Kitesurfers ride new winds in Libya

Neon crescents twirl over the sheltered waters of Tripoli’s main port, one of the hangouts of Libya’s growing kitesurfing community, thriving after the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Jalal Elwalid dashes out towards the marina’s stone walls riding a turbulent 12-knot wind. A gust propels his kite higher and he hangs suspended head-over-heels above the horizon for a magic stretch of seven seconds.

The 39-year-old became Libya’s first certified kitesurfing instructor this year and more than 25 students have signed up to learn the sport since he opened the doors of his school in March.

“We come out and play whenever there is wind,” said his brother Merwan, 37, a sports photographer and kitesurfer decked out in a full body wetsuit, bright shorts and sharp sunglasses.

The pair first saw kitesurfing on television back in 2008.

They gradually learned everything from the basic techniques of how to handle a kite on shore to how to pull off advanced 360 jumps in the water by watching other riders on YouTube.

“We would watch the clips and then try it ourselves,” said Jalal.

Two years later they founded Wind Friends, a small core of kitesurfing aficionados who discovered a suitable hideout for training in the isolated island of Farwa, near Tunisia, where the sport is also practised.

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