Check out the reddit /r/Kiteboarding FAQ it's better written for the neophyte than the FAQ for this forum.
Your board skills from other sports will only help you once you're up and riding. I've heard it said that kiteboarding is 90% kite skills and 10% board skills. It might be 80/20, but it's this general theme that people new to the sport have trouble understanding. Experienced kiters make the sport look easy, so people tend to think they can just attach themselves to a kite and go. What they don't see is the dozens of hours (at least) that it took learning to handle the kite competently.
That's why the best purchase you can make for yourself--even before taking lessons--is a good trainer kite. This will allow you to nail-down the kite skills before the lesson so you can spend the time with the instructor learning the safety procedures and getting riding. If you spend the time learning the kite skills on your own beforehand, and you find a good instructor to teach you the safety procedures and self-rescue; you can be made a self-sufficient kiter with one lesson (not neglecting to ask for a bit of help from the locals when you do go out on your own). If you go straight for the lesson, you'll be learning the kite skills along with everything else. It will take longer, and it will be more expensive because lessons ain't cheap.
This is where a bunch of people will chime-in and say that trainer kites are mostly useless, and that after only a couple hours on one you'll never use it again. The reason they say this is because the only trainer kite they've ever flown is a 2 or 3-line foil on a bar. If this were the only type of kite available to train with they'd be right. Indeed, 2-3 line foils attached to a bar are mostly useless.
You need 4 lines to learn any degree of kite control. There are kiteboarding specific trainers like the Ozone Uno and Ocean Rodeo 2m Trainer which are basically miniaturized versions of full sized kites. Then there are depower foils like the Flysurfer Viron, Ozone Access or HQ Apex. While these are all great products and behave the most like a full-size kiteboarding kite, they are rather expensive, they may or may not come with the depower bar require to fly them, and they all require a harness purchased separately--though the Ocean Rodeo Trainer comes with its own harness strap.
The most cost effective option is a "4-line fixed bridle foil" flown on a pair of handles. While they don't fly exactly like a depower kite (all kiteboarding kites these days are depower kites), they're close enough. You can perform all the same maneuvers and then some. They don't require a harness, but you can add one later on. Best of all, they never get boring. There's always something you can do with them to challenge yourself. I still have a blast with my little foils and I continue to learn from them.
There are great options from name brands like HQ and Ozone, but I don't like to overspend on something which you want to fly aggressively and will likely take some abuse. I recently replaced my old 3m foil with a Flux from a Chinese company called Pansh, and I finally got to fly it on Sunday. What a great little kite! It doesn't fill with air and take-off the ground quite as easily as my old foil did, but once in up in the sky it develops power more smoothly and handles nicely.
You can get a 3m Flux with a "Ready-to-Fly" kit for less than $200. Further, they have a 2 for 1 deal on right now, so I was able to get an additional 2m Flux for the price of the 3m alone. I'm not affiliated with Pansh, and I don't think their products are the best ever--just that they're a good value for the money and I've been happy with my experience with them.
Do not get anything larger than 4m. Fixed bridle foils develop more power for their area than any other type of kite. In the same wind, a 4m fixed-bridle foil will pull as hard as a 7m depower inflatable. You have been warned.
Here's a good video on how to get started with a fixed-bridle kite on handles:
Thanks for the long wall of text! And thanks for the words of encouragement icebird. I'm really excited to start maybe soon! I got called for an interview today so I'm really hoping it goes well because I really need a job lol
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