Kiting the waves in Cape Town is a blast, but the Western Cape has many more kite spots to offer. Leaving the big city behind and following the coast north on the R27 through partly grassy hillsides and scrubby terrain its apparent you are heading into South Africa’s back country.
Only about 70 minutes up the coast is a holiday paradise with white beaches and a blue lagoon well- known to the kite community. The lagoon shimmers crystal blue from afar and stretches nearly 11 miles long and up to two miles wide in few places.
The protected bay around Langebaan is rich in history and even the first Europeans, including Vasco da Gama, may have thought it had potential when setting foot nearby in 1497.
Shortly after turning at the Engen petrol station on the R27, every kiteboarder’s heart will skip a beat when seeing the permanently wind-shaped trees as an indication of a strong and steady breeze. Upon arrival in Langebaan, you can’t shake the feeling that the city is extremely laid back and things are just moving slower here. Langebaan is small and mostly residential, but buzzing with wind sport fanatics and weekend visitors on the main strip. Any of the bars, restaurants, boutiques, and kite shops are within walking distance to the beach making kite access super easy. When I get to Langebaan I’m usually completely de-stressed and normally never book my overnight stay until in town and after my first kite session. AirBnB’s around $50 are plenty and I never had to drive home at night. So, no stress, you’ll be ok.
Kiting on Main Beach
The beach and kite spots kind of split into two areas in Langebaan, Main Beach and Shark Bay. The water is a bit cooler at Main Beach, similar to Cape Town and a wet suit is advised. I easily survived in my 3/2mm wetsuit but on some rare occasion wished for an extra layer to get more time on the water. The winds are cranking on Main Beach (usually afternoon) powering up my 7 or 9m in all my visits…..and who likes riding bigger than 9 meter anyways?
The water is fairly flat, but has a small chop creating tiny ramps for strapless ollies or twin tip lift off. From Main Beach you can kite over to Schaapen Island (or “Bird Island” due to the many birds) and often see seals playing in the water as you glide by. The wind is usually steady, but the current can be quite strong on an outgoing tide.
So strong that you can feel completely powered up or overpowered, cutting upwind like crazy only to make it back to your starting point. So don’t be puzzled…it is not your sudden lack of upwind ability! As a rule of thumb, the wind always seems a bit stronger and consistent on Main Beach because it is
forced between two hill ranges to get here. Main Beach is situated in front of restaurants and bars and taking a quick break between kite sessions is easy. Some places are fancier than others, but I have not been refused entrance in swim shorts yet. When the sun sets and the wind stops blowing, the restaurants fill with kiters of all ages reevaluating their session accomplishments. Restaurants are beautifully positioned along the beach and dinners include free sunsets over the bay and mountains.
A highlight in Langebaan is Shark Bay with its stunning blue lagoon. Though, each time I arrive at the lagoon entrance it seems everyone had the same idea; escaping Cape Town for a vacation from the vacation. Shark Bay has its advantages and draw backs. The water temperature is much warmer than the beach downwind and the space for kiteboarding is vast. On the downside, the beach becomes narrow on high tide and can be crammed with kites and boarders from all over the world necessitating practicing of “international relations” to negotiate space.
While kite schools hover around in the waist deep area close to the beach, crossing over half way gives me the feeling that I’m alone in the bay. I can carve endlessly through the rails without being bothered. Some areas far out have large knee-deep sand bars where one can practice tricks and reliably nose-dive without being judged like the “chubby kid in gym class”. Access to Shark Bay was, and to some degree still is, a low-frill venture; gravel parking, stairs to the beach, that’s it.
2021 brought a new café with bathrooms, a fresh water shower and a spectacular view. Kiting here is always a highlight, but wind can be gusty when it scrapes over the mountains. Shark Bay, Langebaan is a “must” kite destination for anyone coming to Cape Town. At this point you may wonder, are there sharks in Shark Bay? Well, I have never seen a shark here, but the word is they don’t bite.