** KITEBOARDING TRAVEL DISASTERS - Avoiding Them! **
Island image from "Metropolis"
Kiteboarders are roaming the world in pursuit of wind, adventures and wonder in ever increasing numbers. Riders are hitting mainstream destinations as well as spots well beyond the beaten path. The challenges of visiting Cape Hatteras differ from Vanuatu in the Solomons. Knowledge, preparation and planning go a long way to assuring a good trip (and kite session!). Quite a few globe trotting kiters were consulted for travel tips in the preparation of this article (see below for bios and links).
So, where to go? Identify and prioritize what you and your companions want in a vacation both on the water and off. Do you want waves, flat water, both, high or moderate wind that is highly reliable or more occasional? Do you need a kite school, shop, sea taxi, lots of company on the water or next to none? Do you want to go to a kite camp/tour, through a kiteboarding travel specialist where there may be less to chance or travel ala carte? There is life after wind (I’ve been told this anyway), so what about things to do as wind alternates and ashore? The options range from virtually nothing to site seeing, diving, surfing, fishing, sailing, mountain biking, hiking and more. How about family activities for the wife and kids? What about night life be it bring your own or an urban night club scene, stellar restaurants, good old takee outee or spam-ala-can. It’s your vacation so collectively figure out what you really want to try to do. Research destinations in SBC Kiteboard, local shops, associations, kitebeaches.com and Internet.
Examine wind, weather statistics and current winds for your potential destinations. Links to some weather Internet sites that provide forecasts may also provide archive wind patterns at your destination such as ikitesurf.com and weatherunderground.com are listed below. Don’t make the assumption that wind is guaranteed as there are off days in many locations that can vary with time of year. See if there are seasonal variations in the quality of the wind say related to tropical depressions (that can reduce safe useable wind), cold fronts (that can boost wind), etc.. Accuracy of wind records and forecasts can vary so confirm conditions with local sources.
and for a variety of countries.
Once you have selected your destination, zero in on what gear to bring. Research the probable kite size range that you may need at your destination through kitebeaches.com, local kiteboard associations, shops, kiteboading schools and riders.
Aaaah, perfect 20 m weather!? Well not really, do your homework before traveling.
Try to cover the probable wind range as best you can and still be able to pack your kites. Your advanced wind research and local confirmation are important steps in selecting the correct sizes to bring along. The new flat kites may help somewhat in reducing the quantity needed at least inside of wind extremes.
Consider using vacuum bags to shrink wrap well rolled kites. More about vacuum bags (available at many housewear stores) HERE You may need to borrow a vacuum from housekeeping at your destination to reshrink your kite for your return. Note: bladder rotation can sometimes occur using this procedure.
Sucking it up, to carry more gear!
If you choose to pack a board as opposed to renting one at your destination you may have to pay extra to fly the gear. Sometimes people are charged and sometimes not. Try to keep your board 140 cm long, preferably shorter. Kite “Golf Bags” can work but at other times cause questions. Paul Menta with The Kitehouse suggests using an Army Duffle bag. He has been able to carry a board, two bars and two kites in his. Boards have been damaged in the past by airlines so have a care. Make sure your kites are protected against cuts in packing. The larger your name is on your bag the easier it may be for transporters to track it. Paul has even secured large banners to his saying things like “Paul is going to Quito” to make the bag stand out.
Army (kite) duffle
Be sure to pack reasonable safety gear, e.g. helmet, impact vest, gloves, whistle, etc.. New launch, weather, sea conditions the edge offered by safety gear may be just the ticket if the unexpected pops up.
Weight may be a significant factor in bag hassles. Research what the policy is and try to comply with it. If you think you are going to be close, weigh the bag and see. If you are over, try to distribute the load to other bags, yours and those of companions before the airport. If the airline has a written policy that says what you are packing should be carried at no additional charge it can help to print that out and take it to the airport. These days all bags are coming under scrutiny with extra charges applied like never before.Trying to avoid new desk agents and slower, non-peak check in times may help to avoid complications. Always check to see what your airlines check in time in advance of the flight is and to see that your flight is still on time. I was once not allowed to board a flight to Cabararete with checked luggage, 3 minutes past the FAA mandated time minimum. I also left for the airport, sometimes a 50 minute drive almost 3 hours earlier (Friday traffic, ugh). So, head out to the airport allowing sufficient time, whatever that might be?!
Do necessary gear repairs and replacements before you leave town, don't blow it off, it might cost you a session in paradise, perhaps worse. Harnesses can break, kites can rip, lines break and leaky bladders are a pain. You should bring at least two bars with lines in good repair, an extra harness can be valuable too. Carefully consider your destination and the availability of spares. If you are heading to Cape Hatteras you shouldn’t have a problem securing a replacement pump. If you are bound for Turks and Caicos you may be hundreds of miles from the nearest kiteshop, Karen Futernik with Ozone Travel suggests bringing your own spares such as patches, fins, screws, patch kits (talc, bag, string, etc.).
And, will you need wetsuits/drysuits? If so, full, shorties, how thick, etc.? You are traveling perhaps a long way at expense for your wind destination fix. Don't leave your comfort or safety to risk for lack of suitable exposure clothing. Research probable air and water temperatures where you are heading and confirm what, if any, exposure clothing you might need through associations, shops or schools there. FIND OUT what brings unstable weather, what warnings exist, when it comes and how. Don't ignore this simple precaution. Remember the rider that was lofted 800 ft. in Cabarete by a squall while on vacation. Rude Caribbean weather!?
Check your medical and trip insurance for extreme sports, kiteboarding or other relevant exclusions. If you don’t have medical insurance it would be a good idea to obtain good coverage for your trip. More about travel insurance HERE. IMPORTANT: Having copies of such coverage on you and ID when you kite can effect the speed and quality of medical care you receive. Critical care at times has been delayed for injured parties for want of proof of insurance and ID.
Carry additional essential medication with you in your carry on bags. Do not assume that replacements will be readily available or that foreign prescriptions will be filled at your destination. Check government advisories regarding travel precautions and vaccinations. In the USA, the Dept. of State and CDC provide such information and the Travel Medicine Program in Canada.
NOTE: there is a great deal of additional information about Travel Medicine, vaccinations and precautions in an upcoming article in the next issue of SBC Kiteboard Magazine.
Carry a first aid kit to deal with stings and cuts along with reef shoes. Pack aspirin/analgesics, antibiotics, alcohol, Benadryl and diarrhea medication. Other ideas for the contents of a first aid kit for travelers appears here. Readily buying this stuff where you are going may be a problem. If it’s not safe to drink the water DON’T. Steve with Kitepower based in Australia advises to be sure to carry plenty of bottled water for your sessions.
Karen advises to plan your air travel with as few connections as possible even if this costs a bit more. Connection and plane changes can cause luggage to not be forwarded. There are few better ways to mess up a trip than to vacation separately from your gear.
Paul Menta shreds in newly discovered riding grounds in the Turks and Caicos.
Paul suggests packing your harness, board shorts, misc. essentials and your complete travel info in your carry on luggage. He indicated that you may be able to locate a loaner kite and board from a friend if your gear doesn’t land with you.
Hollywood Jessie meets the Philly Land Shark
Paul provided a number of ideas regarding getting around at your destination including: Some accommodations may not be common knowledge to local taxis, and some destinations have no street signs. Successfully finding places may depend upon carrying exact names, addresses and phone numbers. Be sure to carry airline contact information both for your destination AND your point of origin. The office back home may have to sort things out. Confirm directly with the rental car office at your destination via phone or email that they will be open when you arrive, their location, means of getting there from the airport and that they actually are holding your car. Splitting up charge cards and cash in safe locations may make sense as well. Find out about local ATMs at your destination in advance and the need for cash and travelers checks.
Paul suggests that if you miss a flight or have to change airlines in route go to the airline desk and ASK for baggage check. This will require your bags to be located and should improve the odds that they will land with you.
If in going through customs and immigration it looks like you are about to be unexpectedly shaken down consider asking to speak to the boss, heffe in a loud voice. Carry copies of tickets, passports and medical coverage at different locations in your luggage.
When you head to the beach check in with the locals, see what size kite they are riding, how they are doing, what local advise and precautions they have to offer. Where it is good to ride and what to avoid. LISTEN to what they say and take it to heart. DON'T be like the tourist that ignored a lot of well intended advice in high, adverse winds and ended up lofting into the second story of a building in Wello a few years ago, <sigh>. Play it conservative in your launch area and kite size selections particularly when you first arrive. If you are traveling alone, make sure someone knows where you are, when you are to return and who to call if you don’t show. Now a word from “mom,” you’re on vacation and I want you to have fun. Don’t over do the booze and partying too late AND try to hit the water and wind too hard the next day.
Steve McCormack shreds in the Solomon Islands
Some destinations may be more exotic than others. Case in point, in some of the further reaches of Australia be on your guard for salt water crocs and sharks. Steve McCormack with Kitepower based in Australia conveyed a lot of expert info in this regard to some of the more out of the way spots in Oz. Stay away from creek mouths and deeper water adjacent to drop offs.
How high can you jump?
The wind and waves may look great but some careful observation may show some undesirable company in the shallows. Steve further advises, from hard personal experience, if you are injured, seek medical advice immediately, do not put it off, do not be a tough guy.
Steve also cautions to never go straight out at any spot but carefully observe conditions before launching and heading offshore. Rig conservatively as winds tend to increase over the day in Oz. Joining local associations at your trip destination may be a good idea to obtain insurance and to be able to ride at a growing list of sites. Also, some folks wear protective clothing at certain times of the year to try to deal with box jellies, if they even chose to go out at those times. Not to be confused with Gumie Bares, these Cnidarians can scar and kill. More HERE
Paul related an interesting story from a visit to Oz that I hope he posts on to this thread. Steve, I bet you could tell some great stories about near and perhaps not so near misses.
Ideas for this article were contributed by:
Paul Menta of The Kitehouse
Paul probably has more air miles in global kiteboarding travel than anyone else that I can think of (150,000 miles+?). He started kitesurftheearth.com years back and he has lived the name and learned a great deal along the way. TheKitehouse provides kiteboarding tours in a wide variety of destinations throughout the Caribbean area. He is still trying to figure out how to bike to island destinations but I suspect he do it one of these days!
Karen Futernick of Ozone Travel has been running a kiteboarding travel agency for years specializing in air and ground arrangements for wind destinations worldwide.
Steve McCormack of Kitepower based in Australia. Steve has been involved with traction kiting for 15 years +, has several kite stores in Australia, was an organizing member of the AKSA and is an expert on kiteboarding. He knows Oz and many areas in the Pacific very well.
If you have ideas, suggestions or questions, don't keep 'em to yourself, let us know. More contributions are promised so stay tuned. We all need and want some wind, planning should increase the odds of memorable sessions (the good kind!).
Travel smart, have fun and good winds!
Last edited by RickI; 04-22-2010 at 07:41 AM.
If we get enough input on this, I plan to put together a more consise and organized travel outline for easy reference and linking for not only travelers but also those in the travel trade for customers.
So, please add those ideas. There has to be a tremendous amount of hard won travel knowledge out there. Bios, links and banners will be added for folks that add a lot of info.
Thanks and good traveling!
An article came out today on a related topic, lost luggage. Apparently, with increased security and financial demands carriers are misplacing bags at an all time high. Things may get worse before they improve from some predictions. You don't want to go through this particularly on a kitesurfing trip.
Try to book nonstop flights, or a flight where you do not need to change aircraft.
Avoid "interline" connections, where you must change planes and carriers.
Put an identification tag on the inside of your bag as well as the outside. Include a contact number where you can be reached while away.
Double-check your bag to make sure the baggage agent has tagged it to your final destination.
Pack a carry-on with enough to last you at least 24 hours. Medications still can stay with you under new security restrictions.
Check the airline's Web site, or ask a reservations agent, which lost items the carrier will not cover.
Never check valuables such as fine jewelry, electronics or family heirlooms.
If you must file a lost bag claim, do so preferably before you leave the airport. Time limits for filing are short.
If you are traveling on two carriers, the final airline usually is the one responsible for your luggage.
Consider travel insurance if you must check expensive sports equipment or other valuables.
Reports of lost, stolen or mishandled bags filed by passengers with the airlines from January through June.
Ranking is by reports per 1,000 passengers.
Hawaiian Airlines 3.03
JetBlue Airways 3.53
Northwest Airlines 4.01
Continental Airlines 4.20
United Airlines 4.38
Alaska Airlines 4.38
AirTran Airways 4.39
Southwest Airlines 4.45
Frontier Airlines 4.62
ATA Airlines 5.57
American Airlines 5.75
Delta Air Lines 5.80
US Airways 6.91
ExpressJet Airlines 8.38
SkyWest Airlines 9.17
Mesa Airlines 9.61
American Eagle Airlines 13.05
Atlantic Southeast Airlines 16.17
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
The rest of the article is at: