Let’s admit it: kiteboarding is awesome and you’ve always wanted to do it, right? You’ve dreamt of skimming atop the ocean at Mach 5, popping massive jumps, hooting like a drunken hillbilly at the awed crowd of onlookers, and speaking entire sentences using only the word ‘dude.’ The only thing that can make kiteboarding better is to learn it in the crystal clear, warm waters of the Philippines with a starfish on your head.
Boracay is the kind of place where you’re smiling so much that your gums are likely to get sunburned. And you’re sure to lose your voice while “WooHoo’ing” and screaming “Can you believe this?!” There’s a certain charm about the Philippines. From riding in the tiny motorized “tricycles” past palm-thatched huts, to the friendly smiles and warmth of the people, and the deliciously fresh and tasty food, you’ll feel right at home the minute you arrive. But I digress – let’s get back to what’s most important: kiteboarding!
With its shallow turquoise water, consistent wind, copious instructors and affordable lessons, Boracay is arguably the best place in Asia to learn how to kiteboard. Malaysia is definitely not. My husband and I have been trying to teach our friend, Rainer, how to kite in Penang but the light, inconsistent wind makes it nearly impossible. (John and I have been kiting for 16+ years and even we find Penang a tough place to kite.) And you won’t be able to find decent lessons in Malaysia either since there aren’t any certified instructors here.
So off Rainer and I went to Boracay so he could learn this highly addictive sport and perfect his usage of the word “dude,” which has approximately 43 meanings, discernable by inflection and circumstance. (Like saying “dude?” while holding a margarita means “want one?” Or “dude!” while watching someone faceplant means “that was entertaining. Please do it again while I sip my margarita and take a photo.”)
We got a couple of rooms at a little kite club at Bulabog Beach called Habagat KiteVillage/Aissatou Resort, which is perfect for kiters. They have a full stock of gear and a team of well-trained instructors who will patiently teach you the ropes and get you up and riding during your trip. Plus, their on-site “beach boys” pump up your kites, launch and land you, which is a nice bonus.
The wind is onshore, and during low tide, it’s shallow enough to walk out a few hundred meters so you can practice kiting while drifting back toward the beach. For beginners, learning how to relaunch your kite while being able to stand in transparent water is a heck of a lot easier than trying to do so while bobbing in deep water. This was certainly the case for Rainer. I mean look at that smile!
After kiting, if you want to check out other parts of the island, there are some great restaurants on White Beach, which is a quick 10-minute tricycle ride away.
With that said, the best food we ate was at a tiny hut right on Bulabog Beach just a few steps away from our hotel, called “Happy Home Restaurant.” It’s not fancy, but the food is great, especially the curry dishes, and it doesn’t suck having your toes in the sand while you eat. Just be sure to go to the bathroom at your hotel first because you really don’t want to use theirs:
While Boracay is pretty ideal to learn how to kite, it’s not without its hazards. There are sea urchins cruising around the ocean floor, so be sure to wear your booties. And the crowds can be a bit insane during school holidays. But the biggest hazards by far are Korean tourists wielding selfie sticks. It’s a bit of a miracle to go a full day without being hit in the head by one. But when it happens, you’ll reflexively say, “Dude! That was not awesome!” and that’s when you’ll realize that you have officially become a kiter. 🙂
When to go:
The windy season lasts from about October through February. If you avoid the peaks of the high season – Chinese New Year and school holidays – the crowds will be manageable, the water will be clean and you’ll have a great time. But if you go during a peak period, watch out: apparently the water turns into a stinky cesspool, there are so many kites that tangles are common, and there are more tourists with selfie sticks than there is sand on the beach.
How to get there:
You can fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Kalibo with Air Asia. You’ll be able to catch a van at the airport (for about 1500PHP per van) that will transport you to the ferry terminal, which is about a 1 hour 45 minute drive away. From there it’s a 15-minute boat ride to Boracay. (Note: they will pass around a clipboard for you to list your name and emergency contact info. Try to suppress the memory of all the news stories you’ve read about ferry boats sinking in the Philippines, and try not to look at how rickety your boat is.)
- Have 50PHP notes handy so you can pay the porters to haul your heavy bags down the skinny plank and load them on the boat.
- Change money before you get to the Philippines. Weirdly, the ATM lines were massive everywhere we went, and cash machines often ran out of money.
- Bring booties, sunglasses, rash guards for sun protection, hats, snorkel gear and lots and lots and lots of sunscreen. And don’t forget your selfie stick! (Kidding!)