On 8 December, the Southern Hemisphere's number 1 annual kiteboarding race happens in Perth.
Also referred to as kitesurfing, this impressive sport has really taken off along the breezy shores of Perth's beaches and Swan River Estuary. For those who thrive on action and adventure, kiteboarding is among Perth's most popular watersports.
The exciting Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race results in some of the most spectacular aerial photos of our beautiful blue coastline. It also draws spectators to Perth's beloved Rottnest Island and North Fremantle's Leighton Beach, to soak up the vibe and cheer on the participants. Don't miss out!
Director and creator of the Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race, Tim Turner, will tell you this Perth kiteboarding event is one of the best in the world. Certainly the increasing number of world class kiteboarders rushing to sign up for the race would suggest he's absolutely right!
This year, around 200 entries were received for 135 places, a cap that has been raised to involve as many competitors as possible in safety. Participants are selected through a ballot system to ensure everyone has a fair go.
Running now for almost a decade, the Rottnest to Perth race is a pinnacle event for the kiteboarding community and gaining momentum each year, as well as being a unique chance for amateur and professional kiteboarders to race together.
This year, an additional selection criterion has been added, requiring entrants to declare more than 100 hours of kiteboarding experience, ensuring the standard continues to rise.
Perth's Kiteboarding Race - A Bit of History
Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton is the brainchild of Perth kiteboarding record breaker, Tim Turner. The run between Rottnest and Perth had become popular with keen kiteboarders in Perth, so Tim decided to create a race. After persuading Red Bull to come on board as the major sponsor, the event was established in 2010.
Quickly, the race became not only a highlight of the year for keen kiteboarders, but Perth residents and visitors were attracted to the beaches for the event. It was the stunning colours of the ocean on a summer day, the excitement and energy, the colourful kiteboard sails, and the gorgeous destinations at the start and end of the race that proved to be magnets.
Entrants race on kitefoil, slalom or twin tip boards, and this year, they will be looking to beat the record of 19 minutes and 3 seconds set by Nico Parlier in 2016. Last year, mother and son Olly and Steph Bridge won the race in 17 knot winds.
The now iconic Perth kiteboarding race is supported this year by Red Bull, Rottnest Island, Rottnest Express, Fremantle Sailing Club and Kiteboarding Western Australia.
What to Expect on the Day
Perth's kiteboarding race is 19km long and takes little more than 20 minutes for experienced kiteboarders. Depending on conditions, the longest time is likely to be around 30 minutes. An amazing fun fact is that the kiteboarders move faster than the Rottnest Express ferries!
If you choose to see the competitors off at the start, you'll need to be at Phillip Point on Rottnest Island by 2.00pm to enjoy the pre-race bustle. The race proper will start at 2.30pm, or possibly earlier if the winds are strong.
Competitors love the run because of the famous 'Fremantle Doctor' wind that blows in every afternoon. Described by race organisers as 'a classic coastal sea breeze of between 15 to 25 knots from a south westerly direction', the wind helps the kiteboarders move towards Perth at speed, guaranteeing a fun and invigorating race.
If there is either too much or not enough wind on the day, preventing the race from going ahead, it will be shifted to Sunday 9 December, with further reserve days scheduled for the following weekend. At this time of year, it's highly unlikely that the race won't go ahead, given the fairly reliable steady breeze and dry warmth we experience in a Perth summer.
Make sure you get to Leighton Beach in time to see the kiteboarders arrive in Perth, capture some Instagram moments, hear the live commentary and enjoy the festivities that follow.
The winners will be awarded their trophies and prize money right there at the beach, the first three male and female winners receiving equal cash prizes from a pot of more than $5,000.
The Leighton Beach oceanfront enclave is a delightful spot to spend any summer day. The Orange Box is a great cafe by the beach, very casual and family friendly with tasty snacks - the sort of place you can flop down into straight from the sand. Bib and Tucker is a little more formal, but still very relaxing, with a deck overlooking the water where you can indulge in great coffee and food, ocean views and the refreshing breeze.
Where to Learn Kiteboarding in Perth
Inspired to learn? You're in the right place! The Perth coastline and lower reaches of the Swan River are considered amongst the best kiteboarding / kitesurfing areas in the world, with fabulous spots from Lancelin to Rockingham.
West Oz Kiteboarding is based in one of the top locations for kiteboarding in Perth, Shoalwater Bay, Rockingham. The combination of breezes and a bay sheltered by islands means learners are protected from strong winds blowing them out too far. The bay is also relatively free of boats and swimmers.
West Oz provides all equipment and experienced tutors, with sessions ranging from 2.5 hours to 6 days running between November and March, the best months for kiteboarding in Perth. Choose from lessons designed for absolute beginners right up to advanced level courses for experienced boarders.
You'll learn how to read the wind, stay safe in the water, control and steer a kite, relaunch after toppling over, and eventually gain enough confidence to cruise around the beautiful bay. If you complete a full course, you will receive an International Kiteboarding Organisation (IKO) card, allowing you to kiteboard at locations around in the world.
Absolute beginners who are a little uncertain should go for the Have a Taste of Kiteboarding 1 hour session, which gives you just enough of an insight to decide whether you want to do more. The maximum group size is six, so you'll get plenty of attention from the experienced IKO instructor.
Once you've been bitten by the Perth kiteboarding bug, book onto the West Oz Zero to Hero Course. This popular option gets you IKO certification in less than a week! Starting from the basics, learn all you need to know to become a bona fide kiteboarder. You will learn for 2-3 hours per day to complete 12 hours, and there's some flexibility to choose the days you prefer.
After learning the theory, you enter the water for private tuition with your qualified IKO instructor. Before you know it, you'll be setting up on the beach, getting yourself up and going in the water, and enjoying the scenery as you glide across the bay - all by yourself!
While you're in the area, make sure you visit the islands. Penguin Island is a sanctuary for little Fairy Penguins and a lovely place to watch a feeding demo, while Seal Island can be explored by kayak, or by boat with Rockingham Wild Encounters.
Other great Perth kiteboarding spots are Woodman Point, Leighton Beach, Point Walter on the Swan River Estuary and Lancelin, which is also famous for world class windsurfing. Check out Elemental and Seabreeze Kitesurf School for lessons south of the river, and Makani Kai Kiteboarding in Lancelin.
Make the Most of Perth's Rottnest Island
If you decide to make the most of your ferry ride from Perth to Rottnest Island and stay for a few days, there's lots to do here besides hanging out by the ocean, although this is a pretty good way to spend a short break.
Adventurers will want to include skydiving onto the beach with Skydive Geronimo or heading out for a scuba diving experience, while those looking for gentler exercise can follow the island's heritage trails or take a Segway tour.
Check the following links for more ideas:
Rottnest Island is very popular, so accommodation often gets booked out in advance. If you can't get the unit, villa or hotel room you want, make a note to book well ahead for next year's race!