In his book “Candide” the great french writer Voltaire referred to El Dorado as the “happiest place on earth”, a kind of Nirvana littered with gold and precious stones.
Whenever someone mentions Namibia, a few things come to mind: Desert, and Diamonds are generally in the top 5.
Even though the geological landscape may be reminiscent of Candide’s discovery, my trip to Namibia was to be a kiteboarding Eldorado.
Together with my travel companion, (who happens to take great photos) we ventured out on a tourist / kite mission to Namibia. Traveling from the Eastern Cape in South Africa, it’s a ‘monster’ drive, especially since we decided to go via Cape Town. Keep in mind that the initial intention was to have a balance between kiting and sightseeing. It didn’t quite work out that way.
First stop was the Cape Peninsula with all its touristic appeal. Have you heard of Cape Town? They say it’s a great kiteboarding destination…
After a quick session at Tableview we decided to escape from the crowds and headed North. The original plans was to get to the skeleton coast, but with days numbered, the kilometers piling up and encountering some flooding from recent torrential rains, we changed course and concentrated on the south of Namibia and more specifically the Luderitz area.
Luderitz has so much character. Small, pleasant, friendly and so German in its appearance. It is quite a surprise to find Bavarian style buildings in the middle of the Namibian desert. You kind of expect a Oompha band in lederhossen to be marching down the street at any moment.
Luderitz of course has already reached fame in the kiting / sailing world with its speed channel where speed records are broken every year during the speed week. The tortured rocks, dusty windows and sanded roofs are a testament to how strong and relentless the wind gets. It was with some tangible excitement that I decided to check out the kiteboarding spots. There was some wind predicted but I was also aware that it was nearing the end of the season.
First stop was the Lagoon right next to the famous speed channel. I didn’t realize that the channel needs to be maintained and as a result only found ankle deep puddles of red salty water. It was hard to imagine going down there at speed but have definitely gained new respect for the crazy men and woman who do it. There is some hard stuff very close to you to plough into should things go wrong.
I then went to check out the next spot called Grosse Buchte on the other side of the peninsula where it was blowing cross onshore. Wind was light so on advice from a local I went back to the Lagoon and set up my 8m Escape which turned out to be real fun. Local knowledge prevails! The wind does funnel in and ended up being way stronger then I expected. A fun flat water session all on my own with some spectators stopping by and Flamingoes keeping weary eyes on me.
The next day, more wind, and this time I decided to try the onshore Grosse Buchte spot.
I don’t normally kite onshore on a wave board. My home spot is blessed with cross shore winds. But this time, with a small swell, I decided to give it a go and see how strapless airs would feel with this favorable set up.
Needless to say, popping the board off the waves is way easier. So I started going higher and landing them too, much to my surprise!
By the end of the session I was well powered on my 7m and decided to pop some jumps on my twin tip and throw some loops. The wind is nice and dense and gives you that solid feel so you get tempted to push it, however being onshore, the beach gets close very quickly on those wild loops!
The Next section of the trip was off road. Meeting up with some friends we decided to explore and found some unbelievable conditions and spots. Maybe we got lucky, I don’t know, but because of the fragile Nature of the environment, these spots will remain nameless for now and only accessible to the more adventurous souls.
Amazing left hand breaking waves with cross off winds in surreal desert landscapes, jackals foraging on the water’s edge, hyenas, seals… I will never forget this section of the trip and if my stars align once more, I will visit that area again.
Namibia turned into a kiteboarding fest.
Out of 10 days I kited 5 (the other days I was inland or travelling). There is so much to discover on that coast line. I fear a lifetime wouldn’t suffice.
Yes the water is cold, the weather extreme, but the conditions for kiting are epic. The main tourist destinations are filled with thrill seeking Europeans on adventure overland trucks or gold plated 4×4 SUVs.
The Namibians have taped into that and you will find the main attractions costly and very “first world”, but it doesn’t take much to get off the beaten track even in a normal car. And there is a lot of it!
With regards to Kiting, it felt like an endless playground of options. One glimpse at the Namibian coastline and you know spots are a plenty. But be ready to kite alone! Not everyone’s cup of tea and I guess more suitable to the to the “soul” kiters and not the social media brigade.
This applies to the social activities off the water too.
Luderitz I am sure has the potential to be active on the social front. You would just need to get to know some of the locals.
A massive Thank you to Manuela Borsato for taking amazing photos and for being very patient whilst I was loosing my mind.
Last time I was in Namibia 15 years ago, it left an indelible mark, and that mark was etched a little deeper in my soul. I will go back.
There is a Video in the pipeline, so stay tuned.
Words by Cedric Vandenschrik