Words: Paula Sonnenberg
Being a kite boarder for so many years I’ve learned that the best thing to do when it comes to kites is have the latest designs in your quiver if you can swing it. So after accepting a job as Captain on a 156’ motor yacht which was going to carry me down to the Caribbean for the winter I went to work on updating my 2009 F-One Bandit II’s to the 2010 Bandit III’s. I’m happy to say it was a good move. I love the changes that F-One has done. I thought the 2009 was top of the line and there would be little changes left to make. Well, I should have known that F-One would find something else to improve on. They really are up to speed on what works and what doesn’t.
The Bandit III’s are incredibly stable, have a smooth power change and sit effortlessly in the best spot in the window. Also, they come perfectly set up from the factory. No extra knots that leave you pondering “which one do I use?” No adjustments to worry about. Just rig up, hook in and go. Recently, while in my home town of Sebastian Florida, I let a friend use my 8m Bandit III. It was brand new, never been rigged. He was really impressed to find it was pre-tuned and was able to hit the water the moment he launched with no adjustments. Even when the wind got light he was amazed it still flew perfect with no back stalling.
My winter season started on December 10th. I sailed south for St Barth’s from Ft Lauderdale, Florida with my crew of 11 and a brand new quiver of F-One kites and boards. We spent the holidays docked in Gustavia Harbour and experienced 4 meter waves roll through the area for a week. Unfortunately there was no wind. The swell was so big it forced the harbour to shut down from Dec 27 to Jan 4th. The longest in St Barth’s history and during a very busy time. So we left St Barth’s on New Years Day and cruised the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St Maarten, Antigua, Nevis, Saba, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Vincent, St Lucia and the Grenadines until March 2010.
In my travels in the Caribbean I saw a lot of riders on F-One kites. Especially in the French islands like St Martin and St Barth’s. But some of the best spots to ride I found were in Virgin Gorda’s Bitter End.
Here I could safely anchor the yacht in a well protected sound. Among the many launch sites, I found easy launching from the Bitter End Yacht Club which has a nice little sandy beach to set off from. My friend Scott Allerton owns the kite school here called CaribKiteboarding and the only school in the BVI’s. I hooked up with Scott and two of my crew who wanted to take lessons on the neighboring private island called Eustatia that allows kite boarders to use their nice white sandy beach on the south side for launching. From here I got to sail out around to Sir Richard Branson’s Nectar Island a few miles away. Branson, the British Industrialist millionaire and kite surfer was host to the BVI Kite Jam 2010. The island has some of the areas nicest reef breaks. It was very intimidating to get there with coral reef everywhere sucking dry at low tide. But I navigated my way across a channel from Virgin Gorda, over reefs and fighting tidal currents until I found a beautiful right hand break all to myself. After 2 hours I was pretty tired and had to make my way back to the start but it was all well worth it.
St Martin, on the French side has one of my favorite spots for launching. It’s listed on the charts as Galion Bay but is locally called Coconut Cove. It sits right next to Orient Beach which is famous for its restaurants, shops and nudist colonies. In this cove there is one restaurant and it has great food at local prices. The owner has done an amazing job of up keeping where in the last 25 years it still looks exactly the same. It sits right on the beach with wooden benches, tables, lounges and umbrellas. It’s never too crowded and always has good friendly service. Most of the employees are windsurfers, kiters or surfers. There is a nice reef break right in the middle of the bay. A surf school ferries students out on a mastless catamaran numerous times during the day. This tends to be a bit of a dilemma when you want to hit the waves. Weaving in and out of beginner surfers never impresses the instructor too much. A little shouting and hand gestures usually follows but they don’t stay out there for long and they only go out when its small enough to get beginners out safely. Otherwise it’s really nice with only a small area of shallow reef. The wave area is located directly upwind in the bay and is surrounded by a safety net of sandy white beaches.
After the Caribbean I made one stop in the Bahamas with my boyfriend Scott and our yellow lab Tucker, where we stayed on a private island with some friends. The Exumas is one of the Bahamas best kept secrets. Here we got to ride in some of the most beautiful areas you will ever see. Crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, steady winds, butter flat stretches with waves breaks on sandy bars and not one person around for miles. One of our launch sites was in such a remote area that I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the first ones ever to kite there. Access is only made by boat through very shallow channels that were less than 2 feet in places and with good local knowledge of the tides and currents. Another spot we launched from was a small island barely big enough to stretch out our lines out. It provided us with yet another sweet spot of private flat water sailing with a mix of waves and chop.
After 3 months of Caribbean and Bahamian sun, wind and waves I had to make my way back to Florida to get the yacht ready for the journey to the Mediterranean for the summer. We will be traveling, Italy, France, Spain, Corsica, Sardinia, Turkey and Greece. I now have 3 crew members to kite with me after 2 of them took their first lessons this winter and we are very excited about the upcoming season. We are carrying all F-One gear on board with 6 different kite sizes from 6 to 13 metres, a 133 twin tip and a 5’6” Bamboo Surf board. Look out Europe, here we come!