Tarifa - Kitesurfing


Kites are king in Tarifa. © Michelle Chaplow
Kites are king in Tarifa.

KITESURFING

Thanks to its ideal situation on the Straits of Gibraltar opposite Africa, where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet, with constant winds, Tarifa is already known as the European capital of windsurfing. The beaches of this historic Moorish town have also now established themselves as a world-class destination for another hugely popular, and very beautiful, wind-powered watersport: kitesurfing (also known as kiteboarding).

Tarifa is the perfect destination to try out the sport, as the sun shines nearly all year round and, more importantly, a number of kitesurf schools and equipment shops offer classes, as well as options to hire or buy boards and kites.

Kitesurfing involves catching waves on a surfboard, propelled by a kite which is attached to the surfer using a body harness, and then jumping into the air. Read more about kitesurfing on our kite surfing page.

International Championships

Each year many top Spanish and international kitesurfers join beginners in Tarifa keen to try out this sport, which started in the 1990s. An international championship is usually held in the late spring in Tarifa, while events on the PKRA (Professional Kite Riders Association) ProKite World Tour was held in Tarifa in 2006, 2007 and 2008, 2014, and in 2015 when was renamed the VKWC (Virgin Kitesurf World Championships) to reflect the new owners. In early 2016 Virgin pulled out amid roumours of corruption by the competitioin organisors. The VKWC competition changed its name yet again to World Kite Tour (WKT) and operates as an official ISAF sanctioned event.   A Tarifa leg of the 2016 World Kite Tour was in the draft 2016 calendar for July then September 2016 at Playa Los Lances. The event never took place as the WKT was reduced to only two events in 2016 and (as of mid 2017) none in 2017.   Meanwhile the WKT is in legal dispute with the IKA World Kite League which hosted the Pringle Kitesurf World Tour with four events in 2016;  Fehmarn  El Gouna (Egypt) in March,  Leucate in April, Pingtan (China) in September and Porto Pollo (Italy) in October. The IKA signed an agreement with another body, the GKA Global Kitesurf Association in February 2017 to 'to unite the kiteboarding community'. 

In this vacuum the  World Kiteboarding League (WKL) formed 'by riders for the riders' and as part of the WKL Kiteboarding World Cup have 12 events in their 2017 WKL Freestyle Elite League which, regretably,  does not include Tarifa. The WKL maintains World Cup Rankings in which Tarifa based Liam Whaley,  and Bruna Kajiya lead mid season.  

In June 2014 the Masters of Kiteboard Championship was also held in Tarifa.  

 

STRAPLESS

The strapless version of the sport is also gaining in popularity.  That is to say kite surfers on boards that do not have any foot holds or straps. This requires riders to use the forward momentum or uplift wind to keep boards aloft. Obviously this is particularly skilful.  The International Strapless Kitesurfing Pro Tour is organised by the Global Kitesurf Association (GKA) and from the 28 June to 2nd July 2017 at Playa de Valdevaqueras held the Tarifa Strapless Pro, the first event of the 2017 GKA Kite-Surf World.  This was the third year the event has taken place at Valdevaqueras, Tarifa with a final on the first Sunday in July.  The event is one of the better organised and resoursed in Tarifa and the backing from Town Hall, Cadiz province and Regional government must have helped. 

At the 2017 Tarifa Strapless Pro about 500 kite surf fans braved the 40 knot levante (easterly) winds that dominated the final day of the competition. The frestyle final took place on the Sunday morning and Airton Cozzolino of Italy was the winner. The judges decided to have a 'big air' (highest jump and longest time in the air)  competition in the afternoon in which local hero Gustavo Arrojo (originally for Almuñecar) came second in the 'big air' competition.   The video below was taken on the Sunday afternoon during the 'big air' competition.     

     

 

 

KITE SURF SCHOOLS

Most beginners sign up for a course at one of the kitesurf schools, where equipment will be provided. You can choose from private (one-to-one), semi-private (2 or 3 students) and group (3 to 6 students) courses. A three-day course at one of the many licensed schools should be enough for a beginner to learn how to "fly solo".

When choosing a kite school you should watch out for the condition of the equipment (wetsuit, harness, lifejacket), the instructors’ qualifications, and whether the school is officially registered with Tarifa Town Hall.

Your next step, after completing your course, would be to buy second-hand equipment from one of the surf shops on Calle Batalla del Salado. Professionals will have more than one kite, in a range of sizes to suit various wind conditions, exactly as with a windsurf sail.

Fans of the sport cite the feeling of exhilaration and freedom, as you race over the waves on the board, then soar metres up in the air, come back down again, and then bide your time till the next chance to fly. For those who come from a surfing background, kiteboarding appeals because it’s easy to catch and ride waves in quick succession, rather than having to paddle back out to the breaks and then wait for the perfect wave.

 

 

WINDS in Tarifa

Surfers have to pay close attention to up-to-date wind reports from websites such as Wind Guru (see related links), although kites can be flown in lighter winds than for windsurfing. The best kitesurfing months are May to November.

There are two predominant winds in Tarifa. The levante is the warm, strong wind from the east that blows offshore (from land to sea) - force 5 to 7, or even 8, on the Beaufort scale. The poniente is the cooler, lighter westerly wind from the Atlantic that blows onshore (from sea to land) - force 3 to 6. Depending on the month, 50-80% of days have a wind greater than force 4.

    calm air, calm - wind moving at less than 1 knot; 0 on the Beaufort scale

    light air - wind moving 1-3 knots; 1 on the Beaufort scale

    light breeze - wind moving 4-7 knots; 2 on the Beaufort scale

    gentle breeze - wind moving 8-12 knots; 3 on the Beaufort scale

    moderate breeze - wind moving 13-18 knots; 4 on the Beaufort scale

    fresh breeze - wind moving 19-24 knots; 5 on the Beaufort scale

    strong breeze - wind moving 25-31 knots; 6 on the Beaufort scale

    moderate gale, near gale - wind moving 32-38 knots; 7 on the Beaufort scale

    fresh gale - wind moving 39-46 knots; 8 on the Beaufort scale

    strong gale - wind moving 47-54 knots; 9 on the Beaufort scale

    whole gale - wind moving 55-63 knots; 10 on the Beaufort scale

    storm, violent storm - a violent weather condition with heavy rain, thunder and lightning and winds 64-72 knots; 11 on the Beaufort scale

    hurricane - a severe tropical cyclone usually with heavy rains and winds moving a 73-136 knots; 12 on the Beaufort scale

KITESURFING AREAS in Tarifa

Since the sport can be potentially dangerous, with boards moving along at up to 80km/h, surfers and bathers are separated by yellow buoys on Tarifa’s beaches. Two kitesurf zones along the beaches to the north of Tarifa are strictly enforced in the summer when the beaches are crowded with bathers. In the winter, rules are more relaxed.

Playa de los Lances (Hotel Dos Mares)

The Playa de los Lances  'Zona Kite', is located 4km from Tarifa town, is the main kitesurf venue. It is located at the northern end of Playa de los Lances, including the area around the mouth of the Rio Jara, near the car park from where motor-boats and jet-skis can be launched.

The area to the north of this zone as far as La Peña is reserved for windsurfing.

Playa Valdevaqueros

The Playa Valdevaqueros  ‘Zona Kite’ is the southern part of Playa Valdevaqueros (8km from Tarifa) - the northern section as far as the dunes is for windsurfers. This is a smaller area which is often very crowded, especially with boarders doing stunts and tricks, however it is safer in a levante wind as the Punta Paloma headland offers protection and also adds interest as a sighting reference. Rocks at the southern end are a potential hazard, so seek local advice on negotiating these.

Bolonia

In Bolonia, which is the bay to the north, the kitesurf area is in front of La Cabaña beach bar.

Most kitesurfers with their own equipment stay in a hotel (or campsite) in the beach area, within walking distance from the sea, and then head into Tarifa town to go out in the evening. If you have a car and are hiring equipment from a school, you could stay in a hotel in the town.

Tarifa Town

There are three areas nearer Tarifa town that are used by Kiters in the off season. Playa Balneario which is next to Tarifa town and the causeway in front of beach bar Bienestar. Campo de Futbol near the football ground easy access and parking. Rio Jara by the river mouth and the campsite.  Remember the wind is stronger nearer Tarifa town and these location are dangerous in a levante wind. 

Getafe  & Palmones

Other locations 30km east of Tarifa in the Meditarrenean and Bay of Algeciras, these are used mainly when the wind in Tarifa is levante as the wind will blow onshore in Getafe and Palmones.

CHAMPIONSHIP REPORTS