CARIBBEAN / TURKS AND CAICOS

PROVIDENCIALES TURKS AND CAICOS, WEST INDIES

GOOD FOR:

Cruising through mind-blowing cays and learning in easy conditions.

WHEN TO GO: Peak Season: January - April Air Temp: 24 - 30°C / 75 – 86°F Water Temp: 25 - 29°C / 77 - 84°F

CONDITIONS: WAVES – 3 FLAT WATER – 4 BEGINNER – 4 WARM WATER - 5 STRONG WIND – 3

Main image: Kabir Jaffe, Long Bay Photo: Villa Esencia

Flat water heaven / Photo: CrazyFly

ON THE WATER These islands are a kiteboarding paradise with uncrowded, pristine, powder-soft beaches, warm turquoise seas and perfect freeriding terrain. Only 90 minutes from Miami with direct flights from New York, Dallas, Toronto, Atlanta, Charlotte and London (via Nassau) to name a few, Turks and Caicos is fast establishing itself as an excellent kiteboarding destination. If you're looking for smooth, comfortable progression, you've found the right location. Providenciales (or ‘Provo’) is the primo kiting location in the Turks and Caicos archipelago with steady trade winds, warm turquoise waters and white sand beaches. Unobstructed for miles around, there are 41 islands and cays to discover while enjoying some of the smoothest winds you could hope to find. The absence of gusts will only aid your progression. The TCI's (Turks and Caicos Islands) are especially ideal for beginner to intermediate kiters who want the rush of kiting without the fuss or danger. You'll usually be riding your ten to 17 metre kites with your twin-tip, so this is often bigger kite riding, but so many people enjoy that. Below: Enjoy CrazyFly's 2018 range video, shot beautifully in Turks by Andre Magarao

While this can generally be a more expensive location to reside than some other Caribbean destinations, the conditions are undoubtably more consistent, with a ten month wind season and a phenomenal 90% average of kite-able days in that time (depending on your gear of course). The prevailing east / south east winds hit the main spot, Long Bay Beach, from the left with miles of waist-deep water to play around in, making this the perfect location for novices and early intermediates. The shallow Caicos banks allow you to easily remain in waist deep waters, especially at low tide, for up to a mile from shore; no shorebreak, no rocks, urchins, sharks or unfriendly fish – no need for booties. Competent riders will have a blast cruising the many inlets and cays dotted around Long Bay and it’s a dreamy freestyle spot too, especially at low tide, with steady winds blowing 90% of the time during the season. Access to the water is also very easy and this is where most of the schools and centres are.

This is one of the safest and most comfortable ocean kiteboarding experiences in the world. You'll find the sheltered lagoon area of Stubbs Cove at the northern part of Long Bay beach. The only area where you may experience a slight wind shadow is at the very north end where it curves a little behind the land / buildings. If you'll be taking your foil gear, check in with the local schools for the best high tide times. Kabir from Villa Esencia reckons that a good mast length for here is around 70cm and, with some knowledge, you should be able to utilise that a lot of the time. In fact, there would only really be the odd times in stronger winds with bigger chop / swells that you'd want a longer mast anyway. Finally, one more option to note for Long Bay is the superb option of a downwinder, Long Bay to Bugaloos on the south side of the island – which is a very picturesque journey, passing some very nice homes and rustic shoreline. It takes about an hour and at the end you can hit Bugaloos restaurant for lunch. Either organise for a friend to pick you up or you can get a taxi back (though just be aware that taxis on the island can be pricey).

Although Long Bay isn’t a wave spot, conditions can line up in the winter months for down-the-line wave riding in northeast wind and Grace Bay on the north coast regularly gets fun, manageable surf out on the reef. You’ll need to be experienced to ride over there though because the prevailing wind blows lighter and offshore. GRACE BAY Little more than a five minute drive from Long Bay (on the opposite north side of the island), you'll find Grace Bay. A popular tourist location with many luxury resorts, shopping and nightlife options, for kiteboarding much of the beach is in a big wind shadow in the prevailing east / southeast directions. If you venture far enough west along the north shore you'll start to get to good winds again where it's possible to ride straight off the beach. Basically, the further west you go, the better, and you can find some waves on this side, too. Do look out for a popular local restaurant and bar called Da Conch Shack as you can also kite right off their beach!

Photo: Big Blue

Soft sand underfoot / Photo: Andre Magarao - CrazyFly

Mellow kiting / Photo: Andre Magarao - CrazyFly

OTHER SPOTS As you can imagine from looking at the images in this feature, there are countless special 'secret' spots just a short boat ride away, such as up by Dellis Cay, north east of the Long Beach area, or even closer you'll find Half Moon Bay or Water Cay. Northeast of Grace Bay, more adventurous kiters looking for waves can try Emerald Point's Leeward beach in north-northeasterly winds. The reef is about half a mile out and is fun, but be careful at lower tides when the sharp coral reef starts to stick up. Check with kite shops for the best reef spots to kite. If wind from the left isn’t your thing, head to the lagoon at Blue Hills in the northwest of the island where it blows cross-on from the right with even fewer kiters than Long Bay (not that Long Bay ever gets ‘busy’). Close to the airport, Five Cays is another great spot and it’s one of the three main settlements on the island, so there are nearby bars and restaurants for post session refreshments. A half-hour drive from Long Bay will bring you to NorthWest point where you'll find deep waters, the potential for waves and a unique environment with coral heads and great snorkelling. Be aware of stronger currents and winds in this area, though. Chalk Sound is another beautiful, white sand, shallow water area with small islands that are fun to jump over. Finally, between North Island and Parrot Key there's an excellent downwinder, from North to Provo. Definitely organise to go with a boat again, but this is a gorgeous environment, with mangroves, flat waters, small islands and plenty more super-fun terrains.

WIND, WEATHER AND WATER Favourable kitesurfing conditions in the Turks and Caicos come from a combination of trade winds, combined with a strong thermal that's generated by the 90 mile, shallow Caicos banks. This isn't your typical sunrise and sunset thermal wind – it's just generally 'on' all day, though you may experience a lull between around 1 and 2pm at the peak of the midday sun and then a stronger increase in the afternoon. Session at sunrise and sunset for excellent wind and perfect temperatures. The wind generally blows the hardest from the northeast in the winter from January to April. The summer switch brings easterlies and southeasterlies, averaging 10 - 25 knots all year-round. July and August can also be very solid and are a popular time. After that hurricane season draws in and the wind becomes unreliable. From October to March there can be solid swell and if that lines up with wind then you can score some nice wave riding out on the reef.

Photo: Andre Magarao - CrazyFly

There are a few access guidelines to be aware of at some spots around the island, but the staff at the kite schools or at your accommodation will help you with this info. Book your trip to Turks and Caicos early as reservations come thick and fast, especially for winter, but this is almost a year-round kiteboarding location, except for September / October and you can expect steady and reliable conditions with 350 days of sunshine and very little rain throughout the year. Most popular kite sizes are 10-12 metre kites most of the time. Only in the winter, from December to March, will you need any sort of neoprene, when a 3mm neoprene top is recommended. Skin protection is essential at all times from the sun, though. Another good tip that you might not have clued into yet is the importance of using reef safe sunscreen. The snorkelling and diving in the TCI's is incredible and the locals would like it to stay that way, so please save your skin, the animals and the ocean at the same time.

“When it comes to retreating to a safe place with plenty of space surrounded by nature, there possibly isn’t anywhere better for the average level of kiter to escape the upheaval. This is mellow kiting.” kabir jaffe / villa esencia

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Photo: Big Blue

OTHER SPORTS & OFF THE WATER ACTIVITIES The islands are a watersport paradise. Driving round Provo takes a day. Visiting the islands of North, Middle and South Caicos from a kiteboarding perspective and simply for an adventure. There's an excellent golf course, or if you're want to stay close to the water then there's paddleboarding or kayaking in the mangroves, day trips via plane or boat to other islands and you may see whales in the winter months. Situated on the third largest barrier reef in the world, the diving here is incredible. ACTIVITIES / TRIPS / ADVENTURES Big Blue Collective: www.bigbluecollective.com Kite / Sup Provo: www.kiteprovo.com

FOOD & DRINK TCI mostly offers a luxury set-up with great accommodations, hotels, restaurants, easy driving and well stocked supermarkets. IGA Gourmet (close to Long Bay) offers a good mix of general supermarket and whole food shopping. The area around Grace Bay is packed with eateries, from breakfast joints to cocktail bars and everything from local Caribbean dishes to world cuisine. There are some great restaurants dotted all over the island, including Da Conch Shack in Blue Hills and Bugaloos in Five Cays. If you’re eating out then you can expect to spend about $50 per day on food. Grace Bay is the main shopping/nightlife area, where you'll find lots of high end condos, good shops and top class restaurants. For good local food try Mr. Groupers for their fish. Most restaurants are casual so you can go in shorts, T-shirt and flip flops and only a few have more stringent dress codes.

ACCOMMODATION You'll find high-end, luxury accommodation nestled along Long Bay beach and you can launch from anywhere, so this isn't just a convenient place to kite, it's also a very pretty location to look back on from the turquoise waters. If you're coming with non-kiting partners or family members, the gentle winds help keep the weather cool and refreshing without anyone feeling like they're getting sand blasted or in danger of being blown off the beach. If you're looking for all-inclusive resorts, head to the north side of the island, close to Grace Bay. BEACHFRONT AT LONG BAY: CAICAIAS VILLAS: Five fully-equipped, modern villas, surrounded by 2.2 acres of tropical landscaping. www.caiciasvillas.com VILLA ESENCIA: Boutique resort directly on the beach with only ten units, each very private in a natural environment. www.villaesencia.com

Photo: Villa Esencia

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LONG BAY BEACH PROVIDENCIALES TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS CARIBBEAN

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GENTLE I SHALLOW I WARM I SAFE I STEADY

Great for learning and the whole family

Directly on the beach

www.villaesencia.com

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AIRPORT

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (PLS) is the international airport and is only an hour and 15 minutes flight from Miami. There are direct flights to Providenciales from many cities in USA, Canada and also the UK (on BA via Antigua). Long Bay and Grace Bay are both just 20 minutes drive from airport.

SCHOOLS KITE PROVO AND SUP PROVO: Established in 2006, Kite Provo offer lessons for all levels and also stock a full service rental centre. Adventures with or without a boat to some of the most beautiful spots! www.kiteprovo.com reservations@kiteprovo.com BIG BLUE COLLECTIVE: Adventure company built on decades of pioneering exploration and adventure, Boat charters, snorkelling, kayaking, paddleboarding, diving and of course some amazing kitesurfing adventures as well as lessons. www.bigbluecollective.com info@bigbluecollective.com

OTHER INFORMATION The Turks and Caicos got to grips with locking out the early Covid-19 infections at the start of the pandemic and went on to welcome a steady stream of travellers with negative tests in 2020.

Open the Covid protocol info box here

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