Kitesurfing or kite boarding is an individual primarily recreational sport. It is conducted on open areas of water, which can be shallow or deep, flat or bumpy, in preferably constant winds between 8 -50knots.
The ‘pilot’ aims to fly the kite in a pattern to produce power to pull him/herself along the surface of the water across the wind, following the same basic principles as sailing. There is no motor power involved.
The pilot wears a harness to balance his/her weight against the kite. There is no connection between the kite and the board apart from via the pilot.
There are many disciplines to the sport, which have different aims from speed, to waveriding to freestyle. A large part of the sport involves performing jumps, which are initiated by the pilot flying the kite in a certain way. The directions of possible travel are similar to the basic principles of sailing.
The kitesurfer is the link between the board and the kite, as the two pieces of equipment are not connected.
The primary skill to kitesurfing is to be able to control and fly the kite competently. Once this is mastered, the board is then introduced and the pilot must initiate power in the kite at the appropriate time to pull them up and along the surface of the water. This power must be prolonged by the constant flying of the kite in the correct zone to continue moving.
Once the basics are mastered, the skills of riding, jumping, tricks, waves can then by practiced. Due to the nature and freedom of the sport, there is no end to the skills base, as it is evolving and growing continuously.
There are several pieces of essential equipment for kitesurfing.
This is the means of propulsion. It is wind powered, by flying within a ‘Wind Window’ where there are different zones of power/pull and neutral stability.
Kites used for kitesurfing in the majority are supported by a series of inflatable tubes, which provide a framework between which material is stretched to grab wind in the same principle as a sail. Not all kites have inflatable tubes. These can be substituted for solid battens, or a double layer of cloth, providing a cell type structure with a series of ‘Bridle/ supporting lines’ to help maintain a stable shape.
Inflatable kites tend to relaunch from the water better when crashed hence their popularity. There are three type of inflatable kite SLE, Hybrid, and C shape. These refer to the kite’s design and flying characteristics.
The majority of kitesurfing kites fly on Bars. These will involve a ‘depower’ system to help control the kite. Some kites can be flown on handles. The bar option is more popular as it allows easy single-handed flying.
Lines made from non-stretch spectra type material connect the kite to the bar. Depending on the type and complexity of the kite, there can be, 2, 4 or 5 lines used to fly the kite. The majority of kites are flown on 4/5 line depowerable bars. Line length can vary between 10m and 40m. Typical length is 25m.
All bars/ kites will have some form of safety system allowing complete ejection of the kite’s power without releasing the kite completely. The basic principle of a safety system is to release the wind from the kite’s canopy by releasing tension of all but a single line, or prevent the kite’s canopy from collecting wind effectively letting it ‘flag’.
Good modern safety systems allow quick relaunch capabilities as well as instant depower.
Kiteboards can come in a wide variety of types/shapes and sizes.
The majority of the market is occupied by ‘Twin tip’ boards, which are multidirectional and symmetrical transversely through the mid point between the rider’s feet. These range in size between 1.1m and 1.6m in length, and .3m and .5m in width at the widest point. They tend to be made from snowboard type materials such as high compression airex/ divinycell cores with Hardened ABS rails. This provides flexibility, grip and durability in a board.
The second type of board is comparable to a surfboard. Typical size is between 1.5m and 2m in length, .4m to .7m in width. These are mono directional and can be ridden with or without foostraps. They are for use in waves seas.
Both boards will have a fin configuration on the bottom to provide grip through the water.
It is necessary to wear a harness to spread the load of the kites pull and direct it through the board into forward motion. Harnesses come in two styles.
Seat harnesses have a lower hook position, and fit around the kitesurfers bottom with leg straps coming under the legs from front to back. These give good support in learning and better leverage and performance for speed and power.
Waist harnesses have a higher hook position and fit around the rider’s lower abdomen like a weightlifters belt. These provide more flexibility and freedom of movement for tricks and manoeuvres.