Spot at a Glance
Elevation Kiteboarding: Elevation Kiteboarding
Strong Kiteboarding : Strong Kiteboarding.
Deep in the forest of Vancouver Island is a kite spot that is that magical combination of windy and wild. Few kite Destinations take so much planning and work just to score a session, but this Canadian gem is well worth the effort.
On this edition of Destinations, we're taking you to Nitinat Lake.
After flying to Vancouver Island or taking a ferry from the mainland (near Vancouver or Squamish), you'll need to load a car full of supplies and camping gear and head into the woods. After a 3 hour drive - half of which is down bumpy old logging roads with no phone reception - you'll be treated to an absolutely picturesque Canadian kite spot. Also with no phone reception. Oh, and bears!
While that might scare off many kiters, it should only serve to tickle the imagination of the adventurous ones out there! Experiencing this spot is without doubt something that will change your perspective on kiteboarding.
In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about kiteboarding at Nitinat Lake... and how to prepare yourself for the adventure!
The windy season at Nitinat Lake starts up in April and will blow on and off through September. The most frequent windy days occur in the middle of summer - June, July, and August. You can expect wind to blow anywhere from 12 to 25 knots, so bring a few kites sizes or different board options in case.
While the thermal wind at Nitinat is fairly reliable in the summer, it's a long journey so watching the forecast is absolutely essential to ensure you have a good trip. In this spot, clear skies can add a nice boost to the wind that the forecast won't show. You can check the forecast at Windfinder, Windguru, and Windy when you're planning your trip. If you want to get a local opinion (especially if you are planning to take lessons or rent/buy kite gear at this spot), reach out to one of the schools like Elevation Kiteboarding or Strong Kiteboarding.
If you're worried about the water being cold - it is Canada after all - you'll be surprised to hear that it's really not so bad. While a full suit is definitely recommended, a 3/2 suit will keep most kiters warm throughout the summer. Shoulder season could call for a warmer suit (4/3), but on those hot summer days you'll spot several kiteboarders in shorty suits!
The temperature off the water is a different story. Once the sun sets, the temperature drops quickly. Be sure to come prepared with several layers to stay warm in the evenings and overnight. A raincoat and shoes or boots that cover your ankles is also recommended just in case of rainy weather.
There's only one place to launch our kite at Nitinat Lake, but it's a long shoreline so you can spread out and find a spot to rig up even on a busy weekend. After you've secured a campsite or found a spot to park, haul your gear out to the rocky lakeshore and pick your location.
For those who are not extremely confident in their upwind ability, you'll want to walk to the upwind side of the lake and set up near the Elevation Kiteboarding HQ. The windsurfers usually launch further downwind bellow the giant tree stump. For the independent kiteboarder, I recommend launching anywhere between Elevation and the giant tree stump. There is a wind shadow on the lake further downwind, so if it's your first time at the spot it's a good idea to stay upwind of the stump while you're riding.
The wind on this spot is sideshore and the area can get surprisingly crowded, especially during a big event like Windfest. Be sure to keep your lines wrapped up if you're not launching or landing and respect your fellow kiteboarders! The tall trees along the shore present a hazard and create fluky wind, so the general rule at this spot is to launch with your kite towards the water, not towards the trees!
At Nitinat Lake, booties are in style. The rocks along the shoreline are covered in razor sharp barnacles, so wearing wetsuit booties or wetsocks is essential to keep your feet intact. If you go without, you are pretty much guaranteed to have sliced up feet by the end of your session.
Conditions on the water are semi-flat to large chop depending on how strong the wind is. On the windier days, you'll get nice rolling lake swell in both directions that can be used as kickers. Closest to the beach, the water is flatter, though there are more hazards and submerged objects to watch out for. Out on the water, you'll be sharing your session with the most stoked group of Canadian kiters there is! The steady wind at this spot makes for an awesome place to work on progression.
RIDING LEVEL & STYLE
There's kiters of all levels here, from those doing their first lessons to pro level kiters. This is one of the better spots to learn in Canada, especially if you're up for an adventure and want to dive deep into the kiting culture. Those that are camping at this spot are living and breathing kiteboarding and that Canadian outdoor lifestyle, so it's the ideal place to immerse yourself in learning to kite or progressing your skills. You can link up with the crew at Elevation Kiteboarding or Strong Kiteboarding to organize lessons.
You can ride any and all styles here, from freestyle to big air to foiling. Foilers will get the most opportunities to ride and you'll see foilers racing up and down the lake once the first puff of wind starts in the morning. While this is not a wave spot at all, that doesn't stop those on strapless and wave boards from getting on the water! The strapless freestyle scene here is very impressive. Bring whatever board you want here... you'll have a great time!
FACILITIES & SAFETY
To kite in this spot, preparation is everything. There's very little in the way of facilities out in this spot, so bring what you need. If you run into trouble with your kite gear, the two kite schools on the spot may be able to provide some support. They also offer jetski lessons and jetski support for riders who need supervision.
Off the water, this really is out in the wild. If you're staying in the campground, you will not have cell phone reception, running water, or power. Luckily, the Ditidaht First Nations Visitors Centre is not too far away and there's a small motel, corner store, and coin operated shower facility next door. You can even purchase a wifi voucher at the corner store and cafe!
This is not a daytrip friendly spot unless you're staying in the nearby town of Youbou (1 hour+), so come prepared for an overnight stay. That means camping gear and all the food, water, beer, ice, and first aid supplies you may need to keep yourself alive on this trip - it's a long drive to the nearest hospital! We also recommend bear spray and practicing good bear safety.
HOW TO GET THERE: If you're not from Canada, be sure to check visa requirements for your passport before traveling. The first step to getting to Nitinat Lake is getting to Vancouver Island. You can fly into YYJ (Victoria International Airport) and rent a car from there.
For those already in mainland Canada with a vehicle, you can take a ferry from Vancouver or Squamish (Canada's other premier kite destination). Check the BC Ferries website for schedules and prices. The ferry stop south of Vancouver and closest to the US Border and the Vancouver International Airport is Tsawwassen. North of Vancouver and close to Squamish is Horseshoe Bay. Choose a ferry that takes you to either Departure Bay/Duke Point (Nanaimo) or Swartz Bay (near Victoria).
Once you've arrived on the island, it's 2 1/2-3 hour drive to the kite spot. To ensure you don't get lost, put the West Coast Trail - Ditidaht First Nation Visitors Centre or Nitinaht Lake Campground into your GPS. Don't forget to download offline directions! Follow signs for Elevation Kiteboarding on the gravel road.
While you don't need a 4x4 to get here, small cars should drive with caution on the gravel road. It can be slippery and there are a few tight corners that sneak up on you. Watch out for logging trucks and deer - both are hazards on these roads.
WHERE TO STAY: While there is a motel nearby for those that are traveling internationally and not equipped for camping, half the fun of kiting in this spot is camping! The Nitinaht Lake Campground has sites available for approximately $20CAD per night per vehicle. Campsites cannot be reserved, so it's first come first served. On a busy weekend, the campground can fill up quickly. Luckily, in this area sharing campsites is not only acceptable but also encouraged!
The campground does not have showers, only outhouses without running water. There is a coin operated shower facility next to the motel, so bring your loonies and toonies! There is a water pump at the entrance of the campground that you can use to pump water for use at your site. There is no power to the campsites. For those that can't exist without phone reception or Wifi, there are Wifi vouchers available at the corner store. Know if there are any current fire restrictions or fire bans before you start a fire in your firepit.
WHAT TO BRING: Bring everything you need to survive for the entirety of your trip, including all the food you'll need. There's no takeaway pizzas or Uber Eats out here, so you'll need to bring all of your own food, water, and alcohol. There is a big shopping center in Duncan where you can stop to get supplied up. You should also consider bringing a tire repair kit (plugs), basic first aid, and bear spray.
This kite spot is truly one of a kind. This is a place where you'll find your kite tribe, whether you come alone or with friends. There's always a campfire with an extra tree stump open, and more often than not there's a talented Canadian strumming away on a guitar to cap off the evening. You'll never be quite as in the moment as you are here at Nitinat.
Thanks for following along on the Destinations journey!
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.
Written and produced by Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic and Crystal Veness