When my friend Kenny invited me and 15 other friends to the Outer Banks to go on a kiteboarding vacation the last week of September, I was intrigued. I’d been to this area before early in my kiting days and had heard about the legendary conditions on Pamlico Sound from other wind sport enthusiasts.


My curiosity was piqued when he started to tell me the names of some of the spots we might visit: Planet of the Apes, Buxton Flats, Real Slicks, Canadian Hole, Wash Out, and others; it was too good of an offer to pass up.


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Ripping across the water at Salvo Day Use


The Outer Banks, or OBX for those in the know, are a string of sand islands off the coast of North Carolina connected by Highway 12. The top end of the OBX is at Duck and the bottom end is at Hatteras. Highway 12 is a seemingly endless stretch of coastal road, peppered with the occasional scenic lighthouse, spectacular bridge, and wide-open marsh areas.


I flew into the Raleigh Durham Airport (RDU) and 3.5 hours later I was crossing over spectacular bridges heading ever eastward. Knowing that I’d need a significant store of energy I made a stop in at the Key West-like Manteo and made a beeline to Poor Richard’s for a hearty Rockfish Wrap on their scenic back patio.


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Rockfish wrap at Poor Richard’s in Manteo

Suitably fortified, I went down to Salvo to the address provided to find, to my surprise, a luxurious four-story 12-bedroom home with a pool, hot tub, and wrap-around decks. Definitely a sweet setup.


Kiteboarding in the Outer Banks has grown over the years, and today you’ll be hard pressed to not see a colorful array of kites zipping across the water. The main season for kiting is mid-April to early May and September to mid- October. These are considered shoulder seasons in the Outer Banks meaning lower cost accommodations, no restaurant line ups, and a more relaxed feel.


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The author getting pumped up for a day on the water at the Wash Out


After an evening poolside home-grown musical tribute to the recently departed Jimmy Buffet, it was decided that the group would have a session at Salvo Day Use area the next day. This easily accessible (and free) launch point has a decent beach and is shallow for a long distance out into the sound. Perfect for the first day, I thoroughly enjoyed working out the kinks as I hadn’t been kiting since February.


Later that night, over a group dinner of lasagna, word came in that the winds on Wednesday were going to be epic – speeds up near 30 knots (34 mph). The next morning, the group headed down to The Wash Out. Kiteboarders were jumping every way and gaining incredible heights, some over 40 feet in the air, some sticking the landing, many exploding in huge crashes. The winds continued unabated Thursday at The Washout, as did the spectacle. Fortunately, we were able to soothe our sore muscles and relive our adventures over beers and fried shrimp at the ever-authentic Pop’s Raw Bar.


Flat calm riding at Salvo Day Use

However, despite all this activity, I still hadn’t experienced two of the most iconic sites, namely Real Slicks and Planet of the Apes. After a feast of chili dogs and brownies, a group decision was made – a downwind ride to hit both spots. Owing to the NW winds, we left Kitty Hawk Kites (where some of the group purchased new gear after a kite explosion); we went southwards in search of butter flat water and were amply rewarded at the Real Slicks. Small grass islands stop the waves but not the wind and allow you to race at high speed across glass-calm water.


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After a lunch stop at Salvo, it was time for the main event: Planet of the Apes. Located south of Salvo, this huge grassland area is akin to what you might find in the Everglades; long marsh grasses bisected by waterways. It’s a kiteboarding paradise, the channels, lure you into the labyrinth, and some kiters don’t make it out, at least not without a long walk through the marsh or a search team! Out here, it’s just you, the wind, and the birds. No boats, no homes, no nothing except nature. We spend an afternoon zipping in and out of the channels with only a few kites hitting the grass. It was exhilarating and exhausting, and I was glad to finally exit the water at mile marker 48 and to see Kenny’s smiling face.


That night we celebrated our adventures with a big group dinner of ribs, fish, and burgers at Waterman’s Grill & Bar located at Real Watersports. Pictures were examined, jump heights were revealed, and crashes were recapped in detail. The next morning, the wind was still blowing, but, alas, it was time to head back to Raleigh and onward to Toronto.


A kiteboarding vacation in the Outer Banks is about more than just kiting, the wind doesn’t always blow on the OBX and that’s when all the other great activities that our group participated in took place. Stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, biking, shelling, and, of course, laying out on the beach under the warm North Carolina sun. Others chose to go shopping for gifts at the Thursday market in Hatteras, followed by a long, leisurely lunch at Lucky 12 Tavern.


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