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Located in the middle of nowhere, Stiltsville has always been a unique spot, an opportunity for freedom just beyond the reach of Miami’s oppressive skyline. A shallow water haven of lonely buildings perched atop wood and concrete piers, Stiltsville isn’t so much of a place but a labyrinth of sandbars that have long been thought of as a nautical escape from the constraints of the mainland. Also known as the Flats, I began kiting this area six years ago when I first moved to Miami. Having started teaching lessons for Melissa Mejah’s South Florida Kiteboarding, I spent most of my days motoring beginner kiteboarders out to the sandbars, coaching them through their first rides and sometimes exploring the distant structures. Back then, jibbing off pilings or boosting over low-lying docks was fair game. Like some undiscovered frontier, the shallow sandbars and haunting structures were a getaway from the beginning of Miami’s crowded kiteboarding spots.

The history of Stiltsville goes back to the 1920s era of prohibition, a time when there was sufficient backlash in America against alcohol and enough consensus to amend the constitution and do something about it… At some point in the late 1920s, a few ramshackle structures were erected to hawk bait, cold beer and crawfish chowder to the local fishermen, but these early haunts soon morphed into prohibition-inspired clubs that ferried Miami’s party elite a mile offshore to elevated buildings, largely operating as safe havens for gambling and drinking… Much like the days of prohibition, Stiltsville continues to remain far removed and full of freedom when contrasted against the mainland. The Miami area is potentially one of the most regulated kiteboarding destinations in the world. The combination of heavily-trafficked sunbathing beaches and a long history of kiteboarders poaching swim areas has reduced the number of openly accessible beaches to a handful. What few concessions that remain open to kiteboarding typically require permit fees, proof of IKO certification and official streamers affixed to kites to demonstrate conformance with the above. For locals, these hurdles are manageable, but for visiting kiteboarders, it’s a massive hassle. Mainly for that reason, Stiltsville has become my most frequented kite spot… To read the rest of Welcome to Stiltsville subscribe to Tkb.