It is 10.30am in Grand Cayman, and against the backdrop of sun and sand: the palm trees are starting to sashay in the fresh sea breeze.
We are sitting on the glorious sands of Cayman ‘Grand Central’; the titularly boastful “Seven Mile Beach”. For many, the dazzling aquamarine waters, the lilt of wave on sand, and endless rows of deckchairs – this would be idyllic. And rightly so, Seven Mile, where the majority spend the majority of their time, offers a melee of lazy beach sports to while away the hours on Cayman’s azure waters. Jet skiing, hobie-cat sailing and stand-up paddle-boards provide sufficient effort to break up a long day of sun loungers, paddling and Pinot.
However, I am not one to sit and gaze, and for those hunting gnarlier climes: Grand Cayman has much more to offer. Yes, the exhilarating world of kitesurfing, has hit the Cayman archipelago with great gusto (pun, thoroughly intended). Tired of the relax, we buckle up, to harness that breeze.
“Barkers” (as it is fondly referred) is located within the Grand Cayman Nature Reserve, at the north-western tip of the island. You know you are onto something good, as you arrive at the exotic wilds of this last coastal outpost. The road deteriorates to continuing grades of dirt drag-way, only frequented by inhospitable pot-holes, and the odd, illicit, lizard. Suffice to say, Barkers is ‘off the beaten track’. Nevertheless, when the residue of sand and dust resides, there will be big grins all round. Welcome to the kitesurfing capital of Cayman.
You can see the kites before you can see the sea, dancing above the tree-line as you swing your SUV into the dunes. Cut off from the rest of the island, this ‘private’ beach is teeming with raffish dudes and babes, clad in various shades of neon. This is where the truly deep tans reside, belonging to the locals who kitesurf after work, laugh in the face of the rat race, and spend hours in the crystal, turquoise water off this reef-protected beach.
Kitesurf Cayman, run by professional kiter, Jhon Mora, was founded in a bid to utilise the excellent kiting potential, which was (at least a few years ago), fairly un-tapped within Grand, Little and the Brac. His gang work most days down on the beach, with lesson tranches starting at 8am, 10.30am, 1pm and 4pm.
Two hour lessons start at CI$180 (US$225), (with discounts available for residents), including all necessary (and good quality) kit. It is worth bringing a pair of wetsuit shoes if you have them, to clamber over coral, but even these can be provided on arrival. The team happily alleges that four lessons (so eight hours), is sufficient to get you agile on your board. After hour six, I was up (with a wobble), and my Cayman classes have subsequently provided a great springboard for further kite adventures (more of those later).
For true freestyle technicians, I have it on excellent authority that the conditions are “epic”, with consistent seasonal winds ranging from 18 to 29 knots, complemented by minimal swell, and plenty of sunshine. The optimum season is November through to March.
Whilst I will continue to defend the British coastline to the hilt, I am now, (with limited persuasion), very much a ‘Caribbean Kite Convert’, albeit, a slightly sunburnt one at that…