This kitesurfing handbook is for people interested in kitesurfing (also known as kiteboarding) and those already active in the sport. The focus is on equipment, tips, safety and travel. Introductory skills and techniques are also covered, along with possible skills progression. Advanced skills are mentioned in place but are not covered in detail.
Kitesurfing is a sport with almost infinite appeal. I first saw kitesurfers in action in Noumea while cycle touring in New Caledonia in 2000. I decided then and there to give it a go. Six years later, I bought my first kite – a Cabrinha Crossbow 12m – with four free lessons as part of the deal.
I flew a 1.5m foil trainer kite for 18 months to learn kite handling skills, but the power of a 5m kite on the beach during my first lesson was still held me in awe. I had my heart in my mouth when I first flew my 12m kite. Would I get lofted inland, or yanked off my feet and dragged along the sand? I felt like I had a wild stallion harnessed on the lines, but I soon learned that I had good control.
Once in the water, body dragging revealed more of the power available. The next progression – a water start and getting going – proved a lot more difficult. I dived the kite into the power zone, got yanked out of the water and started planing, then would accelerate until I wiped out. This was frustrating. How could I get the kite under control, start going where I wanted, and avoid the "walk of shame"?
In hindsight, one more lesson would have probably revealed the key technique that I eventually figured out myself. Some of your instinctive reflexes can work against you while you are learning kitesurfing. When the kite is pulling hard I was hanging onto the bar and pulling it in, which generated more power until I got overpowered, lost control and crashed. The remedy was simple – push the bar out to reduce the power.
Once I mastered this it felt like a door opened to a magical natural kingdom. I was able to edge and carve the board and start cruising crosswind. This took me past the point of no return - I was hooked. Slicing through the water powered only by the wind is a wonderful experience that is very addictive and never loses its appeal.
There is much to learn and a wide range of skills to master. This handbook provides information, tips and techniques to assist your personal kitesurfing journey. There are many things you can do to increase both your enjoyment and safety. We have gathered these during our personal journeys with kitesurfing.
Please note that this is not a detailed instruction manual, and reading it is not a substitute for taking lessons from a certified instructor when you start kitesurfing. Hopefully, the information we provide will accelerate your learning and get you kiting quickly and safely.
With the thrills of kitesurfing comes potential danger. Learning safety drills and techniques is very important for minimizing risks. You can compare this with learning to drive a car – everybody takes lessons to learn safely.
One of the major benefits of kitesurfing is the very high proportion of "action time". When there is wind, you can be kitesurfing over 90% of your session time. When surfing you paddle out, wait for a wave, and may have to wait your turn in a line-up. You may actually be surfing on a wave for 5% or less of your session.
When the wind is blowing hard, often the surfing is not so good, so you can go kitesurfing instead. Conversely, if there is no wind, you can go surfing or paddle a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Kitesurfing complements many other water sports.
Kitesurfing at Hampton Beach, Melbourne, Australia
Kitesurfing gear is also very easy to pack and carry. Kites pack away and can easily carried on your back. Twin-tip boards are shorter than surfboards, with 135cm being the most common length and 145cm regarded as long. You can easily travel to some wonderful locations for kitesurfing.
There is an amazing amount of progression in kitesurfing. Getting going on the board for the first time is an unforgettable experience. Next you will master staying upwind, which is definitely a moment. Then you can try jumping, backrolls, downwinders and progress through to big air, kiteloops and handle-passes.
We provide this handbook to you for free. If you get some benefit from it, we ask you to consider supporting the handbook by making a donation - even $3, the price of a coffee, would be greatly appreciated - or buy some good gear at a good price from our online store.
Peter Campbell & Stuart Webb
You are welcome to contribute your own tips and information to this handbook here. Your feedback is also welcome.