Have a question about Kiteboarding?
These Frequently Asked Questions should help you with any questions you may have. If we have not covered any aspects that you have questions about just email us!
What is Kiteboarding?
Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is a surface water sport that uses wind power to pull a rider through the water on a small surfboard or a kiteboard (similar to a wakeboard). Generally kiteboarding refers to a style of riding known as freestyle or wake-style, whereas kitesurfing is more "wave-riding" oriented. These two styles usually require different boards and specific performance kites.
A kitesurfer or kiteboarder uses a board with or without foot-straps or bindings, combined with the power of a large controllable kite to propel the rider and the board across the water.
The sport is becoming safer due to innovations in kite design, safety release systems, and instruction. Riding styles have evolved to suit riders and conditions, such as wakestyle, waveriding, freestyle, jumping, and cruising.
Is Kiteboarding 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 and always use a safety release system. Extreme caution in kiting in on and offshore winds!
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.
How does a kitesurfer go upwind?
To go upwind on a free sail system such as a windsurfer, the sailor move 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 kitesurfer 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 kitesurfer can move this center of force slightly by transferring his weight to his front foot or his back foot. To go upwind on a kitesurfing system the kitesurfer 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 very 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 kitesurf in very strong wind?
Yes. You can kitesurf in very strong wind over 40 knots with equipment currently available on the market. At the kitesurfing competition in Leucate, France, 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.
Can I relaunch the kite from the water?
Yes. You can relaunch the kite from the water after a fall. The degree of relauncheability may vary depending on the type of kite you are using.
What equipment do I need to kitesurf?
To kitesurf you need:
A kitesurf kite (with a certain degree of water relauncheability),
A kite control device,
Accessories (safety release system, harness, life jacket, wet suit, helmet, water shoe, etc.).
What types of kite can I use?
There are a number of kites on the market for kitesurfing. All of them has a certain degrees of water relauncheability. There are mainly three types of kitesurfing kites:
Flat Inflatable kites (Bow kites)
Framed single skin kites
Ram air foil kites
What is an inflatable kite?
Inflatable kites normally have an inflatable leading edge and 5 or more inflatable battens to give it a permanent "crescent moon" shape (this type of kite 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 kite, 2 line and 4 line inflatables. The advantages of 2 line inflatable kites are ease of use and stability. The advantage of 4 line inflatable kites are higher performance and better power control (by changing the Angle Of Attack or AOA of the kite). Most modern inflatable kites are 4 line kites.
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 kitesnowboarding, kiteskiing market with the introduction of the 5th line to facilitate relaunching on snow.
What is a flat Inflatable kite (a Bow Kite)?
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 detail 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 inflatable kites have larger wind range
Flat inflatable kites can relaunch easier
With such advantages, flat inflatable kites have replaced the standard inflatable kites as the dominant kitesurfing kite in 2006.
What is a framed single skin kite?
Frame single skin kites normally have a leading edge made of fibre glass or graphite, one main batten in the center and a number of thin battens along the chord to give the kites the permanent shape. Similarly 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 relauncheable 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 down wind before landing on the water).
For some reasons, 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.
What is a Ram Air Foil Kite?
Ram air foil 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 relauncheable 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 this characteristics, these types of kite are also called closed cell foil kites. According to a number of kitesurfers, once one knows how to water launch these kites, 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 these kites.
Concept Air is the first company introducing the a foil kite incorporating a system allowing the kitesurfer to control the power of the kite by pulling on the third line to change the shape of the kite (therefore changing the camber/projected surface of the kite). Since then, many other companies (ConceptAir, Flysurfer, Boom Vector, Ozone, etc.) have introduced foils with systems that use AOA to control the power of the kite similar to 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 kite 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 of the kite.
What types of kite control device can I use?
Modern kitesurfers 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 board can I use?
You can use a surfboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps) or a wakeboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps or bindings), a pair of water-ski-like skis (with bindings) or anything in between to kitesurf.
Generally, kiteboards are classified in to two groups: directional and bidirectional boards.
Directional boards have a distinct "head" (bow) and "tail" (stern). A directional board always travel "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 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 direction. To change direction on a bidirectional board, you simply go reverse.
Most modern kitesurfers use a bidirectional board (or twintip) due to its ease of jibing and more control when jumping. Directional boards are only used in special cases (very light wind, wave, etc.) but are becomming increasingly popular to ride strapless in the surf!
Can I use the kite to pull me on snow or ice?
Yes. You can use your kite in the winter with your skis on snow or on ice.
Can I use the kite to pull me on land?
Yes. You can use your kite with a buggy (normally 3 wheels) on land.
Buggies are traditional kite vehicles on land; however, the newer generation of land kiters start to use skateboard-like board for land kiting for more challenges. On parking lot pavement, they use standard skate board and on grass or hardpacked sand, they use bigger boards with larger wheels (sometimes called a mountain board or All terrain board). Kitelandboarding is a great way to learn the principles of Kitesurfing without spending a huge amount on inflatable kites and beginner boards.
Even when you have bought all the Kitesurfing gear - they offer a great light wind alternative to Kitesurfing. If the wind drops or goes offshore - get onto the beach, grab your Landboard and practice some light wind tricks.
Can I use the kite with a boat?
Yes. You can use your kite to pull a boat.
You can kitesail with almost any boat, using the single person KiteCat or any larger boat (canoe, kayak, sail boats, etc.). Normally you need one kitesailor controlling the kite and another steering the boat.
Do I need an assistance to launch or land the kite?
You normally do not need any assistance to launch or land your kite unless you are in a crowded and busy beach with 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.
How hard is it to learn how to kitesurf?
Learning how to kitesurf 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.
How can I learn to kitesurf?
You should learn kitesurfing from a reputable local kitesurfing school such as KiteboardingUK. If a reputable school is not in your area, you may want to travel to learn kitesurfing. If you have to learn kitesurfing all by yourself, at least see some instructional video and/or speak to an instructor such as Sarge at KiteboardingUK for advice. Watch other kitesurfing groups and go out when they do. If all the kiters on the beach are packing up there will be a reason it (tide or wind in the wrong direction for a safe and enjoyable session.) Use your common sense and don't go out just as everyone is coming in - try to kite at the same time for safety in numbers and heplful tips from other kiters!
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 down wind.
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 kite 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 kite 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?
A kitesurfer controls 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).
How many kites do I need?
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 an typical kiter, this means a quiver consisting of 18m, 12m and 8m inflatables.
Most kitersurfers doesn'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 a 16m and a 10m inflatables.
What line length should I 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 shorter line length for more control of the kite; however, don't go shorter than 15m as you will loose much of the "jumpability" 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 weight 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?
Modern kitesurfers choose control bars over handles for ease of operation while jumping. Almost everyone now uses control bar except for some kiteskiers using old foils. Handles are used for Kite Buggies and Landboarding also.
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.
How do I change direction on a directional kiteboard?
Kitesurfers 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, to go 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 techniques on a directional board that one should master.
Should I choose a bidirectional or directional kiteboard?
Most modern kitesurfer 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 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.
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+ knot 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?
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., a 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 deliver twice as much as 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 safety release system?
A safety release system is a system that allows the kitesurfer 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, should the kite is not completely depowered, the kitesurfer can activate the main safety system to completely disable the kite.
How does a safety release system work?
For inflatable, the safety release system makes one line (either one of the front line or back line 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 pull 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.
Why do I need a safety release 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 loose your kite
3.You may have a long way to swim to shore and may become shark bait (not in UK obviously lol) or drown.
4.You may become a paraglider by hanging on to your kite in 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.
How many fins should I have on my board?
Kiteboard can have from 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.
I am a windsurfer, why should I learn kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing is complementary to windsurfing and you should learn kitesurfing especially if you are already a windsurfer. Furthermore, if you live in colder climate, you may want to get in to kitesnowboarding or kiteskiing in the winter to complement you windsurfing in the summer.
While windsurfing in less-than-15 knots is generally "windsuffering", kitesurfing in less-than-15 knots generates a lot of fun (some kitesurfers can go out in wind starting from 5 knots and some kitesurfers can even jump in wind starting from 8-10 knots). While windsurfers normally need 6' wave and 20 knots of wind to gain any decent altitude, some kitesurfers can gain higher altitude in 10 knots in flat water.
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 both windsurf and kitesurf 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 which tends to pull you out of your board. Once you get pass 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 its 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 make 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 a kitesurfer 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 than a kitesurfer in very strong wind
Can I use my wakeboarding, snowboarding or water-ski skills?
Yes. Controlling a kiteboard is very much like controlling a wakeboard, a snowboard or a mono-water-ski.
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.
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 kitesurfers can kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers?
A kitesurfer can use lines up to 50 m in length and normally flies the kite in the forward half portion of the wind window. This means a kitesurfer 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 kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers.
If all the kitesurfers follow the same rule and try to fly the kites at the same diagonal angle 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, kitesurfing 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 the athletic type?
Not really, at least not to kitesurf 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). Kitesurfing 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.
Is there a discussion group on
Is there a discussion group on the net for kitesurfing?
Yes. There are a number of discussion groups on the net. We have our very own discussion group on the social networking site "Facebook" . Just search KiteboardingUK to find us!