Kitesurfing 101: Learn the Basics and Best Practices
Kitesurfing, also known as kiteboarding, has gone through a lot of changes over the past decades. It has gained a lot of attention as an exciting water sport that is now even done on land with the use of a skateboard.
As highly technical as kitesurfing can be, it doesn’t stop people from getting into it every chance they get. If you are already a water sports enthusiast, some of the tricks and maneuvers of kitesurfing might be easy for you to do as some of them have drawn inspiration from tricks and maneuvers in wakeboarding, windsurfing, and skateboarding.
Over the years, kitesurfers have already created their original tricks and moves for kitesurfing.
This is just the beginning of what’s exciting about this water sport and there’s a lot more to unravel that might pique your interest as you read on regardless of whether you are a complete beginner or a seasoned water sports expert.
What is Kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing is a surface water sport that relies on the power of the wind with the use of a kite and a board. With the help of the kite connected to the harness, the rider is propelled across the water. This is quite similar to wakeboarding just without the motorboat because the pull is coming from the wind caught by the kite instead.
Unlike other watersports, kitesurfing has a wide range of different conditions to ride in. That’s why there’s always something new to learn every time you go kitesurfing! Exploration never ceases and it doesn’t become repetitive that would make you less engaged in this watersport!
Years later, the development of modern-day kitesurfing has become even more popular when Bill Roeseler and his son Cory, from the US, had the “KiteSki” system patented. This system is composed of water skis powered by a two-line delta style kite and with a bar-mounted combined winch/brake for control. This was commercially available in 1994.
A few years after that, the Legaignoux brothers created the “Wipika” kite design. This design consisted of a structure of preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips. Then, Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness developed specialized kiteboards later on, which slowly birthed kitesurfing completely!
Fast forward to the 21st Century where everyone of all ages, men, and women, are enjoying this sport, a lot has been developed already especially mechanisms and features of equipment involved to make kitesurfing not only thrilling but also much safer than before when it was just starting out.
The kites, boards, control bar and lines, harnesses, and all the other tools and accessories are improving making this sport even more dynamic and ever-growing as the years go by.
A lot can be done with kitesurfing, and that’s why it is no wonder that there are different competitions for kitesurfing being held around the world. It varies from wave riding, freestyle, jumping heights, slalom course racing, and long-distance racing, to name a few. It has also become a great tourist activity that many kitesurfing schools have been established around the world to accommodate individuals who wish to enjoy this sport while on vacation.
Fitness Level Requirement
You must be thinking that only people who enjoy going to the gym can do this water sport. That’s actually not true! The tools and equipment used are lightweight, so there is no crazy level of muscle strength required.
You might also think that you need to have strong and big biceps to handle the kite and the pull of the wind on it. What actually takes the strain are not your arms but your core because it’s the harness that takes in the pull of the kite.
With that said, all you need to at least be in a healthy state of mind and body to make things easier for you. Having good overall stamina is also great because this will prevent you from having injuries as you take on your first try at kitesurfing.
See? Kitesurfing might end up being your favorite workout after all!
Benefits of Kitesurfing
Benefits on Physical Health
Like what I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to be super fit to enjoy kitesurfing, but be ready to be fit after kitesurfing for awhile! The best thing about it is it’s a workout in itself that you wouldn’t even notice as a workout since you’re too busy enjoying it.
Kitesurfing targets the core muscles, which include the abs, mid back and lower back, and lower body muscles, which include the muscles on your butt, hips and thighs. Balance is key in most water sports and kitesurfing is no exception. You will definitely develop great core and lower body muscles leading to better stability on and off the water.
Other than muscle training, other physical activities can also be developed. This includes having better eye-hand coordination, enhanced overall focus and concentration, sharper reflexes and quicker reaction time. Kitesurfing really promotes the betterment of the condition of both the mind and the body. Who wouldn’t want that? I know, I would!
Benefits on Mental Health
Speaking of the mind, kitesurfing is also a great activity or relief if you’re one who is battling mental disorders. This is because this water sport requires 100% consciousness of the things happening around you.
It promotes mindfulness, but in a way that is more about feeling the surroundings rather than overthinking things. Being focused and aware are needed in kitesurfing and those really help push away unnecessary thoughts that cause you to stress.
This is kind of like meditation, but with some thrill. Lastly, this is an outdoor sport that allows you to enjoy Mother Nature as you ride and get your body and mind in sync with the elements of the environment.
Benefits on Social Life
Kitesurfing, being all the rage in the past few years, has definitely created groups and communities that share the same interest in the sport. This makes it an effective tool to boost up your social life by meeting other people in the community.
You will meet people from different walks of life and from different other places, especially if you are trying out kitesurfing for the first time during your vacation. Since we’re already talking about traveling, kitesurfers also like sharing with one another the places that they think are perfect for riding because of the water condition and strength of wind in that area.
Kitesurfing Know Hows for Beginners
How to Prepare Yourself for Kitesurfing
Step 1 – Start by flying a trainer kite
In order for you to learn kitesurfing, you have to learn the basics of flying a kite first. You can safely learn this by using a trainer kite on land before going in the water. By doing so, you will be able to learn and understand about the wind window and the power zone.
Mastering basic kite skills first before getting kitesurfing lessons will be to your advantage. This will save you more time and money during your actual lessons because it’s one less skill to be taught to you and a step closer to you actually learning how to ride.
Step 2 – Practice on a skateboard first
Like most watersports, boards are used in kitesurfing as well. If you already have the skills in wakeboarding or surfing, that would make it easier for you to learn kitesurfing. You already have an idea how important balance and stability are in sports that involve the use of boards.
However, if kitesurfing is your first water sport and you have never tried any other sport that uses a board, it’s best if you can practice balancing and riding on a skateboard. Doing this will help you become comfortable riding a board and it’s also one less thing to worry about in your actual lessons where you should just focus on the technicalities of flying a kite while riding on water.
Step 3 – Make use of available online instructional videos on kitesurfing
It’s a great thing that we live now in a world where instructional videos are available online! Youtube is your friend, so make use of it. “How to kitesurf for beginners”, “Tips and tricks for kitesurfing for the first time” and many many! It’s just one click away so watch as many videos as you can. This will give you an idea or two on what you’ll be learning once you go to your actual lessons.
Do keep in mind that these videos are not an alternative for kitesurfing lessons with a professional kiteboarding instructor. These videos will just help you with your progression faster because you already have the theory laid down. You just have to follow it up with the application when you’re already having your actual lessons.
Step 4- Sign up for some kitesurfing lessons with a qualified professional instructor
I cannot stress enough that this is the most important step. Kitesurfing can be tricky so signing up for lessons with a qualified and professional kitesurf instructor is certainly the best way to start your kitesurfing journey safely and confidently. If you have gone through the first three steps already before signing up for lessons, then your learning time would be decreased by a lot!
Kitesurfing can still be very dangerous if not done right so having an instructor who will correct your mistakes right away can prevent accidents from happening.
Additionally, kitesurf schools have a lot of equipment available for you to choose from during your lessons so you know what type of equipment is the best for you and your level.
Step 5 – Buy kitesurfing gear and equipment appropriate to your level
The first few lessons will involve a lot of kite-crashing. That’s fine and normal. After mastering step 1 by using a trainer kite, the kitesurf school will provide you gear and kite which is likely going to be worn out as you will be using it a lot throughout your lessons. Your trainer will help you choose the kitesurfing gear and equipment appropriate to your level.
This is another advantage of going to a kitesurf school for lessons because you don’t have to invest in your own gear right away and end up buying the wrong one for you. Buying a new kit when you’re just starting out is not advisable.
It will just be money down the drain because they will get thrashed right away. It would be best to ask your kitesurf school if they have second-hand equipment for sale. More often than not, they do and it’s likely that they have the ones you’re already used to!
How Long it Takes to Learn Kitesurfing
Like what I’ve been saying, kitesurfing is not a sport that is hard to learn but because of the specific gear and equipment used in this sport and relying on nature through the wind for force and movement, it is highly technical.
This means that this cannot be learned overnight or in just a day. The first few basic skills to learn are kite flying, body-dragging in the water, and the riding itself. It takes an average of 6 – 12 hours of lessons. Depending on what type of learner you are, it can be more or it can even be less.
One thing is guaranteed: learning it in one day’s session is not enough.
If you already have experience doing other watersports, it is possible for you to do so, but it does not mean that you have successfully learned it safely and effectively. As I mentioned earlier, your instructor would need to continuously correct any mistakes and prevent you from forming bad habits that would lead to an increased risk of accidents and injuries.
How Much it Costs to Learn Kitesurfing
The cost of kitesurfing lessons depends on the school and the location of the school. On an average, it will cost around USD$500 to USD$800 for a complete course that will help you get to a more independent level.
On the other hand, for equipment and gears, their price will depend on the brand and their condition, if you’re buying either second hand or brand new. Expect to spend around USD$3,000 if you opt to buy a brand new kite, bar, harness, personal flotation device, helmet and board. Depending how you care for and use these equipment they can last from a day to around 5 years.
What You Will Need
The main thing to consider when choosing a kite is its size and that depends on the wind strength. There are different types of kites but the two main categories are LEI and Foil kites.
A Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI) kite has a single skin with inflatable bladders that provide structure to the kite. These kites are flown using a control bar that has either 2 lines, called the old school kite, 4 lines or the modern ones, or 5 lines which is used on C-Kites generally.
What sets foil kites apart from LEI kites is that they have no inflatable bladders. What they work with are either open or closed air cells filling up and taking shape as the air enters the kite. The downside to this kite is that it fills up with water causing it to sink If the kite is dropped in the water. If you intend to use this for water practice, use foil kites with valves to prevent water from filling it up.
Like in wakeboarding, the beginners should choose boards that are larger in size. There are three types of boards commonly used for kitesurfing – the Twin Tip, Directional Board, and Hydrofoil Board.
This is the most common type of board used in kitesurfing. The tip of this board has a symmetrical outline which allows you to easily go left or right without the need to switch your feet. This is the most suitable board for beginners because it’s the easiest one to control. For that reason, you would be able to progress better as you keep mastering your skills with this board.
This type is mainly designed for riding waves because they allow you to carve through the waves as you are being pulled by the kite.
As the name suggests, this board allows riders to go in one direction at a time by changing the position of their feet. If you want to challenge yourself more after riding a while on a twin tip board, moving to a directional board is the way to go.
This board is the trendiest one of all at the moment. It has a vertical mast attached to a wing and stabilizer allowing you to hover over the water. As you speed more, the more lift you have, which creates the hovering experience.
If you have good balance and you are excellent in using it properly, you would experience very minimal drag as you glide and hover over the water.
Choosing the right control bar and lines when it comes to size/length depends on the size and type of kite you are going to choose. The control bar is mainly used to control the kite and rotate it clockwise or counter-clockwise.
It usually comes with a quick release safety system. As a beginner, your focus should be getting lightweight but durable control bars and lines with length appropriate to the size of your kite.
Seat or Waist harness
There are many different types of harnesses based on shapes and sizes. The two main types are: waist harness and seat harness. A waist harness wraps around your waist only, while a seat harness wraps around your legs and hips.
Seat harnesses are the better choice for beginners because they generally provide more support and comfort. However, it can be more restrictive than waist harnesses, which makes waist harnesses the better choice for learning advanced tricks.
A safety leash, also known as a bypass leash or handlepass leash, is connected to the front part of your harness and onto the safety line. It enables efficiency in your control bar safety system by allowing you to flagout your kite and activating the chicken loop quick release in times of emergency and danger. If releasing your chicken loop quick release does not help your situation, releasing the leash quick release which can completely detach you from your kite is the next step.
Kitesurfing has become safer over the years, but emergency cases can still happen which makes having a line cutter handy. This tool is used to cut a line from your kite or from any of your body parts if they get tangled around your limbs or your whole body. Modern harnesses have a slot specifically for safety knives.
Floatation vests made for kitesurfing specifically have a gap for the control bar. It’s designed to have a tight fit to allow you to move freely and to stay put during impacts while riding. They have a flat waist area to make it suitable for wearing a waist or seat harness on top of these vests.
There are a lot of helmets out there. Try to get one that’s specifically designed for kitesurfing or at least, designed for watersports. Kitesurfing, being an action sport, it’s possible that unexpected things can happen that can lead to injuries. Wearing a helmet can protect your head from falling kites, obstacles, swinging boards, hazards on the beach, and even water impact.
While this is not a mandatory equipment to have, wearing one is better especially if you are learning kitesurfing in places with relatively colder waters. A wetsuit provides insulation which helps maintain body heat when you are in the water.
It can protect you from strong winds that also reduce body heat. Other than body-heat-related reasons, a wetsuit is also great if you want to protect yourself from jellyfish stinging you or from kite-related injuries.
Popular Styles of Kitesurfing
There are a lot of different styles of kitesurfing. This is what sets this water sport apart from the others because the fun and possibilities are endless. Depending on the type of equipment you are using, the riding style you can master can also vary which can be broken down into the following styles and disciplines:
This style of riding follows the most natural path of progression that is why this is also the most popular style. As the name suggests, it’s all about riding freely and enjoying your time on the water, the wind on your face and around the view of coastline. No need to perform complicated tricks while in the air. This style is the closest thing you’d get to meditation while kitesurfing.
This is the opposite of free-riding because it’s more for the riders who crave for a more adventurous experience. For this style, you have to have an unbridled motivation to go bigger and bolder for you to learn unhooked tricks. A lot of worldwide competitions require this style of riding.
If you’re one who enjoys carving a board in the waves, then this style is for you. This style is almost close to tow-in surfing. The rider catches the wave and rides it all the way down after getting into position with the help of the pull of the kite catching the wind. A directional board, with or without foot straps, is perfect for this style of riding.
This is the latest style of riding in kitesurfing which can be compared to riding a magic carpet! Hydrofoil kites allow you to hover on the water because they use a board mounted on a mast with a wing underneath. This style is perfect for areas with light winds.
Best Type of Spots to Kitesurf
There are a lot of destination spots that are known to be the best location for kitesurfing. Of course, the spot you choose would depend on the kite school you signed up for. But after completing the course and moving on to a much more independent level, it’s important for you to also know what type of spot would be the best for you when you go out riding on your own.
Flat water vs. Wave Spots
Flat water is the better choice for beginners. The calmness and predictability of the water can help lessen anxiety especially if you’re still not 100% confident about your kite flying skills. Because there are no waves, this type of spot is more controlled which would help you focus on mastering your basic kite skills, body dragging, board skills and board recovery.
On the other hand, wave spots are perfect for beginners who want to challenge themselves even more. Because the water is not as predictable as flat water, you would be able to improve your body dragging skills and board recovery.
These two skills are crucial in kitesurfing because beginners get constantly separated from their board when they are just starting. After a while, you’ll be able to read the waves and anticipate proper timing for actions in between waves.
Shallow Water vs. Deep Water Spots
Shallow water is a lot like flat water as it is also the best choice for beginners. It allows you to have more stability as you master kite control kills. Deep water is like wave spots because it offers more chances for beginners like you to also practice body dragging and board recovery skills.
However, this is more dangerous for inexperienced riders because they can lose their boards, fail to relaunch and swim long distances when rescuing themselves in deep waters.
In the end, no matter what type of spot you choose, the most important thing to do beforehand is to gather information about the location and the local weather there. You can do so by asking locals who may be the ones who could help you get used to the area or even assist you in towing you back to the coastline if you’re not too confident about your self-rescuing skills.
Kitesurfing is a great sport for you to try out, especially if you’re the adventurous type who gets bored easily and wants to try a sport that has endless possibilities. It’s also perfect if you just want to ride, meditate and appreciate nature all at the same time.
Whatever your purpose is in getting into kitesurfing, I hope that this guide has given you more or less an idea of how it will be like when you start your kitesurfing journey.
With all that being said, do visit our on Facebook and Instagram for more about kitesurfing and other water sport-related content, so we can help you heighten your interest and curiosity in kitesurfing and other watersports even more. Catch you later!
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