Kitesurfing is one of those sports that looks spectacular from the outside but wholly inaccessible to the normal person like you and me. However this couldn’t be much further from the truth. Kitesurfing is a surprisingly accessible sport. So much so that it is not uncommon for people in their 50s or even 60s with average fitness to be able to pick things up with relative ease.
Kitesurfing is quite a new sport, and in the last 10 years, the technology has come a long way. In the early days, kitesurfing was relatively dangerous but the new safety systems and modern equipment make kitesurfing as safe as any other watersport.
So how exactly do you get into kitesurfing? One thing that is for certain is that you need a qualified instructor to learn with. This is not the kind of sport that you can pick up on your own.
Most kite spots have a local kite school where you can book yourself in for a taster course which can be anything from one to three days, but we would recommend 3 days so that you get a good chance of having a proper crack at it. Kitesurfing is of course wind dependent so you should make sure that you can postpone your lesson in the case of little or no wind. Wind is obviously a crucial element and should form part of your decision making when selecting where to learn. Ideally you need a 15-20knot cross/onshore wind.
You will start off by learning about different aspects of the equipment and how to fly the kite on the beach. Once you are comfortable flying the kite, you will be allowed into the water to body drag. This part of learning is great fun as you take the kite into the sea and get a feel for the power of the wind as it drags you through the water. Once you’re comfortable body dragging and have shown that you have good kite control, then it’s time to grab a board and start practicing getting up on the board as you are pulled by the wind.
Kitesurfing is highly addictive, once you have learnt the basics, then progression comes quickly. Once you are comfortable riding on your board and landing back on the beach at the same spot that you set off from – then you are considered a self-sufficient, independent kiteboarder. From this point you can begin to learn new tricks, like riding ‘switch’ which involves riding your board backwards, carve turns and eventually back rolls and jumps.
Although when out on the water, you are alone on the board, kitesurfing is actually a very sociable sport. Head down to the beach with your kit and you are likely to encounter a number of kitesurfers willing to give you tips on the wind conditions and help you with tips and advice. Crucially they can help you launch and land your kite safely.
Whether you’re learning or experienced, there are a myriad of kitesurfing destinations that you can visit either for lessons or if you just want to enjoy the conditions. Some of the best spots in the world include North Carolina, Tarifa in Spain, Combuco in Brazil, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Mauritius and Hawaii.
In terms of equipment, it’s normal to rent whilst you are learning. Once you are ready to buy, most people have 3 kites to cover the full range of wind speeds, a ‘bar and lines’, harness, and board. If you are kitesurfing in cooler conditions, you will also need a wetsuit and possibly gloves, boots and a neoprene hat. Don’t forget to kit yourself out with a cool kitesurfing hoodie so you can make some new kitesurfing friends at the bar!
Most airlines will let you carry kitesurfing equipment for a fee. Usually you will have a 25-35kg kite bag which will contain all of your kitesurfing kit and be carried in addition to your normal luggage. Usually these bags are considered ‘oversize’ and need to be handled in a separate check-in area.
Nothing beats the feeling of skimming across the water, powered by the wind! You use your control bar to adjust the power and position of the kite. It’s great for core body strength as you need to lock your core and transfer the power of the wind through your waist harness and down to the board. You don’t need a great deal of strength as the harness takes the power of the kite. Your arms are just used for steering which is relatively straightforward with a bit of practice.
In recent years, surf boards and hydrofoils have become increasingly popular meaning that you have lots of directions you can take your hobby in. Whilst some people enjoy learning new tricks or mastering a new piece of equipment, others simply enjoy the freedom of cruising across the ocean with the wind in their hair. So don’t be afraid. If you like the sound of it, take your first step by getting in touch with a kite school and booking yourself onto a lesson. Before you know it, you too will be a kitesurfer!