Muscat: Professional kite surfers have come to share their skills and expertise with avid kiters in the Sultanate of Oman's Bar Al Hikman, located at a five hour drive south of Muscat.
Hosted by Khareef Kiteboarding, a kite school in its third year running, the pro riders visited from the Netherlands, sponsored by international kiting brands Harlem and Naish.
United by their passion for kiting, Khareef instructors, students and their special guests shared an epic kitesurfing experience riding approximately 10 km from Hikman’s coastline to its corals; enjoying the breathtaking ambience of abundant ecosystems and exceptional kiting conditions of Hikman.
Paris Hooper-Kay and Johanna Mueller, founders of Khareef Kiteboarding, explain: "It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to touch shoulders with such talented riders, let alone host them in the hidden gem of the Middle East, Bar Al Hikman, Oman. To watch and learn their technique and effortless flow on the water is indescribable. Chatting and laughing with the guys that have been on international podiums only proved how magical kitesurfing is and the ability it has to bring like-minded people together all across the globe."
The sport combines elements of surfing, windsurfing, and paragliding, and involves riding on a small surfboard or a kiteboard (twintip) while being propelled by the wind and large kite, controlled by a bar and harness connected to the riders body. Kitesurfers use the power of the wind to perform various maneuvers, such as jumps, tricks, and riding waves. It requires skill, balance, and knowledge of wind conditions for a thrilling and dynamic experience on the water.
Pro kiteboarder and Harlem kite designer Victor Looijestijn, when asked about his favourite part about kitesurfing, answers: "At the moment because I’m designing kites I love the product itself, and it brings me joy to see the joy and ease of use from others." He adds, "Sometimes when I’m kiting myself I love a day with smooth riding with no pressure but just enjoying the moment"
Kitesurfing first emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, with the first patent for a kitesurf filed by Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise in 1977 in the Netherlands. It has since become increasingly popular as an extreme water sport worldwide, with advancements in equipment design and safety measures making it more accessible to a wider range of enthusiasts.
‘Kitesurfing is considered a relatively new sport, meaning the Kitesurfer-community is growing rapidly every day. We’ve seen this really come to light in Oman, as just 3 years ago we had approximately 10 kites in the sky on a busy day at the beach (maybe 2-3 of them being local, Omani riders) we’re now seeing 30-40 kites in the sky and the sport has grown popular amongst the locals as well. In the past 3 years, 70% of our kitesurfing-students have been Omani, many of them female riders. It’s absolutely amazing to see how this sport is unfolding and continues to grow, and we’re immensely grateful to be part of it and to share our love for kitesurfing with so many new faces’.
Kitesurfing competitions have attracted professional athletes and gathered increasing interest among spectators. Held in various locations around the world, showcasing the skills and talents of kiteboarding athletes, some of the most significant kitesurfing competitions include Red Bull King of the Air held in Cape Town, South Africa, the GKA Kite World Tour featuring freestyle, wave, and strapless freestyle disciplines in multiple locations worldwide, the KiteFoil World Series that involve a series of hydrofoil racing events held in different countries, the Kiteboard
Racing World Championships that holds International competitions focused on kiteboard racing, and the Tarifa Strapless Kitesurfing Pro dedicated to strapless freestyle kitesurfing.
‘Different competitions seek different outcomes,’ Naish pro kitesurfer Stig Hoefnagel and third place podium winner of The King of the Air (2021) explains, ‘from Big Air Kite League, to GKA. ‘The King of the Air with only 18 spots available for kiters is one of the more competitive ones.
The Big Air kite league however, really gives the podium for people who have not kited before..with millions watching around the world, this is like the holy grail of kitesurfing.’
Scott Barendsen shares his experience explaining ‘I’ll be honest, on the first day, when reaching Bar Al Hikman, I wasn’t sure what to do- there’s no phone signal, and the living seemed basic.
But after one night, I feel like a new person- this place opens your eyes and allows one to be grateful. It makes you realize how little you need, in order to live simply and happily. We talk to each-other much more, there are no distractions, I don’t even know where my phone is. This place holds a special place in my heart’.