The path from mechanical engineer to kitesurfing instructor is not a particularly well-trodden one. But in 2014, Amer El Dandachli set off down that road and it ended, as most do, at the ocean. Lebanese-born El Dandachli quit his 9-5 life and eventually set up Kite N Surf Dubai in 2016. Now, his days are spent on the waves.
Kite N Surf operates across the UAE, teaching kitesurfing at Kite Beach (of course) and at another spot in Jebel Ali. The company’s official home, however, is at Nessnass Beach, a coastal enclave of Dubai that has quite remarkably managed to maintain its tranquility between the footfall-heavy areas of Kite Beach and La Mer.
“Nessnass is amazing and is perfect for learning because it is quiet and much less crowded than Kite Beach,” says El Dandachli. “It is also a bay so there are all kinds of wind directions, which makes for a better kitesurfing experience. This is where our shop and school are located now because we love it here.”
El Dandachli is from a family of watersports aficionados. He was first introduced to kitesurfing by his brothers, who also live in Dubai. Kit N Surf was conceived with one of his siblings and and a local Emirati partner who has a background in scuba diving.The aim of their venture was to provide more opportunities for UAE residents to enjoy the activity.
“Building the business was not easy; like most start-ups we had our ups and downs,” El Dandachli recalls. “There are days where things are not working properly and you just start to feel tired or depressed. But when you love what you do, it really helps to push you. Seeing how people get excited about the sport when they start to learn has been so encouraging.
“Passion and love for the ocean gives us plenty of motivation to go forward but the community around us really makes a difference with all the love and support they have given us. Kite N Surf is not only about the surf; it’s also about the community that we meet along the way. They always make us appreciate the journey.”
El Dandachli estimates there are more than 1,000 kite surfers in the UAE, with around 150 to 200 of them participating in the sport regularly, even though Dubai does not always have the best conditions.
“We have adapted our teaching style to the conditions we have here,” he says. “Obviously it needs wind and it is not guaranteed that you’ll get it. People prefer to kitesurf at the weekend but you don’t always have wind over the weekend.
“However, the weather is always nice the whole year round, which is great. Even during the summer months if you go to the beach in the afternoon it’s not as hot, especially when you are inside the water. Whenever it’s windy, we are on the beach — whether teaching or kiting ourselves.”
Kite N Surf has also been trying to expose kite surfers to destinations beyond Dubai, with regular trips around the region helping to further foster the sense of community.
“During summer, we went to Oman for a kitesurfing trip and had 35 people come along, driving eight hours there and eight hours back. Ras al Hadd is a beautiful lagoon, almost two kilometers long and one kilometer wide and a perfect place to learn.
“We go searching for stronger winds and shallow water because that makes your life easier when you are learning. We go to other places like Sri Lanka or Kenya, too. Sometimes we camp for a couple of days. It gives people the possibility to practice more and when you practice more, you learn more.
“There are good places in the UAE too: Al Mirfa, four kilometers south of Abu Dhabi, is good. And there is the Kite Beach Center in Umm Al Quwain too.”
Saudi Arabia is also making great strides in the sporting sphere of late, opening up its borders with an easy-to-access e-visa, and it has been suggested that much of its untapped coastline could play host to some prime watersports locations. El Dandachli is looking forward to exploring what the Kingdom might offer.
“I believe Jeddah is going to be one of the best places in the world to do kitesurfing,” he says. “At that location on the Red Sea, opposite the coast of Egypt, they have plenty of wind all year long. The weather is very good and I believe Saudi could be the next really exciting place for kitesurfing.”
Kite N Surf’s top tips for beginners
- Be patient – Kitesurfing is not a sport that you can just learn in a couple of hours. You may be frustrated at how long it is taking you to learn but give it time, be patient and the improvement will come.
- Control the kite – This is absolutely fundamental and if you can master this, everything else will fall into place; you will progress faster and enjoy kitesurfing so much more.
- Learn with an instructor – A friend can help you improve when you become an independent kitesurfer by giving you some tips but nothing is better than traditional instruction. Professionals make sure everything is as safe as it can be.
- Watch videos – Kite N Surf Dubai will always encourage extra learning and recommend relevant videos. Listen to what your instructor suggests you watch as otherwise you can go down a rabbit hole of irrelevant videos, which can be confusing.
- Respect the wind – Mother Nature is powerful, the wind and the ocean can be aggressive and make life very difficult. Confidence is a fine trait but overconfidence is a dangerous one.
Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.