Kite surfing in Witsand is rated as the top uncrowned kite surfing destinations in South Africa. The onshore South Easter is the prevailing wind that blows in from the ocean during the summer. The river is mostly flat on the near side and you can ride very close to the edge of the river. The Westerly wind is also ride-able during the winter months.
Kite surfing has been described as combining wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding and gymnastics into one extreme sport. Kite surfing harnesses the power of the wind to propel a rider across the water on a small surfboard (similar to a wakeboard). There are a number of different styles of kite boarding, including freestyle, free ride, down winders, speed, course racing, wake style, jumping and wave-riding which is focused on kite surfing big waves using a directional board similar to a surfboard.
The modern day development of kite surfing was done by the Roeselers in the USA and the Legaignoux in France. Bill Roeseler, a boeing aerodynamicist, and his son Cory Roeseler patented the “KiteSki” system which consisted of water skis powered by a two line delta style kite controlled via a bar mounted combined winch/brake. The KiteSki was commercially available in 1994. The kite had a rudimentary water launch capability and could go upwind.
In 1995, Cory Roeseler visited Peter Lynn at New Zealand’s Lake Clearwater in the Ash Burton Alpine Lakes area, demonstrating speed, balance and upwind angle on his “ski”. In the late 1990’s, Cory’s ski’s evolved to a single board similar to a surfboard.
In 1996, Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin were instrumental in demonstrating and popularizing kite surfing off the Hawaiian coast of Maui. In 1997, the Legaignoux brothers developed and sold the breakthrough “Wipika” kite design which had a structure of performed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips, both of which greatly assisted water re-launch. Bruno Legaignoux has continued to improve kite designs, including developing the bow kite design, which has been licensed to many kite manufacturers.
In 1997, specialist kite boards were developed by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness. By 1998 kite surfing had become a mainstream sport, and several schools were teaching kite surfing. The first competition was held on Maui in September 1998 and won by Flash Austin. By 1999, single direction boards derived from windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kite board. From 2001 onwards, twin-tip-bi-directional boards became more popular for most flat water riders, with directional boards still in use for surf conditions.
Today, kite surfing has evolved as a sport and can be seen in many locations across South Africa. Witsand is an amazing and uncrowned location.