Whatcom Magazine

Wind, shallows make Bellingham Bay a magnet for kiteboarders

Harnessing the wind for high speeds and insanely high jumps on a kiteboard can provide anyone with the sensation of having superpowers.

That’s one way Andy Holmes, the owner of KitePaddleSurf in Bellingham, describes kiteboarding and why he loves it.

“I just watched one of the ‘X-Men’ movies recently and there is a point in the movie where mutants are learning about superpowers, like the ability to run super fast or jump super high in the air, and with kiteboarding you get those abilities,” Holmes says. “You can jump at will, really, really high, and for me jumping over 30 feet high and over 100 feet long is easy on a kiteboard, and it really feels like you have superpowers.”

Kiteboarding is a fusion of wakeboarding, windsurfing and snowboarding. It uses a kite to pull the rider, who is strapped onto a board, on top of the water.

To start the ride, a kiteboarder hooks into a harness attached to a special kite, walks into shallow water near the beach, launches a large kite, slips his or her feet onto a board, and takes off along the water’s surface, using the power of the wind as propulsion.

Bellingham Bay happens to have great wind and beaches that make the area a kiteboarder’s playground. Holmes started kiteboarding at Locust Beach, west of Bellingham, in 2000, and more kiteboarders keep appearing on local beaches. Kiteboarders even travel from British Columbia and Seattle to ride at Locust.

“One of the things that makes Locust Beach great for kiteboarding is the shallow water combined with consistently windy conditions,” Holmes says. “During spring and summer, the wind blows most days and that has to do with the Fraser River Valley and our orientation to the valley. It draws in the cool air from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and that is why it is windier in Bellingham Bay more often than most spots around here.”

The ideal winds for kiteboarding on Bellingham Bay are 15 to 30 mph, but someone can kiteboard in as little as 8 mph and as much as 50 mph. Special kiteboarding gear is required for extreme high and low winds.

The perfect tide for kiteboarding is a middle to low tide, but even a normal high tide isn’t bad.

“For beginners, it’s nicer to have shallow water, so you can always touch the bottom and to have a larger beach to launch your kite, so there aren’t as many obstacles,” Holmes says.

Snowboarding is one of the other local board-sport pastimes in Whatcom County, but that entails a long drive to Mt. Baker Ski Area, while kiteboarding is close to town and offers other perks as well.

“Even a normal kiteboarding day is like a powder day at Mount Baker,” Holmes says. “I can work it into my daily schedule since it is so close, but I can’t work Baker into my daily schedule due to the distance.”