KITESURFING, or kiteboarding, took off as a sport towards the end of the 1990s. Though considered an ‘extreme sport’ due to its speed and sheer thrill factor, kitesurfing has established itself throughout the globe, or at least where conditions are appropriate for being pulled through the water on a modified surfboard by a giant kite. In short, kiteboarding is like a combination of parasailing and surfing – an excellent hobby for the adventurous.
According to kitesurfing.com Asia offers 371 locations to choose from. Warmer weather and less busy waters might add to the attraction of an Asian kitesurfing holiday, especially since Asia’s top two kitesurfing countries, Thailand and the Philippines, are located in Southeast Asia.
What follows is a list of 5 of Asia’s best kiteboarding destinations. You’ll notice that they are all in Southeast Asia, but Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also home to plenty of kitesurfing spots.
This resort town caters mostly to European families. It’s not only famous for kitesurfing, but hosts an international kite festival each July. It features a kitesurfing school and a fair selection of accommodation and eating options to suit all budgets. And when the conditions aren’t right to go out on the water, there is the whole of the island of Bali to explore.
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Kuantan is home to Balok Beach, a kitesurfing spot best surfed from December to March, but good year-round conditions mean it’s more or less possible any time you fancy. Kuantan is actually a fairly large city (pop. 500,000) with its own airport, so it’s not quite a rustic getaway, but has plenty of beaches and restaurants plus several shopping malls and a few resorts.
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Hua Hin, Thailand
This resort town is popular with Thais as well as expats and foreign tourists. Kiteboarding is popular in Hua Hin, with several schools providing lessons and equipment rental. The kitesurfing season is best from January to May, with winds at 14-20 knots and shallow, slightly choppy water. Thailand’s International Kite Festival takes place in Hua Hin from March to May. And the kitesurfing opportunities are not just limited to Hua Hin. Chumpon a little further south and Koh Samui are also popular with kitesurfers.
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Mui Ne, Vietnam
This is considered by many to be one of the best kitesurfing destinations in Asia, if not the world. It’s also not too hard on the pocket. Lessons start at around US$60 with discounts for beginner packages. At 20-25 knots, wind conditions are good all year, but generally best from November to April. The nightlife and restaurant scene is relatively quiet, but far from dead. This UK student loved kitesurfing and Mui Ne so much he went twice for extended stays during a four-month sojourn in Vietnam.
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Another destination that is often touted as one of the best places to kitesurf in Asia. That’s quite a claim, but who am I to argue with BBC News? Bulabog Beach is regarded as Asia’s kiteboarding capital, with its reef-protected lagoon providing calm waters, especially suitable for beginners. Winds range from 12-30 knots and the high season for kitesurfing runs from November to April. The island is lovely and since it’s the Philippines, where English is widely spoken, language is less of an issue than with other destinations. Boracay’s popularity has brought mixed blessings however, with crowds and pollution putting a bit of a dent in the “paradise factor”. However, if you’re a fan of nightlife and like to be spoiled for choice, Boracay may be what you’re after.
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Check here for a comprehensive, if uninformative, map of Asia’s kitesurfing spots. Though not as popular a tourist destination as the number two country in Asia in terms of sheer number of kiteboarding spots, the Philippines clocks up a whopping 81 locations to kitesurf, followed by Thailand with 61 and Japan with 42.