Kiteboarding and Kids in Paradise
I get a surprising number of emails about guest posting on the SanPedroScoop. Most of them have never read it – they offer up a post about “Metal Good Manufacturing from the XianJiang Province” or “Luxury Travel in the Maldives”. The others ones seem to be compiled by Bots who use a random word generator.
But recently I got this GREAT post about a recent visit to Ambergris Caye. Not only is it well written original content with great photos but it touches on a few subjects that I know very little about. KITEBOARDING and VISITING BELIZE WITH TINY KIDS.
What I do know something about is visiting Ambergris Caye. And what makes it special. And this writer gets it. Here’s BJ of BusyFindingTime.
Take a read:
I knew I wasn’t in the US anymore when Ellie (1 year old), held in the arms of our server, disappeared into the kitchen at Melt, the beach bar and restaurant. The strangest part was that we were ok with it. It was a little surprising that the server took her actually out of our sight but not wholly unfamiliar. In San Pedro, we routinely have people come up to us, start interacting with our kids, then ask to hold them. This is not common in the US, but we have become accustomed to it here.
San Pedro town on Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize was where we chose to spend 3.5 weeks of our parental leave in Dec ‘16. One thing led to another and my dad ended up with a job teaching on the island. A year and 3 more trips later, we have now spent a total of 7 weeks exploring San Pedro’s beaches, bars, restaurants, pools, snorkeling locations and its premiere kiteboarding location. I feel mostly familiar with San Pedro’s tucked away bars and restaurants, and we notice when new buildings are erected while we have been away. What really never gets old is when someone you don’t know treats your kids like their own. That is an experience that makes San Pedro feel like home.
My wife and I have felt completely comfortable bringing our 1.5 and 3 year old to every bar and restaurant we’ve been to. We usually try to eat at home for most meals to keep the restaurant spending down, but we still end up going out to eat for at least 1 meal or snack per day. When I think about what bars all families need to go to it is probably a very similar list where singles would also love.
It is a helpful bonus for parents that you don’t have to bring car seats! We were a little leery at first about this, but we had our then 5-month-old on our laps during our first visit. You quickly get used to the fact that you just hop on the golf cart and go. There really isn’t any way to strap in a car seat anyway if you wanted to. I have seen tiny babies in car seats, but the seat is just resting on the golf cart seat held by a parent.
There are only a few activities that you really can’t bring the kids to, or at least not easily. Kiteboarding is one of our favorite activities of all time. Our vacations are planned around where the wind is blowing and there’s gear to rent. That is how we found San Pedro in the first place. We knew we wanted to go to Belize and a quick google search brought up Ambergris Caye.
Although it is not widely known for kiteboarding it should be. At any point during a windy day there is always at least 1 kite flying on the popular side (East coast) of the island. If that’s all you saw then you would leave thinking San Pedro is a pretty good kiteboarding spot. But just wait until Passionkite takes you out to a secluded sand bar, it’s a kiteboarder’s dream!
When learning how to kiteboard, you first start flying a trainer kite on land. A trainer kite is a small kite that functions similarly to a full sized kite but isn’t going to drag you across the sand. You’ll learn how to relate kite location in the sky to times on the clock (noon is straight up, 9 o’clock is laying on the water to your left and 3 is to the right). A typical second day is learning to body drag: let the kite pull you through the water to the left and to the right while learning to stay upwind. If you are catching on, you may begin to attempt water starts. Strap a board to your feet, perform a power stroke or two (dip the kite from noon down towards the horizon to get some power), point the board downwind, and stand up. After building a little bit of speed, carve the board upwind. And that’s it! Of course, to actually do that and stay upwind can take 4-20 sessions. The wind is constantly pulling you downwind, so the challenge is to angle your board upwind enough to keep an upwind trajectory yet maintain enough speed to stay afloat.
Unfortunately, it took my wife, Jessica, and I about 20 sessions to finally be able to stay upwind. I was surprised we were such slow learners at this considering we both wakeboard, and I bought a trainer kite to use at home before our first lesson. I do blame much of the slow learning curve to poor wind conditions for 10 of the sessions during two trips to Aruba. Aruba is commonly one of the top ten kiteboarding destinations on any list. It’s great because you are almost guaranteed to have some amount of wind, but the wind is always gusty due to nearby hotels. Looking back, I now recognize that I just didn’t have enough power during most of those trips. I have been an independent rider for the last 4 or 5 sessions. Jessica just had her first session with no boat pickup! That is a momentous occasion in the learning curve of every kiteboarder. One that should be rewarded with more kiteboarding vacations!
However, it will be nearly impossible to beat the sessions we’ve had with Passionkite. When we first started coming to the island a year ago, we went out kiteboarding with another school that is no longer in business and also once on Caye Caulker. The school that is no longer in business was extremely hard to pin down to get them to take us out even when the wind was good! We’ve now had two trips where we went out kiting several times with Passionkite to a beautiful, secluded sandbar.
The sandbar is about a 20 min easy boat ride from just about anywhere in town. MJ, the owner of Passionkite, has picked us up by golf cart or boat depending on where we were staying. The boat ride itself is a sight seeing spectacle. The route can take you by some good fishing destinations. You also get to see the west coast of the island which is hard to get to except for a handful of restaurants or by boat. You can’t help but dream of what it would be like staying in the construction-in-progress, super luxurious resort, Acquafino. Each room/cabana is complete with a dipping pool. It looks absolutely gorgeous and extremely secluded. And if that isn’t expensive enough for you, you could stay on a private island with the likes of Britney Spears and Leonardo DiCaprio. At least, that’s what someone told us. I looked it up and the website name makes it sound like I can’t afford a night’s stay: aprivateisland.com.
Anyway! After about 20 min of boating, you end up about a mile off the coast of Secret Beach. The sandbar is clear blue water with a sandy bottom. It is about 1.7 miles long and about half a mile wide. This is just an absolutely perfect spot for kiting or learning to kite. If you fall, there’s minimal flailing about trying to get yourself sorted. Just stand up, wait for the board to come to you and carry on.
If this sounds appealing at all, MJ did tell me about a promotion he’s offering through June 1st: he’ll take 30% off your first lesson or rental. FYI.
It’s hard to really capture the beauty of the area. I took many GoPro videos of doing a full 360 degree panorama. Even then, it’s hard to really understand how serene and peaceful the area is. And even more unique is the sense when the wind is just right, your kite is parked in the sky, your board is effortlessly carving through the lapping waves, and everything is right with the world. Of course, you do have to do some work to account for wind changes or waves, but the natural beauty of the sandbar is really breathtaking.
I remember arriving to the sandbar on our very first session and Mitch, our instructor, had us both up and riding in 15 minutes. This was unheard of in our experiences. Typically, we would have to walk and re-walk our lines getting all the knots out, pump up our kites, and spend precious time rigging our kites. We had two instructors out there for each of our sessions, which made the process go quickly and smoothly.
I know it sounds strange, but I tend to sing during those moments while kiteboarding when everything is going perfectly. And, there were a lot of those moments when all the hard work is done for you and there are very few obstacles to avoid: very few other kiters, only the boat you rode in on, and maybe a floating tiki-style dock (which really completes the atmosphere and gives some shade during breaks).
I compiled our Gopro footage into a kiteboarding video to give you a flavor of what it’s like out there on the sandbar.
We have enjoyed the other kiteboarding locations we’ve been to, but this is by far the most scenic experience accompanied by the best service. We’ve kiteboarded about 25 sessions in a few different locations:
– Roatan, Honduras – side-on shore winds in deep water
– Aruba 2x – beautiful location but very gusty and offshore winds
– Los Barriles, Mexico (Baja) – side-on shore, deep water and quite choppy
– San Pedro – 3 sessions with a school that is no longer in business
– Caye Caulker – 1 session at “the split”. If you drift down wind, you go through “the split”. There was no boat rescue.
– San Pedro with Passionkite – 5 sessions total
For both the beginner as well as independent rider, San Pedro has a lot to offer. As an independent rider, you can take off from any beach on the East coast. Then when you are looking for a real treat, Passionkite can take you out to a pristine kiter’s paradise. Have a family like us? San Pedro is a perfect vacation destination for the whole family. It doesn’t have the same appeal as Disney World, of course. But it is a fun, family-friendly adventure traveling around by golf cart.
FYI: we haven’t been compensated or been provided a discount at all by Passionkite. We had such a great experience with them; I am just trying to spread the word. MJ has offered to help more people come experience the beauty of San Pedro by offering 30% off your first lesson or rental if enjoyed by June 1st!
Written by BJ Butler. He, his wife Jessica, and their kids (1.5 and 3) enjoy traveling the Caribbean while on vacation. Follow them on Instagram @busyfindingtime or see the latest at busyfindingtime.com.