Surf’s Up

Matheson Hammock’s Shallow Waters Offer an Ideal Location for Learning the Art of Kite Surfing

Story and photos by Julienne Gage

Jnauary 2019

On hot days when the South Florida sun blazes and humidity hangs in the air, the palm-lined sands and soft bayside winds of Coral Gables’ Matheson Hammock offer an easy, breezy escape. Most visitors come to bathe on its beaches or wade with their children in its atoll, a shallow pool that flushes ocean water through holes in the barrier reef. But in recent years, a growing number of locals have been testing the waters with a far more adventurous endeavor: kite surfing. 

“Jumping 30 to 40 feet up in the air is an adrenaline rush. It makes you feel like you can fly, like you have super powers,” says Tom Keeta, manager of Coral Gable’s Adventure Sports, which offers kite surfing lessons and rental equipment at Matheson Hammock.  

The colorful nylon arches of nearly a dozen surfing kites dance in the sky behind him, pulling surfers across the light waves and into fancy, airborne spins. It might look tough, but Keeta says most clients learn the basics in a few hours. 

Tom Keeta, manager of Coral Gables Adventure Sports

“About 75 to 80 percent is knowing how to fly the kite properly and having an intuitive feeling about where the kite is, so that you won’t even have to look at it,” Keeta says, noting that Matheson Hammock is conducive to learning because it’s shallow water hovers over a flat sandbar. “You have the luxury just to stand up, and if you fall, you get right back up.” 

Adventure Sports has a number of packages to teach visitors about this relatively new form of recreation, which emerged in the mid-1980s. A basic package explains kite safety, self-rescue, and the general principles of gliding across the waves. The more advanced courses explain how to jump and flip. Experienced kite surfers are welcome to simply rent equipment. 

On any given afternoon, Adventure Sports staff wade into the water to help kite surfers of all skill levels back to the shore with their gear, and as they do, a unique cast of local characters emerge.  

It makes you feel like you can fly, like you have super powers…

Tom Keeta

One of the star kite surfers is octogenarian Louis Gomez. “I was 70 when I began. I just wanted a challenge, and I thought why not? You can do it,” says Gomez. “I’m stronger, I’m more flexible, I have more balance – this gets you young.”  

Liliana Perez, 50, is a more recent convert. She and her husband got inspired a couple of years ago after watching a friend with a prosthetic limb get up on the board and maneuver his kite across the bay. 

“That really inspired us,” she says. “I was afraid but I got over it. This company, this place is like a big family. There’s no discrimination. The professors are great, the owners are our friends, and we all help each and teach each other.”  

Louis Gomez, octogenarian kite surfer