Inspired by people asking on Facebook if Tarifa is a good place to learn kitesurfing, or actually by some people answers to this question, I decided to introduce you to a more professional point of view.
Many people book holidays to places like Egypt or Zanzibar, thinking that the perfect flat lagoon with shallow water and low wind conditions make a spot perfect to learn kitesurfing. As an Instructor with years of experience, I can assure you they couldn’t be more wrong.
When travelling I work also as a sports therapist, specialised in kitesurfing. On one of Lost Elements Kitesurfing trips, a woman was referred to me with a “whiplash” after an unsuccessful water start. She landed with her head in the sand due to the shallow water.
I don’t even want to mention the number of people that come out of the water with cuts from broken shells or that step on a sea archon.
Another negative thing about the shallow water spots is that usually schools either don’t teach properly how to body drag, they don’t teach it at all or they spend the minimum time on teaching body drags.
This usually means that your kite control won’t be great when you try your water start, so this step in your kitesurfing course will take you longer. Most importantly, as soon as you practice kitesurfing on a high tide or different spot with deep water and you lose your board, you will realise that you don’t know how to body drag to retrieve it, and this will cost you several €€€.
Of course, flat water in kitesurfing is always nice to do first steps or practice new tricks. However, many fresh riders, unconsciously limit themselves to only these conditions. If you only know how to practice kitesurfing in flat water, you will probably need to hire an instructor when you go to another spot with a bit of wave or chop water, because your ability to ride will drop dramatically. I can refer to it, as part of my training as a rider took place in Egypt. When I went back to my home spot, with a bit of chop, I had to learn how to kitesurf again!… of course it was very frustrating.
Low wind conditions is what attracts many faint hearted, “It’s safer!” is what I hear.
Not many people know that the most professional and the safest way of teaching is by using short lines set up. Just to explain, most kites on the market come with about 22-25m lines, for the first experience in kitesurfing, the length of the line should be about 5m. The main reason for this is that with such a short line, the student won’t be able to loop the kite and be dragged on the beach as the power zone is very small. So the shorter the lines, the smaller the power zone and the safest for the student when learning kitesurfing.
The problem with learning kitesurfing in low wind conditions, is that there are many days when the kite hardly hangs in the air even with long lines, so there is no chance to teach on short, therefore, students are thought on long-line set up which is very dangerous, because the power zone is so big, that even fully depowered kite is able to generate enough power to throw the student in the air.
Now, time to talk about Tarifa, ”The wind capital of Europe”. Here we have a full spectrum of conditions. From perfectly flat water with cross-offshore winds, to chop on very strong side off-shore winds or waves on cross-onshore conditions.
The water is never shallow to walk with a kite while practising. But didn’t you want to learn a water sport? Only by practising in deep water, you will become a fully independent and confident kitesurfer.
One thing you have to know about the wind. It’s actually easier to learn kitesurfing with 40 knots wind than with 12 knots. The kite is more responsive, forgiving in case of mistakes. It’s easy to relaunch it from the water and it doesn’t back stall.
Most important for you is actually the fact that it’s much safer to learn kitesurfing on high winds since you can learn with short lines, as mentioned before thanks to a very narrow power zone. Short lines will give you a much better feeling for the kite during the first hours of your training. They will make it easier for you to understand the behaviour of the kite. This will give you faster results and improvement.
Tarifa is one of the not many places in the world with the almost guaranteed wind. Not everywhere you can explain the never-ending wind so easily. Fortunately, the magic of Tarifa is less than rocket science.
If you have a look at the map, you will see the most southern part of Europe in the shape of a triangle, pointing down straight to Africa. On the tip of that triangle is Tarifa.
Now, if you have a look lower, there is an almost identical triangle sticking out from Africa. On both sides of the ocean, there are mountains.
This specific shape of the landscape, compresses the wind between Africa and Europe, making it accelerate and creates the so-called Venturi effect, on a very large scale.
This give Tarifa almost guaranteed wind for everyday of the season.
Almost everyone who is serious about becoming a kitesurfer, goes home happy.
If you want to become a good, confident and most important safe rider, be capable of dealing with any sort of conditions, Tarifa is the place to be.