Learning to Kitesurf in Tarifa, Spain

Posted on June 30, 2015 by

The wind is blowing strong and hard, tugging at my kite. Overhead, the sun’s rays are glaring and blinding my eyes. The wide, sandy beach stretches for miles and the cool waters of the Mediterranean are calling.

I’m in Tarifa, trying my hands at kitesurfing, a sport I’ve long wanted to dabble in. For the uninitiated, kitesurfing is water sport that harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a board similar to a wakeboard.

I’ve done surfing in Bali, wakeboarding in the Philippines and sailing in Hawaii — kitesurfing seems like the natural progression. I’ve also heard that kitesurfing is actually quite easy to learn and you can feel like a pro in just a few days.

Here in the southernmost point of continental Europe, the strong winds make Tarifa one of the best places to learn kitesurfing. Known as the wind capital of Europe, Tarifa benefits from daily windy conditions, from two main directions: East and West.

The winds blow across this part of Spain all year round, although the most popular season is from July to August. In winter, the temperatures are warm and mild, between 12 and 20 degrees, and in the summer temperatures rise to 30 or 35 degrees.

Kitesurfing in the water

A Crash Course in Kitesurfing

I’ve signed up for a four-hour beginner kite course at Aurelia Herpin Kite School to learn the basics.  The school offers a whole range of courses from beginners to advanced, in the form of private and group lessons (two persons per instructor). You can also choose any duration from one day to a week.

My kitesurfing lesson starts bright and early at Playa de los Lances, a 7km stretch of wide sandy beach just outside of Tarifa town. The beach is part of the Natural Park of the Strait (Parque Natural del Estrecho) and is protected by the park authorities.

A popular spot for kitesurfers

It’s a hot favorite among kitesurfing schools because of the large bay that is exposed to lots of wind without any obstruction and the wide sandy space that allows for land practice. The beach is nothing like the touristy, crowded beaches in other parts of southern Spain where beach benches fill every inch of the sand. Here, the wide beach sprawls for miles without any resort or beach bench in sight.

Miguel, my instructor from Algeciras, has been teaching kitesurfing for over five years. An avid kitesurfing enthusiast, he spends half of the year here in the Mediterranean, and the other half teaching on the beaches of Philippines and Vietnam. He chose to set up base here in Tarifa, not only because it’s one of the best places in the world to kitesurf, but also because it’s got a great surfing community and a vibrant nightlife and great atmosphere.

kiting in the water

A Sport for Everyone

Kitesurfing is a relatively new sport, with some of the safety measures still being developed. Every year, there are numerous kitesurfing accidents taking place around the world. Miguel says that most of these accidents occur because of inexperienced surfers using old kites that are not designed with safety features. As long as you follow the rules, kitesurfing is a safe sport that doesn’t necessarily put your life at risks.

According to Miguel, anyone can learn kite surfing. “I’ve seen 200kg Russian men kitesurfing gracefully in Boracay. If they can do it, anyone can.”  Indeed, on the beach itself, there must have been at least 200 or more people trying to kitesurf. This sport has clearly gained a lot of popularity and becoming the latest fad.

That said, it’s doesn’t mean that kitesurfing is easy and fast to learn. First you need to learn how to control the kite outside the water — that alone took me 2.5 hours. Then you actually get into the water without a board where you learn to manoeuvre the kite and learn bodydragging (to be dragged on the water by the board).

Learning to maneuver the kite on land

Only after you’ve mastered these two stages, you can start practising with the board. I barely reached the final stage in my four-hour beginner’s kite course, but Miguel said I was already a fast learner. Most people usually need at least a three-day course to pick up the basics of kitesurfing.

Overall, the experience was lots of fun and I can see myself pursing kitesurfing further. Even though I underestimated the amount of time needed to master it, I’m already looking forward to my next course.


Disclaimer: Our experience was made possible by Aurelia Herpin Kite School but all opinions expressed above are our own. 

About Alberto Molero

Alberto Molero is the co-founder, photographer and designer of WildJunket. With an infectious sense of adventure, he’s fed his adrenaline cravings with scuba-diving trips in Borneo, wildlife jaunts on the Galapagos Islands and hiking expeditions to Iceland and Australia. He constantly dreams of living on the beach and going surfing all day.

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