Kiteboarding in South Florida
North America is home to some of the best kiteboarding travel locations in the world, including the Columbia River Gorge, South Padre Island, Cape Hatteras, and South Florida. South Florida sets itself apart due to its warm water and consistent tradewinds, among many other things. If you're looking for a relatively affordable kitesurfing destination, South Florida should be on your radar.
Within the South Florida kiteboarding community, kitesurfers have the ability to choose from a variety of conditions. From the Jupiter shorebreak to the beautiful flat waters of the Keys, your options are overwhelming. Although there are many locations to kiteboard in South Florida, I'm going to focus on those that you shouldn't miss while vacationing in the Sunshine State.
When Should You Go?
In South Florida, the most consistent conditions for kiteboarding fall between the months of November and April. Hurricane season runs from July to September - if you're looking for prime stormriding conditions, South Florida can be one of the best places to catch giant swell and strong winds. The tradewinds kick on in early winter, and run through late spring. These easterly breezes often bring constant 18-22 knots for several days in a row. It's windy almost every day during this period, and you'll find air temperatures ranging from the mid-60's to the high 80's, with the water from 70-80 degrees! Although the summer brings the doldrums to South Florida, you can still catch storms and random seabreezes in different locations.
Where Should You Go?
Jupiter, Florida is home to some of the world's top kiteboarding professionals such as Damien Leroy, John Modica, and Matt Collins - and for good reason. The wind tends to be a bit stronger and more consistent than most other kitesurfing spots on the Southwest coast of Florida. The added bonus of being almost above the lateral line of the Bahamas helps increase swell size and consistency. Simply put, Jupiter has some of the best wave-riding conditions you'll ever encounter. Kite beach in Jupiter, Florida is where you'll find most kiteboarders when the wind is up. The waves can be powerful and the wind is mostly on-shore here, so if you're looking for a spot that's more conducive for learning or beginners, I recommend heading further south to find some flatwater kiteboarding.
Miami, Florida is the epicenter of international commerce for South Florida. With daily direct flights to locations all over the globe, you'll find thousands of people flocking to the beaches to enjoy the warm water and beautiful scenery - and I'm not talking about the palm trees. There are many locations throughout the Miami area that are prime for kiteboarding - from the waves of North Miami Beach to the flatwater of Crandon Park and Matheson Hammock, you can find any and all conditions within a short drive of Miami. The Fowey Rock NOAA buoy is an excellent tool to use for wind forecasts and actual conditions. The most popular kitesurfing location in Miami is Crandon Park, located just outside Downtown Miami on Key Biscayne. At Crandon, you'll find waist deep and clear water, due to its proximity to the open ocean and distance from Downtown. At low tide, you can find glass-flat conditions throughout the park. A couple hundred yards offshore, you'll find a sandbar that churns up some killer little waves to play on. Be sure to check with Miami Kiteboarding to get your daily pass before pumping up - although it is a regulated beach, Miami Kiteboarding keeps things in order so you can get the most enjoyment out of your session!
Islamorada, Florida is the one place I wish I was...now, and always. The Keys are the place to be if you're a kiteboarder looking for world-class conditions. The Molasses Reef NOAA Bouy is an excellent reference for forecasts and actual wind conditions, so be sure to take a look at this before heading down. After leaving the mainland of South Florida and driving down US-1 through Everglades City, you'll find yourself in a whole new world of salty people. Head straight past Key Largo and make your final stop in Islamorada. Islamorada, Florida is approximately 1.5 hours from Miami International Airport, depending on traffic heading in and out of the keys. US-1 is one lane in each direction, and can be easily congested so keep this in mind when you're trying to make your Sunday evening flight out of MIA. For all things Islamorada, be sure to check out our friends at The Otherside. Mike and Shana know all the ins and outs of the Florida keys - especially as it pertains to kiteboarding. The famous downwinders through the keys are top notch, and the guys at The Otherside can point you in the right direction. My favorite spot to ride is Anne's Beach, located on Lower Matecumbe. You'll kiteboard in beautiful flatwater conditions throughout the keys, but Anne's Beach is special from the family atmosphere it brings. You'll run into some of the best kiteboarders in the industry that call this place home, like Alex Fox and Matt Sexton. Be sure to ask someone at Anne's to help you know the no-go zones - the bridge has been known to introduce itself to a few unsuspecting kiters. I could go for a breakfast sandwich from Village Gourmet and a morning session at Anne's right about now...
No wind? No problem.
Although the wind frequents the waters of South Florida, you'll likely encounter days without wind suitable for kiteboarding. Cable parks are excellent cross-training for kiteboarders, as you're able to finely-tune your board skills so you can focus on the kite when the time comes. South Florida is home to two of my favorite cable parks - Keys Cable in Marathon, and Ski Rixen in Deerfield Beach. Keys Cable was introduced last year by The Otherside crew, and they've really put their flavor into this two-tower system loaded with sliders. They offer coaching as well - if you're trying to learn new tricks on your kiteboard, this will push you much further ahead in the game! Ski Rixen is a full-sized cable that rotates counter-clockwise. Goofy-footed riders will find it a bit easier to load and pop on the corners of this cable park featuring some of the best new sliders from Unit. In addition to cable parks, you can find other world-class watersports activities throughout South Florida, such as Stand-Up Paddleboarding and Sport Fishing. If you're still looking for activities after a day of adventure, make sure to check out South Beach at night. Just remember to check the wind for the morning before deciding to stay out too late.
If you're not used to riding in the ocean, Florida can be a nice change of pace for you as the conditions tend to be a bit more mild than those on the West coast or even some places further North on the East coast. Most people (including myself) who encounter kiteboarding in the ocean for the first time can tend to have a few preconceived notions regarding the creatures below the surface of the sea. Take it from me, a misplaced kiter from Northern Michigan who was extremely nervous the first few times in the murky waters of Matheson Hammock - there's no reason to worry! All the ideas you have about sharks and other sea creatures are probably a bit blown out of proportion like mine were. These animals aren't on the prowl like the movies depict - in fact, every encounter I've had with sharks has been quite amazing! They usually bolt in the other direction as soon as they notice you're around. Be smart - wear protective footwear (like a 3mm low-cut boot) if you're out kiteboarding on the flats, as anemones and other prickly things resting on the floor can cause a real problem for your feet. Also, be aware of tidal changes - sometimes, low tide can expose more sand than your fins have room for...
What to bring?
Before taking off for your kiteboarding vacation, you may need to consider bringing a few items. Be sure to pack your entire quiver, as Florida winds can range from very light to storm force throughout the wind season. Most of the time you'll find yourself on your 12 meter (if you're in the 170-200lb range), but you'll be happy you brought your 16 or even 7 meter depending on the conditions that day. Bring your twin-tip and surfboard, too! Cruising around the flats on a strapless surfboard can be a lot of fun. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing helps significantly, as the sun can get very intense at times. You typically don't need any wetsuits, but at times I felt that having a 2mm neoprene top was helpful during the "cold" fronts, which can drop temperatures into the 60's.
Rider: Nathan Patterson
Years Riding: 3
Preferred Gear: Switchblades, Wakeboard with Boots, Strapless Surfboard