Exploring a Caribbean kiting paradise with the Peter Lynn posse
In Issue #84, the Peter Lynn photo team joined rider Philip Kervel to be shown around the delights of this Caribbean island that is truly a year round kiteboarding holiday destination. KW editor, Jim Gaunt, spoke to team leader Roy van Baarsen to get the low down
When the Peter Lynn team wanted to get some new shots of their Escape V5 kite, they hoped for inspiring backgrounds and a spot that none of them had visited before. They considered France and Portugal, but in the end it was team rider Philip Kervel’s repeated invitation to his home island of Aruba that had them lured most heavily. In tow, along with Roy was Willem van der Meij – Red Bull King of the Air ripper – and photographer Rein Rijke who was fresh in from a snowboarding shoot, so Aruba would be a great contrast for him in April.
When you usually think of kiteboarding in the Caribbean the focus on conditions lies between December and March for places like Barbados and Antigua, but Aruba in the southern Caribbean, 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is in fact a genuinely good option all year. If you’re looking for lovely, warm conditions and moderate winds for nine to eleven metre kites, Aruba offers a lot, and has several spots for different conditions.
The first thing to note is that the wind is much less dense than the colder winds elsewhere, such as in Europe or northwest USA, so although it may feel very windy, it’s usually not as windy as you think and you’ll still be able to get away with your nine or eleven metre kites. Of the ten days that the team visited Philip, they got six good days on the water.
Philip is a bit of a local hero having taught lots of riders and is one of the most talented Aruban riders. He got to know the Peter Lynn team when he was studying for his PhD in the Netherlands for a couple of years, but his heart lies with the water. His father did a lot of sailboat racing and event organising and he introduced Philip to sailing and windsurfing at an early age. Kiteboarding took over as soon as he got his hands on a kite.
Obviously it helps having a local guide like Philip to quickly set your bearings around the island, but if you were to turn up fresh and green you’d get along just fine in Aruba. Most people stay in the ‘North’. It’s actually simply (and appropriately for the laid back culture of the island) just called ‘North’ and is where the most famous Aruban kite spot ‘Fisherman’s Huts’ is found. As well as a long line of fisherman’s huts along the beach, this is the main tourist hub of the island with high-rise apartments blocks, hotels and malls lining the beachfront, so you’ll find all the luxury beachfront residency you could wish for. The easterly wind blows offshore at the spot so the buildings don’t help clean up the wind at all, but the water stays shallow for around two kilometres offshore, meaning you can find space and good wind for kiting further out.
There are also a lot of boats out in the water and even if you’re not having lessons with the local schools or hotels, the drivers are generally happy to help you if you get into the trouble. The island’s emblem on their logo reads ‘One Happy Island’ and it certainly seems true for the most part. Although that area in the north is a centre for tourist culture, as kiters you won’t really get treated like regular tourists, you’ll simply be treated like kiters. The island is known for being one of the safest in the Caribbean and for its friendly residents and beautiful beaches. You’ll always be welcome to pull up a seat and have a beer, or join a fire or BBQ. Look out for the Windmill bar where there are many parties… and something called ‘homegrown’ apparently comes highly recommended, too.
Away from this area you can find much more solitude in the kiting spots, but Fisherman’s offers that buzzing atmosphere and lots of social interaction with a multitude of bars on the beach and in-between the hotels. The tourists often pull up for a front row seat for the best show in town when there are good riders out as the flat water and offshore winds mean that the tricks can be safely thrown close to the beach, providing hours of entertainment and excitement. So, if you’re looking for vibes, that’s the place to go.
Baby Beach is right in the south of the island and Roy reckons it’s the real hidden gem. “The southern part of the island near the oil refinery is quite sketchy with drugs and hookers as easily available as each other. If you were a tourist and found your way to that area, you’d likely turn the car around again and head back north, but Philip led us through there and to probably the most magical spot on the island.”
Baby Beach is a flat water spot that you’re only allowed to kite at until nine o’clock in the morning, before the swimmers claim it back. The guys had two sessions there in the early sunrise.
“You probably wouldn’t go there as a tourist, but we had the entire spot to ourselves for two hours in the most amazing morning light. Only the locals seem to know about it and Philip reckons there are usually just a couple of guys out there enjoying its hidden beauties!” says Roy.
There are waves too if that’s your bag. Boca Grandi on the southeast corner offers the bluest waters on the island, especially when viewed from the elevated sand dunes that provided the perfect aspect for shooting. Blowing cross-onshore from the right, the winds are safer here and there’s no one waiting around to rescue you, so you need to be proficient, but again this place doesn’t get crowded. “You can park your car on the road and walk to the spot.” says Roy, “But we hired a 4×4 and drove on the beach right to the waterfront, it was brilliant.”
There’s a lot of action to be had here with a half moon bay, white sand beaches and the waves breaking out on the reef. “You really feel like you’re on the outside corner of the island there.” Roy continued. “ The nature is rugged and raw and it’s a completely contrasting experience to that of Fisherman’s. I really liked it.”
Driving north to south on the island will take between 45 minutes and an hour, so everywhere is accessible and heading to the west coast there’s one more flat water spot worth a mention, Barcadera which is near Balashi, between the industrial docks and palm island. It can be tricky to find a clean wind direction there, but as you can see it’s stunning and nice and quiet.
WIND, WEATHER AND WATER:
Between January and September the trade winds average between 17 and 28 knots. October to November sees a drop to between 11 and 19 knots. December to June is the best for waves, but you’ll find surf year-round with the wind. Air temperatures remain solid at 25°C. On one side of the island you get flat water and offshore winds and, on the other, onshore winds with waves. You’ll find everything you need in Aruba’s town areas. The average temperature is a beautiful 23°C.
If you can’t over indulge here then you won’t anywhere. The night life is awesome, the food fantastic and in the day you can entertain yourself with the golden, sandy beaches or take a scuba diving course, go sailing, wakeboarding, surfing, play golf or hire a quad bike.
WORDS > Jim Gaunt
PHOTOS > Zout Fotografie
This feature appeared in Issue #84 of Kiteworld Mag. Subscribe to the mag for guaranteed travel stoke in every issue!