The most complete information about kitesurfing that you can find on internet.
This is a complete guide to kitesurfing, and is good to read for everyone that wants to know more about the sport. You can read it all, or just chose parts of it.
What is kitesurfing?
If you are new to kitesurfing you might want to know what it really is. Basically, it is you, standing on a kiteboard, holding on to a kite that is up in the air. The wind is blowing. The kite then generates power, that gives you the possibility to ride. And it feels totally awesome. You can kitesurf in the sea, on lakes, or on snow. You can jump with the kite, ride fast, or just chill. You have a harness on, just like some windsurfers, that makes the riding easy, safe, and not too heavy for your arms. Kiteboarding is the same as kitesurfing. If you are kitesurfing, you are officially a kitesurfer, or a kiteboarder. Kitesurfing is one of the only sports around where you whenever you want can jump several meters up into the air. Wikipedia says that there are about 1.5 million kitesurfers in the world, but that number is old, and there is probably several millions kitesurfers out there.
History of the kite
Historybooks says that kites were used 2800 years ago in China. Kites were then used for messaging, for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting people into the air, signaling, and even communication for military operations. Not for transportation or kitesurfing though. Kites were also shaped into all kind of figures and animals for religious and festival use.
First in the 1800s a kite were first used to pull a vehicle, that first step towards kitesurfing were taken by George Pocock. He used four lines to steer his kite, in the same way that we do today. The carts and boats driven by kites were able to go upwind, and in 1903 Samuel Cody managed to sail over the english channel in a boat pulled by a kite.
Kitesurfing in the 1970s
The development of new materials made it possible to build lighter and stronger kites. In 1978, Ian Day had a catamaran named Tornado, pulled with a kite, that exceeded 40 km/h. Later, in October 1977 Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise from Netherlands gets the first patent for kitesurfing. The patent was about this: a water sport using a floating board of a surf board type where a pilot standing up on it is pulled by a wind catching device of a parachute type tied to his harness on a trapeze type belt. The patent did not result in any commercial interest, or further development at that time, but Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise can still be considered the one who first invented kitesurfing.
Kitesurfing in the 1980s
In the 80s, there were some testing with attaching kites to canoes, ice skates, skis, water skis and rollerblades. Dieter Strasilla from Germany that developed parachute-skiing, and systems for steering the parachute that later would become standard parts of the kites steering systems. He also managed to ride his parachute-sailing-system with surfboards, grasskies and selfmade buggies. He also made a patent for an inflatable kite to be used for kitesurfing on water.
At the same time two brothers, Bruno Legaignoux and Dominique Legaignoux that lived on the atlantic coast of France made some kites for kitesurfing too. They were sailors, windsurfers and had a really big knowledge of thje wind. In in November 1984 they patented a design for kites that later has been used by several kitebrands and companies for developping own kites. Bruno Legaignoux is often nowdays concidered the inventor of kitesurfing in the form that it is now, as they invented the first kite that were able to relaunch from the water. They started the kitebrand Wipika. You can read more about that story in their letter here.
Kitesurfing in the 1990s
Now kite buggying were practiced by Peter Lynn in New Zeeland. He used a three wheel buggy pulled by a foil kite, the same type that was developed into the foil kites of today.
The development continued in different parts of the world.
In USA by Bill Roeseler who was a aerodynamicist at Boeing, and his son Cory Roeseler. They invented the “KiteSki” -system, a two-line kite that was relaunchable from water and could go upwind, using some kind of waterskis. Later their ski became a board. At the same time in Florida Raphaël Baruch did some riding with windsurfing boards and foil kites, and named that kitesurfing.
In France the Legaignoux brothers continued to improve their kites, and in 1997, they patented a kite design under the brand Wipika. The kite had inflateable tubes and a bridle system. Sounds familiar, right?
In New Zeeland Peter Lynn continued to develop his kites and buggies.
In Hawaii (Maui), Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin demonstrated kitesurfing to a wider public, including “real” surfers, during 1996.
From 1997 on, the word kitesurfing were used, and it had now “officially” became an etreme sport. At that time the real kiteboard that looks a little like directional kiteboards do today was developed by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness. The kites used was C-shaped kites and some foils. In 1998 you could go to a handful schools worldwide for learning kitesurfing. There were also a several shops that sold kite gear. The first competition was also held in September 1998 on Maui in Hawai, and the winner was Flash Austin.
From 1999 on, the sport kitesurfing became more and more mainstream when bigger windsurfing brands started to make kites. The two key players were Naish and Neil Pryde (Cabrinha). Naish had bought the license for making kites in the way that Wipika had patented. Neil Pryde had already a little earlier manufactured kites in that way for the Legaignoux brothers under the brand Wipika. Influenced by surfing and windsurfing, directional kiteboards were made especially for kitesurfing.
Kitesurfing in the 2000s
During 2001 twin-tip bi-directional boards became more popular for most flat water kitesurfers. Directional boards looking like surfboards were still (and is still) in use for kitesurfers living in places with waves. More and more brands started to make kites and kiteboards, more and more shops started to sell the gear, and more and more riders started to kite. A lot of windsurfers also started to switch to kitesurfing, for having more fun in light wind conditions.
In the early 2000s the new and improved Bow-kite concept and license (patent) was made by Legaignoux brothers (Wipika). They proposed it first to Takoon in 2003, and in 2005 to all the brands that used the earlier patent by Legaignoux. A lot of brands copied the Legaignoux patents for kites, and made similar ones without paying license, while some even searched through all their paperwork and made copies of the kites with some changes that made their kites stand outside the patent and license fees. Bruno Legaignoux sued a lot of brands at the time. As you see there has been a lot of fighting about the kite and who has had the rights to make them, and that is probably a reason to why kites are so expensive and why not so many sport equipment brands came in to the business at the time. Nowdays thougth, Diamond White Lda who owns the BOW patent, offers user licenses to any interested brand.
Competitions like PKRA (Kite World Tour) and SSS (Triple-S) were held annually, and some kitesurfing videos were filmed during the 2000s. Kitesurfing was also influenced a lot by snowboarding and wakeboarding during this time, and the kitesurfing style shifted from big slow jumps more into fast rotations, stylish grabs and handlepasses just like in wakeboarding. Aaron Hadlow won the most of the PKRA competitions and made him a 5 time world champion.
Kitesurfing after 2010
In May 2012 kitesurfing course racing was announced as a new sport, replacing windsurfing, in the Olympic games in Rio 2016. Later that year, the desicion was taken back, and windsurfing was an Olympic game again, and kitesurfing not.
Kitesurfing wakestyle with boots instead of straps is now the most common alternative in competitions. Youri Zoon, Alex Pastor and Kevin Langeree are competing agains each other about the world champion title. Youri Zoon won the title 2011 and 2012. Oldschool kitesurfing with hight jumps (Airstyle) is also coming back, and specific competitions for this is also being held.
Kitesurfing history documentary video
This is a video that every kitesurfer should watch, it shows our roots, where we come from, and how the sport were in the beginning. It features great kiteboarding profiles as Rovvy Naish, Pete Cabrinha, Bruno Legaignoux and Flash Austin. Produced by RedBull.
Kitesurfing probably has a nice future. It probably gathers more and more people into the sport, and gets a more official status as a sport. It probably gets accepted as an Olympic sport soon too. But you can read more about this in the kitesurfing future section.
When kitesurfing you need a kite (quite obvious, right), abar to steer the kite with (often comes with the kite), a kiteboard, and a harness. If you kitesurf in cold conditions you also need a wetsuit. Additional equipment could be a helmet, a personal flotation device or floating impact west, an safety hook knife for (often included in the harness), a pump to inflate the kite with, and a buddy that helps you launch and land the kite.
The kite is nowdays mostly an inflatable one, a BOW, SLE or C-kite. Some also uses foil kites that you do not need to inflate. The kite is controlled with a bar, and has 4 or 5 lines. More than 30 brands are making leading edge inflatable kites, and a couple are also making foil kites.
C-kite: The original shape for a kitesurfing kite. The kite looks like a C in the air. It was the only kite model earlier, but after 2005 the Bow and SLE kite became the most popular ones for a few years. Now days the C-kite has became a lot more popular again for freestyle riders because of its direct steering, a great boost in power when steering the kite fast, fast turning and more “hardcore” feeling. The most C-kites has 4 lines, but some have a fifth line attached to the center of the leading edge that helps you relaunch the kite from the water. Almost all brands has a C-kite, or a SLE kite with “C-kite feeling” to offer.
Bow kite and SLE kite: A kite that is more shaped like a wing than a sail. It has also the C-shape, but it is flatter and more horizontal in the air. It became common in 2005 as it was a lot safer than the c-kites of that time, and had full depower (you could depower the kite 100%). That is a feature that c-kites nowdays also have. Bow kites are more kind in the air, and often has a wider wind range, which makes them more suitable for beginners and them who wants to have only a few kites (0ne or two). SLE and Bow kites are easier to relaunch from the water than C-kites because of their more rounded shape on the leading edge, which practically means that not as much of the kite touches the water as with a C-kite. SLE is nowdays quite the same as BOW, with the exception that they have not bought the rights of using the name “Bow” from Wipika. SLE or Bow kites are also called Hybrid kites. SLE means supported leading edge, from the bridle system that is attached to several places on the leading edge, not only in the ends like on c-kites.
Foil kite: This is the kite type that you do not need to inflate by pumping. It has cells that are automaticly filled when launching the kite, and a bridle system that together with the cells makes sure that the kite keeps its shape. Foil kites often needs less wind than inflatable kites, and is therefor common as lightwind kites in big sizes (17-21 m2). On the other hand they are slower and sometimes a little harder to water launch, and often a lot more expensive. The foil kites often have about the same shape as the bow or LEI kites have, but often even more flat. There are two types of Foil kites:
The open cell foil kite that looses its air when it lands or crashes. That makes this one unsuitable for kiting on water. For snowkiting it can be a quite cheap way to get started though.
The closed cell foil kite has closed cells that keeps the air inside even if it is crashing. This type is also relaunchable from water and can be used for kitesurfing on water.
The smaller kite, the less power. The bigger kite, the more power. Quite easy. Kites are available from small training kites in 0,5 to 3 m2, followed by inflatable kites in sizes from 3 to 17 m2, and lightwind foil kites up to 22 m2.
Think about this when chosing kite size:
- If you are a lightweight person you need smaller kites. If you are heavy you need bigger kites.
- If you are kiting in strong winds you need smaller kites. In light wind you need bigger kites.
- If you have a big or a flat and “rectangular” board you need smaller kites. A smaller board or a board with much rocker (more “bent”) and with a rounder outline needs a bigger kite.
- You probably needs 2-4 kites of different sizes. If you are living on a place with steady winds you might survive with only one.
- If you starts to kite and can afford just one kite, buy the one in the middle of you wind range, or the biggest one, since you shold not kite in strong winds as a beginner anyway.
- If you buy SLE or Bow kites you might go with two. For example 8 and 12 if you are living in a normal to lightwind place, and 6 and 10 if you are living in a place with stron winds.
- If you go with C-kites you probably needs 3 kites. For example 6, 9 and 11 for a strong-wind place and 7, 10, 13 for a place with lower winds.
- If you live in a place with weak winds you might want to go for a foil kite, in size 17 or 19. You probably just need one of those. You might want to add a smaller one as well for harder winds, but most foils are not available in small sizes, so you will probably chose one or two C or SLE kites in suitable sizes as compliments for more windy days. Some foil manufacturers also makes foils in small sizes.
There are mainly 4 different board types. The twintip, the wave-board, the race board and the skimboard.
The Twintip kiteboard is the most common type. Both ends look the same, and you ride it both ways. They look like wakeboards. There are big flat rectangular twintips for lightwind, middle-size freestyle twintips with much rocker for wakestyle riding, middle size quite flat allround boards for the regular kitesurfer that only wants one board, and small boards for hard winds and high jumping.
Twintip kiteboard lenghts and specs
The rule is about this: A longer, wider, flatter and more rectangular board is better for lighter winds, and goes better upwind. More rocker and shorter needs more wind.
- For the ones with only one board: 130 to 138 cm. Medium to flat rocker. Quite rounded outline, but not too much. About 5 cm fins. The most common board.
- For wakestyle riders: 132 – 140 cm. A lot rocker for softer landings and more pop. Small fins, 1-2,5 cm for the ability to slide the board around on water. Boots.
- For the ones that only rides hard wind and wants to jump high: 125-134 cm. 5 cm fins.
- For lightwind: 140-160 cm. Big fins.
- For beginners: Earlier 140-160 cm, but nowdays I suggest the same board that they can use in many years, one that is 130-138 cm.
The harness is needed for attaching yourself to the kite’s steering and power system. Harnesses for kitesurfing are quite much copies from windsurfing harnesses. There are two types of harnesses:
The waist harness sits like the name says around your waist. It is the most used one and often the most comfortable one. The hook is quite high. A disvantage is that the harness might slide up a little during surfing.
The seat-harness is like the name says one that you sits in. It is attached around your waist and legs, like the harnesses for climbing. The hook is lower. This one is better for beginners, but often more uncomfortable down there, especially for boys…
How to kitesurf
As long as kitesurfing has developed, a various of different riding styles has appeared. There are freestyle riders that do tricks from wakeboarding, oldschool riders that jump high and catches hangtime, speed and racing riders that just want to ride fast and cath records, wave-riders that do wave-surfing, but uses the kite instead of paddling. Many kitesurfers do not ride in any specific style, they just chill around and does what feels best for the day. And that got a name too, that is freeriding.
As in every sport, some people are better than others, and can therefor do it for a living. They are sponsored, or professional kiteboarders. Below is a not-complete list of professional kitesurfers: (Mostly freestyle riders, because those are the ones most spoken about, and with most media coverage).
- Aaron Hadlow (Multiple World champion)
- Ruben Lenten (Len10)
- Youri Zoon
- Jesse Richman
- Kevin Langeree
- Nick Jacobsen
- Alex Pastor
- Alberto Rondina
- Marc Jacobs
- Christophe Tack
- Reno Romeu
- Sebastien Garat
- Ariel Corniel
- Liam Whaley
- Sam Light
- Mitu Monteiro (Wave surfing, can be seen in the kitesurfing movie shot in Madagascar)
- Andre Philip (Dre)
- Stefan Speissberger
- Mike Blomwall
- Liam Whaley
- Johnno Scholte
- Michael Schitzhofer
- Victor Hays
- Mario Rodwald
- Alex Bournay
- Ewan Jaspan
- Eudazio Da Silva
- Patrick Blanc
- Paul Serin
- Alex Soto
- Carlos Madson
- Antoine Fermon
- Tijn Van Esch
- Susi Mai
- Karolina Winkowska
- Bruna Kajiya
- Gisela Pulido
- Joanna Litwin
- Manuela Jungo
- Helena Brochoka
- Clementine Bonzom
- Annabel Wan Westerop
- Wiktoria Rosinska
- Hannah Whiteley
- Jalou Langeree
- Erika Lindberg
- Kirsty Jones
- Nicky Rudd
There are a several kitesurfing competitions in the world. The most known one is the PKRA. The most competitions are freestyle competitions, or combinations of freestyle, racing, slalom, and so on. There are also a few wave-riding competitions, like KSP. Below are kitesurfing competitions listed:
- Red Bull King of the air
Kitesurfing brands alphabetically sorted:
Learn to kitesurf – Kitesurfing lessons
Earlier you had to learn to kitesurf yourself, but nowdays there are schools on every bigger spot. You have to take lessons if you want to learn to kitesurf. Just check your spots, or the internet for schools. Learning by doing is not an option since kitesurfing can be dangerous if done wrong, both for yourself and people around you.
Kitesurf travel, kitesurfing holidays
Since most of kitesurfers do not live on places with steady winds and warm water all year around, travelling for kitesurfing has became very popular. A lot of kitesurfers take some week of every year for travelling to a kitespot they like.
Travelling with kitegear has became easier now when you can book your stuff as kitesurfing gear at most airlines. But still there might be regulations, so that you might have to book it as golf-gear (cheap or free) or windsurfing gear (expensive). Though, the kites can be packed into your ordinary travel bag. It is only the board that might need some special treatment. Renting kitesurfing gear on spots is mostly expensive, so bringing your own gear is almost allways a cheaper solution.
Famous kitesurfing destinations can be found all over the world. Mostly a famous kitesurfing destination needs good stable winds and warm water to become famous. Famous countries to travel to for kitesurfing are Brazil, Spain, Egypt, South Africa, Philippines, Hawaii, various places in USA, Venezuela, Egypt, Zansibar, Greece, Turkey, Vietnam, Thailand, most islands in Caribia, New Zeeland and Australia, a lot of small islands in the Pacific ocean, you name it. There are kitesurfing destinations in every continent.
A more complete list of kitesurfing destinations is coming soon. Until that, you can read about some kitesurfing trips to different locations (Hurghada, Egypt, Naxos, Greece, Tarifa, Spain, Boracay, Philippines)
There are some more or less famous kitesurfing videos you need to watch if you want to get familiar with the sport and lifestyle. Here is a list of kitesurfing videos you could start with:
Kiteboard training and workouts
Kitesurfing speed record on water: Rob Douglas has the record for riding 500 meters with 55.65 knots (October 2010).
Kiteboard speed record on snow (Snowkite speed record): Christopher Krug, reached a speed of 73.5 mph/118kph (In 2009)
Kiteboard hangtime time record: This one depends a lot of how you measure it. In hangtime competitions time “records” has been said to be different numbers from 10 to 22 seconds, while in snowkiting jumping from mountains, or by soaring in upwinds near a hill, hangtime can be several minutes. But that should maybe be called kite flying instead. Any official kiteboard hangtime record has not been found.
There are a lot of things kitesurfers say. A lot of it, like tricks, often comes from wakeboarding and snowboarding terminology. Other things regarding the wind and water often comes from windsurfing and wave-surfing. Specific things kitesurfers say can be found below:
- How big kites are people riding today?
- This is the best kite on the market
- My kite pulls really hard (My kite pulls like a truck)
- Can you give me a launch
- It is picking up isn’t it?
- Where is the wind?
- What size is that?
- I think the wind is enough for me (even if no one else can ride)
- What size kite are you on?
- Can I borrow a pump? I need a pump?
- The lines are tangled.
- Hold my kite.
- Even the worst day at surfing is better than the best day at the office
- Walk of shame (walking back upwind after not being able to ride back).
Kitesurfing safety rules
I have not made everything up myself in this complete guide to kitesurfing. At least to some facts there are sources as well.
- Own knowledge
- Wikipedia articles: Kitesurfing, Snowkite
- The Legaignoux brothers letter
- Youtube and Vimeo videos