An idyllic beach in Gran Canaria hosts the Air Battle Kiteboarding Festival. The island provides the perfect conditions for this extreme sport which in 2024 will be shown at the Olympics for the first time.
The competition has finished in Playa de Vargas in the Gran Canaria municipality of Agüimes. Competitors in all six categories competed in excellent conditions. The beach is gaining a reputation amongst kitesurfers. The Canary Islands climate and the trade winds that blow consistently throughout the year have been commented upon. Playa de Vargas is becoming a ‘spot’, as kitesurfers say.
Kitesurfing is an extreme sport in which surfers use kites propelled by the wind to move their surfboards along the water. Experts can perform spectacular manoeuvres but only in special conditions such as those in Gran Canaria.
After an epic battle in the final, fourteen-year-old Brazilian surfer Mikaili Sol was on the podium at the kiteboarding festival in Gran Canaria. She has already been world champion twice, in the freestyle and Air Games categories. When asked, she was highly enthusiastic about the conditions she found in Gran Canaria: “[it]has been a discovery. La Playa de Vargas brings together the best conditions for this kind of championship. As well as having good wind, it’s a beautiful place.”
World champion kite freestyler Liam Whaley was born in Ibiza and lives in Tarifa. He has also been delighted at the environment in Gran Canaria:
“I have been in several world championships in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, but this is my first time in Gran Canaria. It has been a spectacular experience, really great. The conditions have been unbeatable. I’m surprised that this spot hasn’t become a classic. It’s a pity I can’t stay longer to visit all the different parts of the island. Normally there isn’t time. We go from the hotel to the beach, from the beach to the hotel.”
Although the rest of the world is only now beginning to understand the quality of Playa de Vargas Canarian as a setting for kitesurfing, locals have long known about the beach which stands out for its wind regularity and the characteristic waves that break in both directions and offers superb walls and tubes for kitesurfing.
Gaby Cano, a Gran Canarian IKO certified instructor who came second at the 2019 Gran Canaria championship, offers a local perspective:
“The strange thing about this place is that out of the 365 days in a year there are 300 days here with perfect kitesurfing conditions. The average wind is 30 knots. In summer this goes up to 35 knots, the same as Cuidad del Cabo. This is why La Playa de Vargas is a perfect place to practice freestyle. You can get big air which means you can jump really high and do crazy tricks.”
As freestyle-big air involves huge jumps there are only a few places in the world where it can be done. This is why expert kitesurfers are so ecastatic about Gran Canaria.
“This beach [Playa de Vargas] is almost perfect. There are marvellous winds. It’s among the best places for doing big jumps. This is important because it lifts our sporting performance,” says Italian champion Gianmaria Coccoluto.
Coccoluto isn’t the last to praise the conditions in the Canary Islands.
“I have enjoyed the event. It’s always good to be in the Canary Islands,” says Hannah Whiteley, a champion kitesurfer, who has also had a long career as a publicity model which has helped her gain 50,000 followers on Instagram.
“I came to Gran Canaria when I was very small,” Whiteley continues. “The truth is that I don’t remember much apart from the feeling that I loved the place. This time I’ve only been on this beach which is a perfect setting to work. As well as the sand, I love the way the pebbles turn it into a magical place. I look forward to coming back in the future.