BY Crystal Veness
With some of the most consistent strong wind in the world and as host of the Red Bull King of the Air, Cape Town has rightfully claimed its title as the home of extreme Big Air kite boarding. The opportunity to see the legends of the sport soaring through the sky with the stunning backdrop of Table Mountain is hard to resist. However, the kitesurfing conditions can be more than a little intimidating. Getting smashed around in three meter swell while overpowered on a six meter kite isn't so bad … But that plus dodging what seems like every professional kiteboarder in the world, a sizable chunk of the Dutch population, and a small army of South African wave riders racing down the line can be a stressful experience.
So where does one go to escape? Many kiters opt for the pretty – and pretty forgiving – blue lagoon of Langebaan. Only an hour from Kite Beach, this (mostly) flatwater spot is a great place to catch a break from the madness. Langebaan is known as the entry-level South African kite destination, with excellent learning conditions and a relaxed beachfront vibe. But there's another lagoon that's a little further away which offers an attractive alternative: Hermanus.
Two hours south east of Kite Beach, the drive to Hermanus will take you through incredible scenery with a small glimpse at South Africa's economic disparity. Skirting around Cape Town's skyscraper-studded skyline and along the busy N2 highway with townships on both sides, you'll drive up and over the Hottentots Holland mountains and past farmstalls and vineyards, through the seaside village of Hermanus, before finally arriving at the Klein River Lagoon.
The Whale Route detour that passes through Kleinmond, Pringle Bay, and Strand is a must for your return trip, and you'll be in for a treat if you can time your drive for sunset.
Now that you know how to get there, you're probably wondering why it's worth the two hour drive. Well, in Hermanus, you have two options for kiteboarding: the Klein River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. This spot is the happy medium for kiters that enjoy flat and warm water but also like the option of a wave session. The size of the lagoon can vary greatly depending on the amount of rainfall, and we can report that it is quite large at the time of this publication. A short hop across the sand will put you in the ocean for a fun wave session and a nice break from the sometimes crowded lagoon.
A west or northwest wind is ideal for Hermanus, so while those that stayed in the Cape Town and Blouberg area are fighting to get past the waves in straight onshore wind, those that have made the journey will be rewarded with perfect conditions at the lagoon. The top of the lagoon next to the viewing area is very narrow, and it's a spot to avoid unless you're joining the trick rotation. It's important to understand this rotation in order to avoid getting chirped (a sassy talking to) by one of the South African locals. If you'd like to get involved and show off your skills, either wait and watch for a while first or ask one of the locals for some advice. If you're not interested in impressing the crowd of onlookers, ride downwind where the lagoon is much wider. Exploring the sand dunes and vegetation along the edges of the lagoon is a lot of fun, but don't forget to plan for the upwinder at the end of your session.
On the ocean side, the beach break creates some exciting ocean riding with side-onshore winds. If you have a well-trained eye, you may be lucky enough to spot whales during or after your session. While the water is a little warmer than in Cape Town, it's not nearly as warm as the board-shorts-friendly conditions of the lagoon. If you're planning to ride both the flats and the waves, be sure to wear a wetsuit.
Hermanus is an ideal kite destination if you're in a group with mixed riding levels. Absolute beginners can take lessons from one of the local kite schools (Kitesurf Hermanus or Off The Charts Kitesurfing) while independent riders can enjoy perfect freeride conditions. On a very windy westerly, you'll see inter- national pros practicing their Big Air moves in a set-ting where you can almost reach out and touch them.
The lagoon of Hermanus is surrounded by nature reserves, which makes kiting in this spot feel like you're on a true expedition. With no buildings along the waterfront and no restaurants on the beach, it's just you and the wind and every other kiter that made the journey that day. It's a kiting adventure that you can't miss on a trip to South Africa!
If you like the look of Hermann check out holiday options to South Africa at Kitesurfholidays.com
This feature originally appeared in TheKiteMag #35. To subscribe, head here.