Kiteboarding Travel Guide: Charleston, SC, USA - Destinations EP 12
From the sandy beaches in Florida to the picturesque coast of Maine, the east coast of the USA is loaded iwth kiteboarding hot spots and hidden gems. For avid kiteboarders, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the Carolinas is Cape Hatteras on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. In this edition of Destinations, we're heading 500 miles south to an American city rich in history: Charleston, South Carolina.
Here in Charleston, the appeal isn't simply the wide variety of kite spots... it's everything that a visit to this spot offers. There's the winding rivers and waterways, network of islands each with a different vibe, and that incredible southern charm. Not to mention the history! You can stand on the grounds where the first battle of the American Civil War was fought - and even session there! History, art, culture, kiting, and southern hospitality - this is an American destination you can’t miss!
We'll share some intel on the kite spots we visited in Charleston followed by some need to know tips for the traveling kiteboarder.
It’s windy in Charleston year round, but different seasons bring different conditions! To take advantage of the most ideal kiting conditions, aim to visit in the spring months of March to May. September can also offer good kitesurfing conditions but with less windy days. During these seasons, wind typically blows between 15-25 knots, and the beaches are less packed! In the summer months of June to August, expect warmer conditions with afternoon thermals but much lighter winds. Wind in this season ranges from 10-20 knots but trends on the lighter side. Bring your bigger kites and a foil or surfboard. You'll also find kiteable winter winds in Charleston, but will have to pay attention to the forecast to get a session outside of the spring windy season.
Weather / Temperature
Charleston has a sub-tropical climate with hot and humid summers and gentle winters. There's a strong beach culture in Charleston as well as a vibrant city. If you’re planning a visit, pack for both city life and beach life. In the spring and summer, come prepared for hot temperatures but don't forget to bring a raincoat!
Water temperature varies from board shorts in the summer to a full suit in winter. If you're planning a trip in the spring or summer, bring a thermal top or lighter wetsuit just in case you run into a cooler day.
With so many barrier islands and inlets, there are kite spots all over the place in Charleston. No matter the wind direction, there is always a spot to ride if you’re an experienced kiteboarder. Before we get into the spots, a word of caution. The rules and regulations for watercraft – including kiteboarders – are strict. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules before you head to the beach. You can also stop into one of the local kite centers for some advice on the best spot to ride based on the forecast and more information on safety rules.
Let’s start with a few of our favourite beginner friendly spots…
Sullivan’s Island - Station 28.5: This is a great spot to start for your first Charleston session. This beginner friendly beach is a popular launch spot and is an ideal place to ride throughout the year. It can get crowded with beach goers in the summer months, so be cautious of others on the beach. The water here can range from semi flat to choppy depending on the tides. On windy days, you’re almost certain to encounter kiters on this beach!
Folly Beach North: Folly Beach has a vibrant beachfront community and is home to the Folly Beach Pier. To kite in this spot, drive east along Arctic Avenue until you’re clear of the busier sections of beach. There are plenty of spots where you can pump up and ride here, but if you're new to this spot aim to kite in a spot where you already see other kiters. In this spot, be cautious of the rocks on the beach, beach users, and submerged jetties in the waer.
Folly Beach County Park: Whatever your level, the county park spot at Folly Beach is a great spot to ride. This spot is rideable in nearly every wind direction. You will have to pay to park in the county park, but it's worth it for a session on this beautiful beach. Be sure to park at the far end of the lot as kiteboarders are restricted to riding only past the swimming zone. You'll have plenty of space to play on the water and lots of room to set up on the beach.
There are many more kite spots in the Charleston area that are ideal for more experienced kiteboarders, destinations accessible only by boat, or spots furthers away from Charleston center. Session Sports has put together a comprehensive guide with more info on these spots.
There are kite spots for every level of rider here, from beginner to expert. Those that need lessons or supervision should organize lessons with one of the local kite schools including Session Sports and Holy City Kite. Advanced and independent kiters that want to visit some quieter beaches may wish to organize a boat to go tour some of the harder to reach spots. For the kiter willing to search, there are epic flat water spots and waves to be found.
All types of riding styles work here, from freeride to freestyle to foil to big air. Summer brings ideal foil conditions with warm, light winds. Fall and winter are when you can encounter the best swells in Charleston, and kiters on directional and strapless boards will enjoy ripping these waves.
Because kiteboarders typically avoid the busy sections of beach and popular swimming areas, the majority of kite beaches in Charleston are low on faciliteis. Bring what you need for equipment and water to the beach. As for off the beach, there are plenty of shops, schools, and centers with kiteboarding equipment, parts, and tools.
The most important thing about kiting in Charleston is respect for the rules and regulations. These beaches are open to kiters because everyone is careful and conscious. Don’t be afraid to ask local kiters on the spot for advice before you set up. Stay out of the swimming areas and away from busy sections of beach. Other beach users always have right of way. There is a rule in Charleston that watersports users including kitesurfers and surfers must stay 100 feet away from anyone in the water such as swimmers. In some spots and on some busy holiday weekends, kiters need to be 100 yards away from the beach except to launch and land. Take these rules seriously, and when in doubt… ask! This is a beautiful place to ride and a spot that remains that way through everyone’s cooperation.
Our Charleston trip was a last minute adventure! After a couple windy weeks in Hatteras, we ran into a light wind patch and decided to drive down to Charleston for a true Chucktown experience with local kiter Davey Blair. Read more about our personal experience on the spot at CrystalVeness.com.
How to get there
One of the best things about a kiteboarding trip to Charleston is it’s pretty easy to get to! There are plenty of flights from all over North America to Charleston's CHS airport. Road trip fans will encounter beautiful coastal towns all along the North Carolina and South Carolina coast. Along the higways, Charleston is about a day drive from Hatteras kite beaches and half a day from Northern Florida.
A vehicle is essential on this spot, so those arriving by car will be good to go. Those flying in should organize a rental car.
Where to stay
Visitors can stay in one of the cities many hotels or bed and breakfasts or rent a private house through a vacation rental agency or on AirBNB. Those that plan to spend most of their time on the water may wish to stay closer to the kite beaches around Sullivan's Island or Folly Beach. Those that prefer a blend of kite lifestyle and city exploration may wish to stay downtown. Charleston is a hub of art, culture, and amazing food. Whether you're in one of the beach communities or in the city, you'll find some delicious eateries and after-session watering holes. Expect accommodation to cost anywhere from $50 a night up to several hundred per night depending on the season, your group size, and your travel style.
Charleston is the ideal family-friendly destination with plenty on offer for groups of kitesurfers or mixed groups of kiters and non-kiters.
A couple of our favorite adventures:
Trophy Lakes - a local cable park with a slalom ski course and disk golf! This is a fun family spot and a great way to get some time on the board if the wind isn’t working.
Boat Charter - licensed operators can hire a boat or those without the license can hire a boat and captain to explore the waterways of Charleston. This was the highlight of our trip! A boat ride to a sandbar for a kite session, ripping through the channels, spotting dolphins, wakesurfing, and more. The adventure opportunities by boat are limitless!
Historic Charleston Walking Tour - this city is loaded with history, and a walk through old Charleston is a worthwhile experience.
And there’s plenty to do on foot! The historic downtown with its cobblestone streets, the history rich French quarter, the local farms and plantations.. you could spend weeks in Charleston and still have more to discover!
Boone Hall Plantation - explore one of America's oldest working farms with more than 3 centuries of history.
It’s always a special experience when a kite spot surprises you, and Charleston did just that. We arrived not knowing what to expect and left absolutely enamoured with the Chucktown way of life. Beautiful kite spots, vibrant lifestyle, and incredibly hospitable and friendly locals - this is a kite spot that we'll be visiting again soon!
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