It is during the southern winter, from May to October, that the Mauritian sky fills with multicoloured wings while the lagoon is taken over by ride fans. For those who dream of experiencing this unique sensation of gliding and flying combined, Mauritius is an unmissable destination. The numerous spots, both splendid and safe, can accommodate beginners, as well as the most experienced. For my part, it is in Anse-la-Raie that I discovered my first kitesurfing sensation…
Anse-la-Raie: spectacle and adrenaline
While I am riding my bike along the island’s northern coastal road in search of small, secret beaches, I discover a wild and amazing place after Cap Malheureux. Lined with casuarina trees, the beach of Anse-la-Raie is a cove that is popular with picnic and surfing enthusiasts. Four-wheel drive vehicles are parked in the shade of the trees, deflated kites litter the ground and small groups chat on the edge of the sea, staring out over the water.
Attracted by the dance of the kites flying in the sky, I settle on the beach. The riders glide across the water at high speed, leaving a spray of water behind them. The show is at its peak when the most experienced riders perform tricks: backside, kiteloop, shifty 360. I see them take their momentum, fly away, spin in the sky and then land elegantly on the water, driven by the power of the wind. Their movements seem so fluid that it’s hard not to want to try. I then approach the small group of kitesurfers chatting at the water’s edge.
Kitesurfers: a community of enthusiasts
With salty hair and a smile on their faces, those who have just got out of the water are talking about their session. They talk about swell, chop, waves, gear, wind. They discuss the new North, Cabrinha, Duotone and Naish wings in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone seems to know each other here. I dare to enter the conversation.
“Hello, do you know where it is possible to take kitesurfing lessons for beginners?”
“You’ve come to the right place: I’m a kite instructor!” says Stephan, who goes on to explain the course to me. “Anse la Raie is a good place to start: you stay in the cove at the beginning to learn how to handle the kite. Afterwards, when you are comfortable enough, you leave the cove by boat to go to the lagoon. There, you are equipped with earpieces that allow me to give you instructions and during the first two or three lessons, we go at your own pace. You can stay in the towed swim if you wish, or take the board and harness from the second lesson if you are more comfortable. So when do we start?”
I’m afraid of losing motivation, so I sign up for the next day. There’s no turning back!
Introduction to kitesurfing in Mauritius
It’s 9 o’clock and no one is missing: Stephan will be our instructor for this beginners’ course. There are four of us to discover the joys of kiteboarding this morning: two teenagers, a man of about 45 years old and me.
As Stephan says, there is no age limit for kitesurfing. As long as you take all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents.
The course starts with a study of the water and the wind direction. We then go over the equipment: the kite, the lines, the board, the harness. Then we learn in turn to release the kite: a gesture used when you feel in danger.
Then comes the demonstration of the take-off, always impressive because of the size of the kite. Stephan then explains how to handle the kite in the wind window to control the power.
Theory quickly gives way to practice. We embark on the motorboat to leave the cove. Once in the lagoon, I stand on the ledge, helm in hand, ready to start the tow.
“3, 2, 1: go for it!” I drop into the water and off I go into the lagoon, manipulating my kite to make wide figure-of-eight movements, letting my body glide for dozens of metres. I am immediately intoxicated by the sensation of speed and weightlessness. I am also amazed to discover the lagoon in this way, in the middle of flying fish and sea turtles.
I feel free, light and happy.
Louka, freestyle is in his DNA
When I get out of the water, I see a crowd on the beach. I imagine that someone has been injured when Stephan announces: “You’re lucky: you’ll be able to meet Louka, our national champion.”
As we talk, I learn that Louka is a local kid. Passionate about kitesurfing since he was 10 years old, Louka has been several times world junior champion and has now joined the French kitesurfing team in the pro category… enough to put stars in my eyes!
He surfs the most beautiful spots in the world and is now back home: it is at Anse la Raie that he made his first runs, and at Cap Malheureux – his favourite spot – that he prefers to surf.
Intrigued by the aura of the young man, I approach him and discover the radiant smile and the laughing eyes of the champion. Tomorrow he leaves Mauritius for Rodrigues, the wild island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 560 kilometres east of Mauritius. There, a huge lagoon delights riders from all over the world. Wind, waves, nature, calm: Rodrigues, nicknamed “the Cinderella of the Mascarene Islands”, is a small paradise for kitesurfing lovers.
Goal: Le Morne
Galvanized by my first moments of sliding and my meeting with Louka, I decide to continue my efforts. After the towed swim, I manage to get on the board the next day. I am far from kiteloop, but my first edges give me new sensations.
“Depending on your progress, I might take you to Le Morne on the last day of the course,” says Stephan. We’ll leave early in the morning, as it’s a two-hour drive to the extreme south-west of the island from Cap Malheureux.”
Four days later, our efforts seem to bear fruit: here we are facing the most mythical spot in Mauritius. One Eye and Manawa attract all wave-riding enthusiasts, whether they are kiteboarders, windsurfers or surfers.
For me, kitesurfing on the barrier reef is a future step: I am content to discover the southern lagoon while enjoying the flat and the wonderful panorama offered by Le Morne mountain. And it’s a pure moment of pleasure… and adrenaline!