Kirsty Jones shares her journey from learning about the sea in Wales to becoming an international Kite Surf champion

I’ve kitesurfed all over the world, but West Wales is special

Pembrokeshire is such a good spot because it’s pretty exposed to the elements. You get a lot of Atlantic swell, and I like kitesurfing in waves. Freshwater West is one of the best places to go, though it’s not ideal for beginners because of currents and reefs. If you prefer flat water, Tenby is fantastic when the wind’s coming in from the right direction.

Kirsty Jones on the beach with friends and surfboards
Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire

My love of Pembrokeshire started with family holidays

I used to go to Dale with my parents when I was very young, and it’s still a favourite place. There’s a little pub called the Griffin right on the beach, which serves very good food. Across the estuary, Bosherston is another place I’ve always loved. You’ve got the lily pools, St Govan’s Head and Broad Haven South beach, which gets some great, challenging Atlantic surf.

Kirsty Jones stand up paddleboarding
Stand-up paddleboarders at Barafundle Bay
Kirsty Jones stand-up paddleboarding at Barafundle Bay, near Bosherton, Pembrokeshire

Newgale was my local beach when I was starting out

I started kitesurfing in Hawaii when I was 21, but the beaches there were crowded. When I came back, I found Newgale was much better – a long, sandy beach with no shortage of space. I started a kitesurf school there called Big Blue, which a friend of mine is still running. I had to sell it when I started competing on the world tour, and it’s gone from strength to strength. They do surfing, coasteering and paddleboarding there now.

Kitesurfer
Kitesurfer at Newgale

It’s tricky to choose a favourite coastal view, but I’d go for Martin’s Haven...

...and I’ve never been so pleased to see it as when I kitesurfed across the Irish Sea from Rosslare to Marloes in West Wales. When I was five hours into the journey, the wind started to drop. It was a bit tense, but a pair of dolphins started swimming alongside me as if to urge me to keep going. On that day, it was such a relief to see Skomer Island and Martin’s Haven come into view. I wasn’t actually all that experienced when I did the crossing, so I’m keen to do it again and see if I can beat my original time.

We were the only three kitesurfers in Abersoch, and two of us became world champions"

If there’s one place to match Pembrokeshire’s beauty, it’s the Gower Peninsula 

You’ve got some of the best views in West Wales there. When you see Worm’s Head, it just knocks the breath out of you. And everyone loves Llangennith. It’s a beach with something for everyone: surfing, bodyboarding, kayaking or walking. You meet some real characters there. A lot of the Welsh surf legends are from Gower.

Worm's Head, Gower Peninsula
Worm's Head, Gower

North Wales has a different vibe, and it’s a great place to learn kitesurfing

The coast around Abersoch is less exposed to the brunt of the Atlantic swell, so it’s perfect for beginners. I have very fond memories of kitesurfing there with a boy called Aaron Hadlow: he was about 12, and learning with his dad. The three of us would be the only kitesurfers on the beach. Aaron went on to be five-times world champion, so I suppose we both did well from those beginnings on wild Welsh beaches!

Bay at dusk
Abersoch

I’m now based in Dakhla, Western Sahara, but my home is Wales – and there are two things I miss

Rain is a novelty out here in Dakhla. So it may sound strange, but I love to come back to a little bit of drizzle so I can put on a cosy, warm wetsuit and go out kitesurfing. Unfortunately, every time I’ve been in Wales recently, it has been sunny – even in winter! I also miss a good tea room or café, and we’re lucky to have so many of those in Wales. I’ll always put in a word for Café Môr at Freshwater West. It’s a caravan done up to look like a fishing boat, and they serve crayfish and lobster baps and delicious ginger cake. It’s just epic.  

Kirsty Jones with surfboard looking out to sea
Kirsty Jones at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire

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