Learning to Kitesurf: the Complete Guide

Summary

Embark on the journey of learning to kitesurfing with this comprehensive guide. With a dash of light humour, we dive into the art of kite control, body dragging, standing up on the board, transitioning, and jumping. Check out the gear selection, weather conditions, and pro-level tips, this is your all-in-one handbook to learn to kitesurf, aka kiteboarding.

Summary: Learning to kitesurf

Imagine combining the thrill of flying with the exhilaration of surfing, sprinkled with the joy of sailing. Welcome to the world of kitesurfing. With the wind as your engine and the open sea as your playground, kitesurfing offers a unique blend of excitement and serenity that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Step 1: Do yourself a favour – have some quality lessons

While there is no answer to how long does it take to learn to kitesurf, having quality instruction dramtically cuts it down. It is like assembling a flat-pack piece of furniture without instructions; now imagine doing something similar on the water, with the wind dictating your speed. Sounds tricky, right? Just as you’d prefer a blueprint for that IKEA bookshelf, a certified kitesurfing instructor is vital for a safe and successful experience. They’ll navigate you through the sport’s ins and outs, ensuring you avoid tangled lines and potential accidents.

Step 2: Know Your Gear – An In-Depth Look

When it comes to kitesurfing gear, it’s about understanding each piece’s function and finding the right fit for your skill level and conditions. Let’s take a deep dive:

Kite for kitesurfing leading edge inflatable
Kites are typically ‘Leading Edge Inflatable’
  • Kite:
    • The kite is the engine of your kitesurfing vehicle. It captures the wind’s power and converts it into movement. Kites are typically ‘Leading Edge Inflatable’ (LEI), which means they have an inflatable part, the ‘bladder’, inside the leading edge and struts, these are the best kites to learn to kitesurf with. When inflated, it gives the kite its shape, helps it float on the water, and makes it easy to re-launch if it crashes in the water. Kite size is crucial: a larger kite is beneficial for lighter winds and beginners, offering more power and better control, while a smaller kite is used in stronger winds and by more advanced riders.
Bar and controls of kitesurfing
  • Bar and Controls:
    • Your kite bar is essentially your steering wheel, with lines connecting to the kite. You steer the kite by pulling the bar on the side you want to turn towards. If you want the kite to climb, you pull the bar towards you, and to descend or reduce power, you push it away. The safety release system is a critical component of the bar. If you’re overpowered or lose control, hitting the safety release detaches the kite from you, depowering it immediately. Pro-tip: Regularly check your lines for wear and tear and ensure the safety release system is functioning correctly before every session.
best board to learn to kitesurf
  • Board:
    • Boards come in different sizes and styles, with larger ones offering stability for beginners. As your skills grow, a smaller board provides more manoeuvrability and speed
  • Harness:
    • This piece of equipment is worn around your waist or hips and attaches you to the kite via the bar. The harness takes the strain of the kite’s pull off your arms and spreads it across a wider part of your body.
  • Safety gear:
    • A helmet can prevent head injuries during unexpected crashes, and an impact vest provides buoyancy and protects your torso. A good quality wetsuit will keep you warm in cooler waters and offer some protection from minor scrapes and cuts.

Step 3: Get Weather Savvy – Best conditions when learning

Weather plays a starring role in kitesurfing. When learning to kitesurf, beginners should look for a Goldilocks day – a steady wind between 12-20 knots and calm sea conditions. Once you master these conditions, you can gradually test your skills in different wind strengths and wave sizes. Remember, always check the forecast and never underestimate the power of the weather.

Step 4: Mastering the Skills

Here’s a detailed rundown of the kitesurfing skills progression. Check out our beginner courses here.

Controlling and launching the kite: This is the driver’s test of kitesurfing. Starting on the beach, you’ll learn to steer the kite and get a feel for the power zones. Like finding the biting point in a manual car, it’s all about finesse and feeling the wind.

Body dragging through the water: Picture a water-borne trust exercise with your kite. It’s about letting the kite pull you along the surface of the water – a vital skill for board recovery after inevitable tumbles. Remember, it’s all about trust in your kite and your control.

Standing up on the board: Here’s the moment when you go from floating to flying. You’ll learn to utilise the kite’s pull to stand up and glide over the water. It’s like the victorious moment when you’ve beaten the rush hour to snag that last train seat.

Transitioning (turning): At this stage, you’ll learn to change directions smoothly, carving turns in the water like a pro. Like spinning a well-balanced office chair, it requires timing and balance.

Jumping: The final skill in our progression is learning to leap above the waves, using the kite’s lift. It’s the rollercoaster drop moment – heart in your mouth, eyes wide open, and a burst of adrenaline.

Expert tip – Trimming Your Kite: The How and When:

Trimming your kite is like fine-tuning a musical instrument; it’s about finding the perfect balance for optimal performance. Located on the centerline of your control bar, the trim strap (or depower strap) is there to adjust the kite’s angle to the wind, thereby regulating its power.

If you’re finding the kite is pulling too hard, constantly lifting you off your edge, or feels like it’s straining at the edge of the wind window, it’s probably overpowered. To correct this, you’d pull the trim strap towards you, which effectively changes the kite’s angle of attack, reducing its power.

On the flip side, if your kite is underpowered – if it’s sluggish, lacking lift, or if you’re struggling to ride upwind – you’d give the trim strap some slack to increase the kite’s power.

It’s a constant dance of adjustment as wind conditions change. Pro-tip: get to know your trim strap and how your kite reacts to adjustments. This can greatly enhance your control and performance, especially on days when the wind can’t make up its mind.

learning to kitesurf

Step 5: Leveling Up

Progressing from novice to seasoned kitesurfer means embracing both the physical and mental aspects of the sport. It’s about understanding the sea’s moods, fine-tuning your technique, and integrating into the kitesurfing community. Just like a well-balanced diet, it’s about consuming a blend of practice, knowledge, and social interactions. Check out our intermediate courses here, and advanced courses here. If you are ready to go alone, and just need some gear click here.

The Best Places to Learn Kitesurfing Near You

If your thinking where can i learn to kitesurf, for those in the UK, here is a quick break down.

For you busy busy Londoners, the coast might seem a fair stretch away, but fear not. You can venture out to spots like Camber Sands and Whitstable, which are popular among beginners due to their shallow waters and reliable winds. Camber Sands is about a two-hour drive from the city, while Whitstable is slightly closer.

If you’re based in Birmingham, you’re in a prime position to explore the West Coast of Wales, boasting spots like Rhosneigr and Newgale. Both locations are about a three-hour drive away and are well-known for their consistent wind conditions and vast, sandy beaches, making them perfect for learning the ropes.

Living in Manchester means you’re just a stone’s throw away from the Lake District, and while it’s not traditionally associated with kitesurfing, it has plenty to offer. Lake Windermere is an ideal spot to refine your skills with a board, although bear in mind inland kitesurfing demands more advanced wind-reading skills.

For those in beautiful Edinburgh, Scotland’s rugged East Coast is your playground. Troon and Longniddry Bents are a couple of prime spots for kitesurfing, both within a two-hour drive from the city. They offer wide sandy beaches and steady wind conditions, making your learning journey that much smoother.

Conclusion

From your first launch to your triumphant leaps over waves, this kitesurfing guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to conquer the seas. So, embrace the thrill, make peace with the spills, and ride the wind with style and grace!

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Image by Thomas G. & Christo Anestev & michaelhumenberger

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Max
Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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