THE AMERICAS / USA / NORTH CAROLINA
CAPE HATTERAS & OUTER BANKS, USA
Riding stacks of kite spots with everything from endless flat water to waves and hundreds of miles of downwinder terrain.
WHEN TO GO: Peak Season: June – September Air Temp: 24 – 30°C / 75 – 86°F Water Temp: 18 – 29°C / 64 – 84°F
CONDITIONS: WAVES – 4 FLAT WATER – 5 BEGINNER – 5 WARM WATER - 4 STRONG WIND – 4
Main image: Noe Font Photo: Toby Bromwich - Duotone
The Reider Decker in the ocean playground
ON THE WATER You’re reading about the most popular kite spot on the east coast of the US, with hundreds of miles of beaches, regular winds and a wealth of accommodation options. The unique calling cards are the mile-upon-mile of flat water on one side of the narrow island chains and numerous wave spots just a short hop across on the Atlantic side. People come back every year for the huge expanse of downwinder terrain that never gets old as there are so many routes to choose. We’ll start at the northern end, where the Outer Banks of North Carolina lie. Although any open stretch of launching area (or off the back of your rental property) can be fair game, one of the spots that kiteboarders flock to is the large grassy soundfront just behind the Whalehead in Corolla (for easy set-up and launching), which has open access to the Currituck Sound. There's also plenty of parking and toilet facilities. Currituck is miles away from the nearest ocean inlet, which makes for a shallower, fresher water riding environment. It’s somewhat protected from stormy ocean conditions and is a great place to learn.
There are similar conditions in the village of Duck. Head to the town park, which encircles the Currituck soundfront through a series of wooden boardwalks and gazebos, or head to a sound public access and launch from there. Take caution as there are power line poles in and around the water, so take your time. Kite in the Albemarle Sound off Nags Head and Jockey's Ridge State Park, which also offer easy access to the water. The park closes at 6 or 8pm and the beach can be particularly busy with other water users. Windmill Point, also in this central Outer Banks region, is a quieter and less well known spot. There's also kiting in the town of Manteo, but keep a keen eye out for commercial tour boats coming through. Pamlico Sound, the west side of Hatteras Island (facing towards the mainland), is the flat-water mecca for which ‘Hatty’ has become famous. This is probably one of the world’s best places to learn to kite because the sound is so flat and remains shallow as far as most people will venture out. It is still deep enough to foil, however! The schools in the area coach from jet-skis, allowing an instructor and student to find their own private space to practice in.
One of the best locations to learn in the world / Photo: Outer Banks Kiting
Craig Cunningham hitting the features / Photo: Toby Bromwich - Duotone
Outer Banks Kiting's Jay Crawford - legendary sunset sessions
If you can pull yourself away from the glorious flats and head across to the ocean side of the island (sometimes just 100 metres away) then there’s some of the best waves to be found anywhere on the USA's east coast at S-curves and Rodanthe, as well as some other locations. Canadian Hole and Nags Head (the staging point for a truly memorable sound side downwinder) are classic spots to tick off your list. Kite Point is located south of Avon and is a friendly spot for every level kiter. It’s just south of the Canadian Hole launch spot but the parking and launch area is more easily accessible. Shallow and flat, there's also a bit of bump-and-jump to play with when the wind gets up. Further south of Kite Point is the Buxton Slick, just before the town of Buxton. You can downind to here from Kite Point and the little grass islands en route make for some epic flat water action. The launch here isn’t as easy, so beginners should head elsewhere. Frisco is popular because it has kite spots on the surf side and the sound side. Perfect if you can’t make up your mind and want a bit of everything! Park on the highway and walk through to the beach, which works best on a south-westerly breeze.
Video: Evan Netsch running the Planet of the Apes downwinder
PLANET OF THE APES The 'Planet of the Apes' downwinder is perhaps the most famous downwind route in the world. Appropriately named because you feel as if you’re at the edge of the world, and if something should go wrong, the battle to get home would be akin to that of the film! It’s worth the risk, however, as the Planet of the Apes delivers the best flatwater runs in the world when on a dependable south-west breeze. Go with a guide if it’s your first time (Outer Banks Kiteboarding can organise this). Due to the bend in the island, and because there are so many kite spots either side of it, you can always find a location to ride no matter the wind direction. Also, as Hatteras sits well away from the mainland, unless a storm front blows through, the wind is unobstructed and steady. Lastly, there are a few protected nature reserves, so pay attention to signage on the beaches where possible.
WIND, WEATHER AND WATER The wind is good all year, however the direction changes from being predominantly south-west in the summer (side on-shore on the soundside), to north-east in the winter – ideal for riding waves in the ocean. The best time of year for shredding the slick is spring through autumn, but from September onwards the swells come through, lasting until spring, and you can get some serious waves throughout the winter. Hatteras’ wind stats are solid all year with an average of 20 days a month, 12 months a year. June and July are the most consistent. You’ll mostly be on a nine but bring your entire quiver of kites because a big kite session on lighter days in the sound is ideal for working on new tricks. You can wear boardies / bikinis or shortie wetsuits from June to September but a spring suit or a 4mm at the most will do the job in April and May. After September it starts getting cold, and if you choose to brave the winter storms on Hatteras you’ll need a full winter suit with hood, gloves and boots.
Send it sessions - Gianmaria Coccoluto / Photo: Toby Bromwich / Duotone
Water temperatures average 18°C / 65°F in spring and 29°C / 85°F in summer, dropping to 10°C / 50°F in the winter. The weather is quite mild compared to other east coast locations and air temperatures are very balmy in summer, reaching the low to mid-90s (35ºC) in July and August with wider swings in fall, winter and spring. It’s always a good idea to bring layers and a wind shell though, even in summer and definitely in early and late season.
“Perfect for every style of kiteboarding, from waves on the ocean side to flat water on the sound side. This is the land of the downwinder with so many inlets to explore, so grab your mates and send it! Bring your whole quiver too because there’s everything from light wind to tropical storms and massive waves in the ocean. All in a day in Hatteras sometimes, too!” CHRIS BOBRYK / ELEVEIGHT TEAM RIDER
Photo: Kitty Hawk Kites
Rent an E-foil - Outer Banks Kiting
OTHER SPORTS & OFF THE WATER ACTIVITIES Hatteras is a watersports paradise when conditions are right and there’s a lot to do on the rare windless days. There’s world class surf, you can go on marathon-length SUP or kayak expeditions and there’s also some great fishing in the area with chartered vessels and day trips available. You can also head to the local wildlife reserves and sanctuaries, like the one on Pea Island to check out the local critters. Food isn’t very cheap but it’s not crazy expensive either. Expect fresh seafood, sushi and some very generous servings of American classics to be served in the many restaurants dotted throughout the region. If you’re self-catering, which many people do, then there’s a big Food Lion supermarket in Avon, or plenty more back up the road in Nags Head if you're staying at the more northern Outer Banks locations. On Hatteras island, Waves, Avon and Buxton offer plenty of eating out choices. There are no nightclubs in the area but there are some bars. The party scene springs more to life when the international kite competitions go down. Look out for the Triple S which takes place annually in June. Local transport is available but car hire is advised because everything is pretty spread out, including the kite spots. If you’re willing to drive then you can almost always score awesome kiting depending on the day’s conditions.
ACCOMMODATION There’s everything from luxury mansions to campgrounds and condos and a number of letting agents can help you find the right set-up for your family / friends. It can be hard to source accommodation during the season but, with more than 30 years on the island, Resort Realty are the experts, with 545 rental properties across the Outer Banks (50 vacation homes on Hatteras Island). From two-bedroom condos to 12 bedroom luxury estates, there are vacation rentals of every size and for every budget on their site. www.resortrealty.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Bubblicious / Photos: Resort Realty
This property in Rodanthe is called 'I can smell the ocean'. Apt!
This one is called The Black Pearl
Norfolk, VA (ORF / KORF) is roughly a 90-minute drive from the Outer Banks and the Nags Head area. Add another 30 minutes to make it further south to Hatteras. Other options slightly further away are Newport News, Virginia (PHF) or Raleigh, NC (RDU).
SCHOOLS OUTER BANKS KITING offer bespoke coaching around Hatteras and the Outer Banks. Head Coach, Jay Crawford, has been kiting on Hatty since the beginning and will guide you to the best spots for the day's conditions, where you'll have full boat and Sea Doo support while you're learning. Group lesson and private tuition are available and Outerbanks Kiting use the latest CORE and Naish gear for all lessons. They also now offer E-Foil lessons! www.outerbankskiting.com email@example.com
OTHER INFORMATION Currently the US government is requiring a negative COVID test within 72 hours before entering the country. Masks are required for travel.
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