Many kitesurfers focus on staying upwind at a favourite location. This is necessary if you want to have a long session at a single location and avoid the “walk of shame” back along the beach. Kitesurfing upwind is great fun and a skill well worth perfecting, I focused on this for my first 30 sessions and more.
Going downwind is quite a different experience and opens up the possibility of new adventures. As you go downwind, the power of the kite is reduced and you don’t need to edge the board. You can cover long distances quickly, and relax and have a good look around. Its like going ski touring compared with the yo yo skiing on a lifted ski slope.
Don’t delay your first downwinder! You can learn new skills and it adds another dimension to the sport. You can try some toeside riding and long carved turns without worrying about losing ground.
However, you need to arrange logistics for getting back to where you started. This could be a car shuttle, public transport, a lift from a friend, or for shorter distances a walk back.
I have been out occasionally when the wind has dropped, so going downwind is the only way to get back to shore, so it is well worth learning how to do this effectively.
A larger board with more flotation such as a surfboard or a raceboard will allow you to keep kiting if the wind drops, and it provides much buoyancy than a twin tip if the wind stops completely, or you ditch your kite and can't relaunch it.
Downwinders in remote locations combine a sense of adventure with sightseeing. You can travel considerable distances, but you should always be aware that the wind can drop and leave you stranded along the way. Consequently, it is a good idea to stay within swimming distance of the shore, or arrange for a boat backup.
Safety gear for downwinders
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
GPS in waterproof pouch
Mobile phone in waterproof jacket
Bouyancy vest, with a pouch for carrying equipment - note that rated PFD may be required by local laws
GPS tracking device (e.g. Spot)
Strobe light - waterproof, operated by AA batteries
GME MT410g (with GPS)
Additonal gear for downwinders
Some gear I take on "serious" downwinders is:
Longer board, 144cm twin-tip or directional surfboard
Waterproof backpack - 18 litres
Kitebag (in backpack) - for carrying kite back from final destination
Buoyancy vest - with pocket for gear
Drink bladder (in buoyancy vest)
Foam sandals (in backpack)
Helmet - with some reflective tape on it
Safety gear (as above)
Camera in a kitecam mount (set and forget)
Marine VHF radio (waterproof, hand held)