If it involves standing on a board, the Dominican Republic’s has it – here you’ll find world-class windsurfing, kitesurfing, surfing and wakeboarding. While there are a few scattered spots across the island if you’re adventurous, the capital of surfing in Dominican Republic is Cabarete, on the North Coast.
Wind surfing in Dominican Republic
Cabarete’s Bay seems almost custom-made for windsurfing, and it’s here that the sport is most popular – although you’ll also find a small wind- surfing school in Las Terrenas. The best time to go is generally in winter when the wind is strongest, windsurfing requires stronger winds than kitesurfing does. The beach at Cabarete is lined with outfits renting windsurf equipment and offering lessons.
In general, windsurfing is easier to learn than kitesurfing, meaning you can be out on the water enjoying yourself within a couple of days. Lessons and equipment rentals are also significantly cheaper.
Kitesurfing (also known as kiteboarding) is the mos popular watersport in the Dominican Republic. It involves strapping a board to your feet and a powerful kite to your torso, which propels you through the waves at sometimes breakneck speeds.
The learning curve to get good enough to enjoy kitesurfing is quite steep – as much as a week’s worth of lessons to go out solo, and weeks of practice to get comfortable with it. It’s also an expensive sport – to make this a regular hobby, you’ll end up investing at least US$5000 in lessons and gear. No wonder, then, that around 90% of students who take lessons don’t generally advance to become regular kiteboarders.
That said, if you’ve got the time and the money, and you relish a challenge, Dominican Republic is one of the world’s leading kitesurfing destinations – so much so that the International Kiteboarding Organization (www.ikointl.com) has its headquarters in Cabarete.
Unlike surfing or windsurfing, where risk increases with ability – you have to be good to get out to the reef line – kitesurfing is risky from the very beginning. The kite leads pulled taught by the wind, are diving, swooping knife blades, and it’s important you learn from qualified instructors, for your safety and for that of others. Plenty of kitesurfing schools offer instruction in Cabarete. Most people need a minimum of four days of lessons at a cost of around US$350 to US$450 to be able to do the basics. Schools and instructors vary considerably, so spend some time finding one where you feel comfortable. There are also a few good kitesurfing spots in Las Terrenas, Samaná, although the wind is lighter and the water shallower then in Cabarete.
Surfing in Dominican Republic
Cabarete is the top spot in the country for surfing, although the in- trepid surfer traveling with board-bag in tow could easily explore many of the lesser-visited beaches along both the north and south coast. The best season to surf is December through March when the region can get waves of up to 4m high. Playa Encuentro, 4km west of Cabarete, has the best waves on the island, where awesome tubes often pound into shore. Other popular places for surfing are Playa Grande and Playa Preciosa, both near Río San Juan. There are a number of surf shops in Cabarete and on Playa Encuentro itself where you can rent boards or take surfing lessons. You can also rent surf boards at Playa Grande.
Water skiing has gone the way of corduroy bell bottoms, and in its place is this new sport – the principle is the same but instead of ‘water skis’ you use a ‘water board,’ or ‘wakeboard.’ The sport has a small but passionate community of enthusiasts, and kiteboarders swear it’s a great way to develop your board skills. There’s only one wakeboarding school in the Dominican Republic, located at La Boca just outside Cabarete, where there’s more than 2km of flat, straight river water to play with. This spot attracts devoted wakeboarders from around the world, and on windless days they are joined by kiteboarders looking to practice their tricks.
For those not willing to go for the big waves, the beaches in the Dominican Republic make ideal spots for a gentler pastime called bodyboarding. Most resorts and larger hotels have a few body- boards you can use for free, and on the more remote beaches, you can sometimes find a beach-side shack where you can rent a board for a couple of dollars an hour.