Essaouira Kite Surf | A Kite Surfer’s Dream
Essaouira is a kitesurfer’s dream. A cultural hub located about 3 hours from Marrakesh, Essaouira is one of Morocco’s oldest and most well-known port cities. Located in the middle of the Moroccan coastline and behind a large island called Mogador, Essaouira has always been a prosperous city due to it’s safe harbor and rich culture. There is even evidence that this corner of the world has been occupied since prehistoric times! Now-a-days, this place is home to one of the biggest kitesurfing industries in the world.
What makes Essaouira ideal for kitesurfing? Well, due to the convergence of offshore winds and downshore winds, along with the shape of the beach and proximity to the Northeast trade winds, this special place receives reliable year-round winds and large swells which makes kitesurfing quite exciting. Essaouira is consistently sought out by kitesurfing pros, as well as enthusiasts who want the perfect conditions to pick up the sport.
The local weather patterns have a serious impact on kitesurfing conditions anywhere. The wind quality in Essaouira is consistent and steady. There is about at 70-80% wind reliability all-year round. This means that one can expect to kitesurf during their stay in Essaouira. The winds in Essaouira blow offshore from the right, directly near the center. The shape of Essaouira’s bay causes the winds to cross further downwind where it will gust cross shore to cross on. This is historically, where the waves are best.
The best time for beginners is between 9 and 11 in the mornings, since the winds have just started kicking up and the ocean is calmer. After 11, the wind usually picks up speed and this can be a good time for intermediate kitesurfers. After 12 o’clock, the winds are usually quite strong and keep up their speed until sundown.
Additionally, there aren’t many places in the world where the conditions are right for people to kitesurf AND surf in the same water. The only other beaches in the world that have the right combination of sideshore/side-onshore winds AND swells are in Mauritius, South Africa, and Hawaii. If you’re living in Europe, flights to those beaches could cost you an arm and a leg. If you want to kitesurf in Essaouira, it’s only a 4 hour flight away!
Lastly, Essaouira is a culturally interesting place on and off the water. After kitesurfing, get lost in the medina and make your way through the fish market for lunch. Fresh fish is caught daily each and brought into the city each morning. After a fish lunch, you can shop the local artisan crafts and enjoy a relaxing hammam experience. There is always something to do inside the city walls. After you see the city, you will think who would have thought that this quiet fishing town would become one of the most popular kitesurfing destinations in the world?
Kitesurfing is a relatively new sport. Activities that bear a resemblance have been around for 40-50 years but kitesurfing didn’t gain notoriety as a popular water sport until 1996 when famous surfer Laird Hamilton demonstrated how it’s done in Maui. Just as a kite catches a gust of wind, the popularity of kiteboarding drifted from a place of obscurity to mainstream interest at every beachside surf school! The first official competition took place in Hawaii in 1998. 20 years later, it’s grabbed the attention of everybody who visits this area of Morocco.
In 2012, there was a large movement for kitesurfing to be added to the Olympics. It almost replaced windsurfing actually. While not yet a full addition, it certainly is a positive step forward for the sport. It was officially added for the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires however.
Can anybody kitesurf?
At first glance, kitesurfing seems incredibly challenging and for some, even downright scary to stand on the board. The reality it anything but! Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be experienced (or Achilles) in order to properly kitesurf. It’s very common to see 10 year olds on the water. There’s even an organization called ‘Project 65+’ – it’s a group of women aged 65-78 who kiteboard together. Girls especially shouldn’t be put off by preconceptions that you need huge muscles to properly navigate your board. With the right kite, absolutely anybody can properly kitesurf. It’s also important to remember – your arms shouldn’t be taking the strain, the pull of the kite goes through your harness so it’s really your core that gets the workout.
Just remember that kitesurfing is one of those rare sports that is easier to do than it looks. You can get up and riding in no time at all, especially if you have a background in other board sports.
How to kitesurf?
While kitesurfing may be easier than it seems, it’s still important to learn a fundamental understanding of the process before getting on your board. The kiteboard is similar to a wakeboard. When your harness is on and your feet are in the bindings, you can use the direction of the wind to manipulate your kite as you please.
There are many different types of boards available. Newer boards (twin tip bi-directional boards) offer a better ability to handle flat waters yet simultaneously offer more freestyle potential. Kitesurfing may seem difficult, but anyone has the potential to get good at this sport! It just takes some balance and a strong understanding of the winds. At the Sidi Kaouki Surf Station, we have seen some people master this in just a day’s time. Of course, it is important to have the right conditions when starting out, but once you have built your confidence you can be kitesurfing with all sorts of winds and waves.
Kitesurfing in Morocco
Kitesurfing is huge in Morocco. The Atlantic coast is known for strong gusts ideal for those interested in riding the wind. A few years back, Morocco made kitesurfing history when Kirsty Jones kite-surfed from the Canary Islands to the central Moroccan coast in 9 hours. She covered 225 km on the journey cementing her position as one of the all time greats. Since then, Morocco has only continued to grow as one of the top kitesurfing destinations in the world. Due to its warm, year-round temperatures, thousands of miles of coastland, and reliable winds, Morocco is a convergence of all the aspects of a great kite-surfing spot. Add in the proximity to Europe and low-cost travel options, and you have yourself a world-class kitesurfing destination.
Benefits of Kitesurfing
Kitesurfing is extraordinarily good for you! It’s a mid to high intensity activity but freeriding can actually be pursued in a way that’s relatively relaxing. Some can even ride in long sessions of 2 or 3 hours. One of the greatest benefits of kitesurfing is the flexibility it offers riders. Teenagers can go as fast as they please while senior citizens (no joke!) can ride at a pace they’re comfortable with. Here are some of the many benefits of kitesurfing:
- It works out your whole body! Involves MANY different muscle groups.
- Improves your coordination.
- Mindfulness! Kitesurfing releases endorphins and requires that you pay very close attention to your actions which helps your mind better focus.
- Great for camaraderie! Kitesurfers are a community and always share experiences to help others. It is a norm to exchange advice when you run into a fellow rider of the wind.
- Your attitude toward the environment will develop. You’ll better understand wind patterns with time and grow to hate any type of crowd pollution! (Thankfully Sidi Kaouki is as clean as it is wild nature!)
- You’ll be inspired to travel to new locations and will discover some of the most beautiful beaches in the world along your way. If that’s not a benefit then I don’t know what is!
Ideal conditions for Kitesurfing
When looking for a great kiteboarding spot, try to locate a destination with steady, onshore winds between 10 and 40 knots. You want to find a large stretch of beach (not a small crowded bay) that is relatively uncluttered. While kitesurfing can take place on large lakes, inlets, and rivers, we prefer beachside kiteboarding because it incorporates waves which allow you to experiment more! Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for kiteboarding (otherwise you might get taken out too far). If the wind does cause you trouble, don’t fret! Our surf school is the only one in the area that offers jet-skis to keep you protected. We can retrieve you should an unexpected gust of wind send you the wrong direction. There are many great destinations for kitesurfing: Vietnam, Florida, Aruba, Costa Rica, but our absolute favorite is in Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. It’s one of the few places in the world where surfing conditions are equally optimal for both kitesurfers and surfers.
Come find out for yourself and surf at the Sidi Kaouki Surf Station. We have kitesurfing lessons and tours available to get you from Essaouira out to Sidi Kaouki for a day of kitesurfing.