Are you new to kitesurfing? Welcome to the most adrenaline-packed board sport on the ocean! Watching people launch 20-feet into the air off of a six-foot wave shows you why kitesurfing is the fastest growing watersport in the world.
Before you grab your kite and rig and head to the water or for your first lesson, you need to know what to wear during your kiting adventure. This post unpacks everything you need to know about what to wear kitesurfing.
- Your Location and Your Kit
- What to Wear Kite Surfing in Warm Water
- What to Wear Kite Surfing in Cold Water
- Kitesurfing Equipment for All Weather Conditions
Your Location and Your Kit
What you wear kitesurfing depends primarily on the weather conditions. Kitesurfing means you’re going out in windy conditions. Still, there’s a big difference between kitesurfing in Florida and in Maine or Alaska.
The air and water temperature play the biggest roles in determining what you need to wear when you’re out at sea. Remember, this is kitesurfing, so you’ll fall occasionally and end up in the ocean. It might take you some time to relaunch your kite and get back on your way.
This post gives you a list of the right kitesurfing gear to have on hand in cold and warm water conditions.
What to Wear Kite Surfing in Warm Water
Let’s start with what you need to wear when kitesurfing in warm water. Suppose you’re carving out the waves in the Bahamas or southern Florida. In that case, you’ll have warm air and water and the easiest kitesurfing experience.
Boardshorts / Swimwear
Boardshorts are all you really need in warm water. However, the type of board shorts you choose can make a huge difference in your kitesurfing experience. Top brands like Quiksilver, Hurley and Rip Curl make excellent surfing boardshorts.
You get a 4-way stretch in the design, grip on the hip bands and laces, and a comfortable fit that feels like you’re barely wearing anything at all. Boardshorts from top brands can seem quite expensive. However, if you go out surfing with a plain pair of shorts, you’ll understand the difference right away.
After the money you spend on your kite and rig, it’s worth putting a little more into a good pair of boardshorts. Maybe two pairs.
If you have light skin or want to avoid irritation from the kite harness, you can wear a rash guard. The rash guard protects your skin from irritation caused by your gear and from the sun’s UV rays. A rash guard is a great idea for anyone with fair skin at risk of sunburn.
With the wind on your skin, you’re not going to feel the sun right away. Asa result, you could end up with a nasty sunburn (and some really weird tan lines) if you don’t have the right protection for your skin.
Rash guards are available from all leading surf brands and surf shops. They come in a range of colors and short or long-sleeve options. Considering it’s an affordable piece of kit, it’s worth spending a few dollars on one.
If there’s a touch of cold in the air or the seasons are changing, and the water starts getting cooler, you can opt for the wetsuit top. These tops are similar in design to rash guards.
However, they feature construction with neoprene materials in thicknesses from 1 to 2mm. Some of the 2mm models might have a zipper on the front.
Kitesurfing is plenty of fun, and the hours fly by real fast when the adrenaline is flowing. Make sure you have decent sunscreen for your face, lips, and ears. We recommend a factor of 50+ SPF. Choose something with a zinc formulation for the best sun protection and longest-lasting formulation.
It’s also important to choose a reef-friendly sunscreen formulation. Some of the ingredients in commercial sunscreens kill the polyps that build coral reefs, turning them grey and dead. Be kind to the ocean and wear reef-friendly sunscreen.
A hat is an option for keeping the sun out of your face. Look for baseball cap models with a stiff peak and a chin strap. The strap stops the wind from ripping it off your head and prevents it from falling off when you land in the water.
Should I Wear Sunglasses when Kitesurfing?
We recommend avoiding wearing sunglasses when kitesurfing. If you’re in an area with wind and waves, that means there’s going to be spray.
The salt spray will get onto your glasses and blur your vision, causing you to divert your attention to wiping them clean. The saltwater may also damage the coating on many polarized sunglass brands.
What to Wear Kite Surfing in Cold Water
Now that you know what’s required for warm water, let’s move on to the cold water gear. Kitesurfing in cold water is more demanding on the body than in warm water, so you have to know what you’re getting into before venturing out for a session.
Kitesurfing in the Northern Pacific along California is cold, but the same latitude on the Atlantic side is downright bone-chilling. As a result, you need the right equipment to enjoy the experience, or you’re going to end up sitting in the car with the heater on while you watch your friends enjoy the surf.
Let’s start with wetsuits. Your wetsuit is absolutely necessary to keep you from getting hypothermia in the water.
If you’re in a warm water location, you’ll also notice that winter mornings can get a bit cold. If that’s the case, you can get away with using a short arms and legs wetsuit, otherwise known as a “spring suit.”
These suits come in variations of short arms or legs, or both, and they’re available from many brands at a range of price points.
However, if you live in an area like the Outer Banks in Northern Carolina, or New Jersey, things will get a lot colder in the wintertime. The thing about the winter is that that’s when the best storms arrive, sending wind and swell to the coastlines.
So, if you want to kitesurf coldwater locations, you need to have the right wetsuit for the task. In this case, you’re going to need a full suit. A full suit has long arms and legs, and they come in different thicknesses to suit the water temperature.
Manufacturers will list a wetsuit using two numbers to define its thickness. For example, a 5/4mm suit means that there is 5mm neoprene on the chest, back, and upper legs. The armpits, groin, and lower legs will usually have a 4mm thickness.
This design provides better stretch and flexion in the shoulders and groin/hips while optimizing warmth around the core, back, and chest. Surfing wetsuits are ideal for kitesurfing. They give you the best range of motion in a wetsuit while offering high-performance kiteboarding in coldwater conditions.
You have the option of going for a two-piece diving wetsuit as well. Still, you’ll find they don’t offer you the same mobility and range of motion in use that you get with a surfing wetsuit.
Surf wetsuits come in chest and back zip or zipperless entry systems. We recommend going with the zipperless entry for the best wetsuit experience.
Wetsuit Water Temperature Guide
Follow this guide to choose the right wetsuit thickness for your wetsuit.
- Water Temperature (°F) – Wetsuit Thickness
- 65°F to 75°F – 0.5mm to 2mm Jacket, spring suit
- 60°F to 65°F – 3/2mm Full suit
- 55°F to 60°F – 4/3mm Full suit + booties (optional)
- 50°F to 55°F – 5/4mm Full hooded suit + booties + gloves or mittens
Booties, gloves, and a hoodie all serve a purpose out on the water when conditions get really cold. When the wind starts howling, it can make your ears so cold they start to feel painful.
As a result, your body tries to protect you from the pain by growing a small bone across your ear canal., closing it from either side. If you leave this for ten or so years, you’re going to completely cut off the ear canal.
As a result, the doctor will have to book you into surgery to drill out the canal and restore your hearing. Wearing a hoodie can help you mitigate this issue, ensuring you don’t develop “surfers ear.”
There is also a brand, “Surfers ear,” selling earplugs that supposedly stop the onset of “exostosis” due to preventing cold air from entering the ear canal, preventing bone growth.
Wetsuit Changing Mat
A wetsuit changing mat is a blessing to have when you get out of the water. You lay it our n the floor, get out of your wetsuit, step off the mat, and pull it up into a zipper bag for easy carry.
The wetsuit bag stops water from getting into your car trunk mats. As a result, there’s no more of that sour wet dog smell in your car from damp flooring and wetsuits in the car.
Kitesurfing Equipment for All Weather Conditions
Now that you know what you need for kitesurfing in cold and warm water let’s look at the gear that’s great to have in any water conditions. These items aren’t necessities, but they go a long way to enhancing your kitesurfing experience.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
The PFD is absolutely essential for kitesurfers. We understand you think they are bulky, but that’s not the case. Today’s PFDs are lightweight, form-fitting, and easy to wear. We recommend going for the surf PFD. These models fit you like a wetsuit top.
They have gas canisters woven into the top that inflate air bladders in the vest. When you need to activate the PFD, you pull the tabs, and it inflates the vest. When you want to deflate, you pull the tab, and it releases the CO2 from the vest, deflating it.
The kayaking PFD is also a great option. These models fit you like a fanny pack. They have a belt design with the same gas-powered operation as the surf PFD. However, they lack the form factor of the surf PFD. They are less useful at keeping your head out of the water after activating the device.
Waterproof Casing for electronics
If you’re leaving your car in the parking lot at the beach, that means you’re taking your car key on the ride with you. Most modern car keys don’t agree with water. So, you’ll need a key pouch to store the key and keep it dry during your session.
Many surf wetsuits come with key pockets. Place your key in the waterproof casing and store it in the wetsuit key pocket until you return to the beach. It’s a better idea than burying it in the sand and hoping you remember where it is.
GoPro Head Mount
Kitesurfing is an adrenaline-fueled sport and exciting to watch. Capture the essence of your kiteboarding sessions using your GoPro action camera. There are dozens of kitesurfing YouTube channels. You could end up being a YouTube kitesurfing sensation if you capture and edit cool footage that people want to see.
A Go-Pro head mount or mouth mount helps you take the camera with you during your session. The head mount fits you like a headlamp, and the mouth mount lets you bite down on a mouthpiece to control the camera’s direction.
The Whoop 4.0 is the device for serious kiteboarders who value their time on the water. The Whoop 4.0 is a tracking device that monitors the key aspects of your health and performance in the water.
The device lets you know your sleep quality, physical state, strain from the previous day, and recommendations on your activity level for the day. Top surfers like Nathan Florence rely on the Whoop to tell them when they can push their performance and when they need to pull back.
The surf watch is another great device for people that want more out of their kitesurfing experience. These watches are available from leading brands like Rip Curl and Quiksilver. They offer you information on the tides, wind speed, wave conditions, and much more.
Track your session length and monitor your performance in the water. They aren’t as advanced as the Whoop, but they give you plenty of useful data about your sessions.
Shark Deterrent Devices
If you’re one of those kitesurfers who panic about sharks, pick up a shark deterrent bracelet. Place it around your ankle when you’re out on the water, and the electric field produced by the device keeps the sharks away.