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Downwinders: Cape Hatteras



CLASSIC DOWNWINDERS: CAPE HATTERAS,
NORTH CAROLINA

INTRO ? Arguably the home of the kiteboarding downwind universe. Loyal defenders of their home turf could be up in arms about that statement, but here are the facts:

WORDS ? Trip Foreman
Cape Hatteras has 140 miles of coastline evenly split between ocean and sound-side riding. There is nearly unlimited water access on both sides of the island throughout this entire 140 mile stretch. The geographic bend in the island makes every wind angle on the compass a favorable one for downwind runs. Just slide up or down the island and you can find a ten mile stretch (or more) that is side-shore to that wind direction. Highway 12 runs the entire length of the island and is easy walking distance from every access point to the water along the island. Kiters can set up a downwind car or walk back to the highway and hitch-hike their way back upwind. If you are a skier or snowboarder, think of Highway 12 as your 'chairlift' back upwind. The variety of riding terrain and downwind potential in ALL wind directions make Cape Hatteras an unbelievable downwind kiting playground.

The two bodies of water you will be kiting on when in Cape Hatteras are the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The Pamlico Sound is waist deep all the way to the horizon in every direction for the entire length of the island. You can try proving us wrong by riding until you can't see any land land and then step off your board. The water will still be waist deep! This means you can concentrate on improving your riding feeling secure, and the shallow depth keeps chop and swell to a minimum, making for smooth edging and massive jumps and big G-force turns. If you are looking for total glass, pull in behind one of the many grass islands that block all the chop and allow only the wind to pass over them unobstructed. Famous riding venues like 'The Slick' and 'Planet of the Apes' provide total oil conditions even when the wind is blowing well into the 30s.

Only several hundred yards away from the sound-side spots is the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Hatteras divides the North and South Atlantic Oceans and is a brewing pot for strong storms, high winds and large surf. This all adds up to epic kiteboarding in the ocean and the potential for unforgettable downwinders. For those wanting to do their first downwinders in the ocean, you can catch the waves small if you hit the first several days of the blow. Whether the wind is NW, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW or W, there is a place to do a downwinder in the ocean with good waves. The waves have a lot of punch, often being as thick as they are tall. The bottom is all sand with no rocks or reef to worry about. The only obstructions along the entire coastline are two piers in Avon and Frisco and also the three jetties in Buxton, all clearly visible from miles away.

With all this access to perfect downwind riding, the riding culture in Cape Hatteras is about as downwind oriented as you will find anywhere in the world. Locals 'burn' downwind, riding so fast that visitors simply can't keep up with them. The only way to describe it is comparing ti when visiting skiers or snowboarders hook up with a mountain local who then disappears over the hill, never to be seen again. Speed off the wind is the friend of all downwind kiters here and rather than the downwinder being an 'adventure' like in most other kiting destinations, in Cape Hatteras, it is treated like a 'run', again much like that in the mountains. Local and visiting riders alike often rack up three or more seven mile downwind runs throughout the course of a day, either setting up cars at the downwind end or meeting other riders at the finish line and getting a ride with them. This actually is how most riders meet each other in Cape Hatteras. Some of the longer runs are well above 30 miles, but that is by no means the limit of how far you can ride!


With nearly unlimited access to the water and every wind direction providing endless downwind potential, Cape Hatteras is the home of the downwinder with hundreds of downwind options, run lengths and a variety of water terrain.

PAMLICO SOUND DOWNWINDERS
#01: KITE POINT TO 1st TURNOUT
DISTANCE: Seven miles
AVERAGE TIME TO COMPLETE: 90 minutes
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: SW, S, NW, N
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Flat water and pass through one slick


#02: PLANET OF THE APES TO REAL
DISTANCE: Eight miles ? this is a long one, so not best for early intermediates
AVERAGE TIME TO COMPLETE: Two hours
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: SW
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Flat water, two slicks and one canal


#03: SALVO DAY USE AREA TO REAL (THE SLICK)
DISTANCE: Three miles
AVERAGE TIME TO COMPLETE: One hour
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: SW
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Flat water, one slick


#04: FRISCO WOODS CAMPGROUND TO THE WASHOUT
DISTANCE: Four miles
AVERAGE TIME TAKEN: 45 minutes
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: E, NE, W, SW and NW
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Flat water

ATLANTIC OCEAN DOWNWINDERS
#05: RAMP 34 TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
DISTANCE: Seven miles
AVERAGE TIME TAKEN: 90 minutes
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: NE and S
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Waves and pass one pier (Avon pier)


#06: FERRY DOCKS TO FRISCO PIER
DISTANCE: Five miles
AVERAGE TIME TAKEN: One hour
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: SW and E
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Waves and pass one pier (Frisco pier)


#07: OREGON INLET TO RODANTHE
DISTANCE: Ten miles
AVERAGE TIME TAKEN: Two hours
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: NW, N, NE, SE and S
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Flat water and four or more slicks (sound-side) or waves (ocean-side)


#08: FRISCO AIRPORT TO THE COVE
DISTANCE: Four miles
AVERAGE TIME TAKEN: 75 minutes
WORKING WIND DIRECTIONS: NW, W and WSW
CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED: Waves (ocean) or flat water (sound)

Trip Forman has been kiteboarding in Cape Hatteras since 1998 and is the co-founder of Real Kiteboarding. For more Cape Hatteras kiteboarding info, including wind stats, travel info and more, check out realkiteboarding.com. There is also a stack of travel info on spots around the world at www.kiteworldmag.com/travel/

Read issue #34 HERE



Wainman Hawaii

Added: 2012-09-06

Category: Features

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