Kiteboarding, or Kitesurfing is a wind powered sport, where kiters blend two common elements- wind and water, to create the ultimate action sport! Large, inflatable kites could be described as our personal “boat in a bag”, and it allows us to speed along the water at speeds up to 50mph, and defy gravity with stadium sized jumps of up to 40' feet in height. Kites come in many sizes and varying shapes, but generally kites for kiteboarding (on the water) are called ‘inflatables” with air filled bladders, which give structure to the canopy, and allows for relaunching from the water. Kiteboarding has grown to include specialized disciplines in course racing, distance racing, freestyle, BIG-AIR, and wave riding. Whether it’s boosting huge airs, slashing waves, or just pleasure cruising- kiteboarding has something for everyone!
The sport has grown exponentially over the last few years, as have accidents, bans, and restrictions. Without proper training this sport can be very dangerous, it is not like a bike or skateboard that you just hop on and figure out, its more like learning to fly a plane. Certified instructors have been trained to teach kiteboarding with standardized lesson plans and training procedures, and have a responsibility to teach safely. With organizations like IKO and PASA, selecting a quality, certified instructor is easier these days, and both training programs are well structured to maximize the learning process. We have taken it a step further and added online courses to our lesson plan.
A prospective kiter should take a few hours of quality instruction to see if kiteboarding is for them. If they decide to pursue the sport, then several more hours of instruction is needed to learn the basics, followed by weeks, or months of individual practice. The learning curve can be lessened by reading, watching videos, and asking questions, but ultimately, the required kite handling and safety skills skills are only developed with a competent instructor.
People trying to learn on their own are a danger to themselves, bystanders, and every kiter on the water. They are often referred to as “cowboys” or “kooks”, which is a label that no one wants to wear in this sport, and are the main source of injuries, bans, and restrictions on our beaches. Self teaching, or “friends teaching friends”, is no longer tolerated at most launch sites. Please respect yourself, fellow kiters, and our efforts to maintain access. Take the time to seek out a qualified instructor and inquire about their lesson plan.
Kiteboarding can pose hazards to surfers, beachgoers, bystanders and others on the water. Many problems and dangers that may be encountered while learning kiting can be avoided or minimized by taking professional instruction through a reputable kiteboarding school. Kitesurfing schools provide courses and lessons to teach skills including kite launching, flying, landing, usage of the bar, lines and safety devices.
A beginner can turn by stopping, sinking backwards into the water, then turning the kite in the opposite direction and starting again. A heel turn jibe is a quicker, more skillful turn that is executed by slowing down, flattening the board, then reversing the board flat on the water by bringing the rear foot around downwind to eventually become the new leading foot. The direction of the kite is then reversed, which swings the surfer's path in a half circle, centered on the kite. As the turn ends, the kite is flown over to be in front of the surfer again.
A poorly executed turn will "fly" the surfer, and is often followed by a tumble if the surfer can't put the board down at the right angle.
A careless turn in high winds can easily swing the rider into the air and result in an uncontrolled impact.
Boosting huge airs is definitely one of the biggest attractions of the sport. Being able to jump 30' high is relatively easy in the right conditions, proper training, and plenty of practice. Before jumping, the rider strongly edges the board to build up tension in the lines while "sending" the kite to 12:00. As the kite begins to lift, the board edge is then 'released' and the rider becomes airborne. The kite is then redirected to the direction of travel for a smooth landing. Many tricks can be performed while jumping, such as board grabs, rolls, board-offs, and more.
Jumping can be very risky, riders must keep a clear buffer zone downwind when attempting to jump.
Kitesurfers change kite size and/or line length depending on wind strength—stronger winds call for a smaller kite to prevent overpower situations. Kitesurfers will determine the wind strength using either an Anenometer or, more typically, visual clues as shown in the Beaufort Scale.
All modern kites dedicated to kitesurfing provide a "depower" option to reduce the power in the kite. By using depower, the kite's angle of attack to the wind is reduced, thereby catching less wind in the kite and reducing the power or pull.
Wind speed, rider experience and weight, board size, kite design and riding style are all interdependent and affect the choice of kite.
An experienced rider generally carries a 'quiver' of different sized kites appropriate for the wind speed range. A typical kite quiver might include 9 m², 13 m² and 18 m² traditional "C-kites". Exact kite sizes will vary depending on rider weight and desired wind ranges.
Bow kites have a wider wind range than C-kites, so two kite sizes (such as 7 m² and 12 m²) could form an effective quiver for winds ranging from 10 to 30+ knots for a 75 kg (165 lbs) rider.
Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for kiteboarding. Offshore winds pose the danger of being blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control. Offshore winds are suitable in a lake or when a safety boat is available, however they are generally more gusty. Direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land, and are thus less favorable.
Any location with consistent, steady side-onshore winds (10 to 25+ knots), large open bodies of water and good launch areas are suitable for kitesurfing. Most kitesurfing in the Tampa Bay area takes place on the expansive grass flats of Tampa Bay. Kiteboarders should AVOID crowded beaches and look for wide open beaches to ride at. Since kiteboarding relies heavily on favorable, consistent wind conditions, certain locations tend to become popular and sought out by kiteboarders.
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