Jake Kelsick

Antigua & Barbuda

1. 2018 was a record-setting year for Antigua and Barbuda as it welcomed over one million visitors. Moreover Antigua and Barbuda tourism has seen a 12% increase in stay over visitor arrival this year. What is your vision on the tourism industry in the country? And where is it heading to?

Antigua is a very special island for tourism because it has a lot to offer; there is kiting and lots of beautiful beaches. A lot of people visit the island but you can still find many untouched and peaceful beaches and nature.


2. You have been kiteboarding since 2004 and became a Pro Rider since 2009, you are based in Antigua. What makes Antigua such a special place for kite boarding? And what differentiates it from other islands in the Caribbean?

Antigua is really special; we have an amazing season from late November until June-July. It is pretty windy every day so that is a big plus. The island is also uniquely designed; we have a lot of beautiful bays and beaches. We have a few options of good spots to kite at whereas most other places only have one or two locations. Once you get on a boat and move away from the main spots, there are actually many hidden secret gems for kitting. Barbuda again is amazing; it is like a big swimming pool but for kiting which is a big reason why I spend most of my time on the island. When the weather is good here I do not really need to go anywhere else.


3. When is the best period to come and do kite surf in Antigua? What is the average wind strength?

The average wind speed is around 15 nots to 23 nots. January and February tend to be the windier months.


4. The tourism crowd in Antigua tends to be quite old. How is the island improving its kite surfing offering and appealing to a younger crowd?

It is done through online media, which is where a lot of younger people spend their time. We are showing that Antigua has more to offer than just being a honeymoon destination. The island is getting better at showcasing activities such as kiting or hiking that appeals to the younger generations. When it comes to kiting, the main clients are the crews of super yachts as they stay here from November to April, whenever they are not working they come kiting. We also get a few traveling visitors here and there but Antigua is still undiscovered as far as being a top kite boarding destination even though it is one of the best places to do it.


5. Please tell us more about the kite surfing competition you are planning to organize in June next year? What activities are you thinking of putting in place? What will this competition bring to the country?

We are still figuring out some of the activities, the big goal is to do an adventure race from Barbuda to Antigua. The race I believe will start from the Lady Diana Beach around the Coco Point area, it is the most beautiful beach in the world. It will take from about an hour and a half to three hours to race from Barbuda to Antigua depending on the wind, your level of expertise and the gear. This will be a unique competition for the Caribbean as well as being an adventure. A lot of activities will be happening at Jabberwock Beach, the main kite beach, we will have free ride sessions, it will be a place where everyone can come and see for themselves what kiting actually is and how it all works. You will get to see some kite boarders throwing some jumps and performing tricks. This event will be called Antigua Kite Surf Week and we are following the example of the very successful Sailing Week. It will be a weeklong event and we are expecting between 180 and 300 people to attend. Antigua is a place that a lot of people know about but they have not really had a reason to come, so this event will take care of that. Most people are not going to want to do the race, they would just want to stay there and enjoy.

We are looking for agreements with hotels as well as sponsors for the event that we will get through this article and social media. In addition to the race, we will organize a free style competition for the pros and we are thinking of building the only kite park in the Caribbean. It will be similar to a wake boarding park with ramps and rails. There are only two places in the U.S which have such a setup. Our goal is to create another unique attraction for the visitors. We will start by creating a small park in the beginning with around four features, which is enough for an event to take place, and we will develop it further over time.


6. What is your final message for Miami Herald readers who consider Antigua &  Barbuda as a potential kite surfing destination?

You should definitely come to Antigua; it is one of the best places to visit because of the weather, beaches, people and kite surfing. The wind is very consistent, the water is warm and it is a very safe and easy place to give it a go. When it comes to the event, if you have never heard of kite boarding and you want to see it first-hand then definitely come out and see it for yourself. If you have an adventurous soul then this is the place to be in June 2020. It will be very exciting, we will have our ground organization of local artists support by Lava entertainment and we will have concerts and parties aside from the main event.


Interview for Miami Herald