Most airlines will offer you free checked baggage if you fly first class so here is what I have started doing. If first class is available I see what the fare difference is between my currently priced ticket and what they are going to charge me for my kite gear. If the cost to upgrade to first class is less than the cost to check my kite gear then I upgrade to first class.
So I actually save money AND get a much better seat. I've done this 3 times now.
Ehhh? That's something you need to explain please. Those upgraded flights where you saved some bucks were short distance flights and not Intercontinental flights, correct?
The fare difference on Intercontinental flights are many thousands of $$$s and for that sort of money you can transport a lot of gear (or take a few buddies of yours into "Golf Bags").