Anyone who has taken the drive out to East End recently may have noticed the increase in colourful kites flying through the sky.
Not the kites we had as kids, but much larger, four line kiteboarding kites that pull people across the water and through the air.
Kiteboarding is one of the fastest growing water sports, and the Cayman Islands have ideal conditions to learn and practice. Warm consistent wind and a large, protected sound makes Grand Cayman an emerging kite hotspot.
This increase in kiting can partly be attributed to Ocean Frontiers dive centre partnering with the Kitehouse kiteboarding schools to bring kite lessons and equipment to the Cayman Islands.
The Kitehouse is a collection of like-minded instructors who are interested in promoting the kiteboarding lifestyle throughout the world. They bring 15-plus years of teaching experience along with safety boats and top of the line kite equipment to provide the highest quality lessons in the Caribbean.
Part of the Kitehouse team includes head instructor Mike Minichiello, who can be seen regularlarly cruising around on his board or boat.
After teaching and riding in places like Maui, Brazil, Fiji and Dominican Republic, Minichiello now calls East End home.
It is one of his favourite places to kite and work. ‘How can you beat the crystal clear water and variety of reef, sandbars and channels to surf over?’ he says.
Caymanians know that there is a lot of wind here, so it is no surprise the local riders make up the majority of lessons and new kiteboarders. Guys and girls of all ages and walks of life are going out to East End to experience the thrill of being pulled across the water on a board attached to an oversized kite.
There is a lot to learn about the equipment and how to use it properly, so lessons are strongly recommended. And actually it can take more than a couple times to feel like you can master doing two things at once. But once you get the feeling you will never want to stop.
Once up and riding, you can train up to be a professional. Learn to jump 30 feet into the air, or kite waves with the help of the kite. Then you can enter competitions like course racing, technical tricks, high jump and distance races to win some cash. Or do travel stories to places like Sri Lanka for photos in the magazines. Or maybe just cruise around Frank Sound on days off with a couple of friends. Whatever the option, it is fun to kitesurf the earth.
‘Some of the best stories lately have been the first two natural born Caymanians learning to kiteboard,’ says Minichiello.
‘They have known each other since they were kids and now are inspiring each other to learn. Neville Ebanks started first with his wife Tanya during the summer, and they are continuing to kite throughout this winter.
‘They are friends with Satina Dacosta Cottam, from Cayman, and her husband Matt. At first Satina just wanted to watch Matt learn, but after seeing the fun that everybody was having, she is now determined to learn to ride for herself. All four of them are doing great, and it has developed into a friendly competition to see who becomes better faster.
‘Also there is Mo, one of the controlling partners in Ocean Frontiers, who has become a true addict of kiteboarding. After diving and guiding people through East Ends dive spots for 13 years, Mo was looking for something more to do while still enjoying the water.
‘Through a friend of a friend, he was directed to the Kitehouse for lessons. After six solid days of training he was able to be independent enough to kite by himself.
‘Since that time Mo has spent hours and hours, days and days cruising the East End lagoon. As much time as he spent below the water before, he spends at least that much time cruising on top of it now.
One year later Mo keeps pushing himself to learn new tricks, and you can see him jumping, spinning and carving almost all day long.’