WHAT IS KITESURFING
Kitesurfing is the natural evolution of extreme
wind-powered watersports. Combining traits of windsurf and wakeboard, the
powerful air-foils and lightweight boards give the kiteboarder higher
performance capabilities than ever before. In its short but exciting history
kitesurfing has brought together the most exciting components of other extreme
sports. The simplicity of the kite-board concept allows every rider the ability
to create their own ride styles that reflect their creative imagination and
personal expression. With every new move the definitions are changed and the
sport continues to expand in possibility. Nobody knows what kiteboarding will
look like in the future. But already at the present time kiteboarding has
expanded into snow-kiteboarding and has taken new directions into foil-boarding
What makes a kitesurfer work: The kitesurfer flies the kite across the
wind to provide traction power through the lines to his kite-control-bar. The
rider holds the control bar like a waterskier holds the ski-rope's handle. the
kitesurfer steers the kite by pulling the ends of the bar.
left to fly the kite left, and pulling the right side of the bar to steer the
kite to the right. The rider wears a harness and hooks into the kite bar's
harness line. The harness allows the rider to hold the power with the body
instead of the arms. So the arms are more easily able to steer the kite. the
harness also allows the rider to fly the kite with one hand. The rider has a
board that looks like a wakeboard, (or a small surfboard). the rider steers the
board by leaning the board with the feet (just like waterskiing or surfing). By
steering the kite to different positions, the rider can sail himself across the
wind in both directions, the same way that a sailboat can tack across the wind.
A kitesurfer can sail towards the wind by making a series of tacks (zig
zags) like a sailboarder. The kitesurfer has a big kite and very little
weight of equipment, no heavy mast or rigging like a boat may have. So this
makes the kiteboard equipment very light and fast.
"The kitesurfer, flies forty feet in the air above huge
bone crunching waves in Hawaii's famous surf. He approaches the wave at
blistering speed and launches himself from the crest of the oncoming wave. He
leaps high into the air where he hangs effortlessly suspended from his wing and
dances as gracefully as a bird, soaring and looping, he defies gravity until he
softly descends, and challenges the next wave. Returning to shore he rides the
wave with the agility of a surfer.
This aerial ballet is the manifestation of the new water sport of
Kitesurfing. Kitesurfing is the synergistic offspring of windsurfing, wake
boarding and paragliding. Kitesurfers control a wing of lightweight fabric,
which pulls them across the water or above it. The sport is fast becoming the
center of attention on the world water sports stage as pre-conceived limitations
are regularly being shattered."
can trace its roots back to its ancestors, "kite-skiing" and "flysurfing" which
first appeared back in the early '1980's. Cory Roeseler from Oregon began to
develop his Kiteski system using a rigid framed kite with a reel-bar &
water-skis. The kite-skier launched the kite by hand and let out line from the
reel to begin riding. When the kite crashed, the pilot reeled in the lines to
re-launch. At about the same time in France the Legaignoux brothers were working
on their early prototypes for their inflatable kites. These they tested on
water-skis and a variety of other watercraft. The Legaignoux brothers called
their sport "Flysurfing", and their kites eventually became the basis for the
original Wipika system. The modern era of kitesurfing began mid 90's when Laird
Hamilton and Manu Bertin gained recognition by kite-surfing on Maui's north
shore. Riding surf style boards with footstraps, they captured the imagination
of the water sport community.
The Wipika/Flysurfer (Legaignoux) and the Kiteski (Roeseler) were the two
original marine traction systems. The Kiteski was the first commercially
available product and was awarded patents for its unique design. It was first
released around 1986. The Legaignoux inflatable kite, took 15 years of
development before becoming commercially available as the Wipika kite, released
around 1997. The Wipika, was an instant success and quickly became the most
popular system. The Wipika System came with fixed length lines, however reel-bar
systems were sometimes used. The Legaignouxs were given several patents for
their spherical kite, and bridal system. Now the vast majority of kites produced
are manufactured under license, and derive from the Legaignoux concept.
Kitesurfing popularity has exploded in recent years and the
equipment is now widely available and more sophisticated than ever. Kitesurfing
now has well-organized events such as the Kitesurfing World Titles, and the
World Cup of Kitesurfing. Kitesurfing instruction is also widely available
through several networks of accredited schools. Kitesurfing associations,
Internet newsgroups, and web-sites are growing. There are many good kitesurfing
instructional videos and DVD's available and a plethora of kitesurfing magazines
NAMES IN THE GAME
Kitesurfing pioneers include: Cory Roeseler from Oregon. Lou Waiman, a
wake-boarder from Florida who now lives on Maui. Eliot Leboe a professional
windsurfer turned hardcore kitesurfer. Several professional windsurfers and
waterman who turned their talents toward kitesurfing. Sail designer Joe Koehl
has been largely responsible for getting kitesurfing up and running as a sport.
Joe has introduced many of us to the sport and helped organize the events and
promotion. Windsurfing legend Robby Naish has been converted. Rush Randle is
also an accomplished kitesurfer. David Dorn and John Holzhall were responsible
for the creation of the earliest structured training programs that made the
sport accessible to many and promoted kite safety training for all new
participants. Their timely contribution to the sport helped kiteboarding to
become accepted and recognized as a legitimate sport.
Most beginners will usually travel downwind until they develop the skills
for going upwind. For some light-wind riders using larger boards it may be
possible to go upwind on their first day, but there is usually a learning period
of about three weeks, where you will have to "schlep" your gear up the beach
between runs. Eventually you can travel upwind as well as a windsurfer. Downwind
riding is still very popular way to sail. Kitesurfers often do downwind coast
runs and hitch a ride back upwind to do it again. (There are restricted areas
restrictions apply in some locations like airports etc).
THE COST OF KITESURFING
New kites with bar range in price from $1295- to $2195-(USD). A complete
beginner setup including board will cost between $1500- to $2500-. Some
equipment is sold as a "complete package" for a discounted price. A complete
setup includes the control bar, lines, harness and a board. You may also want to
buy a good buoyancy jacket (life vest), helmet and wetsuit. If you want to save
money you can convert an old surfboard into a kiteboard by adding footstraps,
this will be a good learning board but will probably be inadequate when you
begin to get bigger jumps. Used kites are an option and buying a last years
model may save you 30-40% off the new price. Always take care to inspect any
piece of equipment before purchasing it. A good
SAFETY system is a must.
Most people will learn to fly a small "trainer kite" on land first. The
smaller kite has less power and is easier to manage. The student can learn about
the "wind window". and how to steer the kite correctly. Kite control skills are
necessary before the student attempts a more powerful kite. The proper trainer
kite will have a control bar, and a kite leash that will de-power the kite if
the user drops the bar. Flying kites on land should always be done with caution.
Always find open space away from buildings, power lines, fences and people. Find
a place with steady wind, and have an experienced person help you. Even small
kites can get unruly, so do not take them for granted. Get a lesson in
power-kiting from a local kite store, or school. they will save you a lot of
time, and prevent many bumps and bruises.
Inflatable or Ram-Air?|
kitesurfing was evolving around the world, the pioneers used existing power
kites (or traction kites) that were already available. these early traction
kites were designed for sport flying and in some cases for para-carting (a
buggy). While the designs were efficient, they were not designed for use on
watercraft. They would not float and they did not relaunch very well. Newer
designs have included water exclusion devices that make the kites float and are
able to be relaunched more easily than before. When selecting a ram-air you
should only chose ones that have all the modern features. Ram-airs are lighter
than inflatables because they don't carry PVC bladders, they have a very
efficient shape with a flat profile which makes them very powerful for their
size. They are often cheaper than inflatables. They are popular in some areas
probably due to availability and marketing rather than performance. However at
Action Beach Maui you may only see one or two ram-air kites amongst 30-40
inflatable kites. This is because in stronger winds, efficiency is measured less
by power-to-size and more by relaunch-ability and stability. The ram-air shape
relies on a steady wind to maintain its shape and is therefore susceptible to
micro gusts and will invert and distort with very little provocation. For this
reason Maui Kitesurfers overwhelmingly prefer Inflatable style kites. Ram-air
design is converging with inflatable performance and may ultimately be the kite
we prefer to use in extreme light air like on a mountain lake at high altitude.
But for crash and burn in the surf give me my inflatable!.
Directional or Bi-directional?|
These days the kite board type you chose is usually determined by
your previous boarding experience rather than the wind-range in your local
riding area. The advent of larger bi-directional boards has extended their wind
range into the lightest breezes and the development and availability of smaller
more efficient directional boards gives them a virtually unlimited high-wind
potential. Kitesurfers with wake-boarding and snow-boarding backgrounds will
tend to gravitate toward the bi-directional style. Beginners can use footstraps
and slipper style bindings on bi-directional boards. Bi-directional doesn't mean
that you have to have the full wake-board style bindings. Directional boards
come in so many production sizes and constructions that there is a board for
every body type and size. Directional boards are usually preferred by people
with a surfing or windsurfing background. Directional boards require you to
change your feet when jibing. Directionals use foot-straps in an inline or "Y"
configuration, depending on their width. All boards should be used with a leash
while learning, and when you use a leash, you should always use a helmet.
Using Short Lines?|
One of the most important choices for a kiteboarder is what length
of kite lines to use. Using shorter lines when learning will create a much safer
and easer system when learning. Shorter lines will give the kite less
maximum power by reducing the distance it can travel. Also shorter lines allow
the kite to steer faster with less lag-time, an give the rider a more responsive
kite. This also gives better feedback to the rider. Short lines are easier to
untangle, and need less room to maneuver. When using shorter lines, you can use
a larger kite size. All the teaching systems recommend using short lines to
their students. Generally a new kiteboarder will start on the shortest length,
and then gradually increase their line-length as they become more proficient.
Short line sets are available in 4m, 7m, 10m, 12m, 15m.
Multiple Line Lengths?
Most kites are supplied with one set of lines of generic
length, usually about 25 meters (75 feet). Additional lines sets can be
purchased from kite stores. Line sets are also available in; 17m, 20m, 22m, 25m,
27m. Lines can be combined for a variety of lengths to give the rider a greater
range. Using shorter lines in strong wind will help reduce the kite's power.
This gives the rider a greater wind range with one kite size. The shorter the
lines, the less power from the kite. Longer lines give the kite more potential
power. When using a newer Bow Kite design it is possible to ride with even
shorter line lengths. 10m and 15 meter lengths are used for learning and for
riding in waves.
The United States
is an extreme sport that requires a high degree of water confidence and a good
understanding of kite flying skills. The lightweight foils are extremely
powerful and often overwhelm the novice and may place them in dangerous
situations that can also endanger onlookers and innocent bystanders. A
responsible attitude and Kitesurfing Training is essential for a safe entry into
Kiteboarding FAQ, Q&A
Action Sports Maui Kitesurfing School info Page.
Kiteboarding Organization info Page.
I just updated this page. Be aware that safety systems are
changing all the time.
You should consult your user manual for proper safety system function for
your brand of bar,
for the latest safety systems and protocols.
promises are made for the accuracy of the information in this page, or for any
error or omission.
Things change, Get training from a certified kiteboarding instructor. Read a
Practice using your safety systems (carefully) in non-critical situations. Ride
First version posted 1997, Copyright © David
Dorn, all rights reserved