboarding was virtually unheard of just a decade or two ago. The sport has taken the Outer Banks by storm, and with it, hundreds of local and visiting experts, as well as vacationers who want to take to the skies over the clear waters of the local saltwater sounds.
The sport of kiteboarding has a loyal local following, and as such, visitors can enjoy a variety of lessons, equipment rentals and providers, and start their own path towards mastering the wind and the waves. Not for the casual water sports lover, kiteboarding is a hard-won skill that might be hard to master, but in the end, will ensure dozens of fabulous water-filled vacationers on the Outer Banks for decades to come.
How To Kiteboard
Anyone who has flown a kite on a windy beach day, (especially a stunt kite that requires two hands to perform maneuvers), can understand the basic mechanics of kiteboarding. Essentially, the principals of stunt kites are the same, except a much larger kite, a board, and a rider are involved.
Kiteboarding requires quite a bit of equipment including the kite itself, the board, a harness connecting the two, foot straps, and occasionally a light wetsuit depending on the weather. Basically, the rider attaches to the board, straps on a harness to attach to the kite, (as well as the bar that controls it), and prepares for launch. Most boarders sit on the edge of the water with their board attached and the kite extended straight up above them to prepare for launch. Then, it's simply a matter of allowing the kite to push forward, lifting the rider and propelling them across the water.
The wind provides the power and a portion of the direction, and the rider does the rest. Using the bar, the rider can turn by directing the kite to one side or the other, speed up by lowering the kite, or slow down and perform tricks by lifting the kite high into the air, and therefore lifting the rider along with it.
Kiteboarding essentially requires a large plane of water, the larger the better, so the rider can avoid land, power lines, congested areas, and diminished winds. This is one of the reasons why the Outer Banks is such a popular area for kiteboarding. With five saltwater sounds, including the Roanoke Sound, Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, Croatan Sound, and Pamlico Sound, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, the Outer Banks features miles and miles of open water, serving as an ideal platform for kiteboarders.
Many kiteboarders prefer to stick to the saltwater sounds for riding. Shallow waters that remain relatively calm even on the breeziest days are perfect for long rides, jumps, and aerial stunts. Some riders, however, like the challenge of the Atlantic Ocean, and an opportunity to "kite surf" by riding the ocean waves into shore, or jumping past the breakers to explore deeper waters.
The mechanics of kiteboarding sound relatively easy in principal, and the kiteboarders along the beach certainly make those aerial stunts and speedy ascensions across the sound look easy. However, because kiteboarding is essentially so different from any other water sport, combining elements of surfing, windsurfing, and kite flying but with an entirely different feel and skill set, a lesson may be instrumental in getting started.
At the very least, kiteboarding newcomers should pick up a training kite. This larger kiteboard-shaped kite, with an accompanying kiteboard-like bar for maneuvering with both hands, allows new riders to practice the art of guiding and moving an oversized kite in typical Outer Banks wind conditions, while keeping their two feet planted firmly on the ground.
With or without formal training, lessons or camps, kiteboarding can be a tricky sport to pick up, but well worth the effort. There's a reason why kiteboarding has become one of the most popular sports on the Outer Banks, and many kiteboarders find that once they have the hang of it, they are officially hooke