The Ultimate Guide to Kitesurfing
What is kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing is a watersport that entails being pulled across the water behind a wind-powered kite whilst standing on a board. Kitesurfing is recognised as an extreme sport but is also widely accessible and growing in popularity.
What equipment do I need to kitesurf?
In order to kitesurf you need a kite, a board, a control bar with lines (string) that is used for steering the kite and a waist harness so you can attach the kite to your body. In certain conditions you may also want a wetsuit to keep you warm.
The size of kite depends primarily on the strength of the wind, but the weight of the kitesurfer is also a factor. Generally speaking most kitesurfers have around 3 kites ranging from 7m2 to 12m2. Additionally to the other items, you will require a pump. This is used to pump up the kite as most of them have inflatable bladders to maintain the correct shape and enable them to float on water.
Is kitesurfing an olympic sport?
It has been confirmed that from 2024, kitesurfing in the form of kite foil racing will be a permanent Olympic discipline after it debuts at the Olympic Games in Paris that year.
What is kite foiling?
Generally speaking there are 3 kinds of board that you can use for kitesurfing. These are:
Twin tip board - a bit like a snowboard or wake board, these boards have foot straps or boots and can travel in both directions enabling the kitesurfing to always kite with their back to the wind. Twin Tip kiteboards are the most common type of board and widely used for learning.
Surf board - much like a traditional surfboard, the surfboard is designed to travel only in one direction (pointy end forward!). They are much lighter and more buoyant than a Twin tip making them good in lighter winds. Usually kiters will learn to ride a Twin tip before moving to a surf board.
Hydrofoil/Foil board - similar to a surfboard but with a hydrofoil 'wing' protruding from the bottom, these boards work very well in light winds. They enable the kitesurfer to 'float' above the water giving the impression they are levitating. I fact they are riding on the wing which has minimal resistance as it travels through the water.
Which kitesurfing kite should I buy?There are a number of kitesurfing brands, the large ones include Duotone (previously North), Cabrinha (Neil Pryde), Naish, F-One, Core Kiteboarding, Slingshot Sports, Liquid Force, Airrush and Ozone.
Most of these companies produce a range of models some of which are more appropriate for beginners than others. The best way to decide which to buy is by testing a few (you can ask at a kitesurfing shop) and looking for recommendations from fellow kitesurfers. When starting out you may want to look at getting second hand gear which is much cheaper.
What should I wear kitesurfing?Aside from your main equipment which will include a harness, you may want a wetsuit if the water or air temperature are low. In addition it’s useful to wear neoprene booties which protect your feet from sharp objects as well as keeping your feet warm. If it’s sunny you should be sure to wear suncream and possibly a hat attached to some string so you don’t lose it.
Aside from this, some kiters also like to wear gloves either to protect from the cold or chaffing which can occur from holding the bar. A waterproof phone case can be useful to keep your phone and car keys in and a rash vest to hold it under so it doesn’t flap about.
How long does it take to learn to kitesurf?Kitesurfing is definitely not something you can learn in one day. You are considered competent once you are able to setup and launch your kite (with assistance), ride out, return back to the same spot on the beach (despite the wind trying to blow you downwind!), and land your kite (with assistance).
The minimum recommended starter course is 3 days which includes learning how to use the kite safety systems, flying the kite on land, flying the kite and body dragging in the water, and finally learning how to get up and ride on the board.
Once you understand the basics and can setup and fly the kite safely, you will need a period of supervised practice or ‘supervision’. It depends on a variety of factors including weather, wind, water conditions and your own ability as to how long it will take before you are able to ride and return to the same spot on the beach, but generally speaking it will be at least 25+ hours of practice.
Where are the best places to kitesurf?In general there are a few things you are looking for that make somewhere a good place to kitesurf:
- Cross-onshore wind. So that if things go wrong and your kite breaks, you will drift to a safe place.
- No land hazards. Area of beach/land that is clear of obstacles (especially trees) and away from roads and crowds so you can setup, launch and land the kites safely.
- No water hazards. Free from other watercraft/shipping, underwater obstacles like rocks, strong currents and dangerous animals like sharks and jellyfish!
- Kitesurfing allowed. There are areas where kitesurfing is not allowed so you need to ensure this is not the case.
With that in mind, here are some of the places that are considered the best in the world to kitesurf:
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Tarifa, Spain
- Dakhla, Western Sahara
- Canary Islands
- Hayling Island, UK
- Cabarete, Dominican Republic
- Jericoacoara, Brazil
Do I need to be strong to kitesurf?
One of the greatest misconceptions is that you need great physical strength to kitesurf. In fact you don't need to be strong and only a basic level of fitness is required.
Can I kitesurf if I can’t swim?
Generally speaking being able to swim is a prerequisite of kitesurfing.
How old do you need to be to kitesurf?In general, weight is considered a better indication of when a child can learn to kitesurf rather than age. That said, 8 to 10 years old is considered the lower end of the range when learning to kitesurf.
What conditions do you need to kitesurf?
Conditions depend on the equipment you have but generally speaking a cross-onshore wind is preferable so that if you get in trouble you will be blown to shore. Ideally you need at least 12 knots of wind with standard equipment but you can kite in lighter winds if you have a surfboard or foil.
You need to ensure you have a wide stretch of beach to ensure you can safely launch and land the kite and ensure you are aware of any objects or nasties in the water.
Also beware of waves and currents which can make conditions unsafe. If in doubt, ask a local kitesurfer.
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