One thing the Outer Banks is world famous for is its dependable wind. The Wright Brothers selected Kitty Hawk for one single reason. Lots of predictable wind. Fishermen don't always appreciate having their winds in excess of 20 mph but there is a new breed of Hatteras Island visitors that really love big wind. A long time resident of Hatteras once told me, "If you can't make your peace with the wind while you are here you are probably never going to be happy."
Board sports, including surfing, kiteboarding (aka kitesurfing) and sailboarding (aka windsurfing), are each different methods of enjoying the thrill and exhilaration of our inviting local combination of wind and water.
Most people are already familiar with the popularity of surfing on the West Coast but not everyone knows that there is still plenty of folks that enjoy surfing right here on the East Coast. No, we don't have the giant surfing waves of Costa Rica or Hawaii but Hatteras Island does offer a somewhat dependable ride able surf during many times of the year including winter. Since the structure of our beaches changes with the storms from year to year it is very difficult to predict the best locations but a quick stop at one of the local surf shops will put you on the best location to start your search for the best waves. Check out Sailflow.com which is a great website for wind sports that posts very accurate predictions of the wind speed and direction so that board sport enthusiasts can know the best times to be at the best locations.
New visitors to Hatteras Island driving along Hwy. 12 will most likely get to see glimpses of kiteboarding all along the soundside usually starting around the Salvo area and extending all the way to Hatteras Village. This sport is relatively new to this area but has taken it by storm. Kiteboarders use a combination of a board similar to a surfboard and a large billowing controllable parachute (kite) which catches wind and propels them along the surface of the water. This strenuous sport can by fast and exhilarating. Fortunately there are many days during the mid-summer that the less experienced can learn the controls and also get their equipment adjusted properly for their weight.
A kitesurfer or kiteboarder uses a board with or without foot-straps or bindings, combined with the power of a large controllable kite to propel themself and the board across the water. In 2006, the number of kitesurfers has been estimated at around 150,000 to 210,000, with 114,465 inflatable kites sold that same year. The sport is becoming safer due to innovations in kite design, safety release systems, and instruction[. Many riding styles have evolved to suit different types of riders and conditions, such as wakestyle, waveriding, freestyle, jumping, and cruising.
This is certainly not the serene endeavor you might conjure up when you think about a quiet sail on a peaceful lake. Quite the contrary, these boards are equipped with colorful sails that propel them at incredible speeds across the water with the rider hanging on with all his or her might. Both kiteboarding and sailboarding are exciting for the rider and beautiful to watch for the spectator. My wife and I many times have stopped at the local donut shop (Orange Blossom) and picked up some coffee and pastries and driven down to the public parking area at the Canadian Hole which is a local favorite spot for this sport. Windsurfing, or sailboarding, is a surface water sport using a windsurf board, also commonly called a sailboard, usually two to five meters long and powered by wind pushing a sail. The rig is connected to the board by a free-rotating flexible universal joint (U-Joint). Unlike a rudder-steered sailboat, a windsurfer is steered by the tilting and rotating of the mast and sail as well as tilting and carving the board.
The most popular spot by far for all of these board sports is called the Canadian Hole. This location got its name because for several years in the early popularity of sailboarding this area would have a large number of vehicles with Canadian license plates even during the earliest and coldest start of the spring season. This soundside area has now been further developed by the National Park Service with a large paved public parking area, inside restroom facilities and outdoor showers. The sand beach area here is also open to 4X4 driving which gives enthusiasts plenty of room to spread out and rig their equipment.