Mostafa al Hussaini runs the Dubai Kite Club, a kitesurfing group that promotes one of the fastest growing watersports in the world. We caught up with him to find out more about it.
Kitesurfing is a watersport where you are pulled through the water on a board, similar to a wakeboard, by a large, overhead kite. You just have to learn to harness the wind and pull yourself upright.
Well, there's some debate about this. Some people say the sport started out in South Africa but I believe it was in France. It started developing when land kites there were combined with surfboards on the water. Then they started experimenting with the technology, with the size of kites and boards, but really it was only in the 1990s that it took off as a mainstream sport.
Since 2002, which is when I joined them as a beginner. We are now a committee of 11 and have 700 official members, though I think there are approximately 1,200 to 1,300 kitesurfers in Dubai. It's a mixed bunch of men and women, aged from 17 to 60, and we meet two to three times a week.
No. A while ago it used to be more extreme but in recent years the technology has become safer. Before, for instance, you could never release the kite very easily in the water, so could be dragged along. Now the release has been improved and the foot bindings on the board are very easy to slip out of too, not like on a wakeboard or snowboard. At our club, we welcome beginners but before they can sign up with the club they need to take our six-hour course. We start them out on land so they can learn the theory and safety instructions. Then we teach them how to use the kite on dry land, so it's not until the fifth lesson that they actually venture onto the water.
For the six hours it is Dh2,100 and then Dh200 to sign up with the club after that, which gives you a licence to surf with us and covers your insurance. But we have trial memberships for Dh50 where you can come along for a month and see if you want to join in or not. However, even for the trial membership you still need to have completed our beginner's course.
Not especially, just be in good general health with no heart problems, and of course make sure you can swim! It's a sport that's great for improving your cardiovascular fitness and, because you need to hold yourself up, it gives your upper body and abdominals a thorough workout too.
If you get serious about it then the whole kit - wetsuit, board and kite - will set you back anywhere between Dh6,000 and Dh8,000, but to be honest that's cheap compared to other watersports, such as wakeboarding, where you need the use of a boat.
Yes it's extreme; you can reach speeds of up to 50km per hour. But with the proper training and equipment there's no need to be worried. If you go and buy a kite, ignore the training and head out to sea then sure you'll most probably kill yourself. But otherwise it's fine. Just make sure you're aware of the weather. You must check the wind before heading out, for example. Make sure it's not too strong or not pushing you offshore. On a couple of occasions we have had to call the coastguard out when kitesurfers have been dragged out to sea, but they were picked up immediately so in the end it was no problem.
For more information please visit www.dubaikiteclub.com.