Quality professional kiteboarding instruction should allow rapid, safer learning under controlled conditions using someone else’s kites and boards. Much of the trial, error, hazards and frustration that plagues folks trying to figure it out on their own can be avoided when you work with a capable instructor. Your speed of advancement in kiteboarding after proper training should also be faster than otherwise. This process should reduce the odds of painful and costly injury, damaged kite gear, threats to our access to ride and give you experience to make your own judgments on what gear to buy. A primary goal of adequate, quality instruction is to aid the rider in becoming an independent kiteboarder to allow safer experience building following training. Don’t fall in the trap of trying to figure out how to kiteboard from scratch with a friend who is new to the sport. This practice is not that uncommon and a very bad idea. There is too much that can go wrong during inexpert “training” and after.
Proper instruction can also help you to avoid looking like a kook. Experienced riders can give kooks a hard time at the local launch. Nobody wants to be an outsider. Learning mistakes accidents/incidents can also lead to bans. Also, there may be a growing trend in which certification is required to access some riding areas.
How much time should you spend in instruction? Can adequate instruction be accomplished in a single lesson, No. A taste of the sport, sure but not much else. SCUBA diving, hang gliding, boat operation and kiteboarding too, demand a realistic amount of time for proper training. Teaching the basic mechanical skills can be fairly quick BUT there is all that knowledge that is needed as well for safer kiteboarding. It’s a package deal, there is knowing how to steer a airplane for example and then there is learning how to OPERATE a plane under all the varied conditions including emergencies. Kiteboarding instructors indicate that first time students are requesting from 3 to 5 lessons currently. Kiteboarders may wish to come back to hone and develop skills following initial training.
Instruction costs however quality instruction may be the best investment you make in kiteboarding. Quality instruction can last a lifetime. For example, I still remember and draw from my first SCUBA diving course over 30 years ago. It was that detailed, effective and launched a fun sport for life.
What should you learn during professional instruction before you go out on your own to continue to carefully build experience? This subsequent phase should be with a more experienced kiteboarding buddy by the way. Some ideas follow. Not all instructors cover all these points in these early days as kiteboarding instruction is still fairly new. Still, you would do well to try to find a program that properly addresses the following:
1. How kites, boards and gear work.
2. Insight into the wind, wind window and influences on kite performance and power.
3. What to look for in good launch, riding and landing areas vs. poor areas.
4. What is a safety buffer (DISTANCE), and the critical importance of
5. Wind, weather & water environment planning and monitoring. What causes unstable weather/wind and associated hazards, how to predict it and what to watch out for. What are suitable conditions and variables for riding, what conditions should you avoid and what to look for. An overview of significantly different conditions in other areas and need for appropriate caution.
6. Minimum kiteboarder physical capabilities such as swimming, fitness, warm up and warm down procedures.
7. Kiting rules of the road, kiting responsibility & details on protecting access to kite.
8. Gear selection (kite, line, board, wetsuit/drysuit, etc.), for predicted
conditions and kiteboarding safety gear (helmets, impact vests, gloves, knives, signalling devices, etc.).
9. Standard voice and hand signals e.g. launch, landing, rescue, etc..
10. Kiteboarding hazards (lofting, dragging, waves, currents, hypothermia, etc., emergency scenarios, avoidance and management.
11. Planning and managing in current and wave environments.
12. Kiteboarding hydration, sun exposure, hypothermia & management
13. Kite buddy responsibilities, things to do and watch for assisting launching, landing, riding, emergency management, etc..
14. What skills to work on following the initial training, tips for achieving them and precautions.
Some of this information may be conveyed while working with the instructor on the beach or in the water, during lectures or in hand outs. Quite a bit of this information could be video taped, presented in Powerpoint presentation and viewed by students on their own and discussed in class to best utilize time. If your instructor doesnâ€™t cover all this information you would do well to research these topics on your own. Quite a lot of information appears at:
http://fksa.org/ and http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/
1. Gear setup & putting it away, preflighting, basic preventative maintenance.
2. Launching and landing unhooked and launch angle selection for conditions.
3. Capable stable kite flight under a variety of conditions both unhooked and hooked in.
4. Ability to vary and maintain constant kite power through kite positioning and sinusoiding.
5. Kite safety (emergency depower), activation in repeated simulated emergencies and rearming including an overview of current safety systems.
6. Harness and trim strap use.
7. Solo and assisted kite launching and landing.
8. Body dragging upwind with and without a board from point to point.
9. Self rescue techniques including using the kite as a sail to return to shore and securing the kite and lines and swimming into shore.
10. Ability to relaunch kite from water.
11. Beach starting and rudiments of water starting on a board.
12. Tips on how to ride upwind.
Here are some things to compare when shopping for and selecting a kiteboarding instructor or school. No all instruction is equal and it is your interest to find the best training available. Bottom line, donâ€™t take things for granted, do your homework and get the most out of your kiteboarding training.
1. Are they currently certified instructors by a recognized training organization? (such as PASA ,IKO, Real, FFVL, VDWS)
2. How long have they been professionally teaching kiteboarding?
3. What is their instructor to student teaching ratio?
4. What are his lesson plan, anticipated skill progression and time requirements for you considering your related experience, physical condition and predicted wind/conditions?
5. Is a primary goal training self-sufficient kiteboarders.
6. Is the training area sufficiently large, uncrowded and away from hard objects, ideally offshore?
7. Does he have liability insurance and is the business registered?
8. Does he use a chase water craft (boat, wave runner, kayak) and radio communications?
9. Try to schedule your lessons when conditions are appropriate for learning, e.g. 12 to 18 kts., side to side onshore.
10. Do you communicate well and comfortably with the instructor?
11. Watch a class. What did they accomplish, did it appear to be well organized and effective what do the students think about the experience?
12. Has the instructor had student injuries, if so how and what are their emergency procedures?
13. Is new, well maintained equipment used with current safety systems along
with helmets and impact vests?
14. Can he offer any discounts on purchase of kiteboarding gear?
14. Is he affiliated with the local kiteboarding association?
15. Cost is an important consideration but not THE most important
consideration. Proper effective instruction can save you a lot of time,
frustration and possibly injury/damaged equipment in learning kiteboarding.
Quality instruction is a good thing. If you are interested in kiteboarding take the intelligent path and hookup with a Professional kiteboarding instructor for adequate, quality training. The experience should speed you on your way to safer enjoyment of this excellent sport.
Portions originally published in SBC Kiteboard Magazine