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There's a place way down in the Southern Hemisphere where the scenery will steal your heart and the wind will knock you off your feet. It sounds intense and it is... in all the best ways! In this edition of Destinations, we're checking out a kite spot that's close to my heart: Cape Town, South Africa.
Cape Town is the home of the Red Bull King of the Air, and a popular kiteboarding hotspot. In the high season, it seems like the entire kiteboarding community comes together. Kitesurfers come from all over the world to chase their Big Air dreams and to kite with the legends of the sport.
On your average January day at Kite Beach in Cape Town, having the likes of Jesse Richman, Aaron Hadlow, Kevin Langeree, and Ruben Lenten throwing huge megaloops over you would not be an unusual sight! Not to mention the up and coming riders that spend their season training in these extreme conditions...
In this blog, we'll cover everything you need to know about kiteboarding in Cape Town. Scroll down to find out travel tips and advice for this epic South African destination
Cape Town's windy season is during their summer, which is opposite to our summer in North America. You can expect wind from November to March, with the most consistent windy days being from December to February.
The wind here is strong, to say the least. On the average summer day, that famous Southeaster wind will blow from 16-35 knots. Some days the wind really howls, blowing up to and over 50 knots! The wind here is dense - a 16 knot wind in Cape Town will feel a lot like a 20+ knot wind in most other spots. It can get gusty in this location, so come ready for a wild ride. When the Cape Doctor comes - which you can identify when a thick blanket of clouds starts rolling down Table Mountain - you know you're in for an epic session!
This is a place to bring your smallest kites. My 9m kite rarely sees the light of day here while my 6m is overworked and often oversized for the conditions. Most riders will not need anything larger than a 10m to ride in this spot, and you'll see quite a few 5m-7m kites on the windy days!
While I've been referring to Cape Town til now, the main kite spot here is actually in Blouberg, about 20km from the city center. Blouberg is a beachfront town in beautiful Table Bay, with a clean 3km of beachfront to ride, and plenty more beach upwind and downwind of Blouberg. The best place to enjoy your first session is at Dolphin Beach (next to Dolphin Beach Hotel) or Kite Beach (across from KFC), which are only about half a mile apart.
What most kiters come to take advantage of is the perfect downwinder conditions. Here, there's a nice sideshore wind and clean, breaking waves all the way down from Dolphin Beach to Doodles Beachfront. Waves can be anywhere from 1-2 feet high to 10-12 feet high depending on the forecast and it's usually a pretty heavy beach break.
If you're ready for a longer adventure, you can start your downwinder at Sunset Beach (upwind towards the city). This launch spot is uncomfortably gusty and the water is full of windsurfers, but there are some nice sections between Sunset and Dolphin. Be sure to give the windsurfers some space, because they call this beach their home! If you aren't ready to get out by the time you get to Doodles, you can continue to Big Bay or onwards. Make sure you have a plan for a ride organized in advance.
The big thing to watch out for is how insanely busy this spot gets. In the heart of summer, you'll see several hundred, if not more than a thousand kiters on the water at the same time. You may find yourself fighting for right of way with wave riders on a downwind tack hacking waves, big air riders jumping 80 feet in the air, and beginners getting rolled around in the shorebreak.
Be sure to refresh your memory on right of way rules, but keep in mind that sometimes the nice thing to do in this particular spot is to yield right of way to the rider on the port tack (left foot forward), especially if they're riding towards a big wave that's ready to break. They might be about to send the biggest jump of their life... or about to get absolutely wiped out by the wave of the day!
RIDING LEVEL & STYLE
This spot is not for the faint of heart, and one I'd recommend primarily for independent riders who have a lot of water confidence. While it is possible to do kiteboarding lessons in this spot, it's not exactly friendly learning conditions.
Most schools will only do kite flying lessons in Blouberg and take students to Langebaan (a little over an hour up the coast) to do their first body drags and board starts. The good news is - if you do learn to kite in these difficult conditions, you'll be able to ride pretty much anywhere else in the world.
For those riders that are independent and ready for a session, you can ride any style you want here! The only difficult one is foiling - the wind is typically way too strong for foilers. Freestylers may also want to avoid Kite Beach on a day when the waves are big. When they're smaller, the flatwater sections between the maves make for great conditions to practice tricks. Until the wind gets too strong, that is! Freeriders will be thrilled by even a casual session in this spot.
The main draws in Cape Town and Blouberg are Big Air and Wave. If you're a Wave rider, this is an incredible place to work on riding (and crowd dodging) skills. If you're into Big Air, you probably already know everything there is to know about this spot... because these are some of the best conditions in the world to get high! There's a reason that the Woo world record for jump height continues to be broken over and over right here in the Cape Town area.
My first sessions in South Africa were nerve-wracking, to say the least. I came to this spot feeling like an advanced level kiteboarder, and after getting spanked by the ocean for a few days in a row, I got knocked down several pegs to the point where I felt like a beginner again. After more than six months of kiteboarding at this spot, I still get nervous on days when the wind is super strong or the waves are super huge.
Because this spot draws the world's best Big Air kiteboarders, sometimes the best thing to do on the crazy days is to grab a barstool at Pakalolo's, order yourself a Castle Light or a Black Label (the local favourite brews), and watch the show!
WEATHER / TEMPERATURE
Weather here can be all over the map, so prepare for anything. When the wind isn't blowing, summer days can get very hot. Near the ocean, you get a refreshing sea breeze to help keep you cool. When that breeze turns into gale force winds, you'll want to bundle up because it can get very cold very quickly! Even in the heart of summer, you'll rarely find yourself leaving the house without a jacket or long pants just in case.
The suns rays are quite harmful in this part of the Southern Hemisphere, so don't forget to wear sun protection whenever the sun is out. Zinc is a must to protect your face while you're on the water!
Speaking of water, the water temperature here is quite chilly. You're riding in the Atlantic Ocean, so a wetsuit is a requirement. Most riders will wear a 4/3 or 3/2 wetsuit. Some of the thicker skinned riders will wear a 3/2 shorty, though that's usually only the locals.
This is a spot where kitemares are plentiful, so make sure you're dressed warm enough for a swim back to the beach while getting pummeled by waves and dodging sharks! Joking... I've never seen a shark here! If you see a fin waving around in the water, it's most likely a big sunfish trying to catch some rays of sunshine by the surface.
Kiting is a way of life in this area, which means kitesurfers can find just about anything they need in this spot. Most of the major kite brands have a shop in Blouberg, Sunset, or Big Bay. There are surf shops for those that need surf gear, and professional kite repair services just in case!
There's several kite schools in the area, and lots of accommodation designed specifically with kitesurfers in mind. It's not tropical bungalows on the beach, but it's everything a kitesurfer could possibly need!
There's only a couple cautions when it comes to kiteboarding in Blouberg, but they are big ones: Extreme conditions and the crowds.
When you mix way too many people on the beach and in the water with super strong wind and 2-3 meter waves, it's a recipe for kite tangles, heavy crashes, and some scary seconds under the waves. Kiters should be confident in the water and in waves, and super aware of the other kiters around them. You'll need your head on a swivel to make sure you know what's happening downwind and upwind of you - especially on the extreme days.
As mentioned above, you'll want to refresh your memory on right of way rules, especially when it comes to wave riding. If someone on a wave board is on a breaking wave, they will have right of way over twin tip riders, and they are typically traveling downwind, and turning frequently.
Be conscious of other kiters that may be about to get thumped by a big wave - sometimes you'll want to turn back or yield your right of way to someone traveling out from the beach (left foot forward), especially if they're approaching a gigantic wave and don't have a lot of room to move.
This is one of those spots where staying within your comfort zone is allowed!
TRAVEL, TRANSPORTATION & SAFETY
Travel to Blouberg starts with a flight to the international airport in Cape Town (CPT). Visitors from most countries in North America and Europe will be granted a 90 day visa on arrival, however we strongly recommend that you double-check the requirements for yourself before you arrive. Most countries require at least 6 months left before the expiration date on your passport to enter. Some countries require proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination to enter South Africa. Please do your own research before you book your travel.
A rental car is absolutely essential for a kite trip to Cape Town. If you can drive a manual/standard vehicle, you'll be able to get a great deal on car rental through a company like Rent A Cheapie. Those that require an automatic vehicle should book well in advance to ensure availability and a decent price. There is free and readily available parking throughout Blouberg's beaches, though it can be difficult to find a place to park at some beaches in the high season. A water key or a key pouch on your wetsuit is the best way to avoid any drama with your rental car.
Traveller safety is a concern both in Cape Town and in Blouberg. Travellers should be cautious, especially at night. It is never recommended to walk alone after dark, even in the Blouberg area. Always travel in groups or take an Uber if you need to go anywhere at night. Break-ins and car theft also surge in the summer months, so be sure not to leave any valuables in your vehicle and always lock your doors. Do not leave bags unattended on the beach. If you're staying in a guesthouse or apartment, security is typically pretty good. If you're staying in a standalone house, be sure to follow the security recommendations by the landlord.
If you're here to kite, you'll want to stay as close to Kite Beach as possible, ideally near the Bloubergrant area of Bloubergstrand. If you have a rental car, you've got a lot more flexibility on where to stay such as Sunset Beach or Big Bay, or even the suburbs a little further back in Tableview (like Blouberg Rise, Flamingo Vlei, Sandown, or Parklands).
There's a lot of options for vacation rentals on AirBNB, including beautiful ocean view apartments and homes. Many kiters choose this spot because of the strong kiteboarding community. I recommend looking into a kite guesthouse such as Sandy Shores, Surf House, Rosie's, Cape Town Kite Club, or one of many others. In these properties, you can book a private room to sleep in while the kitchen, living, and outdoor spaces are shared.
FOOD & BEV
Something that most frequent visitors to the Cape Town area look forward to is the incredible quality of food and the low prices that come with them. There are lots of great restaurants and bars all around the Blouberg and Big Bay area, and most of them are super affordable!
Some personal recommendations for the Blouberg area...
Beachfront Vibe: Jerry's Burger Bar
Sundown Drinks & Late Night: Pakalolo's or Boardhouse
Cafe: Morgan's or Carlucci's
Best Breakfast and Takeaway's: All in the Kitchen
Pizza: Doodles or Colcaccio's (Big Bay)
Steak: Cowboys & Cooks (Sunset) or Cattle Baron
Asian: Hong Kong Kitchen (Sunset) or Colala's
Fancy Eats: Homespun by Matt
Those that have kitchen facilities can pick up food from one of the local groceries - Checkers, Pick N' Pay, or Spar - and cook at home.
You can't go all the way to South Africa without seeing some of the sites! Whether you're on the ocean or journeying inland to visit the Game Reserves or Vineyards, there is plenty to see and do when the wind isn't blowing.
Here's some suggestions on no-wind day activities...
Wine farm lunch: There's hundreds of wine farms, and you can't go too wrong at any of them! There's the nearby wine farms in Durbanville (like Durbanville Hills) or the popular Stellenbosch and Franschoek area farms. I loved Delheim and Fairview (great cheese!). Wherever you go in the Western Cape, you'll be sure to stumble upon endless vineyards.
Table Mountain or Lion's Head hike: These two iconic mountains are visible from the kite spot, and they both make for beautiful hikes! The Lion's Head hike is a good place to start - it's steep, but short and can be completed in under 2 hours. Table Mountain can be anywhere from 3-7 hours depending on the route. Be sure to go very early in the morning to avoid too much heat or wind on the mountain, and bring supplies such as water, food, and extra layers.
Cape Town City: Only 20 minutes away is the major metropolitan city of Cape Town, with lots to see and do both. There's shopping, an aquarium, ferris wheel, and plenty more at the V&A Waterfront (including popular Shimmy Beach Club - a Sunday favourite!). You can explore the Old Biscuit Mill market in the hip area of Woodstock, walk through colourful Bo Kaap, wander through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or see an outdoor concert, or go out and enjoy the buzzy nightlife at Long Street.
Camps Bay: A little further from Blouberg is the posh beachfront community of Camps Bay. This is a great beach to lay out and enjoy the sunshine on, and the restaurants and clubs along the waterfront are a great place to wind down the weekend... Sunday nights at Cafe Caprice are popular amongst kiters!
Road Trip: Whether you're only driving a few hours to Cape Point, visting the penguins near Muizenberg, or going on a massive Garden Route road trip, there's more to see than you can imagine along the coastal route of South Africa.
Whatever you're in the mood for, you're almost certain to find it in Blouberg or Cape Town! This destination is a kiteboarder's dream, but if you're bringing non-kiting friends and family, there's no way they'll get bored here. In fact, you might find yourself envious of their off-the-water activities! Even if you're just here to kite, don't forget to set aside a few days to see what else the Cape Town area has to offer... you won't regret it!
If you have any questions about this kite spot including gear recommendations for Cape Town sessions, send us a message or reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram. If you have any of your own tips and stories to share, don't hesitate! We'd love to know about your Cape Town and Blouberg experience.
We look forward to sharing the next Destination with you!
Duotone Kites USA team rider and a MACkite team rider. Originally from Canada, she now calls the entire world her home, playground, and her workplace. She goes where the wind blows - so if you see her at a kite beach somewhere in the world, say hello! Her primary goal is to share her love of kiteboarding and travel and all the lessons learned along the way with the world.
Facebook: Crystal Veness
Written and produced by Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic and Crystal Veness