Kitesurfing Taking Off On Cape Cod

Kite surfers off Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth.
DON PARKINSON/ENTERPRISE - Kite surfers off Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth.

A beautiful day at Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth features the roar of shining waves and warm sand slipping through your toes like other Cape Cod beaches.  However, on a breezy day “Chappy” boasts a sight uncommon if not nonexistent at other Cape beaches; the view of multicolored kites pulling their riders quickly along the surf and even lifting them into the air. This colorful sport is called kitesurfing.

While kitesurfing has a larger presence in other parts of the world, such as France, it is growing in North America, and Cape Cod is one of the hot spots.

Domenic DeGregorio, a 2011 graduate of Falmouth High School, got involved with the sport after an ordinary day at the beach.

“I was watching people down at Chappy and thought it looked pretty fun,” Mr. DeGregorio said. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf and it’s the closest thing to surfing you’ll get in Falmouth.”

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Mr. DeGregorio pursued his interest and quickly was introduced to Air Support, an action sports facility in West Dennis located on the Bass River. Air Support offers kitesurfing lessons, wakeboarding lessons and tours, as well as stand-up paddleboarding rentals and tours.

“If someone wanted to learn how to kitesurf, I’d highly suggest taking lessons from a certified school,” Mr. DeGregorio said. “It can be a very dangerous sport.”

A common misconception of kitesurfing is that it takes a lot of upper body strength, but Mr. DeGregorio claims, “The kite is doing almost all of the work.”

While wind is the force that makes kitesurfing possible, it also makes it dangerous. Kitesurfers look for cross-shore or cross-onshore winds for ideal conditions. They try to steer clear of offshore winds that pose the threat of dragging the rider out to sea in the event of equipment failure.

“It’s very important to keep an eye on the weather. If you see a storm front coming then it’s a good idea to get out because the winds can shift very fast,” Mr. DeGregorio said.

Almost all modern kites have safety features, including control bars and harnesses, within the kites. Some recent kites even have an emergency depower mechanism with the control bar.

“At Chappy everyone looks after one another,” Mr. DeGregorio said. “When I first started everyone welcomed me and looked after me while I was still learning.”

Cape Cod and the islands boast one seasoned kite surfer who has been around the world to compete in the sport.

Rob Douglas comes from a family that has been involved with sailing for decades and has been kitesurfing since 1987.

Mr. Douglas, a Boston native who now lives on Martha’s Vineyard, is a world-class kitesurfer who has held the world record for speed sailing.

In 2008 and 2010-2012, Mr. Douglas went faster through 500 meters of water than any other sail-powered vessel in the world, and he did it with his kite.

Mr. Douglas’s world-record run in Namibia in 2010 was recorded at 55.65 knots, or 64.04 miles per hour.

“That was an amazing experience and wasn’t planned,” Mr. Douglas said.

Mike Gebhardt coached Mr. Douglas through his record run.

“The competitive aspect of speed sailing keeps me going,” said Mr. Douglas, 43.

Mr. Douglas competes around the world three to four times a year. One competition, however, takes place at home and is organized by Mr. Douglas.

The event, called Nassi, takes place on Martha’s Vineyard during the last two weeks of October.

“I got the idea from a French competition that I attended and I wanted to bring speed sailing to North America,” Mr. Douglas said.

This year’s event is the fourth annual competition. It will feature 15 surfers from around the world and more than $25,000 in prize money.

Depending on the wind, the speed competition could take place in five or six locations on the Vineyard, but mostly likely it will be held at State Beach and Cape Poge Bay.

Mr. Douglas wanted to create “an event for the riders that will keep them happy and provide a good financial prize.”

“The guys that I compete with around the world throughout the year are really friendly on and off the water. There’s a lot of positive energy around the guys. We’re out there competing against the clock,” he said.

Mr. Douglas lists France as his favorite spot to compete due to the country’s enthusiasm for sailing.

“While kitesurfing we’re going as fast as cars do and people are amazed at that,” Mr. Douglas said. “I hope to keep competing in sailing for a few more years and bring some of that enthusiasm home.” 

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