This is not your grandparents’ Florida! When you visit, you’ll ask yourself, “Why haven’t I come here before?” The answer to that question is that the Tampa Bay area is fast emerging for its outstanding beaches and artistic vibe. Building on a foundation of spectacular white sandy beaches, sparkling clear waters, surrounded by palm trees, a warm breeze, and even warmer people, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region has rightly earned its reputation as one of the best places to live in the country. Leading the charge is St. Petersburg, which is now experiencing the biggest downtown building boom in its history, investing nearly a half-billion dollars to change the face of this once-sleepy vacation haven for retirees. Of particular note is the newly constructed St. Pete Pier, part of a 26-acre transformation of the St. Petersburg waterfront into a dynamic recreational and entertainment district that responds to a young and active population’s needs and wants. You might find
local kiters passing by the bridge on our famous 10-mile flat water downwinder from Lassing Park to the bridge’s east side. Stop by during the spring and enjoy the flat butter water. With that being said, the best location for kiteboarding is on a little island off of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The North Skyway Beach is home to the local kiteboarders and visitors. The tight-knit community of riders of all skill levels kite from sunrise to sunset and spread the stoke by talking with anyone and everyone about our beloved sport.
IDEAL DISCIPLINES: Kiteboarding | Foilboarding | Wingsurfing
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Tampa International Airport (TPA) or St. Pete/ Clearwater/Tampa (PIE), which is an airport for small airlines like Sun Country and Allegiant.
DISTANCE TO LOCATION: Tamp International Airport (TPA is 29 miles or 28 minutes, not during rush hours. St. Pete/Clearwater/Tampa (PIE) is 21 miles or 22 minutes, not during rush hours.
TRANSPORT TO LOCATION: Use Uber if it is a quick trip, but if you stay for a week or more, rent a car.
BEST SEASON: The windiest months are October through May.
WIND RANGE: The high season is between 15-35 knots.
WATER TEMPERATURE: The winter water temperature averages between 59-63° F while the summer water temperature averages 80-90° F. Typically, we use a 4/3 full suit during the winter with either a Playa or Mystic jacket and a 3/2 full suit or shorty with long arms for the spring.
OFF-SEASON: The off-season is between June and September. However, with hurricane season, we can also get a few days of wind, so it really depends.
LOCAL RULES/SAFETY HAZARDS: There are trees and mangroves on the west side of the bridge, so you have to be careful when launching and landing your kite. There is also a boat channel on the west side that you can cross, but if anyone needs help or assistance, there are people with jet skis that will rescue you. If there is a swimming zone, you cannot kite there; these places include St. Pete Beach or Pass-a-Grille Beach public beach access.
LODGING RECOMMENDATIONS: Typically anything close to St. Pete Beach is a good choice because you are also close to a second location called East Beach at Fort Desoto Park.
Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove is the closest to the North Skyway Beach kiting location, but you have to call for prices. Airbnbs located from St. Pete Beach to the downtown St. Pete area are also ideal.
Trade Winds is perfect if you have kids and ranges from $190 upwards. Sirata is also another good spot for kids and has beachfront access to jet ski, parasail and enjoy other activities. Rooms start at $143. Hotel Zamora is within walking distance to the beach but does not have on-site access. It has a pool and is located on a canal on St. Pete Beach. Prices start at $144 per night.
Don Cesar is the luxury five-star historic pink hotel with rooms starting at $299. Grand Plaza is a perfect spot for a couple’s getaway; they have the spinning restaurant on the top with the best view of the sunset and an excellent outdoor restaurant called Bongo’s that has live music steps from the entrance. Rooms start at $243 per night. The Vinoy is a downtown location perfect for kiters looking for nightlife just a walking distance away and close to the marina for $254 per night.
LOCAL CUISINE: You can live decently for $25 a day all the way to $100 for food. For seafood, RumFish Grill is high end, Doc Ford’s is located at the new pier right on the water; be sure to say hi to local kiter Dustin! The Wharf is located on Pass-a-Grille Beach; you can park your boat or drive, or Sea Salt is on the expensive side but well worth the food found on Second Ave North in downtown St. Pete. If you’re looking for Italian, Bella Brava, Tony and Nello’s are great, and Tierra Verda is perfect for on your way home from a session at Fort Desoto Park. If you’re into sushi, check out Sushi Inc, Lemon Grass, Basil Leaf or Hawkers Asian Street Food. For Mexican, try Ceviche, Red Mesa Cantina, Casita Taqueria, Grand Hacienda or Bodega. Oak and Stone has 50 different local beers on tap, pizza and the best gouda Mac and cheese. If you want hot wings, Ferg’s Sports Bar is the place to go. Bongo’s is right on the water and has live music perfect for sunset. For breakfast, the Seahorse Cafe has everything and is ideal for people who are picky eaters. Stella’s is another awesome local breakfast spot, and Karma Juice Bar and Eatery has the best acai bowls. You can get your coffee buzz on at Black Crow Coffee, Intermezzo, Addicted to the Bean or Bandit Coffee Co.
WHY JACLYN SEHR RECOMMENDS THIS SPOT:
Elite Watersports is a fully operational kiteboarding, winging, foiling (including electric), and wakeboarding school started by Aaron McClearnon in 2008. In 2015, Aaron opened a brick and mortar store to better serve the area and, since then, he and his team have taught over 2,800 hours a year and helped spread the stoke to around 550 students annually. Elite Watersports operates in sunny St.Petersburg, Florida. Lessons are at the Skyway Bridge because it’s perfect for almost all conditions Mother Nature throws at us. As part of the community, we have been able to create not only an amazing culture that helps each other but the environment as well. Aaron has instilled this vision of taking care of what you have, and nature will take care of you.
Elite Watersports – https://elitewatersports.com/
Clearwater Kiteboarding – https://clearwaterkiteboarding.com
Watersports West – https://www.watersportswest.com
Kiteboarding St.Petersburg – http://kiteboardingstpetersburg.com
Kiss the Sky Kiteboarding – https://www.kisstheskykiteboarding.com
Ikitesurf – https://wx.ikitesurf.com/spot/159397
Sail flow – https://www.sailflow.com
Windy – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/windy-wind-weather-forecast/id997079492
Bay News 9 – https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/weather/marine
THE ONE THING EVERYONE MUST DO: Kiteboard, of course! Then check out the new pier in downtown St. Pete or head out to Shell Island for the day.
NON-WIND ACTIVITIES: Rent a jet ski or go parasailing with Suncoast Watersports, take the ferry to Egmont Key and look for shark teeth, rent an Onewheel for the day or take an E-foil lesson from Elite Watersports. Go indoor rock climbing or go-kart racing or visit the Dali Museum.
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