Anyone who walked along Sandymount Strand this summer may have noticed that the famous smokestacks are not the only thing visible on the horizon.
Lately, huge numbers of large, colourful kites can be seen on windy days. They belong to a relatively new type of watersport, known as kitesurfing.
In the last few years there has been a huge growth in the popularity of kitesurfing in Ireland and people are now flocking to Poolbeg to try it out. So what is kitesurfing and how do you get involved in it?
Kitesurfing is a sport where you are strapped onto a board known as a kite-board and then propelled along the water by the wind in your kite. However, this is not the kind of kite you might give to a four year old – kiting is an extreme sport.
Kitesurfing usually takes place in the sun, in glamorous places like California or Brazil – so what is it about Poolbeg that has attracted these thrill-seekers?
NewsFour spoke to Richie Cotter, who has been doing watersports for 30 years and regularly travels across Dublin to Poolbeg to kitesurf.
“Having windsurfed and kitesurfed around the world, Poolbeg is probably the best place to kitesurf and windsurf in the world,” Cotter attested. “No sharks, no rocks.
You are never out of your depth, no dangerous currents. It’s brilliant.”
The only downside to kitesurfing in Dublin instead of on a sandy beach in Brazil? The weather. Cotter says that, apart from the climate, there are no downsides to kitesurfing in Poolbeg.
So what do you do if you are a local, looking to avail of the world class kitesurfing facilities on your doorstep? The good news is that while kitesurfing is technically classed as an extreme sport, it is easy to learn. Several kitesurfing instructors will give lessons out of Poolbeg, including companies such as AboveBoard.
Most people catch on after only a few lessons, said Cotter.
Kitesurfing can be performed at all ages from teens to seniors. Many people take up kitesurfing in their old age. One famous kitesurfer, Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group) is still regularly doing it at age 65.
The only barrier to entry into the world of kitesurfing is the price. One problem with starting any water sport involves buying lots of pieces of expensive equipment. Even secondhand, the equipment will cost you roughly €1,000 including wetsuit, board and kite. Cotter recommends anyone interested in kitesurfing to get lessons and use the instructor’s equipment before buying any yourself.
Of course, as it is an extreme sport, there are dangers to kitesurfing as well as benefits. Cotter has fortunately not had any serious injuries himself, although he does not look back fondly on the time he single-handedly stopped the DART trains for a few hours one evening by getting the strings of his kite tangled in the line near Poolbeg. As long as you don’t do that, he says, you are good to go.
By Alanna O’Shea