Would you like to learn kiteboarding? Great! It really is an amazing sport that gives you a lot of fun and a big adrenaline rush. However, before you start buying the equipment, there are some important things you should know first. This post is written based on my 3 years experience of working as a kiteboarding instructor as well as the questions that beginners and wannabe kiteboarders usually ask me.
1. Don’t even think that you can learn it on your own!
Kiteboarding is not the kind of sports that you can learn from Youtube manuals. It’s not only about the obvious fact that an instructor will help you to make faster progress and avoid common mistakes and bad habits are are difficult to get rid of later. In this case it it is mostly about your own safety! Kiteboarding is an extreme sport and there are many possible dangerous situations that you may encounter. All in all, wind and water are elements, never forget that!
If you don’t believe me, just watch this video:
No need to worry though. This really doesn’t have to look like that. You can enjoy kiteboarding and be safe but in order to do that you need the knowledge, skills and experience that you will gain during your training. The instructor will take care of you safety during the class as well as teach you how to deal with different kinds of conditions and avoid dangerous situations in the water.
2. Think you can take one class to check if you like it? Not really
Learning to kiteboard is a multi-step process. Like most sports it only begins to be real fun after a while, when you already have some skills. In this case, it is even more so. It’s not like with let’s say snowboarding that you will get all the necessary equipment from the beginning and only start with the smallest hills. Here you cannot start with little wind. Why? Continue reading and I will give you an answer to that;)
3. The first class in not even in the water
Surprised? The first class (ca. 2 hours) will be entirely on land. You will learn how to set up the equipment (it’s quite a hassle actually especially for beginners;) and a lot of theory including how the safety systems work and when to use them. After that you will practice with a very small kite (still on land;) and learn how to fly it properly. Thanks to all that when you get into the water during your second class you will be prepared to deal with a bigger kite.
4. And what about the board…
You will not get your hands on a board till your second or even third class in the water. First of all you need to learn to control the kite. As soon as you can do it well enough, you will begin the next stage (still without the board), which is called bodydrags. This means that you will learn to generate power with your kite but at first it will be dragging you around lying on your stomach. This way you can concentrate entirely on the kite and master the movements necessary to take off on the board. In order to do that you will need quite a lot of power as kiteboards tend to sink under your weight unless you gain enough speed immediately. Combining and coordinating all those elements and generating just enough power to start sliding on the surface of the water is not so easy. That is why we learn it step by step.
5. What if there is no wind
What does it even mean “no wind”? For a kiteboarder it means that the wind is not strong enough to fly a kite. How strong should the wind be then? Well, it’s said that it needs to be at least 10 knots (ca. 5 mph), but it’s better when it’s a bit more;)
So if you’re planning to do a 12 hour course in one weekend (even if you’re fit enough to survive it;), then you might get surprised. We don’t have any influence on the weather and unless it’s a really good spot with 99% of windy days (e.g. Rhodos or Tarifa in Europe although even here there might be a day or 2 without it) there’s no guarantee that you can finish your course as planned.
What can you do about it? Once again you can choose a spot with a really high probability of strong wind or you can monitor the forecast and only when it’s good, go to your nearest spot. Long term forecasts, however, are not very reliable so you will have to wait for pretty much the last moment to start packing for your trip.
In one of the next posts I will tell you where and how to check the wind forecast.
6. It’s no use trying when the wind is not strong enough
Let’s assume the wind speed is reaching 10 knots. You can already see some kites appearing on the horizon and you’re anxious to continue your classes after a few days of no wind. Well, don’t get over excited, these are still not very good conditions for kiting and even if you’re equipped with a really big kite, it still will be harder for you to learn and make progress. Such borderline wind requires much more skill to just fly the kite as it will tend to drop. In such case you will lose a lot of time and energy to launch the kite again and again from the water (which believe me is quite a nightmare when the wind’s week) instead of going further with your course.
That is why if possible, it is really worth considering waiting for better conditions to continue with your classes.
7. Where should I go to take my first steps with kiteboarding?
There are many good places for that. It all depends where you’re based and what is your travel budget. However, there are a few parameters that a good spot for beginners should have:
- high probability of good wind (check point 6)
- good kiteboarding infrastructure including schools, equipment, rescue service and instructors speaking your language
- preferably flat and shallow water
- no offshore winds
- no sharks 😉
It’s also nice if it’s sunny and the water is warm but I learnt in water so cold that my fingers and toes were getting stiffed and still found it so much fun! 🙂
8. Why is kiteboarding such an expensive sport?
If you have checked the prices of kiteboarding classes you know what I’m talking about. If you compare it to other sports like surfing and windsurfing you might wonder why there’s such a big difference?
First of all, the equipment. Not only is it expensive but also really fragile and gets damaged quickly especially while used by beginners.
Secondly, kiteboarding instructors usually have higher hourly rates. There are a few reasons for that but it’s enough to name 2 of them. Since it’s a relatively new sport, there are not so many of them and they only earn money on windy days (which in some places means only half of the time).
Another thing is that kiteboarding classes cannot be conducted in big groups (3-4 people max and usually not more than 2).
9. It’s better to take individual classes
If you’re thinking that choosing a group class will save you some money then you’re quite wrong. Yes, the course will be a little cheaper, however, bear in mind that you will only have one kite for the whole group (at least at the beginning) meaning that you will take turns to do every exercise. OK, so now divide the course time by the number of people in the group and see how much you have saved;) Well, if it’s a group of 2 then it’s still quite OK because while your companion is practicing you can watch and listen to what the instructor says as well as rest a bit. However, if it’s 3 or 4 of you then you spend more time waiting than practicing and it’s totally not worth it!
10. Do I need to know how to swim?
In theory it’s not necessary but since a lot of different things may happen, it is highly advisable. Of course you can use a life vest (there are special ones for kiteboarders which are really cool actually). However, if you are serious about this sport and want to continue practicing on your own after the course, you really should learn to swim well first.
11. Do I need a lot of physical strength?
Not really. It might be surprising but actually kiteboarding doesn’t require a lot of strength so stop worrying about the size of your biceps;) Unlike wakeboarding or water ski you do not hold the bar tightly in your hands. Here you will use a harness to connect yourself to the kite and all the power will concentrate on your waist. The bar is only used for steering the kite and this can be done with very light movements.
What you do need, however, is to be in good shape. While in the water you get exhausted much faster than on dry land, especially at the beginning when it’s the kite that’s controlling you and not the other way round;)
12. How much time do I need to learn kiteboarding?
Obviously it depends on the person. On average 10-12 hours of individual lessons is enough to learn the basics (that is to be able to take off and ride left and right downwind). After that there still is a lot to learn (riding upwind, turning, jumps & tricks) but that you can already learn on your own. Some people grasp really quickly especially those who do other board sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding etc. But don’t worry if you need more time to get the necessary skills and start feeling secure in the water. Never give up! I know many very good kiteboarders who also needed a few extra classes;)
13. It’s super important to have a good instructor
A good rider does not necessarily make a good instructor. The demand for kite instructors, however, seems to be higher than their number, so you never really know who’s going to teach you. Even if you choose a renowned kite school you cannot be sure that you’ll be satisfied with your teacher. That is why I would advise you to take your classes with an instructor that is recommended by your friends. If you don’t know anyone who took kiteboarding classes recently, just search the web and ask people in groups and forums.
14. What next?
So your course is over and you have the necessary skills to continue practicing on your own. What now? You can buy your own equipment or rent it (for that you will need the IKO card that proves your level, issued at the end of your course). Just please remember the safety rules, especially when trying out new spots. If you still don’t feel secure, you can take some extra classes or if you’re lucky enough to have some advanced riders among your friends, you can always go kiteboarding with them.
15. Kiteboarding is actually a very easy sport
It might seem complicated with so much equipment and movements to coordinate as well as all this new knowledge about wind etc. However, kiteboarding is quite an easy sport that you can learn well enough to have lots of fun in just a few days. It’s actually much easier than windsurfing or surfing.
Now that you know how to start your adventure with kiteboarding, just do it! Don’t wait till yet another season. It might become your great passion and will certainly give you a lot of fun.