Is it a windy day at the beach? When the wind comes up, the sand starts moving around, making activities like sunbathing a bother. Getting whipped by those fine grains flying across the beach leaves a stinging sensation on your skin. Not pleasant.
And then there’s the water. When the wind moves cross-shore or side shore, the surf starts to fold flat, and there’s more white water in the waves. When the wind is really strong, it’s going to make for choppy, rough conditions offshore.
Most people stay home and take a day off from surfing or kayaking. However, if you head down to the beach on these days, you’re going to see dozens of kites in the air. We’re not talking about those kiddie kites on the beach; we’re talking about the kite surfing wings dancing above the waves.
Kite surfing is physically challenging and plenty of fun. When those windy days come up, it gives you something to froth for, instead of wishing the winds would change offshore. Are you ready for some fun? This guide unpacks everything you need to know on how to kitesurf. Let’s dive in.
- Kite Surfing Explained
- What Skills Do You Need for Kite Surfing?
- Do I Need to Be Fit for Kite Surfing?
- How Do I Learn to Kite Surf?
- Tips for Choosing a Kite Surfing School or Instructor
- What Gear Do You Need to Learn to Kite Surf?
- What Do I Learn In Kite Surfing Lessons?
- How Many Lessons Do I Need Before I Can Kite Surf?
- How Can I Tell When I’m Ready to Kitesurf By Myself?
- What are the Top Challenges Facing Beginner Kite Surfers?
- Learn Your Equipment
- What Kit Do I Need for Kite Surfing?
- Can I Buy My Kite Surfing Gear Used?
- In Closing – Find a Kite Surfing Club Near You
Kite Surfing Explained
Kite surfing is a wind-based ocean sport. You use a kite that can support the rider’s weight, moving you along the surface at speeds of 25-mph or more. These powerful kites consist of inflatable frameworks that fold up for convenient transport, and they float on the water, allowing you to re-launch them when you fall in the waves.
You can use a conventional shortboard surfboard or purchase a specialized model for your kite surfing board. The difference is that the dedicated kitesurfing models have bindings for your feet, allowing you to do better airs. The surfboard is more for carving and riding than aerial maneuvers.
Speaking of aerial maneuvers, it’s a part of the sport that’s simply spectacular. With good wind conditions, kite surfers can launch themselves up to 120-feet+ in the air. The sport occurs in the ocean. Some people might do it on a lake, but 98% of the sport happens in the sea, and it’s a popular sport on beaches around the globe.
Kite surfing is a high-growth sport. The chance to get out there on a windy day when you’re doing nothing at home on the weekend is a great way to change things up with your watersports activities.
What Skills Do You Need for Kite Surfing?
You don’t need any skills to learn to kitesurf, but it helps if you have previous experience in Boardriding sports. The best way to describe kitesurfing is a combination of windsurfing, surfing, and snowboarding.
So, if you have previous experience in any of those sports, you’re likely to pick it up faster. However, skateboarding, wakeboarding, and even waterskiing expertise will help you master the basics of kite surfing more quickly than someone who has no previous history with Boardriding sports.
Do I Need to Be Fit for Kite Surfing?
When you’re kite surfing, the wind is doing the majority of the work for you. The Kite leashes into a harness system mounted to your chest and waist. There’s a control bar to manage the kite coming from the kite lines, allowing you to steer it.
While you have the harness pulling you along, you still need strength in your arms to manage the crossbar. The stronger the wind, the more exertion it places on your hands, wrists, and arms. The adrenaline involved with high-wind kite surfing also saps your strength fast, as does kite surfing in cold water.
To be a good kite surfer, you need a decent fitness level. You need a strong back, core, legs, shoulders, and arms to get the most out of your time in the water. If you’re already doing another sport like surfing or running, then you’ll find you have plenty of fitness to enjoy a kiteboarding session.
Beginners don’t need to hit the gym every day to enjoy a kite surfing session. When you’re learning the basics, there’s only so much you can do in a day. The fun and the adrenaline involved with learning as a beginner will sap the strength from you fast, even if you are fit.
How Do I Learn to Kite Surf?
The best way to learn to kitesurf is with a kite surfing school. Trying to learn the ropes yourself is possible, but you’re going to make mistakes, and learning curve to getting up and riding is going to be much longer than using a professional instructor.
If you have a friend that enjoys kiteboarding, ask them to teach you. It doesn’t take long to learn the basics when someone gives personal attention to your technique. If you’re using a kite surfing club, look for one of them online close to your area. There are probably plenty around.
Tips for Choosing a Kite Surfing School or Instructor
When you choose a school, it’s a good idea to check them out on Facebook before signing up for lessons. You’re looking for a school with social proof they teach beginners how to kitesurf quickly. Their home page should have plenty of pictures of their students having a good time learning the ropes of the sport.
Next, check that the school and instructors have certification through an organization like BKSA, IKO, or VDWS. Your instructor should have plenty of experience teaching new students to the sport. Check online and look at the course schedules they have running or if you can book a personal instructor.
The closer the instructor is to you, the more personal attention you receive, helping you learn faster. Most schools will offer group lessons where you learn with five to ten other students at the same time. Personal lessons are more expensive, but it’s good value for your money if you want to fast-track your learning curve.
What Gear Do You Need to Learn to Kite Surf?
When you’re learning to kite surf through a kite surfing school, they’ll have all the gear you need on hand to enjoy the experience. The school has kites, harnesses, boards, and PFDs to ensure you don’t have to bring anything for the training session.
You’ll need to bring along some sunblock and something to eat, and plenty of water, especially if it’s hot. Some kite surfing schools will include food and drinks at an additional cost. If you’re learning at a school in cold water conditions, you might have to bring along a wetsuit. Some schools might rent then, but we think it’s worth investing in a good surfing-style wetsuit even if you don’t end up taking up the sport.
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You’ll find all the gear you need for rent at the kite surfing school, and they probably have a store at the premises selling boards and other equipment when you feel you want to start buying gear for yourself. Purchasing the kite, harness, crossbar, and board is expensive. So, it’s better to use a rental for the first few sessions.
The last thing you want to do is drop thousands of gear and end up hating the sport, leaving you with equipment sitting in your garage collecting dust.
What Do I Learn In Kite Surfing Lessons?
After you find the best kite surfing school near you and book a lesson, it’s time to get to the beach and hit the water. Actually, not just yet. It might surprise you to learn that there is a theory component to learning to kitesurf that you’ll need to complete first before you get down to the beach.
The theory section usually lasts 30 to 60-minutes. The instructor briefs you on aspects of what you’re learning in the session and throughout the training program. Most training programs are around two to three days long, and you’ll need to take additional lessons after that if you don’t have it down by then.
A beginner kite surfing course has three foundational elements. After completing the theory section, you’ll head to the beach to start your lessons in kite control. You’ll learn the following during the course.
- How to fly a kite on the beach. You’ll learn how to launch, control, and land the kite.
- How to fly a kite in the water. You’ll learn how to launch from the water and drag your body with the kite.
- How to get to your feet and start riding.
These three elements come with the following lessons in each category.
- How to assess the beach, water, and wind for safe kiting conditions.
- Understanding the wind direction and how to evaluate gusts.
- Understanding the ocean currents, tides, and potential risks.
- How to choose the right equipment to match conditions.
- Setting up and customizing your gear.
- How to handle an emergency and safety best practices.
- How to get up into the riding position.
- How to keep riding and control the kite in the wind.
- How to stay upwind.
- The rules of the ocean and what to do if you’re in crowded conditions.
How Many Lessons Do I Need Before I Can Kite Surf?
It’s hard to say how many lessons you’ll need to get comfortable with the basics of kite surfing enough to do it yourself. Most courses last two to three days, but you get crash courses that occur in a single day.
As mentioned, your fitness, previous Boardriding experience, and knowledge of the ocean all come into play in determining how fast you pick things up. Generally, people need around 11 to 12-hours in coaching before everything clicks, and they can get going by themselves.
Lessons are three to four hours each, depending on the school and the students. If you finish your course and still need help, you’ll have to hire an instructor, usually at an hourly rate.
You’ll know you’re ready to head out onto the ocean yourself when you feel comfortable launching the kite from the water and being in the water by yourself.
How Can I Tell When I’m Ready to Kitesurf By Myself?
You’ll know you’re ready to kitesurf by yourself when you have complete confidence in your skills. As the saying goes, “if in doubt, don’t go out. “the last thing you want is to find yourself stranded at sea, unable to launch the kite. You’ll have to rely on someone on the beach spotting you in the water, noticing your distress, and calling the Coast Guard to your rescue.
The instructor knows when you’re ready for the water. They tell you when they think you have all the skills you need to get out there and enjoy a good time by yourself. Some schools may officially register you as a student and note your completion of their training course on their database.
If you want to visit a vacation spot and rent gear when you know how to kitesurf, you’ll usually have to present the rental store with proof that you know how to kitesurf. Your school should issue you a certificate or card showing that you have a level-3 IKO or equivalent qualification for renting the gear yourself.
What are the Top Challenges Facing Beginner Kite Surfers?
Kite surfing is like learning anything else new in your life. It requires a period of adjustment to learn the right motor skills associated with the sport. Discovering the right posture and stance, otherwise referred to as your “style,” is something that takes years to formulate.
However, during the beginner, please, the most important thing to learn is keeping your knees bent and your center of gravity low, leaning back into the kite, not letting it drag you forward.
Learn Your Equipment
The most challenging aspect of learning kitesurfing is launching from the water. You’ll find it easy to get the hang of water drags and launching from the beach, but the real test of your skill is launching from the water.
You need a good understanding of your equipment and how to control it if you want to get the kite back in the air from the sea. When you’re floating in the water, you have nothing but the PFD providing you and drag or buoyancy, and it’s very different from launching from the beach.
What Kit Do I Need for Kite Surfing?
So, when you finish your kite surfing course and are confident that you want to continue with the sport, it’s time to invest in some gear. The reality is that kite surfing is an expensive pastime. The setup costs for your equipment are through the roof compared to a sport like surfing.
However, once you have your gear, you’ll get plenty of years of use out of it, provided that you buy a reputable brand with good quality. Here’s a quick list of the essential gear you’ll need when you decide to take on kite surfing as a hobby.
- Kite – Kites come in various sizes to suit your weight and wind conditions.
- Crossbar and kite lines – You’ll need high-quality lines.
- Board – Surfers can use their board, or you’ll have to opt for a dedicated kitesurfing board with bindings.
- Kite harness – The harness comes in various sizes to suit your weight and height.
- PFD – Purchase a sports-specific life vest.
- Helmet – Suitable for watersports, fast-draining, and fast-drying.
- Wetsuit – Thickness depending on water temperatures.
- Leash and cutaway knife.
Can I Buy My Kite Surfing Gear Used?
Sure, you can buy your gear in used condition. However, it’s a good idea to take someone with you who knows what they are looking at. If you don’t have much experience using the equipment beyond your beginner lessons, you’ll need to have someone with you who knows what they are doing.
New kiteboarding equipment arrivers on the market every year, so there are always plenty of great deals available in the secondary market. You can find boards, kites, harnesses, wetsuits, and PDFs all for sale on sites like Craigslist or through classifieds and dedicated websites.
Sometimes, you can find a steal if you look hard enough. You could end up saving as much as 50% or more on your equipment if you look hard enough.
However, make sure you’re buying top-quality equipment, and look for signs of wear and tear that may be expensive to repair or require replacement of the kite. Having a friend with you to assess the condition of the equipment will be valuable at this stage.
In Closing – Find a Kite Surfing Club Near You
There are plenty of kitesurfing clubs along the east and west coast of the United States and around the gulf. Most international hotel resorts also offer kite surfing and instruction if you stay at the resort. If you live near the ocean, search for local kite surfing groups on Facebook, it’s the best way to get involved with your local community.
Joining a kite surfing club introduces you to people with a similar mindset as you. You’ll make new friends and have plenty of fun along the way. Follow the tips in this guide, and you’ll get the start you need for the sport.