Kitesurfing, also known as kiteboarding, is an exhilarating water sport that combines elements of surfing, wakeboarding, and windsurfing. It involves riding a board while being propelled across the water by a large kite.
Basic fitness is beneficial to kitesurf, but you don’t need to be an athlete. Kitesurfing works various muscle groups, so you’ll improve your overall strength as you progress. Remember that safety is paramount to mitigate risks, and continuous practice is key to mastering the sport.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover how to start kitesurfing, explore its dangers and outline the safety measures you need to know.
How dangerous is kitesurfing?
Safety is a crucial aspect of kitesurfing because, like many adventure sports, it has inherent risks. Here are some to be aware of:
High winds can lead to loss of control and increased risk of accidents.
Sudden gusts can catch riders off guard, potentially causing falls or crashes.
Malfunctions such as a broken line or harness can lead to loss of control.
Inadequate setup or maintenance can result in gear failure.
Colliding with obstacles like other kiters, boats, or structures poses a risk.
Unintentional contact with the water surface during manoeuvres can cause injuries.
Launching and landing:
Mishandling during launch can result in loss of control.
Poor technique during landings may lead to injuries.
Weather and sea conditions:
Rapid changes in weather conditions, such as storms, are significant risks.
Rough seas and waves can make kitesurfing challenging.
Beginners may struggle with kite control and proper manoeuvres.
Inexperienced riders may make judgment errors in challenging conditions.
Strain on the body:
Kitesurfing requires physical effort, and fatigue can lead to decreased control.
Pushing physical limits without adequate conditioning creates risks of injury.
Tide changes can affect water depth and pose risks.
You may encounter marine life such as jellyfish.
Inability to perform self-rescue in emergencies.
Delay in receiving assistance in case of an accident or equipment failure.
Travel and location risks:
Riding in unfamiliar locations may present unexpected challenges.
Logistical Issues, such as transporting gear and navigating new spots, can lead to complications.
How to start kitesurfing
If you’re wondering how hard it is to kitesurf, it requires time, practice, and dedication. However, with proper instruction, many beginners successfully learn kitesurfing. The learning curve varies, but with the right guidance, most people can become proficient in a relatively short time.
Here’s an overview of the key steps to follow if you want to know how to start kitesurfing:
Take professional lessons
While it is technically possible to teach yourself kitesurfing, it’s highly recommended to take lessons with a certified instructor. Professional instruction ensures that you correctly and safely learn proper techniques, safety procedures, and kite control. It significantly reduces the risk of accidents and helps you progress faster.
Take additional lessons or clinics as you progress to learn more advanced techniques and tricks.
Understand your equipment
Before you begin kitesurfing, it’s crucial to have the right equipment. Here’s a basic list:
Kite – Choose a beginner-friendly inflatable kite, with a size appropriate for your weight and local wind conditions.
Control bar – The control bar is used to steer the kite and control its power. It should be comfortable and easy to use.
Harness – A harness attaches you to the control bar, distributing the kite’s pull across your body.
Board – Select a beginner-friendly board with foot straps. Larger boards provide better stability for beginners.
Impact vest – An impact vest adds buoyancy and protects your torso from impacts with the water or board.
Sunglasses or goggles – Protect your eyes from sun, wind, and water glare with polarised sunglasses or goggles.
Safety leash – This connects you to the kite, allowing you to release it in emergencies.
Wetsuit – Depending on the water temperature, a wetsuit or drysuit will keep you warm. Hypothermia is a risk in cold water, so make sure your chosen attire is suitable for each location.
Helmet and PFD – Always wear a helmet and PFD (personal flotation device), especially when learning.
Develop your basic skills
Learning and practising the basic skills is crucial when it comes to how to kitesurf for beginners. Consistency is key; the more time you spend on the water, the faster you’ll progress. Practise regularly and gradually increase the complexity of your manoeuvres.
Key skills include:
Setting up the kite – Take a look at this video from KiteSurfCo on how to fly a trainer kite, which shows how to set it up and get started. Here’s a step-by-step overview:
To set up a kite in kitesurfing, lay it on a clean surface, so that the leading edge faces upwind.
Unroll the lines and attach them to the kite, securing the ends to the control bar.
Check the lines for twists or tangles, then inflate the kite by pumping air into the leading edge bladder until firm.
Connect the safety leash until it’s properly attached.
Place the control bar nearby, with the lines untangled, and confirm the wind direction and launch area.
With the kite facing upwind, position it at the edge of the wind window. Your kite is now set up and ready for launch.
Wind and weather awareness – it’s important to know the following:
Understand wind directions and speed, and learn to assess weather conditions and their impact on kitesurfing.
Never kitesurf directly offshore; always have the wind blowing from the water toward the shore.
Check forecasts for the day, including wind speed, direction, and any potential changes.
Be aware of tidal changes and their impact on water depth.
Understand ocean currents too, especially in coastal areas.
Avoid kitesurfing in stormy weather or during the approach of thunderstorms.
Sudden weather changes can pose risks, so be prepared to leave the water.
Observe cloud formations, as they can indicate changes in wind or weather. Dark clouds may signify an approaching storm.
Getting comfortable with the control bar – The control bar is your main connection to the kite, allowing you to steer, control power, and perform manoeuvres. The following are key:
Familiarise yourself with its components, including the chicken loop, depower strap, trim strap, and safety systems.
Hold the control bar with both hands, maintaining a relaxed grip. Adopt a comfortable stance with slightly bent elbows.
Before hitting the water, practice control bar movements on land. Learn to steer the kite left and right.
Understand how to control the power of the kite using the depower strap. Pulling this decreases power, while pushing it increases power.
Practice sheeting in (bringing the bar towards you) to generate more power, and sheeting out (pushing the bar away) to reduce power.
Coordinate your body movements with the control bar to maintain balance. Shift your weight to the back foot when sheeting in for more power.
Understand the importance of depowering in strong winds. Practise depowering the kite before it becomes overpowering.
Get familiar with the quick-release and safety systems on the control bar. Practise activating the quick release to depower the kite in emergencies.
Board and kite skills – follow these key steps:
Practise water starts by lying on the board and letting the kite pull you.
Learn to control the kite while the board is attached to your feet.
Practise getting on the board and riding short distances. Work on controlling your speed and direction.
Practise flying the kite in various wind conditions to develop basic control skills.
Move to the water and practice body dragging with the kite. Learn how to control the kite’s power while floating on the water.
Put safety first
There are certain safety measures you should be aware of from the start. Bear the following in mind:
Always check weather conditions before heading out.
Respect local regulations.
Never kitesurf in offshore winds.
Be aware of other water users.
Learn self-rescue techniques in case of equipment failure or other emergencies.
Understand and practice the use of safety systems, including quick releases and safety leashes.
Be aware of the right-of-way rules and general safety guidelines for kitesurfing.
Stay informed about new safety guidelines and equipment advancements.
Get kitesurfing insurance with SportsCover Direct
An important part of safely learning any new sport is arming yourself against its risks. Kitesurfing comes with various potential dangers, so it’s crucial to take out the right insurance. This lets you focus on improving your skills while you’re out on the water, with the peace of mind that you’re financially protected.
SportsCover Direct’s kitesurfing insurance offers worldwide protection, with cover for yourself and your kitesurfing equipment. Choose from three different policy options, including travel insurance that covers you while abroad, whether you’re kitesurfing for leisure or competition. This incorporates cover for medical costs, trip cancellation, and more. If you already have an insurance policy, opt for our bolt-on style of protection. You can also go for sports accident insurance, created to protect you while kitesurfing in the UK.
Find out more and get a quote tailored to your needs.