Kitesurfing Love Affair with Jessica Winkler

We recently caught up with sponsored kitesurfer and extreme sport entrepreneur, Jessica Winkler.

Jessica Winkler - Kite Beach

Jessica is an accomplished kitesurfing instructor and is best known for pioneering a kitesurfing business on her own in a third world country.

We asked her to share with us her take on kitesurfing and the vital role the sport plays in her life…

A Burning Passion for Kitesurfing

From the first time I saw kites dancing above the water in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) 10 years ago I was hooked. I used to go down to the water on windy days and just watch the guys practicing jump after jump. I kept saying to my husband at the time, “I want to do that” to which he just replied I would never be strong enough. This is the greatest misconception in the sport but at the time I believed him, so for 5 years I just watched. Finally after my divorce I decided I was not only going to kitesurf but I will excel at it!

I took a 6 month trip around South America and did my first lesson in Mancora, Peru. Leading up to taking this lesson I had only spent a couple of weeks learning to navigate ocean waves and was still pretty intimidated by the power of the ocean. Twice during the lesson I needed to take time out to try to build up confidence in myself. I was never a big swimmer and tended not to excel in water sports due to my discomfort in being underwater.

Jessica Winkler Kitesurfing - Nicaragua

Jessica Winkler Kiting in Nicaragua

After 6 hours of lessons in Peru I was unable to find another place to complete the course until Jericoacoara, Brazil. I ended up staying in Jeri for over a year. I fell in love with the sport and kited every day. During my progression in kitesurfing I was also taking swimming lessons 3 times a week in the ocean to learn to handle currents, waves and rip tides properly. This was one of the most important things I could have done because kitesurfing can be a dangerous sport and the ocean is a very powerful force. It is very important to understand how to read the ocean and to stay calm in the case of an emergency.

I now absolutely love the water and spend most of my time in it either kitesurfing, surfing, wakeboarding or swimming. Once I got over my fear, I had the confidence to become a sponsored kiteboarder. I am currently sponsored by Fuel, O’Neill, Jet Pilot, You Scared?, ProTec, GoPro, Heart & Huntington, and I have just finished a film for Oxbow.

Kitesurfing Lessons at Nicaragua - Jessica & Scott

Jessica Teaching in Nicaragua

Starting the Kitesurfing Romance

Kitesurfing is an extreme sport and people should never try to learn it on their own. A certified instructor is always necessary for a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of instruction. People who attempt to launch a kite on their own without clear knowledge and understanding of the wind window and the equipment, often result in injury or in some extreme cases death.

When choosing a location to learn in I would recommend looking for shallow, flat water with as few hazards as possible. The school should have relatively new, well maintained equipment and knowledgeable capable staff and instructors. You can find this information by looking on Kiteatlas.com or here: Kitesurfing Schools Directory.

Kitesurfing Safety Tips from Jessica

Water safety in kitesurfing is extremely important. When you have so many elements to be concerned with, board, kite, wind, water, waves and other people, safety is number one. For me, I tend to be over cautious with my students. If I see someone kiting in an unsafe manner, I will point out to them how their behavior is endangering themselves and others.

One of the most important things is being aware of yourself in relation to others. You need to keep a good 30 meters of space between you and anything or anyone downwind of you. Always assess your surroundings before launching. Even as a spectator, never stand between the kite and the rider.

Secondly always remain in full control of your kite, on and off the water. If you feel over powered then you need a smaller kite or wait until the wind drops. Accidents happen really fast and the last thing you want is to put yourself or anyone else in danger.

Building the Dream Home – Kitesurf Resort Nicaragua

I ended up taking a surf trip to Costa Rica in June of 2010 to see my mom who was living there at the time. I decided to go to Nicaragua and check it out because it was close. About 10 minutes after I crossed the border I saw a sea of wind turbines facing a big lake with an island made up of two impressive volcanos. I asked the taxi driver to pull over so I could have a look up and down the beach for kitesurfers or windsurfers, but I didn’t see anyone, yet there was a good side onshore wind that day.

Kitesurfing at Nicaragua - Jessica Winkler

Kitesurfing at Amayo Kite Beach, Nicaragua

When I finally got to the beach town of San Juan del Sur, I spent the next week asking everyone about kitesurfing. The only thing anyone knew is that there was a guy who tried to open a school a couple of years ago, but it never worked out and at the moment there was no one doing anything here.

When I got back to Canada after my month trip I decided to start looking for a way to get down to Nicaragua. At the time I was working as a travel agent so I was exposed to meeting all sorts of people traveling to the area. About 2 months later I ended up selling a ticket to a guy who was building an action sports resort in San Juan del Sur and he thought the idea of opening a kitesurf centre was great.

By November I was on an airplane to start my new life. I’ve had experience with starting a kitesurf / windsurf centre in the past. In 2008 I was the Director of Operations for a million dollar Club Mistral / Sky Riders resort project in northern Brazil. That project gave me the confidence and knowledge for starting and working in a foreign country.

Jessica Winkler - Kite Beach

Jessica Winkler

Currently I’m living in Nicaragua trying to start the first kite business in the country. There are 330 days a year of wind and strong side onshore winds Nov – May on Lake Nicaragua. I’ve started working with a Nicaraguan family who owns 800 acres of water front property on the best part of the lake. We named the area Amayo Kite Beach after the wind farm consisting of 39 turbines which line the beach. The spot is beautiful, private and empty!

My business Kite Nicaragua is slowly getting off the ground as I am still looking for an investor to help me build it. I myself have been fortunate enough to pick up a few sponsors who believe in me for trying to pioneer the business of kitesurfing by myself in a 3rd world country.

If you would like to know more, or you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments section below, or contact me directly from my website.

Written by

Jessica Winkler

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24 Comments

  1. Dean Bottcher says:

    Hey Jessica. I really loved your article. I am not much of a globe trotter but this is one place I would like to get to. I thought our inland lake had nice waves, your place is firing!! Third world countries are the new first world. Forty years in Africa and I love it more every day I am here. It is back to basics for everyone if we are going to survive on this planet. Sounds like you are right in the green zone with wind power and all. Those volcanoes are amazing. Would be good to see some more pictures. Thanks for sharing and all the best with your venture. It will work, Dean.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you for your comments and it’s interesting to hear your point of view. I feel the same way so it’s nice to see other people are on the same page. If you ever do get to the globe trotting you are welcome to stay at Amayo.

  2. kevin says:

    Jessica,
    Seems to me that if anyone would like to experience kitesurfing, it would be with someone that seems like they would demand only to share it with the Poseidon of the Pacific. Hope you don’t mind sharing the waters with mortals. Good luck

  3. Harvey says:

    Jessica,

    I loved your article. I am from Nicaragua but I live in Miami and just got married with a girl from Granada. I am trying to get into kiteboarding. I bought my gear already and want to start lessons soon. I will love to contact you when I am down in Nicaragua to do some kiting. Maybe my wide and I will go there and take our lessons with you instead of lessons here. Let me know if you are available in August

    Best of lucks! Nicaragua is a beautiful place!Enjoy every minute of it!

    • Jessica says:

      Hello Harvey,

      I would be happy to teach you to kite at Amayo Kite Beach anytime November through to May. During the off season there are still windy days but the wind is inconsistent, great if you are a seasoned rider but not the best for learning. I do teach intermediate and advanced lessons as well if you decide to take the beginner lessons in Miami. You can reach me anytime by email. kitenicaragua@gmail.com

      Thank you for your support!!

      Jessica

  4. Jake says:

    Hey Jessica I really liked your article. I discovered kiteboarding while I was stuck in southern alabama for almost 2 years. I learned from the guys at emerald coast kiteboarding and I think I discovered a new religion. Anyway I am going to spend the next year in Iraq and I would like to know what the wind/climate is like down in that part of the world in say September through November. When I get back Im going to need to disappear for a little while.

    Jake.

  5. Anna says:

    This lady is seriously cool. I feel the need, the need for speed. Well, kite surfing speed in nicaragua with her. <3

    • Hey Anna, thanks for your comment! We of course totally agree with you, Jessica is definitely cool, and judging by the number of Facebook likes alone, she is a huge hit with our readers… ;-)

  6. Diane says:

    Very interesting article of Jessica’s and makes me wish I was younger as I would most certainly love to ride the waves. Her lifestyle sounds amazing.

    • Jessica says:

      Awwww thank you for your lovely comment Diane but you are never too old. My best kite buddy is 62 and he is a lot better then me. He learned when he was 55 years old!! I’ve nick named him the flying Jesus….. mabey i’ll write and article on him.

  7. Pablo says:

    Hey Jessica,

    Cool story, hope its going well.

    I have a buddy headed to Playa Maderas to surf end of August. What are the kiting conditions like then? What size kite do you guys fly down there on average?

    Thanks,

    Pablo

    • Jessica Winkler says:

      Hello Pablo,

      The end of August is off season for kitesurfing but high season for surfing. You might luck out and get a day or two with some good wind however. If you do the best time to ride is between 3:30pm and sunset on Lake Nicaragua. The thermal wind is the least gusty on the lake and the afternoon thermal is stronger then the morning. No matter how much you would like to kite the ocean the wind is just too turbulent and not safe. There is a riding spot south of San Juan del Sur in Bahia Salanas, Costa Rica where you can get some nice flat water but the wind is very gusty. During the time of year you are going to Nicaragua you will need a 12m and maybe a 14m if you want more opportunity to ride. When you arrive to San Juan del Sur drop me an email and I will be happy to give you some pointers and hook you up with some good people.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

      • elnica says:

        Ocean kiting in Nicaragua would be best near montelimar / masachapa / and further north of there where you have endless flat beaches and little to no one around (if you know where to go). By flat I mean the terrain, the water is the normal 5-7 waves. San juan area has too many mountains next to the water. Playa madera would be too crazy to kitesurf, just not safe. Great surf though and used to be my favorite beach until it got “developed”. Still “virgin” compared to US beaches though. Good job Jessica! Nicaragua needs a kite school!

  8. cevon says:

    Thank you for a great post.

  9. Matt Laclear says:

    Good points!

    • Jessica Winkler says:

      Thank you, not enough people take the sport seriously enough when it comes to safety. Help me spread the word by sharing my article!! Much appreciated…. Jessica

  10. Naomi says:

    Inspirational article, Jessica. I just started my love affair with kitesurfing in Thailand and I due hope it will be a long love affair and not a short crush. :D

    I love that you are such a daring extreme sport entrepreneur as well!
    Hopefully we will cross paths one day!

    Besos,
    Naomi

  11. Thank you Naomi! I loved Thailand but never got to kite there :( no wind. Where are you riding there?

    I guarantee it will be a life long love affair!! I call my kite my husband…lol

    If you ever come over to this side of the world please let me know I would be happy to have you at my place…cheers!

    Jess

  12. Tim O' says:

    Jessica,
    We’re heading down to San Juan del Sur June 12th. I would love to kite while I’m there but don’t want to have to bring all my gear. Is there anywhere that rents kite/board/harness?? And is Lake N. the only place to go (safely)??
    Hope to meet you when we are down there.
    Tim

    • Hello Tim,
      Lake Nicaragua is the only safe place to kite but you will want to so far south right near the Costa Rica border. The further north you go the more polluted the water is, unfortunately. I shut down my school in Nicaragua 2 years ago and as far as I know there is nowhere to rent equipment now. I would be happy to ask a few people if you message me at me@jessicawinkler.com.
      Currently i’m on my way to England for a couple of months then i’m spending 4 months in northern Brazil so I won’t see you but enjoy your trip!

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