Head for the beach and try out the hybrid sport, kitesurfing or kiteboarding as it is popularly called. Kitesurfing is also popular as fly surfing in Europe. It is a surface water sport; the wind helps in pulling the rider on a kiteboard through the water. Simply put, a person gets pulled on a surfboard or a kind of wakeboard through the ocean by a kite.
A kitesurfer uses a board that may have foot-straps or bindings. This along with the power of a large kite propels the board and rider across the water. Better kite designs, safety release systems and instructions have made kite surfing a much safer sport. Kitesurfing is possible in winds as low as five knots and can go up to forty knots.
The technique of kitesurfing is very similar to basic snowboarding, except that the difficulty levels are higher. Kitesurfing is the fastest growing water sport. The thrill of surfing coupled with the power of kite flying makes the sport very thrilling and interesting. The sport is a mixture of thrills, skills and fun and can be enjoyed by both sexes of most ages.
Kitesurfing styles are classified based on the board, kite and the location. The basic styles include:
Freestyle: Surfer can choose from jumps, twists and spins. Highly popular among surfers, this style is practiced by most surfers.
Wave riding: It is a conventional type of surfing and is practiced on strapped or un-strapped board. The board is designed to suit wave riding, this style targets big wave and is gaining a lot of popularity.
Speed: With the right water conditions, surfers can build up a great speed. This type of surfing is all about going the fastest along a straight line.
Wake style: A board with bindings is used.
Free ride: Plain kite boarding that does not involve tricks or jumping.
Big air: The kite surfer uses the power of the kite to gain as much air time as possible. It is also known as hangtime.
Kickers and sliders: Kickers and sliders style involves sliding up and along a pre-built ramp to perform various spins and tricks. This style of is for advanced kite surfers only.
Specialized equipment are used for kite surfing. The basic gear would include:
Inflatable kites: Kite sizes vary depending on the height and weight of the user. Kite sizes are available from 7 meters to 16 meters.
Typically a kitesurfer takes at least 2 kites to be able to tackle various wind strengths. A smaller kite helps in turning fast but has lesser pull. The bigger kites though slower allow more float to jump and are usually picked by bigger riders. Those in the average range of around 55 - 66 kgs would do well to take a kite of about 9 mm. A kite of about 12 m would work fine for someone in the weight range of 80 - 100 kgs.
A safety leash is available to unleash the kite. The inflatable struts in the kites are pumped up just before boarding. They can be transported easily as they can be packed down to the size of a back pack. Power kites include inflatable kites, framed kites and air foil kites.
Kite design: Bow kites and C-shape kites are the two basic designs. Bow kites are flatter when compared to the C-shape kites. Bow kites are suitable for learners and C-shape for advanced kite surfers.
Harness: The two basic harnesses available for kitesurfing are seat and waist harnesses.
Helmets: Keeping in mind the safety aspects of any sport, it is recommended that surfers wear a helmet. Special helmets to suit water sports are available.
Wetsuits: Wetsuits are a matter of preference. Surfers generally use a 3mm wetsuit for summer boarding and 5mm steamer suit for winter boarding.
Choose a bigger board if you are heavier. Such a board is easier to learn on. Smaller boards on the other hand are easier to maneuver and work well in strong winds.
Surfboards: Strapped and un-strapped boards are available; they are usually 5-6 feet in length. Short length boards have less swing weight and thus rotate easily. Longer boards have better buoyancy.
Skim boards: They are smaller and thinner when compared to a surfboard and they do not require much buoyancy because they have a high density foam core.
Twin types: They are symmetrical boards and this enables riding on either direction without moving the feet. They are similar to the wakeboards and snowboards.
Wakeboards: They are just like the regular wakeboards with bindings and are used by professional boarders.
Wake skates: They are similar to the wakeboard but the boarder is not bound to the board in any manner.
Learners can hire the gear as it might be too expensive to own one. Gears can be selected with the help of an instructor as he/she will know what gear will suit you the best. New kitesurfing kit is priced anywhere in between $1,000 - $2,500.
Training through professionals and certified trainers is recommended as it is a powerful sport. Training is available in groups or on a one-to-one basis. Lessons range from $200-$500 for a two to three hour session. Most seaside cities offer these lessons.
Kiteboarding can be enjoyed on land, water and snow. Kiteboarding is also referred to as kite surfing. Depending on the size of the kite, kite boarding can be different in different wind strengths. Bigger kites can be easily flown in lighter winds and vice-versa. Kiteboarding is similar to wakeboarding but the boarder controls the kite himself/herself unlike in wakeboarding.
Kiteboarding is easier to learn when compared to kite surfing. It is suggested to learn the sport from a certified instructor. Though kiteboarding is an easy sport, it can result in injuries. Tensioned lines are razor sharp and can cause cuts. Therefore it is essential to learn the sport from a certified instructor.