Gone with the Wind

Just beyond Central Maui’s industrial district and a stone’s throw from Kahului Airport lies one of the world’s greatest kitesurfing destinations—Kanahā Beach.

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Maui kitesurfing lesson
Preparing for launch includes inflating the kite, combing the lines, then attaching them to the kite.

We arrive at the stretch of sand along Kanahā Beach nicknamed “Kite Beach.” It’s about 9:30 a.m., and the beach is all ours—for now, anyway. The sky is as radiant as the ocean below it, as clouds the shape of cotton balls form a crown atop West Maui’s peaks. From this vantage, the intersection of ocean, land, and sky unfolds like a painting, a perfect cobalt gradient in the middle of the Pacific. An empty coast on a day like this is rare, but Kristin tells me that here at Kite Beach, the crowds start rolling in closer to 11 a.m. That’s when riders are allowed to launch their kites, she says. It’s just one of many rules—whether law or unofficial code of conduct—that determine where, when and how kiteboarders move and act within their aquatic playground.

Some of those orders come from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has set a buffer zone from neighboring Kahului Airport; the Maui Kiteboarding Association has dubbed some coastlines off limits to riders; and there’s right-of-way etiquette that every kiteboarder should follow.

We plunk backpacks nearly bursting with gear onto the sand and drop our boards—class is now in session. Compared to other wind sports, kiteboarding requires very little equipment. The light and portable boards can slide into a backseat or trunk, while essentials such as an inflatable kite, air pump, lines, and a control bar fill a single backpack. Conceptually, kiteboarding is simple: Attach the board to your feet and a kite to your waist, then let the wind’s power pull you across the water. As I’m about to learn, simple isn’t always easy.

I scan the sea for a moment and imagine sliding atop the water in zig-zag formation, tracing my salty signature in the wake. If that’s going to happen one day, I better learn to fly the kite on dry land.

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