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Oasis Magazine Articles

Kite Surfing in Egypt

By Cristina de Kok Cordova

“One, two, three …. Hard RIGHT! Push the BAR! Go, go, GO!”

These are the words shouted to me over the wind and waves by Khaled, my kite surfing instructor. I would have never dreamt that I would be taking kite surfing lessons, yet here I am, in my super stretch neoprene wetsuit. Considering that the average European water temperatures vary from an icy 2C in Scandinavia to maybe 18C in Cyprus - compare that to a fabulous 23°C in Egypt, and it would be hard to argue there is any better place to kite surf.

For more than an entire season I tagged along grudgingly while my husband, who was already an experienced wind-surfer with a sailing license, took lessons. I took the required photos and videos; with our trusty water and sand-proof digital camera in hand. I waded in knee-deep water happy that my water shoes protected my feet from sharp shells and slippery rocks. But mostly I camped out on the beach in the shade of our palm leaf thatch umbrella with a book. It seemed to take forever between the initial lessons of launching and landing the kite, and then finally steering the kite and maneuvering onto the board and riding. I’m sure I read dozens of books by the time my husband reached the level to ride independently. By then he had graduated from taking lessons to renting equipment to purchasing his own and paying only for equipment storage and rescue and beach service to help launch and land. 

Then one day, towards the end of the second season, came the question: “Why don’t you give it a try?”

I can give you a long list of reasons why I never intended to take up kite surfing. First of all, I am an indoors person. My favorite sport is not jogging, tennis or golf – I’d much rather work out at the gym, out of the sun and with the air conditioning on. I am not particularly fond of baking on the beach, I am not a good swimmer, and I have a fear of drowning. This makes water sports low on my list of preferred activities. Like many people, I have to think twice when coordinating between the verbal labeling of right and left and the actual physical response. I rarely flew a kite as a child, and I frequently have doubts which way is downwind and which angle that is from the shore since the wind is invisible and turns without me noticing.

To put it mildly, kite surfing is a challenge for me. But maybe that’s what I love about it. Being in control of a giant kite – 9 or maybe even 12 meters – which responds to a delicate touch, softly coaxing it to stay in the air and move back and forth at my will is such a unique feeling. Harnessing the wind and drinking up the sun, away from the hustle and bustle of Cairo – no phone calls, emails or other distractions,  floating in the water waiting for the just the right moment  to turn the bar and let the kite lift me out of the water. 

Unlike many sports that you can teach yourself through trial and error, kite surfing is a sport that requires the supervision of a qualified kite surfing instructor. The safest places to kite on the Red Sea are those who will ask for your certification and if you don’t have one will suggest a refresher session with an instructor before allowing you to rent or even to kite with your own equipment.  Also check that helmets are required and that the kite center offers a rescue boat for helping you out when you get into trouble, say if the wind dies and you are in the middle of the bay or if one of your lines break.

All the equipment you need is normally included in the lesson fee: namely a kite, a bar, the lines to connect to the kite, a board, and a harness. You can usually find a wetsuit, helmet, impact vest, and booties in your size - but it’s also nice to have your own. While you are learning, use the gear owned by the instructor or school. This will let you get familiar with various types of gear and make it much easier to select the correct type and size kite when it’s time to buy. Once you have completed the course, or you are in the final stages of your lessons, you can consider buying your own gear.
It’s almost impossible to say how long it will take you to learn how to kite surf. Especially in the beginning stages, learning to kite surf is controlled more by external factors than anything that has to do with you. Namely, the weather, the quality of the instructor, the equipment and other factors will affect your learning. If some of these variables are out of whack, it makes kite surfing much more difficult. Don’t be discouraged if you are not up on the board after 9 hours (which is about all the lessons you can fit into one intense weekend). Depending on your athletic ability, your knowledge of other board sports (such as wakeboarding, windsurfing, snowboarding and skateboarding) and the weather conditions, it may take anywhere between 12 and 20 hours of lessons. It’s not difficult, but it does take some time until the basic movement becomes instinctive. In general women learn faster than men. Kite boarding is more about finesse and control, rather than brute strength. 

So, would I recommend kite surfing to you? Definitely. Egypt is a kite surfer’s paradise – so don’t waste the opportunity. You don’t need to be an extremely athletic type, but all the better if you are generally fit. Being in shape will give you the stamina you need to keep going. Once you get the hang of it, your skills improve and it becomes less strenuous since the kite does most of the work. In Egypt you are sure to find kite surfers of all ages, nationalities and levels of experience, all willing to share the experience and the warm water of the Rea Sea with you!

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