Kitesurfers School | Kiteboarding Lessons

Learn Kiteboarding FAQ | Online Kitesurf Lesson For Beginners

This is a copy of the Kitesurfing FAQ originally developed by Hung Vu (with some contributions from Mark Frasier) for the Kitesurfing School website. You may find a more up-to-date version at kitesurfingschool.org/faqs.htm

This FAQ can be copied and posted at any site subjected to proper authorship acknowledgment. (Simply provide a link to this page if posting.)

Table of Contents

What is kitesurfing, kiteskiing, kiteboarding or flysurfing?

Nose Grab
. (Photo by Steve Slaby)

Kitesurfing, kiteboarding, or fly surfing (if you speak French), is a new exciting water sport for the new millennium.  Kitesurfing is a very, very young sport.  In 1998, there were probably only a couple of dozens of kitesurfers in the world (there was a “world cup” back then in Hawaii but some of the winners were starting learning kiting a few weeks/months before the “world cup”). The population of kitesurfers has been growing rapidly to around 150,000 to 200,000 kitesurfers worldwide by the end of 2006.  The idea behind kitesurfing is very simple.

A kitesurfer stands on a board with foot straps or bindings and uses the power of a large controllable kite to propel him and the board across the water. This simplicity also makes kitesurfing challenging. Your body is the only connection between the kite and the board and you have to control them both at the same time: piloting the kite on the sky and steering the board on the water.

How does kiteboarding work and how did it all start?

Kites originated in China thousands of years ago (two kite masters Kungshu P’an and Mo Zi flew kites as early as 478 BC) and have managed to remain unchanged until the modern time when multiple line controllable kites were introduced by George Pocock in 1826. For the first time in history, instead of letting the wind fly the kite, a multiple-line controllable kite flyer can actually pilot the kite on the sky.

When flying across the sky, a kite generates lift like an airplane wing. Since lift is proportional to the size of a kite, some kite flyers realized that if you make a kite big enough it would generate enough power to propel a vehicle on land, snow, ice, or water. This type of kite is called traction kite.  Certain forms of traction kite have been used by many pioneers such as George Pocock in the past, but it only became popular in the early 1990s and its popularity has made traction kite flying more a sport than just a recreational activity.  While a windsurfing sail is dependent on the wind to generate power, a kite is only dependent on the wind to fly.

When a kite is flying across the sky, it creates its own wind (apparent wind) which is faster and therefore produces much more power than the actual wind can provide. Since lift is proportional to the square of the wind velocity if the apparent wind of the kite is twice that of the actual wind, you will get four times as much power from the kite. This simple fact is not easy to appreciate until you actually fly a traction kite. Numerous first-time traction kite flyers have been injured in the past for misjudging such power.

As soon as traction kite was introduced, a number of kite flyers started thinking of using kites to replace conventional sails in water sports such as windsurfing. To make this popular, you need a kite that can be launched directly from the water. After years of research, a number of water re-launchable kites were introduced: Wipika inflatable kite (introduced by the Legaignoux brothers in the ’80s), Kite Ski frame kite (introduced by Bill & Cory Roeseler in the ’80s), and in late 1990’s FOne closed cell foil kite (Raphael Salles), Concept Air closed cell foil kite (Michel Montmigny and Benoit Tremblay), Arc (Peter Lynn).

While the fundamental technologies are different and the degrees of re-launch ability vary, these kites share the same characteristic that allows a kite flyer to launch them from the water after a fall. There has also been a number of other pioneer kitesurfers with their passion and devotion that has helped to make the sport feasible and spread rapidly in the early days: Laird Hamilton, Manu Bertin, Laurent Ness (Axelair), Robby Naish (Naish Kites), Don Montague (Kiteboat.com), Flash (Marcus) Austin, Dave Culps (Kiteship.com), Stefano Rosso (Yahoo Kitesurf group), Hung Vu (KitesurfingSchool.org) and more.  Thanks to all those pioneers, a new sport named kitesurfing were christened and destined to be the most exciting sport for the new Millenium. 

Is kitesurfing safe?

There have been a few known fatal accidents while kitesurfing, so for kitesurfing or any other disciplines of power kiting, safety has to be taken seriously. Make sure you follow the safety guidelines at KitesurfingSchool.org/safety.htm and always use a safety release system.

Can a kitesurfer go upwind?

Yes. With proper equipment and skill, a kitesurfer can easily go upwind. However, all beginners are likely to go downwind.  Check a pioneer beginner’s log at KitesurfingSchool.org/kitesurfinglog.htm to see how long it would take for a beginner to learn to go upwind.

How to kiteboard upwind?

To go upwind on a free sail system such as a windsurfer, the sailor moves the sail backward to move the center of force behind the center of resistance of the board, fins, and keel.

On a kitesurfing system, a surfer holds the kite in his hands and his feet transfer the pull of the kite to the board; therefore the center of force is normally between his two feet.  The rider can move this center of force slightly by transferring his weight to his front foot or his back foot. To go upwind on a system like this, the surfer has to move both the center of force and the center of resistance:

  1. Move the center of force backward by transferring his weight more to the back foot.
  2. More important, move the center of resistance forward by pressing the windward edge to put the board from 15 to 45 degrees to the water.
So to go upwind on a kiteboard simply “ride” on its windward edge. 

Can I kitesurf in light wind?

Yes. You can cruise in wind as low as 5 knots with the equipment currently available on the market (large kite and large directional kiteboard).  For jumping, you may need around 7-8 knots.

Can I kiteboard in strong wind?

Yes. You can surf in very strong wind over 40 knots with equipment available on the market. At the kitesurfing competition in Leucate, France, in 1999, a number of kitesurfers could maintain control in 50-knot gusts. However, kitesurfing in 30+ knots is very dangerous so make sure you have the skill to do so.

Nathan in 40+ knots using a 5m Grunt. (The water here is only waist deep.)

Can I relaunch the kite from the water?

Yes. You can relaunch it from the water after a fall.  The degree of re-launch ability may vary depending on the type of kite you are using.

Necessary equipment for kitesurfing?

To kiteboard you need:

  1. A kite (with a certain degree of water relaunch ability),
  2. A board,
  3. A control device,
  4. Accessories (safety release system, harness, life jacket, wet suit, helmet, water shoe, etc.).

Best types of kites for surfing?

There are a number of kites on the market that are ideal. All of them have a certain degree of water relaunch-ability. There are mainly three types of surf kites:

  • Inflatable kites
  • Flat Inflatable (Bow kites)
  • Framed single skin
  • Ram Air Foil

What are the best Inflatable Surfing Kites (LEI)?

2005 KiteLoose Patriot. 

Inflatable kites normally have an inflatable leading edge and 5 or more inflatable battens to give it a permanent “crescent moon” shape (this type is also called an inflatable or Leading Edge Inflatable or LEI). They are very dependable to relaunch except for certain conditions such as in very light wind (less than 6-7 knots). The Legaignoux brothers, the original founders of Wipika are the inventor of the inflatable kites and has licensed the technology to many other manufacturers.

All inflatable manufacturers continue to develop and market their own version of the kite. The patent was filed in 1984 so it has been expired.  Due to the permanent “intrusive” shape of the kite (to facilitate water relaunching), the kite is always “powered up” even on the water. One needs a good working safety release system when using this kite.

There are generally two types of inflatable kites, 2-line, and 4-line. The advantages of 2-line inflatable kites are ease of use and stability. The advantage of 4-line inflatable kites is higher performance and better power control (by changing the Angle Of Attack or AOA of the kite). 

Due to many good characteristics, excellent wind range, ease of jump, and wide range of choices, inflatable kites have more or less dominated the kitesurfing market and start making major in-road to the kite snowboarding, kite skiing market with the introduction of the 5th line to facilitate relaunching on snow.

Flat Inflatable Kites (Bow Kites)

Classic LEI profile .vs. Flat LEI profile (Yarga .vs. Bularoo).

After the expiry of the original inflatable patent, the Legaignoux brothers again worked on a new design consisting of a bridle on the leading edge (discussed first on the Kitesurf Group) and a flat bow profile (with a concave trailing edge). 

Since the first successful introduction of the Legaignoux’ Bow kites, many other designers have also introduced their own version of the flat Inflatable. All flat inflatable kites have a simple bridle on the leading edge but the trailing edge can be concave (bow kites) or flat or convex.

A more detailed discussion of the flat inflatable kites can be found at Flat LEI Kites. 

The major advantages of a flat inflatable over the standard inflatable kites are:
  • Flat inflatable kites can be fully depowered
  • Flat inflatables have a larger wind range
  • Flat inflatables can relaunch easier
With such advantages, flat inflatable kites have replaced the standard inflatable kites as the dominant kitesurfing kite in 2006.

Framed Single Skin Kites for Surfers

Kiteski kite

Framed kites normally have a leading edge made of fiberglass or graphite, one main batten in the center, and a number of thin battens along the chord to give the kites a permanent shape. Similar to windsurfing, it will take quite a bit of practice to learn how to water launch a 2 line framed single skin kite (with the help of a 2 line reel bar). Once one gets the hang of it, these kites are probably the most dependable kites for water relaunching.

The only time one may not be able to relaunch these kites is when the wind is light (less than 8-10 knots). KiteSki is the inventor of the launchable 2-line framed single skin kite system. KiteSki used to have Banshee manufactured the kites. Both KiteSki and Banshee developed and market their own version of the kites (which could be very different).

After a fall, a framed single-skin kite stays flat on the water; therefore, a safety release system may not be needed. However, it is wise to have a safety release system to easily retrieve the kite and the control bar (the kite and the control bar may fly a fairly long distance downwind before landing on the water).

For some reason, framed single kites are becoming less and less popular among the kitesurfers and rarely one see any kitesurfer using framed single skin kites for kitesurfing anymore.

Ram Air Foil Kites

ConceptAir Leader

These types of kites have no rigid structure. The shape of the kite is formed while flying. These kites have shapes that are very close to airplane wings and therefore, probably are the most aerodynamic kites. Ram air foil kites have been on the market for a long time and have been used by many buggiers. In the early days of kitesurfing, Concept Air and F-One released the first water re-launchable ram air foil kites, the Concept Air EX’s Wave, and the FOne ATK kites.

These kites normally have a limited number of air intakes and a valve system to prevent the air to escape after a fall. Due to these characteristics, they are also called closed cell foil kites. According to a number of surfers, once one knows how to water launch them, they should be very dependable (especially in moderate to strong wind). As closed cell foil kites retain their shape after a fall, one should have a safety release system when using them.

Concept Air was the first company introducing a foil kite incorporating a system allowing the rider to control the power by pulling on the third line to change the shape of the kite (therefore changing the camber/projected surface). Since then, many other companies (ConceptAir, Flysurfer, Boom Vector, Ozone, etc.) have introduced foils with systems that use AOA to control the power, similar to the inflatable.

Peter Lynn has also introduced a new type of foil kite called the Arc.  The Arc is mainly a closed cell ram-air foil with the sled shape of an inflatable.  Similar to a 4-line inflatable, an Arc kite can also be depowered by pulling on its front lines to change the angle of attack.

What types of kite control device can I use?

Modern kiteboarders use a control bar with a center power trim line (chicken loop line) to control the kite and its power by changing its Angle of Attack (AOA). 

What types of kiteboards can I use?

You can use a surfboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps) or a wakeboard-like board (with foot straps or bindings), a pair of water-ski-like skis (with bindings), or anything in between.
Generally, the boards are classified into two groups: directional and bidirectional boards. 

Directional boards for kitesurfers

  • Directional boards have a distinct “head” (bow) and “tail” (stern).  A directional board always travels “head first”.  To change direction on a directional board you have to jibe (to turn the “head” of the board in the reverse direction).

Bidirectional boards for kitesurfing

  • Bidirectional boards have no distinct “head” nor “tail”.  Both “tips” of the boards are identical. A bidirectional board is also called twintip (longer and narrower bidirectional board) or a wakeboard (shorter and wider bidirectional board, similar shape as a wakeboard).  A bidirectional board can travel in both directions. To change direction on a bidirectional board, you simply go reverse.

Most modern kitesurfers use a bidirectional board (or twin-tip) due to its ease of jibing and more control when jumping. Directional boards are only used in special cases (very light wind, wave, etc.).

Can I use a kite for snowkiting or icekiting?

Yes. You can use your kite in the winter with your skis on snow or on ice. Check KitesurfingSchool.org/kiteskiing.htm for more information on kite-skiing on snow and ice.

You can also use a snowboard with your kite.   Kitesnowboarding is very similar to kitesurfing (especially in more than 1′ of powder snow). Check kitesurfingschool.org/kitesnowboarding.htm for more information.

The picture above shows all the “boards” you can use with your kite. From left to right:

  • Short skis for use in pure ice or tricks
  • Medium skis for all conditions
  • Long racing skis for speed
  • Snowboard
  • A bidirectional board
  • A small directional board
  • A larger directional board for light wind
Furthermore, you can use other winter toys:
  • Skates
  • Snowblades
  • Telemark skis
Nice Skates!

Can I use the kite to pull me on land? (When kite-landboarding and kiteskating)

Tou can use these winter toys:

Dave Folkard’s 2 wheel buggy.

Buggies are traditional kite vehicles on land; however, the newer generation of land kiters start to use skateboard-like boards for land kiting for more challenges. On parking lot pavements, they use standard skateboards and on grass or hardpacked sand, they use bigger boards with larger wheels (sometimes called a mountain board).

Paul and the Grass Shopper Mountain Board.

Can I use the kite with a boat? (kiteboating & kitesailing)

Yes. You can use your kite to pull a boat. 

KiteCat (Photo by Peter Lynn).

You can kite sail with almost any boat, using the single person KiteCat (photo above) or any larger boat (canoe, kayak, sailboats, etc.).  Normally you need one kite-sailor controlling the kite and another steering the boat.  More information regarding kiteboating can be found at kitesurfingschool.org/kiteboat.com.

Does a surfer need assistance to launch or land the kite?

You normally do not need any assistance to launch or land your kite unless you are on a crowded and busy beach with a considerable shore break. Different kites have different launching, landing, and water relaunching techniques. Your vendor should be able to provide you with the appropriate instructions. Check kitesurfingschool.org/howto.htm for information on launching and landing.

Where can I buy kitesurfing equipment?

You can find a list of most kitesurfing vendors at KitesurfingSchool.org/kitesurfinglinks.htm Commercial Links.

How much does kiteboarding gear cost?

A kiteboard normally costs between $500 to $700 and the price for a kite is normally $700 to $1200 including lines and bar. A larger kite may cost more and a smaller kite may cost less.

I don't have $1500! How can I get cheap kitesurfing gear?

You can buy used kitesurfing equipment. You can also make your own kite and convert your old surfboard into a kiteboard. You can also build a kiteboard out of wood.  Check kitesurfingschool.org/board.htm for information on how to build your own kiteboard (DIY).

Where can I buy used kiteboarding equipment?

You can buy used kitesurfing equipment at kitesurfingschool.org/used.htm. Furthermore, kiters normally post used equipment for sales at various related groups and forums at kitesurfingschool.org/mlist.htm.

How hard is it to learn how to kitesurf?

Learning this is actually easier and takes less time than learning how to windsurf. However, the learning curve is much steeper. For example, one of the first kitesurfing moves you need to learn is water starting, which is a rather advanced technique in windsurfing.

Any cheap kitesurfing lessons for beginners?

You should learn kitesurfing from a reputable local kiteboarding school.  If none is available in your area, you may want to travel to learn to ride. Click KitesurfingSchool.org/schools.htm to see a list of kitesurfing schools in the world. If you have to learn this all by yourself, at least see some instructional videos. 

What is the wind window?

The wind window is the area where a kite can fly. For all its practical purposes, the wind window is basically the area you can see with your eyes (85 degrees to the left, 85 degrees to the right, 85 degrees upward) when you are facing straight downwind.

What is the typical wind range of a kite?

Different kites have different wind ranges. Normally, the range between the lowest wind and the highest wind of a modern kitesurfing kite is about double the wind speed (the highest wind is twice as much as the lowest wind). Some kites may have a wider wind range (especially the new flat inflatable kites) and some may have a narrower wind range.

Can a kitesurf kite reef automatically like a windsurfing sail?

None of the current kitesurf kites has an automatic reefing system.

However, a kite with some pulley system on the bridle that changes the attachment points as the COP of the kite changes may produce similar “smoothness” as a modern windsurfing sail.

On the other hand, due to the tremendous power requirement during jumping, automatic reefing may not be a good thing for kiters.

 

How does a kitesurfer control the power of a kite?

You control the power of the kite using the bar and the trim line (chicken loop line) to change the kite’s AOA (therefore changing its projected surface). You can also control the power of the kite using the speed control method as described at KitesurfingSchool.org/howto.htm Kite Power Controlling.

How many kites when surfing?

The number of kites you need is dependent on the conditions at your local beach. Ideally, you should have 3 kites: a light wind kite (5 to 15 knots), a moderate wind kite (10 to 20 knots), a high wind kite (15 to 30 knots). For a typical kiter, this means a quiver consisting of 18m, 12m, and 8m inflatables.
Most riders don’t go out in wind less than 12 knots and therefore can be satisfied with only 2 kites.  For such kiters, this means a quiver consisting of 16m and 10m inflatables.

What line length should a kitesurfer use?

The right line length to use is dependent on the kite size and the condition. Given the same kite size, use longer lines for less wind and shorter lines for more wind.

The standard line length is 23 – 25m. In high wind, you may want to use a shorter line length for more control of the kite; however, don’t go shorter than 15m as you will lose much of the “jump ability” of the kite.

What line strength should I use?

For inflatable kites, you should use line strength at least 2.5 times your weight. For example, if you weigh 200 lb., use at least 500 lb. lines.

If you use a 4 line foil kite, the main lines should be around 2.5 times your weight and the brake lines could be around your weight. For example, if you are 200 lb., the main lines should be at least 500 lb. and the brake lines should be at least 200 lb.
Modern kites normally sold with lines and bar so you normally don’t have to worry much about lines and bar.

Should I choose a control bar or handles for good surfing?

Modern kitesurfers choose control bars over handles for ease of operation while jumping. Almost everyone now uses a control bar except for some kite skiers using old foils.

How do I change direction on a bidirectional kiteboard?

Kitesurfers never change feet when they change direction on a bidirectional kiteboard.  They simply go from a heel-down to toe-down position when jibing or simply reverse the direction.
Toe-down riding

How to change direction on a directional kiteboard?

You can change feet similar to windsurfing when they change direction (jibe) on a directional board.

Some kiters prefer to go heel-down in one direction and toe-down in the other direction especially for tiny directional boards.

Is it easier to jibe or to go from heel-down to toe-down position on a directional board?

If you are a water skier, wakeboarder, or snowboarder, going from heel-down to toe-down is easier. If you are a windsurfer, to jibe is easier.

In any case, one should learn how to do both.  To change direction by jibing or by going from heel-down to toe-down should be the fundamental kitesurfing technique on a directional board that one should master.

Should I choose a bidirectional or directional kiteboard?

Many choose a 2-strap bidirectional board due to its ease of jibing and more control when jumping.

For some special cases, some may want a 2-strap or 3-strap directional board (very light wind, wave, etc.).

Should I choose surfing bindings or foot-straps?

Use foot-straps unless you want binding for whatever reason.
Bindings attach your feet firmly to the board, therefore provide more precise control and “feel” of the board.  However, they could be clumsy and very hard to get in or out when you are on the water.
Modern kitesurfers prefer foot straps for ease of entry/exit and also for certain advanced tricks where you take 1 or both of your feet off your board while in the air (it looks very cool!)

How many kiteboards do I need?

Normally you need only one kiteboard (normally a bidirectional board 40cm shorter than your height). If you live in a light wind area (5 to 15 knots) with some super high wind days (20 to 30+ knots), you may want to consider having 2 boards: a larger one for regular days and a smaller one for super high wind days.

How big a kiteboard should I choose?

If you live in a high wind area (15+ knots most of the time) you should choose a bidirectional kiteboard around 40cm shorter than your height. If you live in a light wind area (5 to 15 knots most of the time), you should choose a larger kiteboard (10cm shorter than your height for bidirectional board or 30cm longer than your height for directional).

If you ride in waves, use a directional board from 5′ to 6’1″ depending on your height.

How big a kite should I choose when surfing?

For inflatable, the most popular size is 12 m2 flat surface.
The equivalent flat inflatable kite is a 10 m2.

Different kite types have different aerodynamics and therefore there is almost no correlation between the sizes among them. From experiences, for foil to inflatable comparison, use the approximated 8/12 factor (i.e., an 8 m2 flat area foil is somewhat equivalent to a 12 m2 flat area inflatable).

Same kite types are somewhat similar aerodynamically and their powers are proportional to their sizes (a 10 m2 kite delivers twice as much power as a 5 m2 kite of the same type). Furthermore, kite size and rider weight are proportional (you should use a kite 1/2 the size of the same type of kite someone twice your weight uses in the same wind).

What is a kite safety release system?

A safety release system is a system that allows the surfer to disable the kite anytime. 

The flat inflatable is the kite with the best safety system. By simply letting go of the bar, a flat inflatable kite is fully depowered. For whatever reason, if the kite is not completely depowered, the rider can activate the main safety system to completely disable it.

How does a kiting safety release system work?

For inflatable, the safety release system makes one line (either one of the front line or backline for a 4 line inflatable) about 1 kite span longer than the other lines (applicable to both 2- line or 4-line inflatable) to disable the kite when you stop holding the control bar.  For foil, the safety release system pulls on the brake lines to collapse the kite and have it gently landing backward. Both of the systems have a safety leash attaching to your harness or wrist to allow you to retrieve the control bar.

Normally you cannot disable your kite while hooking in and have to activate the safety release system to detach your harness from the control bar. The exception here is the flat inflatable kites.  With flat inflatables, you can hook in all the time and simply let go of the bar to fully depower the kite.  For whatever reason, should the kite is not completely depowered, the kitesurfer can further activate the main safety system to disable the kite.

Click KitesurfingSchool.org/safety.htm for more info and other safety release systems.

Why do I need a kiteboarding self rescue system?

You need a safety release system because:
  1. If you drop the control bar, your kite may continue flying and injure someone or damage something downwind.
  2. You may lose your kite
  3. You may have a long way to swim to shore and may become shark bait.
  4. You may become a paraglider by hanging on to your kite in a very strong wind.
Furthermore, you may want to use a kite which can be fully depowered by simply dropping the control bar because:
  1. You may not have time to activate your safety system while the kite is pulling you into a hard obstacle.
  2. You may be unconscious while the kite is pulling you into a hard obstacle.

Can I build my own kiteboard or convert an old board?

Yes. You can build your own directional kiteboard or convert an old surf or windsurf board.  Your directional kiteboard should be from 5′ to 6’10”.  As a general rule-of-thumb, the front foot straps should be placed just behind the center of the board. The back foot strap should be your shoulder width (or slightly larger) behind your front straps.

Many have built their bidirectional boards from wood very inexpensively.  Check  kitesurfingschool.org/board.htm for more information.

A beautiful homemade board from Diego Fonda in Italy. 

How many fins should I have on my kiteboard?

Kiteboards can have 1, 2, 3, 4 or even 6 fins. The fins are mainly used for directional control. While the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th fin may help to go upwind some what, it is the upwind rail of the board that act as the main fin for going upwind. More fins will definitely slow the board down. Most bidirectional kiteboard has 4 fins.

If you use a bidirectional board, you may want to ride it finless once you are used to edging.  Check kitesurfingschool.org/finless.htm for information on riding finless.

Can I build my own kitesurf kite?

Yes. You can build your own kite. Check the Kite Making section of our website at kitesurfingschool.org/kite.htm for more information on how to build kites.

I am a windsurfer, why should I learn kiteboarding?

Kitesurfing is complementary to windsurfing and you can learn it more easily if you are already a windsurfer.   Furthermore, if you live in colder climate, you may want to get into kite snowboarding or kite skiing in the winter to complement your windsurfing in the summer.

While windsurfing in less-than-15 knots is generally “wind suffering”, kitesurfing in less-than-15 knots generates a lot of fun (some can go out in wind starting from 5 knots and others can even jump in wind starting from 8-10 knots). While windsurfers normally need 6′ waves and 20 knots of wind to gain any decent altitude, some kitesurfers can gain higher altitude in 10 knots in flat water. 

Jump! (Photo by Steve Slaby.)

On the other hand, in 30+ knots, currently, windsurfers can go faster (especially on a beam reach or an up-wind run) while kitesurfing in high wind can be much more dangerous than windsurfing. Besides, being able to do both of these watersports offer you more perspectives of the conditions at your local beach.

I am a windsurfer, is it hard to convert?

As a windsurfer, you already know how to have good balance on a board and know the “way of the wind”.  It should be easier for a windsurfer to learn kitesurfing than for an ordinary person. However, the learning curve is still pretty steep as you need more balancing act in kitesurfing not to mention doing that while controlling a nervous kite that tends to pull you out of your board. Once you get past the beginner stage, you can progress faster in kitesurfing than in windsurfing.

How fast is a kiteboard compared to a sailboard?

Given the same condition and top-of-the-line equipment, a kiteboard is faster than a sailboard on a downwind run and slower than a sailboard on an upwind run. A kiteboard is ridden fairly flat almost as flat as a sailboard on a downwind run and the smaller size makes it goes faster.  A kiteboard is normally ridden 30 to 45 degrees edging to the water on an upwind run and this edging makes it less efficient and slower than a sailboard.

Furthermore, in light to moderate wind, a kitesurfer can fly the kite to generate more power during lulls. Thus s/he can go faster than a windsurfer in light and moderate wind conditions. In very strong wind (more than 25 knots), the dynamic “feature” of the kite makes it less efficient than a windsurfing sail. Thus a windsurfer can go faster in very strong wind.

Can I use my water-ski, wakeboarding, or snowboarding skills?

The equivalent flat inflatable kite is 10 m2.

Can I do tricks in kiteboarding as in wakeboarding?

Yes, you can. Furthermore, the tricks are normally more challenging as you have to do them at twice the altitude and controlling the kite at the same time. Read more about kiteboarding tricks on our website. 

One foot off trick. (Photo by Steve Slaby.)

Can I kitesurf where people are windsurfing, water-skiing, jetskiing, or whatever?

You can probably kitesurf in crowded water but it is dangerous. Try to get way upwind or downwind of the crowd as soon as you can.

It is much safer to kitesurf in un-crowded places especially if you are a beginner. 

How many kiters can surf in a space for 100 windsurfers?

A kiteboarder can use lines up to 50 m in length and normally fly the kite in the forward half portion of the wind window. This means a rider would need a space up to 50 m in width and 50 m in length. As the normal “clearing” distance between two windsurfers is around 5 – 6 m. This would allow only 10 kitesurfers to ride in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers.

If all the kitesurfers follow the same rules and try to fly the kites at the same diagonal angle (with a 15-degrees margin for flying error as proposed in KitesurfingSchool.org/rules.htm) then the minimum clearing distance required is only 15 m. This would allow up to 40 kitesurfers to share the space that normally can accommodate 100 windsurfers.

In practice, it’s safer to kitesurf way upwind or downwind from the crowd.

I'm a kite buggier, is kitesurfing much different?

Yes. Your kite skills will give you a big advantage in keeping the kite out of the water and controlling the kite power, but riding a board is a whole new thing. It requires a lot more practice than buggying. Don’t expect to be able to go upwind on your first try as you did in buggying.
Give it at least 10 hours of practice time to be able to ride upwind, and more than that to be able to stay upwind. More if you have never done any kind of board sports before (snowboarding, wakeboarding, etc). You also need a lot more wind to kitesurf than to buggy (about twice as much wind).

How fast is a kiteboard compared to a buggy?

It’s certainly a lot easier to go fast in a buggy, and buggying top speeds are currently higher than kitesurfing top speeds. The biggest difference is in light winds when you may not be able to consistently plane the board.

Don’t sell your buggy if you live where the winds are usually 8 knots or less. However, kiteboarding is more challenging and exciting: the greater power from a bigger kite, the undulating, enchanting surface of the water, the leaning of your body way back over the water, the jumps, etc.

Do I have to be athletic to kiteboard?

Not really, at least not to ride casually. Since you should normally use a harness, your body weight is more of a factor in how much kite power you can handle than your strength. You should be strong enough to unhook the kite from your harness when you need to, though (do a lot of pull up). This watersport is not very aerobic – you don’t quickly run out of breath like you do when running. The kite does most of the work. Muscle fatigue can wear you out, but as your skills improve it becomes less strenuous.

I am convinced now so how do I start kitesurfing?

It is wise to take lessons at a local reputable school. Check KitesurfingSchool.org/schools.htm for a list of surf camps near you. It is also wise to review the HowTo and the Tips section of the Kitesurfing School website at KitesurfingSchool.org/howto.htm. Also, unless a Google search does it for you, check our map section that lists schools worldwide to learn kitesurfing

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