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Let’s go fly a kite!


Local enthusiast Trey Bishop shares advice for getting started.

Story by David Warren + Photos by Mike Ritterback

There’s no doubt about it; kiteboarding is cool. The equipment is cool, the people who do it are cool, the best kiteboarding locations in the world are cool, and the sport itself is way cool. Kiteboarding, at its core, is a simple idea. Get a big kite and a small surfboard and let the wind pull you across the water. Sounds simple. Not quite. The kiteboarding world takes it a huge step further by allowing the kite to lift you off the water as high as 60 feet in the air. While up in the air, you can twist, flip, and do tricks with names like Dum Dum and Flavor Flip. Yes, there is a learning curve to flying a kite and staying on the board. However, when you have learned, it’s an extraordinary experience.

Hilton Head has several kiteboarding enthusiasts. One of the most notable and outspoken in the sport is Trey Bishop, an ophthalmologist by day and a kiteboarder whenever the time, wind, and weather allow. Trey began kiteboarding in 2003 on a trip to the Outer Banks with his wife. It did not take him long to become wholly committed by purchasing gear, taking more lessons, and practicing off the Hilton Head beaches. “I find it very relaxing and very refreshing to be just me, the water, and the wind,” Trey said. “Although it is a personal sport, it’s a very social sport and there is a dedicated group of kiteboarders on Hilton Head who have traveled together to some of the world’s best kiteboarding destinations.”

Kiteboarding is a fairly recent sport and was first developed in France by brothers Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux in the 1970s.

Today it has become the world’s fastest-growing water sport. Although it can’t be done everywhere because the kites depend on the strength and the direction of the wind plus the height of the waves, Hilton Head is a good spot for kiteboarding because of its steady breezes and wide beaches.

How to get started

Trey has helped many people launch into kiteboarding with a few simple steps.

1. Get a training kite. This is a smaller kite you can use on the land and get a feel for flying and directing the kite. This is a key step because if you love flying the kite, you will most likely love the eventual kiteboarding.

2. Develop a feel for your board. Skills can be developed by surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, or even skateboarding. Any of these can help because it will be important that you feel comfortable on the boards to be relaxed with your balance and changing of directions.

3. Learn about the wind. It is essential that a kiteboarder knows how to tell if the wind is in an acceptable direction and speed.

4. Take lessons. Kiteboarding is a sport where you need proper training. There are many excellent facilities in Charleston (Force Kite and Wake) and the Outer Banks (REAL Watersports). An excellent instructor is also central to enhancing your ability to be safe and enjoy the sport.

All this might sound a bit challenging, but Trey stresses that half the fun is learning to kiteboard. “Kiteboarding is a sport you will never fully master. You always will have something new on which to work. These learning challenges are what makes kiteboarding so much fun, and it doesn’t have to be just for you.” Trey has introduced kiteboarding to his whole family, and they take extensive trips to some of the world’s most exotic places to test their skills in new and different locales.

Kiteboarding is genuinely a beautiful sport that can be enjoyed by the whole family. If you go out to the beach and see several kiteboarders skimming over the waves and almost magically being lifted off the water only to float back down and continue on, stop and enjoy the spectacle. You just might be watching Trey, his family, and friends enjoying the love of kiteboarding.

Equipment you need to start kiteboarding

Training kite: This allows you to practice flying before you get in the water.

Kiteboarding kite: The kites come in various sizes shapes and colors. A professional kiteboarding shop will help you pick out the right kite for you.

Kiteboard: A kiteboard is shaped differently than a wake board or a surfboard, and it is best that beginners start with a larger board.

Harness: The harness is what attaches you to the kite. It must be fit properly and be comfortable.

Quality instruction: Take lessons (see #4).

Desire for a new adventure: Because YOLO.

Trey’s Top Five Kiteboarding Locations

1. Le Morne, Mauritius

2. Outer Banks, NC

3. La Ventana, Baja

4. Maui, Hawaii

5. Barbados and Hilton Head Island (of course)