Kitesurfing in Aruba
A couple of days after we dropped the hook in the calm waters of the bay near the Renaissance Hotel in Orangestad we met Tony. A friend of a friend, Tony is most probably the only Bulgarian who lives in Aruba, and he is here because of one thing and one thing only- kitesurfing.
Tony immigrated in Canada long time ago and until a few years ago he used to live in Montreal. He also used to travel all over the world to places of sea and wind. He used to windsurf all the time since 1979 until one day in 1999 in Hawaii, where he met and befriended Robby Nash and Pete Cabrina, he discovered a new thrill- a parachute attached to a board that allowed him to surf crazy fast on the surface of the sea, to jump over waves, and to fly! Kitesurfing became his life.
He was the one who brought the first kitesurf in Montreal, introduced and developed the sport there when the sport was not only new, but also considered “ a suicide” and the kitesurfs were nothing like the modern ones but only had two lines and were hard to control. Kitesurfing used to be a dangerous business and to some extend still is.
Then Tony discovered Aruba. The island became his favorite kitesurfing getaway and after a few vacations there he decided to move to Aruba and kitesurf full-time every spare moment of his life.
Tony took us to Boca Grandi, a popular kitesurf beach on the north shore, where the reefs break the sea and the winds are constant and violent- just as he loves them. There are no hotels and no residential houses. The nearest building is the prison up on a hill overlooking the beach. To get there by car took us about half an hour form Oranjestad, past a few smaller towns, the abandoned oil refinery on the southeast corner until the road became bumpy sand dunes and we got to a small sandy parking lot. The only people on the beach were kitesurfers who all knew each other.
We spent an afternoon watching Tony and about a dozen other kitesurfers fly around. Ivo was hooked. But Boca Grandi is not a place for beginners. To learn kitesurfing you need calm shallow waters and not many dangerous underwater rocks and reefs, as before you start “flying” you will be mostly splashing around and drinking seawater…
So Tony sent Ivo to Armando.
Armando Wester is one of the first kitesurfers in Aruba. He opened a kitesurf shack on the north corner of Palm Beach – Armando’s Kitesurf Shack, which is exclusively for kiteurfing lessons, equipment rentals and sale. The place is on the south shore of the island and is a lot more protected from big waves. In fact it is flat as a lake, shallow and with sandy bottom, which makes it excellent for kitesurf beginners. Here we met Armando, as well as the other guys and girls who work as kitesurf instructors, all super fun kitesurf maniacs. Everyone in Armando’s Shack are doing what they love to do- kitesurfing and teaching people to kitesurf.
Ivo took a couple of lessons with Carlos, who was super sweet and patient and fun. Then Ivo became the proud owner of a 12-meter kitesurf, a board and harness, which Armando sold him at a discount price.
Armando is a terrific dude. He is totally chill, with a permanent smile on his face, even (or especially) when kitesurfing. He is not one of those business-oriented lets-make-more-money lets-rip-off-everyone type of people who start with a dream and transform it into an industry and then become so preoccupied with profit, that forget about the dream in the first place. Not at all. He got the shack on the beach years ago and started giving lessons to people passionate about the sport. But mostly, he just wanted to kitesurf all the time. Today nothing much has changed, except that now he has a few people working for him as instructors, so he can just focus on chilling, kitesurfing and his young family. He was super cool with Ivo and helped him a lot with the choice of equipment, and he even let him practice with a smaller kite for the entire time we were in Aruba and while Ivo was still learning the ropes.
After a couple of weeks practicing every day, Ivo was finally able to enjoy the kite. And he will do so everywhere we go around the world, where there is sea and wind.