Date: July 23
Wind: Easterly, 15 – 20 knots
Air temp: 18˚C
Water temp: 16˚C
Staycation is the name of the game for many of us in 2021. For me this means that I get to experience a lot of new and beautiful places around England, one of them being the lush and scenic Dorset.
Just past Weymouth, and right next to the world heritage site Chesil beach you find Portland Harbour (view on Google Maps). This large bay sits between mainland and the Isle of Portland and is protected by wave breakers that makes the sea state ideal for water sports.
Permits and logistics
Portland Harbour is free for all to use, but to ride here you need a permit from the Harbour Officials. If you’re a local you can get annual permits, and if you’re just here for the day, like I was, you can purchase a day permit online for £3.80.
You also need an insurance to practise sports in the harbour, e.g. the one that comes with a BKSA membership. No one was there on the beach to check that I had these things, but if these are the rules I’d recommend being a good sport and complying with them.
Finding the spot is easy as pie. Drive towards Isle of Portland, and as soon as you come out on the narrow strip that connects the island with mainland you’ll see the kites flying on your left-hand side on a windy day. There is a small parking right on the spot which you can try. If it’s too busy you can keep going 100m and turn right into the Chesil beach parking, where they also have toilets and a café. The smaller parking is a tad cheaper but both are around a fiver for the whole day.
Portland Harbour – Spot conditions
On the day of my visit we had an odd and surprisingly strong Easterly wind. That was perfect for the spot and made for on/cross-on shore conditions. I rode in low to mid tide and there was only small chop and rather flat in some spots closer to the beach.
The seabed is a bit rocky close to shore but otherwise sandy with a bit of seaweed scattered around. It stays shallow for a long bit out and there are only a few obstacles you need to look out for, so all in all a very safe spot.
You have to keep your eyes open though since there is a lot of traffic in the water. In the harbour you’ll find all sorts of water sport enthusiasts. Everything from wingsurfers to dinghy sailors share the spot, but since the area is so large it’s not hard to find a spot to call your own if you want a bit of space for yourself.
I found myself alternating between exploring the harbour and staying close to shore for trick practise. It’s a great spot for learning and practising technique, but equally you could cruise around and admire the scenery and watch everything else going on in the harbour.
As mentioned, I rode an Easterly on the day. No issues, all good. But uncommon. SW is a lot more common on the UK South coast, which makes this spot off-shore. Apparently that is still very much a go for this spot.
Off-shore always makes me a bit nervy, even when there’s rescue boats in place. It’s not uncommon for me to end a session with lines wrapped around the kite drifting back to shore with a kite that won’t launch.
Even more likely the wind could drop mid-session (you know what to do, but you’re having so much fun so you’re just going to do one more trick before you head upwind…). To ride here on a W or SW you need to know how to do a self-rescue packdown and be prepared to swim back.
On the flip-side you’re rewarded with butter flat conditions. Time it with a low tide and you have shallow water quite far out so no biggie even if the wind drops.
S and N won’t work due to the landmasses making the wind too gusty.
Launching and landing
There isn’t much beach on offer for launching and landing. People set up their kites on a small grass patch or on the small pebble beach. Be prepared for lines to cross and kites landing close to where you’re setting up.
The community was very friendly however and everyone was helping each other out. After your session you can sit down and have a meal and watch the action from Billy Winters café and diner, located right next to the parking.
I hope to be back!
What a great spot Portland Harbour is! I’d love to try the butter on a SW day. And Dorset is such a beautiful region with much to offer in general. There’s Poole Harbour for more kiting, Swanage for an ice-cream and bit of beach fun and… Bournemouth for, well, see for yourself 😜