Tourism's new wave blows in

It PROMISES to be a far cry from the sun-kissed climes of California or the Caribbean.

But a new business is aiming to capitalise on the world's fastest-growing sport by offering "surfing safaris" around the coast of Scotland.

Its backers hope to lure fans of kiteboarding or kitesurfing - which involves using a small surfing board attached to a kite - from around the world with the prospect of tackling the extreme sport on some of Scotland's most secluded beaches.

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The brothers behind the venture, Graham and Calum Handley, from Glasgow, plan to run week-long holidays starting this year after winning a 30,000 start-off grant from Scottish Enterprise for their venture.

The pair, who already run a kitesurf business offering lessons in Troon, Ayrshire, and Gullane, East Lothian, are planning to charge about 800 a head for all-inclusive trips that will feature locations to be decided as late as possible, according to the latest weather forecasts.

Kitesurfing, which was demonstrated for the first time in Hawaii in 1998, is thought to have more than 200,000 participants around the world now, with some 700 in the UK.

Scotland boasts one of the best kitesurfers in the world in the form of 19-year-old Holly Kennedy, from Troon, who broke the women's record for the highest jump. It is hoped the last-minute nature of the itineraries will enable the business - Scotland Kite Safaris - to find near-perfect conditions off remote beaches.

Kitesurfers take up a lot more space than windsurfers. The standard safe distance between windsurfers is just five to six metres while kitesurfers may need up to 50 metres, so they tend to look for big, open beaches. It is possible to kitesurf in winds of between 40 and 50 knots, but anything more than 30 is considered dangerous. Many kitesurfers will have three kites to deal with different wind speeds.

The Handley brothers believe the lack of other kitesurfers, the expected strong winds and the spectacular locations they plan to offer will help them compete with much warmer climes.

The trips will be suited to kitesurfers of all abilities, with fully-trained instructors, equipment hire and accommodation costs included in all safari trips.

Graham told The Scotsman: "We're the first company to offer these kind of trips in Scotland and we hope to make this country a location of choice for kitesurfers. Scotland has some stunning beaches in great locations, some of which are very little known, and we'd be prepared to take people anywhere in the country depending on where we think the best conditions are.

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"We're planning to run trips from April to October if the conditions are good enough. We would usually go out if the temperature is above 10C." Scotland Kite Safari is one of four tourism ventures to win the backing of Scottish Enterprise.

Other projects include a business running "agritourism experiences" at Scottish farmhouses, installing an animated film inside Rosslyn Chapel, in Midlothian, to chart its long history, and a venture promoting Glasgow as a global "cinema city."


• Around 200,000 people participate in kiteboarding around the world:

• Kiteboarders harness the wind through a kite to power a small surfboard through water at high speeds.

• Frenchman Sebastien Cattelan holds the kiteboard speed record, reaching 50 knots in Namibia in 2008.

• 19-year-old Holly Kennedy, from Troon, broke the women's record for the highest jump when she reached 8.9 metres.