What is kitesurfing, kiteskiing, kiteboarding or flysurfing?
Kitesurfing, kiteboarding or flysurfing (if you speak French), is a new exciting water sport for the new millennium. Kitesurfing is a very, very young sport. In spring 1999, there are probably only a few hundreds kitesurfers in the world. The population of kitesurfers is growing rapidly. The idea behind kitesurfing is very simple. A kitesurfer stands on a board with foot straps or bindings and use the power of a large controllable kite to propel him and the board across the water. This simplicity also makes kitesurfing challenging. Your body is the only connection between the kite and the board and you have to control them both at the same time: piloting the kite on the sky and steering the board on the water.
How does it work and how did it all start?
Kites originated in China thousands of years ago (two kite masters Kungshu P'an and Mo Zi flew kites as early as 478 BC) and have managed to remain unchanged until the modern time, when multiple line controllable kites were introduced by George Pocock in 1826. For the first time in history, instead of letting the wind fly the kite, a multiple line controllable kite flyer can actually pilot the kite on the sky. Click HERE
for a chronological table of kite history and HERE
for a bibliography related to history of kites.
When flying across the sky, a kite generates lift like an airplane wing. Since lift is proportional to the size of a kite, some kite flyers realized that if you make a kite big enough it would generate enough power to propel a vehicle on land, snow, ice or water. This type of kite is called traction kite. Certain forms of traction kite has been used by many pioneers such as George Pocock in the past, but it only became popular in the early 1990's and its popularity has made traction kite flying more a sport than just a recreational activity. While a windsurfing sail is dependent on the wind to generate power, a kite is only dependent on the wind to fly. When a kite is flying across the sky, it creates its own wind (apparent wind) which is faster and therefore produces much more power than the actual wind can provide. Since lift is proportional to the square of the wind velocity, if the apparent wind of the kite is twice that of the actual wind you will get four times as much power from the kite. This simple fact is not easy to appreciate until you actually fly a traction kite. Numerous first-time traction kite flyers have been injured in the past for misjudging such power.
As soon as traction kite was introduced, a number of kite flyers started thinking of using kites to replace conventional sails in water sports such as windsurfing. To make this popular, you need a kite that can be launched directly from the water. After years of research, a number of water relauncheable kites were introduced: Wipika inflatable kite (introduced by the Legaignoux brothers in the 80's), Kite Ski frame kite (introduced by Bill & Cory Roeseler in the 80's) and in late 1990's FOne foil kite (Raphael Salles), Concept Air foil kite (Michel Montmigny and Benoit Tremblay), Arc (Peter Lynn) and Naish inflatable kites (Robby Naish & Don Montague). While the fundamental technologies are different and the degrees of relauncheability vary, these kites share the same characteristic that allows a kite flyer to launch them from the water after a fall. There are also a number of other pioneer kitesurfers with their passion and devotion has helped to make the sport feasible in the early days: Laird Hamilton, Manu Bertin, Laurent Ness, Flash (Marcus) Austin and more. Thanks to all those pioneers, a new sport named kitesurfing was christened and destined to be the most exciting sport for the new millenium.
Is kitesurfing safe?
Kitesurfing is not as dangerous as some other sports such as hang gliding; however, kitesurfing is more dangerous compared to other "safer" sports such as windsurfing. In kitesurfing or any other forms of power kiting, safety has to be taken seriously. Make sure you follow the safety guidelines at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/safety.htm
and always use a dead-man safety release system.
Can a kitesurfer go upwind?
Yes. With proper equipment and skill, a kitesurfer can easily go upwind. However, all beginners are likely to go downwind. Check a beginner's log at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/kitesurfinglog.htm
to see how long it would take for a beginner to learn to go upwind.
How does a kitesurfer go upwind?
To go upwind on a free sail system such as a windsurfer, the sailor move the sail backward to move the center of force behind the center of resistance of the board, fins and keel.
On a kitesurfing system, a kitesurfer holds the kite in his hands and his feet transfer the pull of the kite to the board; therefore the center of force is normally between his two feet. The kitesurfer can move this center of force slightly by transferring his weight to his front foot or his back foot. To go upwind on a kitesurfing system the kitesurfer has to move both the center of force and the center of resistance:
Move the center of force backward by transferring his weight more to the back foot. For a bidirectional kiteboard, this action is mandatory and for a directional kiteboard, it is optional.
Move the center of resistance forward by pressing the windward edge to put the board from 15 to 45 degrees to the water.
So the current way to go upwind on a kitesurf board is to "ride" on its windward edge. However, in theory, if the center of resistance of the board is between the kitesurfer's feet, he can ride the board flat and transfer the weight to his front foot to go downwind or back foot to go upwind.
Can I kitesurf in very light wind?
Yes. You can kitesurf in wind as low as 5 knots with the equipment currently available on the market (large kite and/or board). Since the sport is still very young, future equipment is likely to be improved such that one may be able to kitesurf in lighter wind.
Can I kitesurf in very strong wind?
Yes. You can kitesurf in very strong wind over 40 knots with equipment currently available on the market. At the kitesurfing competition in Leucate, France, 1999, a number of kitesurfers could maintain control in 50 knot gusts.
Can I relaunch the kite from the water?
Yes. You can relaunch the kite from the water after a fall. The degree of relauncheability may vary depending on the type of kite you are using.
What equipment do I need to kitesurf?
To kitesurf you need:
A kitesurf kite (with a certain degree of water relauncheability),
A kitesurf board,
A kite control device,
Accessories (board leash, safety release system, harness, life jacket, wet suit, helmet, water shoe, etc.).
What types of kite can I use?
If you are an experienced kite pilot, you can use any traction kite to kitesurf; however, as a beginner, you are much better off with a kitesurf kite that can be relaunched from the water after a fall.
There are a number of kites on the market for kitesurfing. All of them has a certain degrees of water relauncheability. There are mainly three types of kitesurfing kites:
Framed single skin kites
Ram air foil kites
Inflatable kites normally have an inflatable leading edge and 5 or more inflatable battens to give it a permanent "crescent moon" shape (this type of kite is also call an inflatable sled or LEI). They are very dependable to relaunch except for certain conditions such as in very light wind (less than 6-7 knots) or when the bridle is inverted (more difficult but still relauncheable). The original founders of Wipika are the inventor of the inflatable kites and has licensed the technology to Naish and many other manufacturers such as Cabrinha, Neilfryde, Liquid Force, Sling Shot, North etc. All inflatable manufacturers continue to develop and market their own version of the kite. Due to the permanent "intrusive" shape of the kite (to facilitate water relaunching), the kite is always "powered up" even on the water. One needs a good working safety release system when using this kite.
There are generally two types of inflatable kite, the low AR 2 line and higher AR 4 line inflatables. The advantages of 2 line inflatable kites are ease of use and stability. The advantage of 4 line inflatable kites are higher performance and better power control (by changing the Angle Of Attack or AOA of the kite).
Due to many good characteristics, excellent wind range and wide range of choices, inflatable kites have more or less dominated the kitesurfing market and majority of kitesurfers are using inflatables.
Framed Single Skin Kites
Frame single skin kites normally have a leading edge made of fiber glass or graphite, one main batten in the center and a number of thin battens along the chord to give the kites the permanent shape. Similarly to windsurfing, it will take quite a bit of practice to learn how to water launch a 2 line framed single skin kite (with the help of a 2 line reel bar). Once one gets the hang of it, these kites are probably the most dependable kites for water relaunching. The only time one may not be able to relaunch these kites is when the wind is light (less than 8-10 knots). KiteSki is the inventor of the relauncheable 2 line framed single skin kite system. KiteSki used to have Banshee manufactured the kites. Both KiteSki and Banshee developed and market their own version of the kites (which could be very different).
After a fall, a framed single skin kite stays flat on the water; therefore, a safety release system may not be needed. However, it is wise to have a safety release system to easily retrieve the kite and the control bar (the kite and the control bar may fly a fairly long distance down wind before landing on the water).
For some reason, framed single kites are becoming less and less popular among the kitesurfers and rarely one see any kitesurfer using framed single skin kites for kitesurfing anymore.
Ram Air Foil Kites
Ram air foil kites have no rigid structure. The shape of the kite is formed while flying. These kites have shapes that are very close to airplane wings and therefore, probably are the most aerodynamic kites. Ram air foil kites have been on the market for a long time and have been used by many buggiers. In the early days of kitesurfing, Concept Air and F-One released the first water relauncheable ram air foil kites, the Concept Air EX's Wave and the FOne ATK kites. These kites normally have a limited number of air intakes and a valve system to prevent the air to escape after a fall. Due to this characteristics, these types of kite are also called closed cell foil kites. According to a number of kitesurfers, once one knows how to water launch these kites, they should be very dependable (especially in moderate to strong wind). As closed cell foil kites retain their shape after a fall, one should have a safety release system when using these kites.
After Concept Air and F-One, a number of companies started to introduce their new ram air foil kites. Quadrifoil, Windtools, Peter Lynn, Jojo, Boom Vector and Flysurfer have introduced water-relauncheable foil. The new Quadrifoil water-relauncheable kite is called Kitesurfer, the Windtools kite is called Mosquito Pro KS and the Peter Lynn kite is called Waterfoil.
In spring 2000, Concept Air introduced the New Wave, the first foil that incorporate a system allowing the kitesurfer to control the power of the kite by pulling on the third line to change the shape of the kite (therefore changing the camber/projected surface of the kite). The Flysurfer apparently uses similar technique. The Jojo neutralize the center portion of the foil to control its power. The Boom Vector is the only current foil that use AOA to control the power of the kite.
Peter Lynn has also introduced a new type of foil kite called the Arc. The Arc is mainly a closed cell ram air foil kite with the shape of an inflatable. Similar to a 4 line Wipika, an Arc kite can also be depowered by pulling on its front lines to change the angle of attack of the kite.
Since 2001, the inflatable sled kites have more or less dominated the kitesurfing market due to their "legendary" wind range and reasonable high performance. Most of the foil vendors has also introduced the low-end beginner foils attempting to attract the beginner market. One notable exception is the introduction of the Jojo Rage from Jojo to attract kitesurfers who are a bit more adventurous and want to try something slightly different than the comfortable zone of the inflatables. Also, other foil vendors such as Flysurfer and Boom Vector have introduced new foils trying to regain market share from the inflatable kites.
Currently inflatable sleds are more or less dominating the kitesurfing market while foils (both traditional and closed cell) are dominating the kiteskiing, kitesnowboarding, kitelandboarding and buggying markets.
What types of kite control device can I use?
You can use a 2-line (or 4-line) control bar or a pair of 4-line handles to control the kite.
What types of board can I use?
You can use a surfboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps) or a wakeboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps or bindings), a pair of water-ski-like skis (with bindings) or anything in between to kitesurf.
Generally, kiteboards are classified in to two groups: directional and bidirectional boards.
Directional boards have a distinct "head" (bow) and "tail" (stern). A directional board always travel "head first". To change direction on a directional board you have to jibe (to turn the "head" of the board in the reverse direction)
Bidirectional boards have no distinct "head" nor "tail". Both "tips" of the boards are identical. A bidirectional board is sometimes called twintip (longer and narrower bidirectional board) or a wakeboard (shorter and wider bidirectional board, similar shape as a wakeboard). A bidirectional board can travel in both direction. To change direction on a bidirectional board, you simply go reverse.
Can I use the kite to pull me on snow or ice?
Yes. You can use your kite in the winter with your skis on snow or on ice. Check http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/kiteskiing.htm
for more information on kiteskiing on snow and ice.
If you have any questions, ask them on the snowkite forum
You can also use a snowboard with your kite. Kitesnowboarding is very similar to kitesurfing with a bidirectional board (especial in more than 1' of powder snow). Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/kitesnowboarding.htm
for more information on kitesnowboarding on snow.
All the "boards" you can use with your kite:
Short skis for use in pure ice
Medium skis for all conditions
Long racing skis for speed
A bidirectional board (a wakeboard)
A small directional board for all conditions
A larger directional board for light wind
Can I use the kite to pull me on land?
Yes. You can use your kite with a buggy (normally 3 wheels) on land. Also, click here and here for pictures of Dave Folkard's 2 wheel buggies.
Buggies are traditional kite vehicles on land; however, the newer generation of land kiters start to use skateboard-like board for land kiting for more challenges. On parking lot pavement, they use standard skate board and on grass or hardpack sand, they use bigger boards with larger wheels, called an ATB (All Terrain Board).
If you have any questions, ask them on the landkite forum
Can I use the kite with a boat?
Yes. You can use your kite to pull a boat. Peter Lynn has released a small boat for use with a kite. Check http://www.peterlynnkites.co.nz
for a picture of the boat.
Many has successfully sailed on a 2 or 3 people canoe or kayak with the front person controlling the kite and the rear person steer the canoe or kayak.
Do I need an assistance to launch or land the kite?
You normally do not need any assistance to launch or land your kite unless you are in a crowded and busy beach with considerable shore break. Different kites have different launching, landing and water relaunching techniques. Your vendor should be able to provide you with the appropriate instructions (if they cannot provide you with such information then for your safety and the safety of the others, do not purchase any kite from them).
to find out more.
Who is selling kitesurfing equipment?
You can find a list of most kitesurfing companies in our directory.
How much does it cost?
A kitesurf board normally costs between $500 to $900 and a kitesurf kite normally costs between $500 to $1200 including control device. A larger kite may cost more and smaller kite may cost less
I don't have $1500! How can I get into this sport?
You can buy used kitesurfing equipment. You can also make your own kite and convert your old surfboard in to a kiteboard. You can also build a kiteboard out of wood. Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/board.htm
and the boardbuilding group at http://groups.yahoo.com/boardbuilding
for information on how to build your wood board.
Where can I buy used kitesurfing equipment?
You can buy used kitesurfing equipment on this site in the "Marketplace" section.
How hard is it to learn how to kitesurf?
Learning how to kitesurf is actually easier and takes less time than learning how to windsurf. However, the learning curve is much steeper. For example, one of the first kitesurfing moves you need to learn is water starting, which is a rather advanced technique in windsurfing.
How can I learn to kitesurf?
You should learn kitesurfing from a reputable local kitesurfing school. Go to the "Directory" of this site to see a list of kitesurfing schools in the world. If you have to learn kitesurfing all by yourself, at least see some instructional video and/or take a look at the Info forum
of this site and ask your questions HERE
What is the wind window?
The wind window is the area where the kite can fly. For all its practical purposes, the wind window is basically the area you can see with your eyes (85 degrees to the left, 85 degrees to the right, 85 degrees upward) when you are facing straight down wind.
What are the differences between a 2-line and a 4-line kite?
A 2-line kite has 2 control lines: left and right line. You pull on the left line to turn the kite to the left and pull on the right line to turn the kite to the right. That's all you can do with a 2-line kite. If both lines are in a neutral position, the kite will continue on its current flight path and fly to the edge of the wind window (left, right, upward or downward edges).
A 4-line foil kite has 4 lines: 2 front lines or main lines and 2 back lines or brake lines. The 4 lines offer much more control of the kite. With the use of a pair of 4 line handles, some 4 line kites - especially soft foil kites - also allows you to turn the kite to the left by pulling on the left handle and turn the kite to the right by pulling on the right handle (similar to a 2 line kite). This is actually the prefer way to turn the kite while kitesurfing as the turn is smoother and the kite can generate continuous power while turning. You can turn the kite faster by pulling on a brake line (the 2 front lines are called main lines; the 2 back lines are called brake lines). You can turn the kite to the left by pulling on the left brake line and turn the kite to the right by pulling on the right brake line. Some 4-line kites can spin on the same spot if you pull on one of the brake line while shortly after pulling on the other main line. If both the handles are in a neutral position, the kite will continue on its flight path and fly to the edge of the wind window (depending on the bridle set up, some kites may not move forward and just hovers at the same spot. To move it forward, just pull slightly on both of the main lines). You can slow the kite down by pulling slightly on both of the brake lines; stop the kite by pulling harder on both of the brakes lines; or make the kite moving backward by pulling very hard on both of the brake lines. You can depower the kite by pulling on both of the brake lines to slow it down.
Some 4 line kites such as the 4 line inflatable sled (e.g. Wipika/Naish kites) allows you to depower the kite by changing the angle of attack (AOA) by pulling on the front lines. A 4 line inflatable sled kite is not similar to a normal 4 line foil kite such that you cannot fly the kite backward by pulling on the back lines. The other difference is that the back lines of a 4 line Wipika/Naish kite can take full load so make sure you use 500 lbs. lines for both the front and the back lines.
Some 3 line foil kite such as the Concept Air New Wave allows you to change the shape of the kite (therefore changing the projected surface) by pulling or releasing the back line.
Some newer foils such as the Boom Vector, one can change the AOA of the foil similar to a 4 line inflatable sled.
Should I use a 2 line or a 4 line kite?
If you have already known how to fly a 2 line or 4 line kite, you can select either a 2 line or a 4 line kite. If you have never flown a kite before, use a 2 line kite. Once you become more efficient controlling your 2 line kite, you definitely want to have at least one 4 line kite in your kite bag.
Following are the advantages of 2 line and 4 line kites:
2 line kites:
Can be used with a 2 line reel bar to facilitate launching in a crowded place
Easier to control
Easier to change line length
Less expensive line set
4 line kites:
Easier to water relaunch (not applicable to 4-line inflatable kites)
Can depower the kite (this means larger wind range)
Can launch or land the kite almost anywhere in the wind window (not applicable to 4-line inflatable kites).
Can spin the kite easier to untwist the line (in the case of foil)
Can use a spin leash system to easily spin the bar to untwist the line (in the case of 4 line inflatables)
Can turn the kite faster (very good for keeping it out of the water)
Easier to recover from lulls
So the advantage of a 2-line system is its simplicity but it provides less control of the kite. The advantage of a 4-line system is that it provides more control of the kite (turn faster, go backward, depower, stall, etc.) and makes relaunching the kite easier but more complexity (line tangle, drag, etc.).
How do I depower a 2-line kite?
You cannot depower a 2-line kite; however, you can simulate the "depowering" of a 2-line kite by letting it fly to the edge of the forward wind window. So when you are overpowered, fight hard to turn your board way upwind to slow it down. The kite will fly fast to the edge of the forward wind window. Once it is there, the pull of the kite will become more manageable.
You can also simulate the "depowering" of a 2-line kite by flying it higher in the wind window; however, the kite tends to lift you up and make it harder for you to control the board.
What is the typical wind range of a kite?
Different kites have different wind ranges. Normally, the range between the lowest wind and the highest wind of a kite is about double the wind speed (the highest wind is twice as much as the lowest wind). Some kite may have a wider wind range (especially the 4 line inflatable kites) and some may have a narrower wind range.
Can a kitesurf kite reef automatically like a windsurfing sail?
None of the current kitesurf kite has an automatic reefing system except for the KiteSki kite (claimed by its vendor).
How does a kitesurfer control the power of a kite?
A kitesurfer can control the power of the kite using the projected surface control or the speed control method as described at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/howto.htm#2
. Kite Power Controlling.
How many kites do I need?
The number of kites you need is dependent on the conditions at your local beach. In general you should have 3 kites: a light wind kite (5 to 11 knots), a moderate wind kite (9 to 18 knots), a high wind kite (16 to 30 knots).
What line length should I use?
The right line length to use is dependent on the kite size and the condition. Given the same kite size, use longer lines for less wind and shorter lines for more wind.
The standard line length is around 23 m.
In high wind, you should use shorter line length for more control of the kite; however, don't go shorter than 15-20 m as you will loose much of the jumpability of the kite and the ability to handle gusty wind.
What line strength should I use?
For 2 line or 4 line inflatable kites, you should use line strength at least 2.5 times your weight. For example, if you weight 200 lb., use at least 500 lb. lines.
If you use a 4 line foil kite, the main lines should be around 2.5 times your weight and the brake lines could be around your weight. For example, if you are 200 lb., the main lines should be at least 500 lb. and the brake lines should be at least 200 lb.
Should I choose a control bar or handles?
If you use a 2-line kite, choose a control bar. If you use a 4-line inflatable kite, choose a 4-line control bar. If you use a 4-line ram air kite, choose handles or a 3 or 4-line control bar such as the Advance-IO 4-line control bar.
Normally, kitesurfers choose control bars over handles for ease of operation while jumping.
How do I change direction on a 2-strap kiteboard?
Kitesurfers do not change feet when they change direction on a 2-strap (or 2 bindings) kiteboard. They simply go from a heel-down to toe-down position when jibing (for both directional or bidirectional boards) or simply reverse the direction (for bidirectional boards only).
How do I change direction on a 3-strap kiteboard?
Kitesurfers change feet similar to windsurfing when they change direction (jibe) on a 3-strap directional board.
Is it easier to jibe or to go from heel-down to toe-down position?
If you are a water skier, wakeboarder or snowboarder, to go from heel-down to toe-down is easier. If you are a windsurfer, to jibe is easier.
In any case, one should learn how to do both. To change direction by jibing or by going from heel-down to toe-down should be the fundamental kitesurfing techniques that one should master.
Should I choose a 2-footstrap/binding or a 3-footstrap kiteboard?
If you are a water skier choose a 2-strap/binding directional board. If you are wakeboarder or snowboarder, choose a 2-strap/binding bidirectional board. Choose a 3-strap directional board if you are a windsurfer. Toss a coin if you are neither.
Should I choose bindings or footstraps?
Choose bindings if you are a water skier, wakeboarder, snowboarder or you live in a high wind area. Otherwise, choose footstraps.
Bindings attach your feet firmly to the board, therefore provide more precise control and "feel" of the board. However, they could be clumsy and very hard to get in or out when you are on the water.
Modern kitesurfers prefer foot straps for ease of entry/exit and also for certain advanced tricks where to take 1 or both of your feet off your board while in the air (it looks very cool!)
How many kiteboards do I need?
Normally you need only one kiteboard (1' shorter than your height for bidirectional board and the same length as your height for directional board). If you live in a light wind area (5 to 15 knots) with some super high wind days (20 to 30+ knots), you may want to consider having 2 board: a larger one for regular days and a smaller one for super high wind days.
How big a kiteboard should I choose?
If you live in a high wind area (15+ knot most of the time) you should choose a smaller kiteboard around your height for directional or 1' shorter than your height for bidirectional board. If you live in a light wind area (5 to 15 knots most of the time), you should choose a larger kiteboard 1' longer than your height for directional or the same length as your height for bidirectional board.
Why does a kiteboard has to be smaller than 8'?
There are two main reasons why a kiteboard has to be smaller than 8':
The kiteboard has to be small enough for a kitesurfer to be able to effectively dig the windward rail under the water to go upwind
The kiteboard has to be small enough to let the kitesurfer to move and align the board properly with only one hand (the other hand has to hold the control bar) while water starting.
How big a kite should I choose?
Different kite types have different aerodynamics and therefore there is almost no correlation between the sizes among them.
Same kite types are somewhat similar aerodynamically and their powers are proportional to their sizes (a 10 m2 kite deliver twice as much as power as a 5 m2 kite of the same type). Furthermore, kite size and rider weight are proportional (you should use a kite 1/2 the size of the same type of kite someone twice your weight in the same wind).
As there are a number of controversial formulas used in the past to indicate kite size, the best measurement factor to non-biasly compare kites is the flat area of the kite. Kite size as indicated by the manufacturers may use some controversial formulas so ask for the flat size of the kite when purchase any kite either used or new.
From experiences, for foil to inflatable comparison, use the approximated 7/12 factor (i.e., a 7 m2 flat area foil is somewhat equivalent to a 12 m2 flat area inflatable).
What is a dead-man safety release system?
A dead-man safety release system is a system that allows the kitesurfer to disable the kite anytime, even if the kitesurfer becomes unconscious.
How does a dead-man safety release system work?
You must not know how to activate a dead-man safety release system. It must activate itself automatically when you "stop" doing something (e.g. stop holding the control bar or handles).
For inflatable, the safety release system makes one line (either one of the front line or back line for a 4 line inflatable) about 1 kite span longer than the other lines (applicable to both 2 line or 4 line inflatable) to disable the kite when you stop holding the control bar. For foil, the safety release system pull on the brake lines to collapse the kite and have it gently landing backward. Both of the systems have a safety leash attaching to your left wrist (or harness) to allow you to retrieve the control bar.
Note that all dead-man safety release systems do not work properly when you are hooked in to your harness. You cannot disable your kite while hooking in.
Modern 4 line inflatable kiters frequently use a "spin leash" system allowing one to easily spin the bar to untwist the line after a spin. Please note that this system is a manual safety system which requires one to pull on a snap shackle to release oneself from the kite. Only shackled in while you are in deep, uncrowded water
for other safety release systems.
Why do I need a dead-man safety release system?
You need a dead-man safety release system because:
If you drop the control bar, your kite may continue flying and injure someone or damage something downwind.
You may loose your kite
You may have a long way to swim to shore and may become shark bait.
You may become a paraglider by hanging on to your kite in very strong wind.
You may not have time to activate your manual safety system while the kite is pulling you into a hard obstacle.
You may be unconscious while the kite is pulling you into a hard obstacle.
Can I build my own kiteboard or convert an old surf or windsurf board to a kiteboard?
Yes. You can build your own directional kiteboard or convert an old surf or windsurf board to a kite board. Your directional kiteboard should be as long as or 1' longer than your height. As a general rule-of-thumb, the front foot straps should be placed just behind the center of the board. The back foot strap should be your-shoulder-width (or slightly larger) behind your front straps.
The quickest way to install footstraps on a surfboard is to use the X-Strap system manufactured by Hyperform at http://www.xtrak.com/index.htm
Many has built their boards (especially bidirectional boards) from wood very inexpensively. Check the Board Builders forum
for more information.
How many fins should I have on my board?
Kiteboard can have from 1, 2, 3, 4 or even 5 fins. The fins are mainly used for directional control. While the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th fin may help to go upwind some what, it is the upwind rail of the board that act as the main fin for going upwind (I have no problem staying upwind on all of my finless kiteboards). More fins will definitely slow the board down. Most kiteboard has 2 or 3 fins.
If you use a bidirectional board, you may want to ride it finless once you are used to edging. Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/finless.htm
for information on riding finless.
Can I build my own kite?
Yes. You can build your own kite. Check the FoilDesign group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foildesign
for more information how how to build kites.
I am a windsurfer, why should I learn kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing is complementary to windsurfing and you should learn kitesurfing especially if you are already a windsurfer. Furthermore, if you live in colder climate, you may want to get in to kitesnowboarding or kiteskiing in the winter to complement you windsurfing in the summer.
While windsurfing in less-than-15 knots is generally "windsuffering", kitesurfing in less-than-15 knots generates a lot of fun (some kitesurfers can go out in wind starting from 5 knots and some kitesurfers can even jump in wind starting from 10-12 knots). While windsurfers normally need 6' wave and 20 knots of wind to gain any decent altitude, some kitesurfers can gain higher altitude in 10 knots in flat water.
On the other hand, in 25+ knots, currently, windsurfers can go faster (especially on a beam reach or an up-wind run) while kitesurfing in high wind can be much more dangerous than windsurfing. Besides, being able to both windsurf and kitesurf offer you more perspectives of the conditions at your local beach.
I am a windsurfer, is it hard to convert?
As a windsurfer, you already know how to have good balance on a board and know the "way of the wind". It should be easier for a windsurfer to learn kitesurfing than for an ordinary person. However, the learning curve is still pretty steep as you need more balancing act in kitesurfing not to mention doing that while controlling a nervous kite which tends to pull you out of your board. Once you get pass the beginner stage, you can progress faster in kitesurfing than in windsurfing.
How fast is a kiteboard compared to a sailboard?
Given the same condition and top-of-the-line equipment, a kiteboard is faster than a sailboard on a downwind run and slower than a sailboard on an upwind run. A kiteboard is ridden fairly flat almost as flat as a sailboard on a downwind run and its smaller size makes it goes faster. A kiteboard is normally ridden 30 to 45 degrees edging to the water on an upwind run and this edging make it less efficient and slower than a sailboard.
Furthermore, in light to moderate wind, a kitesurfer can fly the kite to generate more power during lulls. Thus a kitesurfer can go faster than a windsurfer in light and moderate wind conditions. In stronger wind (more than 15 knots), the dynamic "feature" of the kite makes it less efficient than a windsurfing sail. Thus a windsurfer can go faster than a kitesurfer in stronger wind.
Can I use my wakeboarding, snowboarding or water-ski skills?
Yes. Controlling a kiteboard is very much like controlling a wakeboard, a snowboard or a mono-water-ski.
Can I kitesurf where people are windsurfing, water-skiing, jetskiing, or whatever?
Yes. You can kitesurf on fairly crowded water by using long lines (40 m) and trying to keep the kite higher than 30 degrees vertically. A reel bar can also help. However, it is much safer to kitesurf in un-crowded places especially if you are a beginner.
How many kitesurfers can kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers?
A kitesurfer can use lines up to 50 m in length and normally flies the kite in the forward half portion of the wind window. This means a kitesurfer would need a space up to 50 m in width and 50 m in length. As the normal "clearing" distance between two windsurfers is around 5 - 6 m. This would allow only 10 kitesurfers to kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers.
If all the kitesurfers follow the same rule and try to fly the kites at the same diagonal angle (with 15 degree margin for flying error as proposed in http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/rules.htm
) then the minimum clearing distance required is only 15 m. This would allow up to 40 kitesurfers to share the space that normally can accommodate 100 windsurfers.
I'm a kite buggier, is kitesurfing much different?
Yes. Your kite skills will give you a big advantage in keeping the kite out of the water and controlling the kite power, but riding a board is a whole new thing. It requires a lot more practice than buggying. Don't expect to be able to go upwind on your first try as you did in buggying. Give it at least 10 hours of practice time to be able to ride upwind, and more than that to be able to stay upwind. More if you have never done any kind of board sports before (snowboarding, water-skiing, wakeboarding, etc). You also need a lot more wind to kitesurf than to buggy (about twice as much wind).
How fast is a kiteboard compared to a buggy?
It's certainly a lot easier to go fast in a buggy, and buggying top speeds are currently higher than kitesurfing top speeds. The biggest difference is in light winds when you may not be able to consistently plane the board. Don't sell your buggy if you live where the winds are usually 8 knots or less. However, kitesurfing is more challenging and exciting: the greater power from a bigger kite, the undulating, enchanting surface of the water, the leaning of your body way back over the water, the jumps, etc.
Do I have to be the athletic type?
Not really, at least not to kitesurf casually. Since you should normally use a harness, your body weight is more of a factor in how much kite power you can handle than your strength. You should be strong enough to unhook the kite from your harness when you need to, though (do a lot of pull up). Kitesurfing is not very aerobic - you don't quickly run out of breath like you do when running. The kite does most of the work. Muscle fatigue can wear you out, but as your skills improve it becomes less strenuous.
I am convinced now so how do I start?
Kitesurfing is a dangerous sport. It is wise to take lesson at a local reputable school. Check http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/schools.htm
for a list of kitesurfing schools near you. It is also wise to review the HowTo and the Tips section of the Kitesurfing School web site at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/howto.htm
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