Lucy Miller heads to the Morocco’s windiest city, Essaouira
Wetsuit and safety jacket on...check; the sea’s cold and rough so you’ll need some buoyancy.
Safety harness on...check.
Have you got your kite? Yes. You now need to pump it up so it catches the wind. Check.
How about the handle? You’ll need to attach this to the kite, which then attaches to your safety belt in order for the kite to drag you through the water. Oh, the handle helps steer the kite too. Got it?
Board? This what you’ll stand on as the kite drags you through the sea.
Anything else? “Where’s the brake?” I ask as the kite catches the wind and viciously drags me along Essaouira’s lush but very windy beach. Don’t worry it’s great fun – our instructor Hamzem’s famous last words.
Kite surfing, started back in the late 1990’s. It’s a sport I’d never heard of until the news that it will be added to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. That gives me at least another 24 years to practise. I think I might need it!
The sport, a combination of surfing and flying a kite is a wind-powered water sport that uses a kite and a board to propel you across the water. Despite the name, it doesn’t have to involve wave surfing – it can be done on mirror-flat lagoons, as well as in choppy seas or big waves and is especially popular in countries like Cape Verde and Sri Lanka where the wind is high and the sea is rough. Infact the sport has grown massively in recent years and even more so with women, according to Kite Worldwide, a worldwide kite surfing company founded by York Neumann and Jürgen Sievers.
Kite Surfing and all it’s benefits
The sport which works your upper body, core, balance and quads is first taught on the beach where you learn to set the kite up safely and then learn the rules of how to fly and control the kite.
As the kite blows into the air and starts blowing left, you have to pull gently on the handle right, and as the kite blows right, you pull left. To pull the brakes you pull the handle down towards you and if the kite slams in the water and starts dragging you through the sea, you simple let go. The kite is attached to your safety belt so it won’t float away – you will get pulled though!
Most lessons start on the beach – then once you can control the kite on dry land, it’s then into the sea. And as you walk in attached to this huge piece of Material by your safety belt - it’s easy to feel nervous and slightly over-whelmed - especially as the next step is to body drag – where you simply lie on your tummy and let the kite drag you through the waves whilst you control the kite’s direction. Pull, left, right, left, right – keep your head above water… there’s a lot to think about, but the adrenaline and satisfaction as you steer the kite and keep your head above water is just incredible! I’m up and down like a yo-yo but slowly I gain control of the kite and it clicks. I get it and although my body and mind are full to the brim of nose-dives, face-plants and seawater I’m happy that day one is complete. It’s hard work but the satisfaction level is so worth it – it’s like nothing I’ve experienced before!
Rest and Recover
Luckily Essaouira has some amazing places to rest and recuperate after a tough day in the sea including Le Jardin des Douars (www.jardindesdouars.com) a luxury hotel, which consists of five luxury villas each with their own private swimming pool, kitchen and en-suite bedrooms. Situated just 10 minutes drive from the beach in one direction and the old medina in the other direction it is well-placed just moments from vibrant shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Equipped with heated emerald pools, a hammam and spa, serene gardens, and even its own resident peacock, the accommodation is truly Moroccan with tadelakt plasterwork, beautiful open door ways, bursts of colourful vases and Berber rugs and wait for it – wicker egg-shaped swings situated around the outside bar.
The owners opened it in 2004 and recently collaborated with KiteWorldWide to give surfers and kite surfers the opportunity to stay in luxury accommodation where you can eat good food, hang out with friends in the villa and sleep in quiet surroundings.
It’s not all about the surfing either. There’s plenty of other activities to try in Essaouira including camel or horse-riding, rooftop yoga, quad or mountain biking, massages, shopping for hand-carved chess boards, spices, fruits, carpets, leather goods, pottery and clothing – or simply taking in the artistry and craft – everywhere you look there’s a pop of colour of both traditional and modern bohemian.
Time to head home
My trip to Morocco was just four days – was it enough? Absolutely not – but as I head to the airport just 15 minutes away from Le Jardin des Douars I’m looking forward to the three-and-a-half-hours of rest on our flight back to Stanstead, London. My body is physically wrecked from all the outdoor activity but emotionally I feel psyched and high as a kite as my skin feels sun-kissed from the winter sun and my mind feels proud for taking to the sea and giving this adrenaline-fuelled sport a good old go. The hashtag #YourTicketToTheWind will certainly be sticking in my mind for a while.
Lucy travelled with KiteWorldWide. KiteWorldWide’s beginner package at Jardin Des Douars excluding flights, start from £1275 based on two sharing and includes:
Seven nights’ accommodation in a double ensuite room in the Jardin Des Douars, Daily transfer to and from the beach, 12-hour group kite course with Explora Watersports, Kite Rental at the end of the course for the rest of your stay, Launch, Landing and Rescue Service, SUP and Surf Usage, Moroccan Dinner with the team and KiteWorldWide guests, Breakfast and Room Tax and a BBQ on the roof terrace with the team and KiteWorldWide guests.
* Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flies direct from Stansted to Essaouira from £9.99
* Airport transfer from Essaouira £21 each way for four people.
Sporting activities organised by Kite Worldwide: https://www.kiteworldwide.com/en/