Windsurfing has been around for over 30 years on the Outer Banks and kiteboarding over 15 years now. In that time this area has changed in many ways…houses have multiplied, some have been swept away by the ocean, dunes drift back and forth, and hurricanes rip new inlets through Highway 12 and we fill them back in. One thing that remains is that Hatteras Island is a sand bar out in the Atlantic Ocean and we get some of the best wind and waves on the East Coast.
This is a windsurfing and kiteboarding hotspot that attracts thrill-seekers from all over North America. These two very different sports need the same two elements: wind and water, and Hatteras Island has plenty to go around.
In April and May you will find the most windsurfers and kiteboarders in Hatteras. Sailors travel from all points north down to Hatteras to kick off their sailing season. The spring is known for its warm southwest winds that average 20 mph all season. Sailors and kiters will bet their entire year’s vacations on the hope that it will be windy in Hatteras. Usually it is, once in a while it isn’t, and sometimes it is too windy! I am not talking about hurricanes either. Hatteras can have 20-30 days a year with wind speeds of over 40mph, as strong storms and fronts cross the vast expanse of the open water and pick up strength.
Thrill-seekers, adrenaline junkies, tech-talking gearheads, watermen, speed freaks – you will find them all down here when the wind blows. As you drive down Highway 12, you will see the kites up in the air with riders carving back and forth and getting some air time. Windsurfers congregate at the usual spots like Barton’s, The Canadian Hole, and Island Creek behind OceanAir Sports.
Both windsurfing and kiteboarding surely have their place on the Outer Banks. One of the greatest things about kiteboarding here is the unlimited number of downwinders you can do. A downwinder is when you launch at one spot and end up several miles downwind when you are done. In the sound we do it to access riding spots that you can only get to by kiting to them. In the ocean we do it because it is a lot easier to go with the wind, the waves, and the current. How do you get back? In the spring, summer and fall it is pretty easy to catch a ride while standing on Hwy. 12 with your gear. In the winter though, it is imperative that you drop a car off at your downwind destination, as rides are scarce and it is too cold to stand around and wait. Despite the growth in popularity of kiteboarding down here, it is easy to find an uncrowded beach to go and launch, and there are still unclaimed downwinders to explore.
If windsurfing is what you are about, the Pamlico Sound offers miles and miles of shallow water that is great for cruising, The Reef is a special spot that can offer great jumping and wave conditions, and the ocean can serve up some heavy surf.
Soundside, there are plenty of places to launch that have endless waist-deep water with minimal waves or chop. Oceanside is a different story. The shore break in Hatteras is known for denying access to even the most seasoned windsurfers and has turned many a rig into a crumpled mess.
If you are new to these wind-driven sports, Hatteras Island provides shallow waters and clean winds that will make learning a lot easier. These are two sports that beginners really have to take lessons in order to participate safely. Newbies can sign up for some lessons and learn these watersports firsthand. Check with OceanAir Sports 252-995-5000, Ride Hatteras 252-995-6755 or Wind NC 252-995-4400 in Avon; Fox Watersports 252-995-4102 in Buxton; and Real Kiteboarding 252-987-6000 and Hatteras Island Sail Shop in Waves 252-987-2292. Experienced and certified coaches can get you on the water and cruising along effectively, efficiently and safely.