Aug 2014 20

Best Places to Learn Kiteboarding in Vancouver

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Kiteboarding, also known more specifically as kitesurfing, harnesses the power of the wind with a controllable power kite thanks to which you're propelled across the water on a kiteboard, similar to a small surfboard. Kiteboarding is one of the most rapidly growing adrenaline sports in the world. Although it might not look like it, it is an easy sport to learn — as long as you are taught and learn the basics properly. From there, the sheer thrill will keep you going and you'll find yourself returning to this adrenaline-rich and empowering experience over and over again to relive it with your friends and family!

Big Air Competition by Nicolas HessonBig Air Competition by Nicolas Hesson / Marketing Stream

While my previous article went through the brief history of kiteboarding, the best spots and equipment shops, this one will help you find the best places to learn and enjoy kiteboarding as close to Vancouver as possible. We have talked to people from the four top kiteboarding schools and their students in Squamish and Port Alberni, where the magic of kiteboarding is the closest to Vancouverites.

1. Aerial Kiteboarding

Address: Squamish River Dyke Road, Squamish, BC V8B
Telephone: (855) 569 5483

The Aerial Kiteboarding School & Shop was established in 2010 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After two successful winter seasons, Aerial Kiteboarding established a summer destination school in Squamish, British Columbia, just 40 minutes both north of Vancouver and south of Whistler.

kiteboarding in vancouver by alfred hermidaKiteboarding in Vancouver by Alfred Hermida

We asked Melanie from the Aerial about the biggest strength of their school. She replied,

The biggest strength of our kiteboarding experience is the knowledge of our instructors, the spacious and reliable boats and our top of the line gear. Through brainstorm staff meetings we are always coming up with better, more efficient and safer ways to get our students riding successfully and comfortably. It is the communication between staff that has made our instruction so much better than the rest! With so many different ways of teaching and different approaches, we are able to adjust our instruction for each individual's needs and ensure that they get as far as they possibly can.

The company is run by its founder — a very inspirational kiteboarder and entrepreneur — Daniel, now a Level 2 Senior IKO instructor managed to build Aerial Kiteboarding currently running two successful Canadian teaching locations as well as kiteboarding camps abroad. Despite his busy schedule, Daniel was finally able to compete in his first national kiteboarding competition in 2013, where he placed second and third in two separate events.

The Aerial offers a number of lessons for beginners as well as higher IKO instructional levels if there is demand from their customers.

We have the most passionate and devoted instructors. All instructors are certified and extremely experienced, not only with kiteboarding students but also with students of all types and abilities. We have instructors specialized in adaptive teaching (kiteboarding and skiing for paraplegics) and staff that have had intensive education and experience teaching large groups of all ages,

Melanie explains.

Kitesurf by WillKitesurf by Willtron

The main course for beginners is a 4-Hour Kiteboarding Crash Course that includes a one-hour introductory Kiteboarding video that can be watched as many times as necessary. This video covers all theoretical level 1 IKO points and demonstrates all Level 1 and Level 2 IKO points. The remaining three hours of Kiteboarding instruction are done in a group setting on the water.The course costs $360 per person, but there are discounts available for groups. We asked Melanie about the different levels they teach. She explained,

We love teaching beginners and giving them their first taste of kiteboarding. The biggest joy, of course, is seeing our students coming back on their own once they have been certified and enjoying the wonders of kiteboarding on their own. This year, we have also had the joy to take some more advanced riders and teach them tricks, spins and unhooked moves through our advanced lessons and people are just raving about their progression. Here with Aerial Kiteboarding we eat, sleep and dream kiteboarding and live to share this passion with as many people as possible.

Students that have flown trainer kites prior to their water lesson tend to perform better than others and that's why Aerial offers also Trainer Kite Packages for those who want to learn to work with kites before they get to water.

You can choose a 3-hour Self Guided Trainer Kite Rental for $59/person that includes a 20-minute instructional video that's mobile friendly. This video includes all the necessary topics for you to fully take advantage and enjoy your trainer kite rental.

The second option is a one-hour Introductory to Kiteboarding Lesson for $99/person. It is a one-on-one using a two-line trainer kite. Students will learn all the necessary piloting and assessment skills to be ready for a four-line power kite.

With just three quick snow lessons, and 11 hour water lesson, I was able to go up wind and they even helped me out with some great gear at an amazing price. Mel will answer your questions. Dan and Zach will get you on the boards! If you want to try this sport, this is the place, and these are the people,

Mike says.

Squamish Wind Festival by Nicolas Hesson Stream MarketingSquamish Wind Festival by Nicolas Hesson / Marketing Stream

2. Squamish Kiteboarding School

Address: 1214 Village Green Way, V8B 0N5, Squamish
Telephone: (604) 849 1776

Heading out of Vancouver West on Highway 1 and joining the Sea to Sky Highway or Highway 99, you soon reach Squamish. There, you can enjoy the services of a tremendous group of kiteboarding masters at Squamish Kiteboarding School.

Mark Gray is the face of SKS and one of the most desired instructors on the Squamish Spit. He says,

I began kiteboarding because I love the wind, water and nature and the challenges of learning a sport that gives me all that inspired me to embrace this beautiful sport, and knowing I would reach that pure feeling of riding and surfing on water with a kite just fuelled my desire to learn and practise and its been over 10 years now.

The SKS offers four types of lessons. All of them are taught by the IKO certified instructors and boat-assisted, and all equipment including radio helmets is provided.

The Flying Dutchman by Zach DischnerThe Flying Dutchman by Zach Dischner

We work with the individual and we provide what we say we will — a quality lesson centred around our student. We are patient and know that everyone is unique when it comes to learning — the type of experience we make fit for the learning of the student. Our experience with instructing over many years of lessons and using radio helmets to communicate with our students means our technique is refined and continually evolving as we and the sport does to make our lessons for our students work for them.

The first of the lessons offered by SKS is the three-hour lesson: Great water work—- experience the board. This lesson is designed to teach you the basics of kiteboarding and also get the best techniques for body dragging while flying the kite in the water and then your first experience with the board. The lesson will cost you $300 plus HST, or $250 plus HST per person if you bring a buddy to ride with.

The four-hour lesson: You're riding and Stoked with skills — this lesson is designed for beginners that want to get larger set of skills right at the beginning and learn how to master the board more efficiently. The lesson will cost you $360 plus HST or $280 plus HST per person if you bring a buddy to ride with.

We asked Mark how he enjoys working with beginners. He answered,

Yes, it's such a great feeling to see beginners getting the feel for learning to ride, fly and kiteboard — they call it "stoke" and when you start to get it, it's the feeling of pure elation! Nothing is more satisfying to teach or hear a student come back from a lesson with one of my instructors having just got that!

Coucher de Soleil La Gre Penvins by Paul TridonCoucher de Soleil at La Gre Penvins by Paul Tridon

The two day eight-hour lesson: The Full-on Kiteboarding Experience – the ultimate two-day learning experience to give you the most of the skills you could learn. Learn safety, theory on the beach, and rigging and mastering kite control. The course will cost you $650 plus HST or $475 plus HST per person if you bring a buddy to ride with.

Two- hour Refresher: Just watch me go lesson or downwinder — this lesson is designed for those who already had couple of lessons but want to refresh the basics just to be on the safe side. The lesson will cost you $200 plus HST or $150 plus HST per person if you bring a buddy to ride with.

Sarah from Massachusetts got the most of this option:

I had a really great time and I definitely felt that the lesson helped boost my level of comfort with the kite. If I ever happen to travel to Vancouver again, I won't miss an opportunity to train with Mark.

It's advisable to book in advance, especially around long weekends and generally the summer months as the SKS books full fast. Lessons run on any day during the summer, April–May to September–October. Essentially, whenever it's windy. Lessons generally start at 10:00 AM and 2:30 PM. It's a good idea to arrive 30 minutes before your lesson to get suited up and ready.

A $15 fee per person is charged by the SWS ($25 per couple), as the Spit is leased by a non-profit organization called the Squamish Windsports Society (SWS) from the district of Squamish.

3. Vancouver Kiteboarding School

Address: The Squamish Spit, BC V8B 0K5, Squamish
Telephone: (604) 616 5350

To have some fun kiteboarding, you have to go where the wind is. The place to do this sport that needs a lot of wind is indisputably Squamish, and that's precisely where you'll find Vancouver Kiteboarding School. Only an hour to an hour-and-a-half drive away from downtown Vancouver, you can try and fall in love with one of the most exciting sports you can do in the Vancouver area.

Squamish Wind Festival by Nicolas HessonSquamish Wind Festival by Nicolas Hesson / Marketing Stream

VKS prepared a range of courses, from a couple of hours of beginner lessons working up to multiple-day courses. They provide you with everything you could imagine you'd need for kiteboarding:

All gear is provided with all lessons, and all lessons come with radio helmets. There are multilingual lessons available. Lessons are boat-assisted. Besides, IKO certified instructors will be taking care of you.

Since the lessons are very dependent on the wind, VKS has set up a policy to make sure you don't lose any of the time for learning if the wind doesn't blow. VKS always asks you for a check-in call the morning of your lesson. If the forecast doesn't look promising, the lesson is called off and rescheduled for a later date. If the wind stops during private lessons, it's timed off and continued from where the lesson ended at a later date. The kiteboarding class is continued and finished.

Lessons are taught from 10:00 AM and they finish with the wind. The great advantage is that there is no part taught in the classroom, as some other kiteboarding schools do. Mike explains:

I enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to go through the briefing sitting in the boring classroom like I experienced in the kiteboarding school my friend took me to in the U.S. The staff is great, entertaining, and yet they still manage to keep you very focused.

VKS offers a three-hour Get hooked on Kiteboarding lesson that teaches you all the features of the kiteboard and allows you to ride for the first time at the end (Individual – $300 for three hours, Learn with a friend – $250 for three hours per person).

Kitesurfer by Julien HalerKitesurfer by Julien Haler

There is also an option for a longer and more detail-oriented four-hour lesson for beginners (Individual – $360 for four hours, Learn with a friend – $280 for four hours per person). Another option is a two-hour Just go for it – Can I ride? lesson to see if you've already mastered the art of kiteboarding (Individual – $200 for two hours, Learn with a friend – $170 for two hours per person).

Another option is a two-day package – From Beginner to Pro, which covers all aspects of kiting and makes a confident independent kiter out of you. (Individual – $600 for eight hours, Learn with a friend – $480 for eight hours per person). Lastly, VKS also offers Advanced Kiter lessons for people who may want to work on a specific skill set — whether it is riding upwind or body dragging upwind to retrieve your board and much more (Individual – $100 for one hour).

Top Tip for a Weekend Kiteboarding Trip!

Elevation Kiteboarding

Address: 3937 14th Avenue, V9Y 5C4, Port Alberni
Telephone: (604) 848-5197

Elevation Kiteboarding has been pioneering the sport on the West Coast since 2002 and has seen the evolution of the sport and developed a unique lifestyle. They offer kitesurfing lessons for all levels, using the most advanced teaching techniques. From radio-assisted lessons with the latest waterproof radio helmet systems to watercraft-assisted lessons, they are able to customize according to every student's needs.

Only a couple hours away from Nanaimo or Victoria and a four-hour drive from Vancouver, Nitinaht offers an amazing experience to both beginner and experienced kiteboarders. One of the most consistently windy beaches in Canada, this little town is a paradise for kiteboarders.

Kitesurfers by Kitesurf Tour EuropeKitesurfers by Kitesurf Tour Europe

Half salt water, half fresh water, Nitinaht is one of the few tidal lakes in the world. It offers some of the steadiest thermal winds you can find. From June to September, the wind is very reliable and mostly blows between 15 to 25 knots.

Marie from Elevation Kiteboarding told us some more about her school:

The consistency of the wind here in Nitinaht Lake and laid back atmosphere makes for not just good lessons but a really amazing experience for our students. As for the biggest strength of our lesson, I would say nine years of experience, mixed with tonnes of energy from the instructor, add some jet skis for the safest and fastest learning experience and always the latest north equipment makes a pretty good combo.

If you decide to come, you can either stay in the camp or in the motel, both very close to the lake.

Campground: Situated right at the kiteboarding beach. You can camp on the beach or in the campground. 10$ per night. Pay your fee at the Nitinaht Visitor Centre. No need to reserve — just show up and pick a spot. No hook-ups. Motel: About five minutes away from the beach. $60 to $80 per night. Wireless Internet. Call to reserve your room at (250) 745-3844.

Squamish Wind FestivalSquamish Wind Festival

Elevation Kiteboarding offers a tonne of different lessons to fill up your time at Nitinaht. We asked Marie about her staff and lessons. She explained,

I feel really lucky because my staff has been with me for many years now. We are like a little family and get to live and work together all year around. Which is awesome because we get to talk and share our teaching experience and learn from each other. The most rewarding part of our job is to take someone from the beginning, not knowing about kites and their power, take them through the process and watch the progression. Sometimes starting with some fear, then learning and understanding the sport, then getting the awesome feeling of riding a board... Every day our job is so positive, we change people's lives!

For lessons, you need to bring your own wetsuit and booties — a 3.2 mil for the really hot summer days, but mostly a 4.3 mil suit is good. Elevation supplies the rest of the kiteboarding gear.

The lessons have five levels: Trainer Kite Session, Ground Session, Bodydrag Session, Board Riding Session, and Advanced Riding Session. Elevation customizes every lesson, so the price depends on the length and the difficulty you want to tackle. At the end of your lessons, you will get an IKO certification card.


2 Responses to “Best Places to Learn Kiteboarding in Vancouver”

  1. Rick Garner

    Nitinaht is a bit far, but it’s definitely the best place for kiteboarding in BC! There is also an annual festival called Windfest, what’s the most well known kiting event (not only) in the Vancouver Island kiteboarding calendar. And of course, it’s also a huge beach party… ;)

  2. Frost Nursery

    We really enjoyed the hell raising jumps and twists these guys were doing while kitesurfing. We were able to get up close by driving out to the Spit where it’s all happening.

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