Kiteboarding is an individual recreational sport that is conducted on open areas of water, preferably in constant winds ranging between 16 – 30 knots. It can be performed on flat or bumpy water conditions. The ‘kiter’ aims to fly the kite in a pattern to produce power to pull him/herself along the surface of the water across the wind, following the same basic principles as sailing. There is no motor power involved.
Below are more details of the equipment and skills required for kiteboarding.
There are many disciplines to the sport, which have different aims from performing freestyle tricks, wave-riding or course racing or free riding. A large part of the sport involves performing jumps, which are initiated by the kiter flying the kite in a certain way. The directions of possible travel are similar to the basic principles of sailing.
The kitesurfer is the link between the board and the kite, as the two pieces of equipment are not connected.
The kiter wears a harness to balance his/her weight against the kite. There is no connection between the kite and the board apart from via the rider.
The primary skill to kitesurfing is to be able to control and fly the kite competently. Once the kite is mastered, the board is then introduced and the kiter must initiate power in the kite at the appropriate time to pull them up and along the surface of the water. This power must be prolonged by the constant flying of the kite in the correct zone in order to continue moving.
Once the basics are mastered, the skills of riding, jumping, tricks, waves can then by practiced. Due to the nature and freedom of the sport, there is no end to the skills base, as it is evolving and growing continuously.
The essential pieces of equipment for kiteboarding include a kite, control bar and lines, a safety leash connecting the chicken loop to the harness, a harness and a board.
This is the means of propulsion. It is wind powered, by flying within a ‘Wind Window’ where there are different zones of power/pull and neutral stability.
Kites used for kitesurfing in the majority are supported by a series of inflatable tubes, which provide a framework between which material is stretched to grab wind in the same principle as a sail. Not all kites have inflatable tubes. These can be substituted for solid battens, or a double layer of cloth, providing a cell type structure with a series of ‘Bridle/ supporting lines’ to help maintain a stable shape.
Inflatable kites tend to relaunch from the water better when crashed hence their popularity. There are three type of inflatable kite SLE, Hybrid, and C shape. These refer to the kite’s design and flying characteristics.
Control Bar and Lines
The majority of kitesurfing kites fly on Bars. These will involve a ‘depower’ system to help control the kite. Some kites can be flown on handles. The bar option is more popular as it allows easy single-handed flying.
Lines made from non-stretch spectra type material connect the kite to the bar. Depending on the type and complexity of the kite, there can be, 2, 4 or 5 lines used to fly the kite. The majority of kites are flown on 4 or 5 line depowerable bars. Line length can vary between 10m and 40m. Typical line length is from 20 – 25 metres.
All bars/ kites will have some form of safety system allowing complete ejection of the kite’s power without releasing the kite completely. The basic principle of a safety system is to release the wind from the kite’s canopy by releasing tension of all but a single line, or prevent the kite’s canopy from collecting wind effectively letting it ‘flag’.
Good modern safety systems allow quick relaunch capabilities as well as instant depower.
Kiters wear a harness in order to connect themselves to the lines attached to the kite. The harness spreads the load of the kite’s pull. Harnesses come in two styles, seat or waist harnesses.
Seat harnesses have a lower hook position, and fit around the kitesurfers bottom with leg straps coming around and under the legs from front to back. Seat harnesses provide good support while learning and are sometimes preferred by people with pre-existing back injuries. The lower hook position can also make the bar easier to reach for riders with shorter arms.
Waist harnesses have a higher hook position and fit around the rider’s lower abdomen/stomach like a weightlifters belt. They provide more flexibility and freedom of movement for tricks and manoeuvres.
Twin Tip Boards
Kiteboards can come in a wide variety of types/shapes and sizes. The majority of the market is occupied by ‘Twin Tip’ boards, which can be ridden in either direction and are symmetrical in shape. These range in size between 1.1m and 1.6m in length, and .3m and .5m in width at the widest point. Twin tips tend to be made from snowboard type materials such as volcanic basalt, wood or carbon fibre with hardened rails.
Directional Boards / Kite Surfboards
The second type of board is comparable to a surfboard and is often referred to as a ‘directional’ board, with typical sizes ranging between 5′ and 6’2″ in length. These directional boards can only be ridden in one direction and can either be ridden with foostraps or ‘strapless’. Directional boards are for riding waves or the open ocean.
Both boards will have fins on the bottom to provide grip through the water, although some riders will remove the fins from their Twin Tips when using ramps or park obstacles.
Hydrofoils / Foil boards
A third type of board is one which has a hydrofoil connected via a lightweight underwater mast. This is a rapidly developing area of kiteboarding with new breakthroughs in technology, design and materials driving change in the sport.
A hydrofoil raises the board out of the water, reducing drag and allows riders to kite in much lighter winds than when using twin-tips or directional boards.