Best of the Rest
INTRO – Tarifa is still one of the most important venues in world kiteboarding. Many brands continue to base their R&D centres there for all or part of the year and is, without doubt, the nerve-centre of European riding culture, providing a strong beating heart that keeps the travelling throngs pumping in
Lying just a 30 minute ferry ride from Africa (Tangiers, Morocco), Tarifa is so close to the world's second largest continent that you can almost feel that tribal, earthly beat. Only Hood River and Cabarete come close in terms of evoking such a kiteboarding spirituality. It seems like everyone here rides: the high street is lined with equipment shops and schools; every car and van has some sort of kite-related stickers in the window and beach car parks overflow as soon as the flags start to flutter. In July and August you can get up to a thousand kiters out. Avoid those months and you'll always find yourself a good stretch of water to enjoy the varied conditions.
The beaches buzz with energy and excitement as well-known pro riders litter the sand and water like shiny pebbles on a shingle shore. Amongst them young class mates from school try to out-do each other, trick-by-trick, older guys perfect their surfboard tacks, transitions and banking carves for when the waves pick up and learners embark on their first, hair-raising body drag. Threading their way along the beach, owners walk their dogs, children play in the sand and, sprinkled suggestively, are bronzed European men and women in skimpy swimsuits worshipping the sun.
Looking along the beach from Arte Vida back to town you could watch the way kites swiftly out manoeuvre each other for hours. The silent grace of the sport deafens you here like nowhere else.
Even in town, the myriad bars and clubs coolly bump and groove to the wind's patterns. Will the brave be out reliving the challenges of brutal, cross-off Levante winds or have souls been soothed by the playful Poniente, that blows opposite; cross-on, from the right. Whichever, each night you can duck down little cobbled streets, find an open door with with a chic candle-lit bar or nip next door and eat exquisite tapas with the locals.
Don't let your first impressions fool you; there's more to this place than just kiteboarding, though. There's a large, traditional Spanish population that probably hate the wind! Venture away from the beach and you'll find beautiful valleys and picturesque roads leading to white-washed villages, incredible mountain biking routes and stunning sights, such as the Straits of Gibraltar. This isn't a tourist town on its knees in an economic crisis. It's affluent in ways most of us will never know. Passion runs deep and the energy bounces off the city walls. Anywhere that provides the resting place for so many adventurous travellers has something special.
The reason people come to Tarifa has never changed, from the time it developed as a windsurfing town, morphed into a trendy clothing and party town and now rests as a multi-sport / kiteboarding venue for travellers from all over the world. Tourists still come here to enjoy the surroundings, the wind, the beaches and the parties because that revitalising, surf-city feeling has never died.
Days are just numbers, weeks float by and, of course, there's always tomorrow.
COMING THIS WEEK....
We've picked three riders to profile whose make-up fabric typifies the kind of people that are drawn here. The fact that they are three of the most accomplished riders in the sport today and spend most of their time in Tarifa, highlights the nature of the riding, lifestyle and development opportunities that Tarifa still presents. Stay tuned to Kiteworldmag.com and our Facebook fan page for more updates