” …Ahh the Indian Ocean, it’s a big ocean all right. The deepest, on average, on earth. And unlike its big cousin the pacific it isn’t complicated by a dozen swell directions. Instead, there’s just one lethal mainline – the killer southwest groundswell, born in the gales of the Roaring Forties, curving up the coast of Kenya to destroy shipping on the continental fringe, spreading like jihad warriors across the ocean basin to explode on the serried ranks of coasts half the world away. Add to that the lovely monsoon winds that average 20-35 knots creating very big swells and up to 3.5m waves on the outer reef. Standing between the wind and Kenya are just a few small islands, unlocked from big brother Madagascar by continental drift 100 million years before mankind’s face was seen. The.Kenyan coast is such a paradise for kite surfing.
This paradise, it’s tropical, it cranks all winter long, the water is warm, sun shines and the sky’s blue. And if you count all the travel ads, it’s got one hell of a promotional budget. But Kenya is no longer this tame-subdued British East African holiday-colony destination. Kenya doesn’t deserve that bland little colonial put-down, and if you think it does, well, go have a little chat with top-of-the-line Kenyan-born kite surfers like Boris Polo, Xan Woods (Top right photo), Oliver Nicklin (Top left photo) or any of the boys who call it home.They’ll ask you for something you’ll never see in the travel ads: It’s called “respect”.
….One day a boat crew will come across a new Kenyan island, out there somewhere amongst this vast Indian ocean, and find some guy living in a local village with a copra plantation and his kite surfing gear and the guy will ask them: “So, is Clinton still president?”
Kenya’s coast has been launching a historical diaspora in reverse for the past few years. Kite surfers from 1st world countries have been blotting south to the third world seeking both salvation from their oppressive climate and the chance to unleash. As opposed to those being thrust upon you before you found that online ticket and said “f**k it”, I’ll book it and fly down, leaving all those poor suckers back at home suffering cold temperatures. Because sometimes, just saying “f–k it,” and walking away from whatever is weighing you down can be the cure-all and lead you to perfection. Pick a spot, any spot: Bamburi..Nyali..Watamu..Diani..Malindi..Lamu..Funzi..Anywhere but next to the Somali border and you’ll find aggressive consistent side-shore breezes, tropical wide sandy beaches for hassle-free launching and landing, and a choice of flat water, sandbar, lagoons or waves out on the reef making Kenya’s coastline the ideal place to Kite Surf and ride down-the-line on the reef break, boost massive airs or technical jumps such as toeside, rotations, raileys, deadman, and board off manoeuvres.
…Owner and friend Boris Polo (bottom photo), runs H2O Extreme which is East Africa’s first dedicated IKO kitesurf school and arguably the best Kite centre in the region to date. He has been in the business for almost 20 years and is responsible for taking Kenyan Kite Surfing to a whole new different level. Among its staff, H2O counts with Lindsay Kennaway (Right photo) who is the only Kenyan female kite instructor around. SUP, Sea Kayaks & wind-surfing also available besides island-hopping and boat-supported trips with a boat guy waiting to haul you out of trouble…which, when you see Diani’s outer reef waves at six to eight feet high, may not seem a luxury so much as a necessity. For more info click HERE to visit their website.
…our friend John Koyiet (right photo) runs Pepea Kite Center, which is kitted out with a Kite deck, designated teaching room and viewing area (left photo). It’s situated a mere 5 min hop away from Mombasa Backpackers on the pristine Nyali beach. They offer our guests the opportunity to learn/improve their kite-surfing skills right here in Mombasa. Kite tasters + 10% discount to our guests who Kite-surf with them. Just ask for David at reception for more information on latest deals. To visit Pepea’s website click HERE
*If heading north of Mombasa…
…three of Kenya’s top kite-surfers, Oliver, Xan (Right Photo) & Max, run a clinic in Watamu.‘Kite Waa-tamu’ is a kite surfing school and rental shop. It offers kite surfing lessons for beginners as well as advanced coaching . The school is fully equipped with top of the line 2011 Liquid Force school equipment. They are open from December until the end of March. And then from May until mid-September. Call Oliver (Left Photo) at 0724840382 or Click HERE to visit their site.
Due to its location and lack of wind shadow gives Kenya’s Indian coastline a degree of wind consistency throughout “most” of the year making it a genuine kite-surfing destination. But be aware, this paradise creating “lifetime memories” only take hold when suspended in a heavy elixir of legitimate strong monsoon winds. Throw in a flat spell on a windless day and the same guys who embrace fearsome big-wave experienced-only spots in Peru (Pacasmayo), vision-of-heaven 10 island-chain Cape Verde (Sal Island) or deal with crowded, hissing catfights Localism-friendly Mauritius (Le Morne) can sob their way into empty sugar sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and aquamarine tide sea over Technicolor reefs, every day more depressing and less sober than the last. Paradise becomes a prison, a broken promise. And at the end of the year, the East African coast rarely keeps its promises, its forecasts.
Chasing wind at the end of the year= crapshoot. There’s an equation for you, a real head scratcher. One you can never figure out. No matter how many times you stare at your weather forecast and crunch the numbers. On again, off again, score then skunk. That’s as close to a guarantee as you’ll ever get while trying to kite surf in Kenya with its sea known for fickleness and maddening flat spells.“Right place, wrong time”, it could be the theme of your trip. Get fully skunked hoping that at least at the last leg of your trip there would be a bonus before leaving, but in Kenya your bonus can easily turned into a boner and bent you right over.
Without doing proper weather research, you might show up for couple weeks, pray the wind stays strong to kite surf, brave some stink-eye, down some Tusker beers, stock up on Kenya Cane & caramel-tinted African-cream-liqueur Amarula for the girlfriend, and fly back home. Fully tanned and marginally fulfil. Gutless and gusty you’ll feel more bent than ever …Thank god patience is one of those things you learn when you travel a lot, right?
But by simply turning into a wind-stalker. Watch charts and wind patterns religiously (that means more than just windguru.com) while checking the buoys reports, waiting for that moment in which everything lines up, you’ll get your compensation. It forces fierce dedication and a willingness to drop everything – the Christmas turkey and New Year’s Eve plan included. Because it’s not exactly difficult to find the right momentum, some kite surfers, living within close flight proximity, frequent east Africa as though the drinks were free. Just to witness the beauty that it is when Mombasa becomes a foster home for wayward winds and rare swells, taking them in no question asked and providing them shapely, tropical African outer reefs to brake over. Indian Ocean storms of most any provenance, lost trade monsoon wind from the north-east, and even the odd tsunami pulse are all welcome on Mombasa’s shores. When the coast is pumping is not magical, is transformative, becoming the perennial fledgling trip turning Kenya’s whole image on its head. The type of run that makes fresh-find-focused kite-surf mags start thinking for cover shots and gets KSP licensees sniffing out contest sites.