Kitesurf Getting Started Guide
Kitesurfing can be for anyone. Whether you want to do daredevil acrobatics 20+ meters over the water, cruise flat water on a nice summers day, ride waves, race on a hydrofoil or a bit of everything. There are aspects of the sport most people will enjoy and a whole community of like-minded people to share some epic sessions with.
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You don’t need to be super strong or an athlete of any description as you use different size kites depending on your size and also the wind strength. You also use your weight instead of your strength to hold the power of the kite via a harness that has some quick releases safety mechanisms.
First things first
Get a lesson. Don’t skip this step and think you’ll be fine and miss out on the all-important safety instructions that are essential when kiting at all abilities.
If you have a few lessons you should get to the point where you and your instructor feel you can ride around (maybe not perfectly) safely and independently – this means you should be able to launch/land a kite with assistance, move yourself into a safe area to kitesurf and ride in both directions as well as know how to do a basic self-rescue.
Having lessons will also give you an idea of what size kites to use in different wind strengths and if you are looking to buy to kit this is something you should walk away from your lessons knowing so that you can purchase something similar.
Your first setup
There is a huge array of kit out there in the world to go and lay your hands on but there is also some you will want to avoid.
What to avoid. If you find some secondhand kit that the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Old kit can look great in photos, but kites and lines can stretch making them hard to fly. Kites can also have slow punctures meaning it will slowly deflate over the period of a day which could happen whilst your out on the water. Safety systems have been improved massively over the years so it is worth avoiding some of the older setup’s you may find.
So what to get? With every brand having a handful of different kites under their brand all aimed at different aspects of the sport, its worth knowing what sorts are going to help you get to the style of riding you want easiest.
Freeride – Probably the most versatile kites on the market. They can do a little bit of everything, and they tend to be a great as a first-time kite.
Wave – Obviously aimed at those surfers out there who want to ride waves. They tend to be good kites for people learning as they are a little softer in their power delivery, they also steer really well even when even without much power.
Lightwind – These kites are made lighter than all the others by using the minimal material and less struts. Whilst this makes them easier to fly in light winds, they are a little more delicate and can be a little harder to relaunch as they loose their shape thanks to a lack of struts. In the Air they tend to be easy to fly and quite forgiving.
Big Air – These tend to be the more highperformance versions of the Freeride kites. Faster and more powerful meaning they will help you jump high but probably will not be ideal for learning the basics.
Freestyle – Another to avoid when starting out but if you want to throw the latest tricks then it is the only way to go. Freestyle kites give the most feedback to the rider and will make your spins and flips easier as they allow the kite to slacken off the power to enable easier rotations.
Choosing what size kites to buy can be a struggle. Read on to find out how to choose the best size kites for you and the conditions you ride in.
There is no magic size kite that will work in all conditions sadly. You will need a kite that suitable for your size but also the conditions you will be kiting in the most. If you live somewhere where the average wind speed is under 15knots then you may have a 12m as your smallest kite. Vice versa if you live somewhere that consistently blows 20 knots or more then the 12m might be your biggest.
Having multiple kites is the key to making the most of the ever-changing winds. To minimize cost you don’t need to get one of each size but rather a 2 or 3 meter gap between sizes. As an example for the UK for a 75 kg person a quiver of 7 – 9 – 12m kites will see you from roughly 15 knots to 35 knots.
This example is probably the most popular kite size to get as the range will cover you from light winds up to the lower level strom force winds. If you dont want to go out in stroms then a 9m and 12m is the perfect two kite set up but a lighter rider might go 8 and 11m and a heavier rider may go 10m and 13m.
Bars and Lines
Its worth getting the bar and lines that matches the kite, not only will the lines tie straight onto the kite easily but by doing so you know your in good hands when it comes to the safety systems – Kite, Bar and lines all designed to work together.
When learning you tend to go out on something a little bigger than you would probably ride around on as an intermediate. Taking note of what size, you used in your lesson and subtracting a couple of centimeters will give you a board size to start looking for. Bigger boards tend to be used for bigger people and vice versa.
If you get a bigger board than you need for your size it will get going in lighter winds easier and be easier to go upwind. On the downside it will be less maneuverable and there will be more board to get knocked around by any chop on the water. A smaller board for you size will need a bit more power to get going and to be ridden upwind but will be more maneuverable.
Most boards come in a range of sizes from around 130 – 150cm and widths of 38 – 45cm
Like kites, boards are aimed at different aspects of the sport and again a freeride comes out tops for most people as they tend to work for a bit of everything. If you are going to do freestyle and buy a freestyle kite its well worth matching it up with a freestyle board and that thought process matches with whichever discipline you intend to do.
Foot pads are all true to size so look for a size range with your size in it. The more adjustable the pad the better as you can then make them straps snug to your feet whether your wearing wetsuit boots or not.
Other Things you will need
Harness – You will have been wearing either a seat harness or waist harness for your lessons, the most important factor with a harness is that it fits well as this is where the power from the kite will pull on you. Seat vs waist harness is a personal choice and which ever you find more comfortable is the best for you. Harnesses tend to come in either a soft construction or hard-shell construction – the difference being that when a kite pulls you a hared shell wont change shape too much and there fore not squash you. A soft-shell harness will tend to squeeze in at the side as the kite powers up and there can squash you. All harnesses will have some sort of padding to help keep you comfortable.
Leash – Is another essential item that connects your kite to your harness. If you need to use your safety system, the whole kite will be attached to your harness via this leash. They come in different lengths and the shorter is ideal as it keeps everything neat and out of the way. The longer leashes are for those doing freestyle and unhooked tricks.
Pump – You will need a pump to inflate your kite. Whilst there is nothing new about pumps you do need to have one and it needs to fit the kite you have. There are a few valve options on different brands kites so it is really important you have the valve that fits.
Protection – Whilst having lessons you will have been wearing a helmet and impact vest or buoyancy aid but what you may have noticed is that other people not on lessons were wearing neither. Its completely up to you if you wear one or not but both will help protect you in any crashes you have big or small and they will make it easier to kite again tomorrow. There is a bit of
Wetsuits, Boots and Gloves – Whilst some people will have the pleasure of kiting in boardshorts or bikinis all year round, the majority of us are going to need to be wearing something to keep us warm and let us be out on the water for longer. There’s lots of different suits, boots and gloves you can get but you want something flexible and warm for your environment. The thicker a wetsuit is the warmer it will be but the less maneuverable it will be. We have loads of information on neoprene here.
Some of the questions we get a lot are; "how easy is kitesurfing?" or "how long will it take to learn to kitesurf?" and "is it worth learning to kitesurf?"
And although there is no straight forward answer to any of these questions kitesurfing is an amazing sport that is not only good for you physically but also mentally too. Getting out on the water and enjoying yourself whilst learning and concentrating on something new will take your mind off everything else in the world and give you a buzz like no other. Its not only a sport for the lovely summer days but once you have mastered the basics you can start to go out when the wind gets more crazy you can take on the challenge of trying to tame it and get out on the water in all conditions.
As kite sizes vary you dont need to be big and strong but you need to understand what the right equipment is for you and that comes with time on the water, speaking to expericed riders and having lessons. The social side of kiteboarding is also amazing, you will meet like minded indivduals who love being active outdoors and although the extreme side of kitesurfing is what social media portrays there is a more subdue side of the sport for those who like cruising in light winds when the weather is nice.
Really kitesurfing is for everyone who is keen to give it a go and once you can do it you will never look at the weather forecast in the same way again.
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