Part extreme sport, part graceful ballet, kite-boarding is the fast-growing water sport and these are ten of the best places in Asia to indulge in it.
Kiteboarding is the hottest and fastest-growing water sport the world has seen in decades. Growing out of relative obscurity just over a decade ago, this sexy hybrid of wind-surfing and kite-flying quickly caught the attention of thrill-seekers everywhere.
Many aficionados would argue that the Asia-Pacific region, with its countless miles of tropical beaches and reliable winds, is the best place on our Blue Marble to "shred the waves". Here, a short list of some of the best kiteboarding sites in the region...
Balok Beach, Malaysia
This long, hard-packed beach lies 15km north of Kuantan on Peninsular Malaysia's east coast, and is the premier site for kiteboarding in the country. Long considered a paradise for windsurfers, the shallow sand-bottomed waters of Balok Bay is now the ideal place to learn kiteboarding.
As it's just two and half hours' drive from capital city Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's close-knit community of kiteboarders make the trip to Balok on most weekends from June to September when the winds are reliable.
Recently, Balok was also the venue for the Kuantan Challenge, a three-day kiteboarding regatta, which is sure to add to the beach's allure.
Operator: Kiteboarding Malaysia Tel: +6 013 330 6882 www.kiteboardingmalaysia.com
Singapore is one of the largest ports in the world and as such its waters are choked with huge ships, making the waters around this island-state less than ideal for carefree kiteboarding... or so you would think. In the last few years, a growing community of hardy Singaporeans have been kiting near the coast (read: not too close to the shipping lanes) at Changi Beach, East Coast Park, Sentosa Island and even as far a field as Bintan, Indonesia.
Perhaps tellingly, beginner courses take place in the safer waters of nearby Malaysia... but the best kiteboarding conditions in Singapore are from December to March.
Operator: Kiteboarding School Tel: +65 9662 0354 www.kiteschool.com.sg
Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia
There are several good kiteboarding spots in Bali and each with its own character - some spots are more suitable for beginners than others. In Bali the dry season from May to October brings the most consistent wind, which blows from 10 to 17 knots, with July, August and September being the windiest months.
During this period, the most popular kiteboarding spot is Nusa Dua, and the favourable conditions here are mostly onshore winds in a reef-protected lagoon with flat to choppy water, while the outside reefs offer world-class waves. Late in the dry season, southern winds can give you side-shore wind for epic wave riding conditions. To get there, drive past the Hilton hotel and the Nusa Dua golf course and continue your way to Geger Beach.
Operator: Kiteboarding Bali Tel: +62 8 13317 13317 www.kiteboardingbali.com
Hua Hin, Thailand
Just three hours' drive south of Bangkok, Hua Hin has arguably the best kiteboarding conditions in all of Asia with miles and miles of empty beaches fronted by shallow waters, with safe and reliable onshore wind from November to May. KBA has been running their school here for six years and is now the biggest kiteboarding school in Asia.
But their good rep is built upon a very personal ratio of one instructor for every two students, so the pass rate for qualifying students is very high. For qualified kiteboarders, the waves can intensify as the wind picks up in the afternoon, so aerobatics is an option! What's more, there are countless hotels and eateries along the beach to suit every budget.
Operator: KBA - Kite Boarding Asia www.kiteboardingasia.com
Koh Samui, Thailand
From November to May, this tourist island becomes a magnet for backpackers and other visitors keen to try their hand at kiteboarding. The school here is well-stocked with the latest gear, and the instructors apply the latest teaching methods to get students up on the water as quickly and safely as possible.
The main kiteboarding centre is situated at the Samui Orchid Resort, located on the southeast side of the island away from the busy tourist areas. On a windy day, this spot is considered the best in the region because the shallow sandy bay with an outlying reef protects the inner bay and keeps the water as flat as glass, which is perfect for learning.
That said, the more advanced boarders can take the action to the waves waiting for them outside the reefs.
Operator: KBA - Kite Boarding Asia www.kiteboardingasia.com
Lantau Island, Hong Kong
The south coast of Lantau Island and some of the other Outer Islands are perfect for kiteboarding as they are well away from the busy harbour traffic, less crowded and have long beaches that catch the wind off the South China Sea, especially during the summer monsoon. Winds can blow up to 10 knots so beginners should be careful of the gusty wind. Kiteboarders also need to watch out for the small rocks underwater near the shore, making booties a must!
Operator: Kite2high Tel: +852 9233 9897 www.kite2high.com
Gold Coast, Australia
Kitesurf Gold Coast is one of the biggest kiteboarding schools in the country. With an endless stretch of coastline as their playground, it comes as little surprise that top Australian kiteboarding champions trace their beginnings to this school.
Most of the kiting takes place south and north of the Gold Coast's main beaches where there are fewer surfers and swimmers. The best bit? Kiteboarding is possible year-round in these waters.
Operator: Kitesurf Gold Coast Tel: +0405 197 870 www.kitesurfgoldcoast.com
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Mui Ne is a long sandy beach 210m northeast of Ho Chi Minh city that stretches for about 15km between the town of Phan Tiet and the village of Mui Nei. The best season for kiteboarding here is from November to April with strong winds often topping out at 25 knots and above, but the good news is that there is wind year-round.
What's more, Mui Ne is ideal for beginners and students as the water is very shallow, the wind blows onshore and there are no rocks, reefs or dangerous marine life nearby.
Operator: Windchimes Wind Surf & Kite Center Tel: +09 18 05 78 16 www.kitesurfing-vietnam.com
Situated at the southern fringe of Hainan Province, Yalong Bay is a gorgeous 7km curve of beach that faces the warm waters of the South China Sea. And it's just 30 minutes from the international airport at Sanya, with ample accommodation options! The waters in Yalong Bay are great for kiteboarding all year round. It gets a bit chilly in the winter months though so wearing a wetsuit is advisable. The very able instructors at Kiteboarding China offer group courses as well as the popular one-on-one courses, where each student gets a personal instructor.
Operator: Kiteboarding China Tel: +86 898 6660 3322 www.kiteboardingchina.com
Boracay Island is famous for its beautiful beaches and the Isla Kite Kiteboarding School is located on one of them - Bolabog Beach - so you'll be in good company. The Bolabog Lagoon is about 1,500m long and about 500m wide - from the beach to reef, which protects the lagoon from waves. Free from swimmers and boat traffic, the shallow waters of the lagoon offers flat surface conditions that are ideal for kiteboarding lessons. From October to March, the Bolabog Beach is on the windward side of the island, with wind blowing onshore at 15 to 30 knots.
Operator: Isla Kite Kiteboarding School Tel: +6 336 288 5352 www.islakite.com