With a board and a sail
Sailing can be pursued year-round in Latvia. As soon as ice disappears from the sea and lakes, the more avid enthusiasts of wind sports don insulated gear and give the breezes and waves of the Baltic a first try. Of course, most sailing enthusiasts are drawn to the waters in the summer, but there is plenty to do in winter, too. Once the larger lakes have been covered with a thick sheet of ice, it is time for ice boaters to catch some wind – there are special windsurfing boards, yachts and even kites that have been created specially for use on ice.
Windsurfers, of course, prefer the Baltic shore, the many Latvian lakes and Greater Riga. For example, Lake Ķīšezers near Riga, on the Mežaparks side, is home to a number of windsurfing clubs where one can not only hire equipment but also learn the basics of sailing under the guidance of experienced instructors. Windsurfers also like to enjoy the wind and the waves in the Daugava near Ikšķile, the sweeping Lake Burtnieks or the beautiful gem of northern Vidzeme that is Lake Alūksnes. In the picturesque Vidzeme Highlands, surfing on Lake Inesis near Vecpiebalga is especially popular, whereas near Cēsis sailing aficionados head over to Lake Ungurs. In Latgale, beautiful free time can be spent on lakes Sīvers and Rāznas, while Lake Usmas is the sailing central of Kurzeme. But these are not the only places to feel the wind in your sails: just glance at the map, locate a lake, enquire about recreation opportunities at your local Tourist Information Centre, and off you go!
Kite boarders’ paradise
We will also bring you a few places of kite boarding bliss in Latvia. (Kite boarding uses a board that resembles a snowboard, and a large kite serves as a sail.) On the Kurzeme coast, Liepāja is obviously a popular choice: a beautiful city on the sea with a vast, sandy beach and wind that never subsides. There is a reason why Liepāja is known as the birthplace of the wind. Moreover, the stretch of the beach in Liepāja between Pērkones and Jūrmalas streets is dedicated to kite boarders, or kiters. Sailing can also be done in the nearby Lake Liepāja, particularly with the easterly winds.
In real – westerly – winds, seasoned kiters make their way up to Akmeņrags, between Liepāja and Pāvilosta. This is an especially wild spot with extra high waves, a source of adrenaline like you have never experienced before. The Mecca for real wind fans is Pāvilosta: a small, tranquil and very attractive fishing town, and when the summer comes, it is taken over by kite boarders and windsurfers from near and far. The sailing opportunities are immense. Jūrkalne is a unique place in Latvia with its famous coastal bluffs, but it also offers really high, foam-crested waves.
Meanwhile, if you go to Mazirbe or Oviši, you can combine sailing with romance on the little-touched northern Kurzeme beach and the Livonian Coast. Cape Kolka is a popular sailing location among enthusiasts of all wind sports. The cape is an unusual natural formation in Latvia whose geographical characteristics mean that there will always be wind (Cape Kolka is the headland with the deepest protrusion into the sea in Latvia and the only place where both a sunrise and a sunset can be observed). And between sailing sessions, try a bite of freshly smoked flounder!
We have to also mention Ventspils, which boasts a well-appointed beach and special structures to make folding sails and kites easier, with a water park adjacent to it where families with children can enjoy themselves. On the Kurzeme shore of the Gulf of Riga, sailing fans frequent Ģipka, Mērsrags, Engure, Bērzciems (an especially popular place with kite boarding beginners, as it has a lagoon that lends itself very well to practice) and Ragaciems, a mere 50 km from Riga.
In Jūrmala, kiters gather in Pumpuri, while the closest beaches to Riga that are popular with kiters are Vakarbuļļi in Bolderāja and Lake Ķīšezers on the Jaunciems side. On the Vidzeme coast, depending on the wind, locations close to Riga which kiters go to are Vecāķi, Kalngale, Lilaste and Saulkrasti, where you can even get advice from instructors at the Koklītes recreational centre. Vitrupe and Salacgrīva are also sought-after, where kiting can be done between port breakwaters.
Yachting in Latvia
Yachting is also a popular activity in Latvia. Amusement under the sails is enjoyed by people with open-sea yachts and small sail boats for offshore sailing alike. Regattas and competitions are also popular and they take place for nearly all sail boat classes. Almost every Latvian port also has a marina.
For instance, Liepāja, Pāvilosta, Ventspils, Roja, Mērsrags, Engure, Sloka, Lielupe, Priedaine, Ķīpsala in Riga, Āgenskalns in Riga, Andrejosta in Riga, Skulte, Salacgrīva, Ainaži and other places. Most of these marinas also house yacht clubs, where it is not only possible to book a boat along with a captain for outings on the Latvian waters, but also acquire the art of sailing for yourselves and feel the wind hit the sails, bringing you unforgettable adventures! There are also sail boat harbours on landlocked bodies of water – on the Lielupe in Jelgava, on the Daugava in Lielvārde and on lakes Usmas and Rāznas.
We wish to point out Lake Usmas in particular, which is famous for its yacht club, listing 150 members and 70 boats! Many races and regattas take place on Lake Usmas, there is also a sailing school here, and stages of the World Championships for Micro class sail boats have been held here since 2005.