Going From Windsurfing To Kiteboarding

The evolution from one Baja sport to another

Many of the men, and a handful of women, who kiteboard in Baja today started as windsurfers three or four decades ago. It was the free-spirited, outdoor-loving people who are now baby boomers who ventured south to Baja in the 1970s with their boards and sails in tow to take advantage of El Norte, the 20 to 30 knot winds that blow along the Sea of Cortes on the southeastern edge of the Baja. This wind is one of the reasons the area has become known as one of the best for kiteboarding and windsurfing.


These baby boomers came, they saw, they set up camp and stayed, often from November through March. Eventually, many bought property in Los Barriles or La Ventana, changing the sleepy little fishing villages into two of the most popular winter kiteboarding sites in the world.

Pam Glendinning is one of the many “kiters” from British Columbia who visits La Ventana each winter. An avowed water baby, Pam got into windsurfing 25 years ago. She enjoyed the sport, but there was just too much gear and a lot of work. Ten years ago, she started kiteboarding and hasn’t looked back. “I saw the minimum amount of gear a person needed and knew that it was my sport,” she says.

Kiteboarding is an amalgamation of windsurfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing. In the early days, windsurfing boards had one design; they were big and required a lot of gear. Eventually smaller windsurf boards were developed, but in the meantime, kiteboards were taking off, literally. They could be launched from shore, it took less wind to fly them, and much less gear, lightening the load on the pocketbook for extra baggage charges when flying to and from Baja. 

Kiteboarding is also much easier than windsurfing. It is easier to change the direction of travel on the board and, most of all, a kiteboarder can fly with less wind than a windsurfer. Advances in design and technology are making it possible for boards to fly faster than ever before.

We should note, however, that just because kiteboarding is easier than windsurfing, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not a sport where you can just watch a YouTube video about it and then go out and do it. Lessons are essential, and they cost an average of $50 to $100 USD an hour. Every couple of years someone climbs on one of these babies, takes off at a terrifying speed, and last anyone sees of them, they’re headed for China. You need to know how to steer the things before you get on them. Also, you will learn a new respect for the power of wind. If you didn’t have a harness around you, the wind would rip the thing right out of your hands. As it is, all you do with your hands is steer with a light touch of a couple of fingers.

Campgrounds and resorts in La Ventana include kite schools, along with gear sales and rentals. On calm days, a nervous tension permeates the neighborhoods as those kiters waiting for wind to settle beneath shaded areas between their RVs, the landscape strewn with drying wet suits, boards and empty bottles of Pacifico. Spring will arrive soon, bringing the heat, taking away the wind, and releasing the homeward migration of kiteboarders.

As the sport grows in popularity, and with the next winter, they will return. The population of La Ventana and Los Barriles will grow again with the wind and the arrival of the colorful sails and the funsters attached to them.

La Ventana is a small town an hour  north of Los Barriles, which is an hour north of San Jose.