Ride the Wind: A Beginner’s Guide to Kite Surfing Adventure

Last Updated 25 Apr 2024 by Fiona Perisone

Kite surfing or kiteboarding is an exciting sport for anyone who loves water adventures and wave riding. There is something about standing with a kite on the edge of the wind window to catch the wind. Some will say kite surfing is the most extreme water sport to make your blood flow and mind race.

Whether you are new to kite surfing or thinking about trying kite surfing, here is a beginner guide that you won't want to miss. In this article, you can learn about necessary equipment, ideal weather conditions, and costs for kitesurfing. It's also highly recommended that you grab some lessons from kitesurf schools to furnish you with essential safety and procedures.

What is Kite surfing

Kite surfing, also called kite boarding, is a watersport that requires wind to perform. By means of a kite and a small board, kiteboarders use natural wind power to move across a body of water. While practicing the sport, kiteboarders spend time gliding both on the water and through the air.

With the early concept of the sport emerging in the 1970s and later becoming popularized in the late 1990s, kitesurfing is considered a new watersport that continues to gain popularity.

Conditions Needed to Kite surf

Ideal kiteboarding weather is a day with all sunshine and no clouds when constant side-onshore winds are blowing between 15 and 20 knots. For beginners, it's also helpful to work on flat water with waves no higher than 2 feet. 

Side-shore winds are those that blow from left to right or right to left, parallel to the shore. A side-onshore wind will continually pull you back to the beach at an angle, offering you the safest circumstances for surfing. On the other hand, onshore and offshore winds pull you directly towards and away from shore. These can be dangerous if stronger than the side-shore wind, so it's necessary to know the wind speed and direction before you get out on the water. It's also important to watch for the development of clouds. Changes in the clouds can act as indicators for changing windspeeds and wind directions. 

Consider purchasing an anemometer to measure windspeed. For new kiteboarders, this tool could help you determine what size kite to use when practicing the sport.  

Necessary Equipment

You will need several pieces of equipment to ensure safe and enjoyable sports practice. The three most fundamental items are the kite, the board, and the harness. There is a vast market of options for consumers to choose from, and other sports essentials include a safety leash, safety knife, and helmet.

Kite

Kites are sold individually and in kits. To allow for more flexibility, many kiteboarders purchase 2 or 3-kite kits to practice the sport in numerous types of weather.

When searching for the right kite, it's important to consider a couple of things. First, you'll want to know the typical weather conditions for the location where you'll be surfing most because your kite size is dependent on the wind. Bigger kites are used for lighter winds, and smaller kites are used for strong winds.

Second, you'll want to factor in your size. Smaller kiteboarders will use smaller-size kites and vice versa. Kite sizes range from 5 to 18 meters and are designed for windspeeds of 10 to 30 mph. In short, it's essential to determine your weight and wind speed requirements before choosing a kite.

There are also several kite shapes to review, but the two main kite categories: leading edge inflatable kites (LEI) and foil kites.

Leading Edge Inflatable Kites (C-Shapes, hybrids, SLE/Delta/Bow)

A LEI kite is a single skin kite with an inflatable bladder to provide structure. This type of kite is flown with a control bar that either has two, four, or five lines. It is great for water use because the inflatable bladder will float on the water's surface and still be easily re-launched.

The leading-edge inflatable kites can be broken down into four designs: C-kites, hybrid kites, delta kites, and bow kites. Bow kites and delta kites are highly recommended for beginners. These kite types offer a wide wind range, easy re-launch, and depowering potential. You'll want to avoid C-kites. This is the oldest type of inflatable kite, and it is now regarded as a professional-use kite due to the power and lift it garners.  

Foil Kites (ARC, Bridled)

Foil kites resemble parafoils as they consist of a number of cells running fore to aft, and they open at the front to allow air to inflate the kite. This type of kite is very efficient and powerful and is used for kite racing and advanced recreational kite surfing.

Foil kites do not have any flotation. If this type of kite drops in water, the air cells can potentially fill up the water and cause it to sink. For this reason, it's recommended that you seek one with valves for water practice.

Kite Board

Kite board gives you a ton of control and often makes you feel like you are on a surf board. However, kiteboards are typically stronger and heavier than your traditional surfboard, as normal surfing construction is usually not strong enough for kitesurfing.

Kiteboards come in a range of sizes from 130 cm to 165 cm. Depending on height and weight, beginners should generally choose a larger board to start. This is for a couple of reasons. The bigger the board, the more ability to ride upwind in light winds. In addition, it's faster to make progress in the sport and practice higher jumps.

Boards also come in various shapes with many features, including the rocker and the flex. Rocker measures the board's curvature, and flex deals with the board's stiffness level. Beginners will likely feel more comfortable with a board that has medium rocker and flex.

Hydrofoil boards are the latest craze. They are a directionally shaped board that can be attracted to a vertical mast that's attached to a wing and stabilizer. Unlike traditional kiteboards, hydrofoil boards allow kitesurfers to ride in much lighter wind conditions.

Harness

This piece of equipment balances the pull of the kite, transferring the pressure from your hands to your body. There are a few types of harnesses. In general, beginners start with a seat harness and later move to a waist harness. Seat harnesses offer more control over your sense of gravity, helping you feel grounded to the board. By providing more stability, they are ideal for those starting out. 

Control Bar and Lines

Think of the control bar and lines as if they were a car. The control bar and lines of a kiteboarding kite act as the steering wheel, gas pedal, and brakes. The control bar allows you to vary your speed and direction in the water. When possible, purchase a kite with a control bar, ensuring that the kite and control bar are safely designed to work in tandem. 

Safety Leash 

Also called a bypass leash, a safety leash typically comes with your kite and bar. It keeps you attached to your kite if you deploy your safety release to depower it. Ensuring the proper attachment of the safety leash is essential, and if done incorrectly, it can lead to equipment failure and injury.

Safety Knife

A safety knife is a hook-shaped metal tool with a sharp blade inside. Though the quick-release system on your control bar should allow you to depower your kite in an uncontrollable situation, it could prove faulty. In this scenario, a safety knife could save your life in a complicated tangle. 

Impact Vest

An impact vest is a piece of essential safety equipment for beginners. They are padded vests that protect your upper body in case of strong impact.

Helmet

If you want to protect your head from being hit by your own equipment and/or the impact of the water during a fall, it's critical to wear a helmet. 

The Costs of Kitesurfing

Due to the level of demand this watersport takes on the body, it's recommended to take several lessons before entering the water on your own. The cost of lessons varies greatly based on location, the year's season, and the kitesurfing school's experience level. Lessons will cost anywhere from $50 to $70 USD per hour, and it's suggested to take around 10 hours of lessons. Kite equipment is generally included in the lesson, giving you a better idea of what you'll want to rent or purchase once you start surfing on your own. 

Kitesurfing is expensive, so renting kitesurfing gear can be a great affordable option for beginners. If you are still testing the waters, and feel you need more time to make kitesurfing a full-time hobby, renting can offer financial flexibility until you do take that step. 

Once you're ready to purchase gear, consider whether you'd like to buy the essentials individually or as part of a kit. It may be that a board from one manufacturer and a kite from another are most appropriate for you, or you might decide a particular kit is suitable. Prices vary greatly based on make, model, and method of purchase. It's possible to save several hundred dollars by purchasing a full kit or used gear. See a list of price ranges below. In total, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1200 - $3000 USD on a full setup. 

Kite: $600 > $2,800

Kiteboard: $300 > $1,400

Control Bar: $200 > $700

Kite Lines: $20 > $200

Harness: $100 > $300

To learn how to kite surf, it's highly recommended that you take lessons from kite schools. With strong dedication, you can learn unhooked tricks and a kite loop into zero gravity for a split second. Kite equipment is available for rent if you are unsure if kitesurfing is right for you.

About the Author

Fiona is a veteran travel consultant, photographer and travel writer at planetrider.com. She has spent many years as a corporate travel consultant and decided to actually live the life rather than plan it for others!

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