Smaller Default Larger

British ColonisationKitesurfing is one of the sports that is most fascinating to man. Maybe it comes from the impression of lightness expressed through the kiter's easy jump: that sends them flying. The smallest breeze is captured by the sail that spreads over the kiter who rides freely and soundlessly above the water.

Though a fairly new sport worldwide, kiteboarding is already very popular in Mauritius probably because of the good climatic conditions that prevail here. The beginner can start learning in protected bays and amateur kiters can enjoy the vast lagoon where they can ride freely but one must be a confirmed rider to risk a ride on the waves in famous spots such as Macondé, l'îlot Sancho or One Eye at Le Morne.

Nico was one of the first Mauritians to go for this adventure. A passionate surfer, he first tried building his own kite before importing one. Still unknown on the island, the kite arrived in December 1998 and Nico started off one morning. He headed straight towards the reef and disappeared. The day went on without news and his family started panicking. It was only around 8pm that a fishing boat brought him back. "I had everything to learn about kiteboarding. No one had ever tried it here, realised that this sport had enormous potential and that everybody could do it as long as safety rules are observed."

Nico mastered this passion to make it more enjoyable; his surfing friends used to tease him, but soon they all got hooked. "The kite brings a sensation of freedom. It is like navigating in three dimensions. One rides on the water, enjoys light jumps. The impression of freedom comes from the visibility over the lagoon as far as the eye can see. Obstacles are seen from far. You only need a few centimetres of water and a jump and off you go again."

Nico has transmitted his passion to his two sons; Daniel, who is already ahead of him in competitions and invents figures, and David, who is just starting to take part in kiteboarding meetings. He also teaches numerous adepts who come for kiteboarding courses. Kiteboarding is now taught by half a dozen schools including those managed by qualified IKO (International Kite Board Organisation) instructors found Mauritius. There are also two schools in Rodrigues where the vast lagoon can be enjoyed fully by kiting amateurs.

Learning is a step by step process. One must spend at least two to three hours on a lesson. While teaching the operation of the kite that integrates high standard safety devices nowadays, the instructor insists on safety precautions. The first lesson starts with learning to manage the kite, while standing in the lagoon or from the boat. The client learns to fly the kite, use the safety device or neutralise the sail. Once this is learned, the client is equipped with a life jacket for a "body drag" session in the lagoon.

The progress then depends on the person's skills. "One must count on an average of five to seven lessons to acquire some autonomy and come back safely to the departure point. The more gifted get to this stage quicker. There is no age limit for kite surfing; but it is better to avoid starting before 10 years old, as younger kids sometimes want to go too fast. It is not easy to get them to be security conscious," says Nico.

A few kiteboarding competitions are organised mainly in winter from June to September, because of the favourable trade winds. Recently a kite cross competition gathered Mauritian kiters at Anse La Raie in the north. A kiteboarding event was also organised in October at Le Morne, with the ten best international riders and two Mauritian participants on the One Eye mythical spot. According to the organiser, Patrick, the event aimed at promoting kiteboarding in Mauritius through the media covered by specialised magazines. Among the famous riders, were the Briton Will James, the Australian Felix Pivec, Martin Vari from Argentina, the American James Toblias and the South-African Peter Peterson. During two weeks, they showed extraordinary mastery in wave riding and fantastic jumps. Felix Pivec won the competition in front of Martin Vari and Will James.