Kitesurfing/Kiteboarding is an extreme sport which combines wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing. Kiteboarder uses a large power kite and the power of wind to move across the water, land or snow on a board suitable to the surface. Rider can use surfboard or kiteboard on the water (board similar to the wakeboard), snowboard on the snow and landboard or foot steer buggy on the land.
Style called kitesurfing comes from kiteboarding and is focused on a wave riding on the water. Kitesurfers uses the surfboards to surf the wave with help of a big power kite which gives them a lot of power to get a proper speed specially on the really big waves.
Although kitesurfing is focused on wave riding, some of the riders, specially in the UK, are using the name Kitesurfing instead of Kiteboarding to describe the sport and everything that comes with it. So, whether you say kitesurfing or kiteboarding it doesn’t really matter.
Bit of history
In the 1800s, George Pocock invented the system of big kite attached with four lines to a cart or ship (boat) to move across the land or water. Both carts and ships (boats) were able to turn and move upwind. The same four line system is used today in kiteboarding.
In 1903, aviation pioneer Samuel Cody developed “man-lifting kites” and succeeded in crossing the English Channel in a small collapsible canvas boat powered by a kite.
In October 1977, Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise patented the kitesurfing, more precisely a water sport that use the floating board or surfboard which could be maneuvered by a wind catching parachute device (kite) tied to a harness or trapeze type belt.
Although this patent did not result in any commercial interest, Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise could be considered as the father of Kitesurfing.
In early 1980s, two brothers from the Atlantic-facing side of France developed kites specifically for kitesurfing. Bruno Legaignoux and Dominique Legaignoux patented in 1984 an inflatable kite design and since then, this design has been used as the basis for companies to develop their own products.
Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin were the big influencers of kitesurfing in 1996 who popularized this sport. In the same year Raphaël Baruch changed the name of the sport from flysurfing to kitesurfing by starting and promoting the first commercial brand of the industry „Kitesurf”.
A year later Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux developed the „Wipika” Kite design which had a structure of preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips. This design enabled very easy water re-launch. Bruno Legaignoux was continuing the development of kite design. He developed the bow kite design, which has been licensed to many kite manufacturers.
In 1999, kitesurfing became the mainstream sport. That was the year when two big windsurfing manufactures got in to the kitesurfing industry, Robby Naish and Neil Pryde. Single direction boards based on windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kiteboard.
From 2001, twin-tip two directional boards became to be more popular among the riders, and they are still developing and improving to this day.
International Sailing Federation ISAF in May 2013 proposed to seek an eleventh medal to include kitesurfing on the Olympics in 2020. Kitesurfing was named as an official event at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
As Kitesurfing is still evolving and becoming more popular around the world it is developing different styles along with it. The most common styles are: freeride, freestyle, wave-riding, wakestyle, airstyle (jumping), wakeskate, course racing, speed racing and park riding.
Freeride is the most popular kitesurfing style among all styles. You can ride as you like, just need to use your imagination. Most boards are design for freeride, basically twintip boards are used along with kites that you can easily relaunch on water. Freeride it’s all about learning techniques and enjoy yourself on the water.
Freestyle is basically style where rider is using the board and the kite to perform jumps and tricks when he is in the air or on the water. This style is commonly used in competitions. Riders are using smaller twintip boards and kites with very good boost.
Wave-riding is a style which combines kiteboarding and surfing. To perform this style riders needs proper waves. Most kitesurfer use a directional boards with or without foot straps, or surfboards used for surfing.
Wakestyle is a style where rider is using wake board with bindings or twintip board with high rocker. Riders are performing tricks and jumps using the ramps. Flat water is perfect for this style. More and more younger riders are choosing this style.
Airstyle (jumping) which is coming from freeride, is based on big jumps to perform various of tricks while being in the air. Kitesurfers are using kiteloops to get extra hang-time. Most of them using C shaped kites and twintip boards.
Wakeskate is a style where rider is using strapless twintip board similar to a skateboard. This style is very similar to Wakestyle.
Course racing is a style used in racing events. Riders use special purpose directional race boards with long fins. New type of boards like Foilboards are commonly used as well to get even more speed and less friction on the water.
Speed racing is a style used in race events or as a part of freeriding. Riders uses the GPS units to monitor the speed. The boards commonly used for speed are special purposed directional boards or raceboards with long fins. The ultimate goal is to travel over 500 meters at the maximum possible speed.
Park riding is similar to wakestyle, where riders uses wake boards with bindigns or twintip boards to perform tricks on ramps and different kind of obstacles.
To fully experience the greatness of kitesurfing you will need a proper equipment. A Power kite, kiteboard and a harness are essential.
Kiteboard is made of composite, wood, foam or carbon. Riders uses different types of kiteboards depends on style they are performing: directional surf-style boards, wakeboards-style boards, hybrids, which can go in either direction, skim-type boards and the most common used twintips boards, which can go in either direction and are easiest to learn. Some riders use standard surfboards or long boards without foot straps.
Hydrofoil kiteboards becoming more popular among kitesurfers also. Hydrofoil is a kiteboard connected to the keel with front and rear wing, due to that kind of design kiter can ride the board upwind even in very light wind conditions. There is almost no friction because the board stays above the water and only the keel is submerged.
Every kiteboard has footstraps, they are slide in-type, which allow the rider to get on and off the board very easily and perform various tricks and jumps.
The shape and size of the kiteboard depends on skills, weight, riding style, wind and water conditions. The bigger boards provides more buoyancy, allows riding up the wind and are better for beginners (learn faster), but it is harder to perform turns and tricks.
Kite harnesses along with spreader bar attaches the rider to the control bar. The harness is reducing the strain of the kite’s pull from rider’s arms and moving it, and spreading across the rider’s body. This allows the rider to perform jumps and other tricks while remaining attached to the kite. There are three different types of harnesses: seat harness (with leg loops), vest type and waist type, which are the most popular ones.
Power kite is a large kite designed to generate the power from the wind to pull the rider along the surface. The Power kite is generally used in kitesurfing, kite buggying, kite landboarding, kite skating, kite boating and snowkiting.
There are two major types of power kites: leading edge inflatable kites and foil kites.
Leading Edge Inflatable kites, inflatables or LEI kites, are typically made from polyester with inflatable front edge and separate smaller tubes which are providing the right shape. The inflatable edge and tubes keeps the kite floating once it is dropped to the water. LEI kites are the most popular ones among the kitesurfer thanks to the quicker and more direct response and easy relaunch when dropped. To control the inflatable kite rider use the control bar and 2, 4 or 5 control lines.
Based on the design Leading Edge Inflatable kites comes in for types: C-shaped kites, hybrid kites, bow kites and delta kites.
Kite shapes design
C-shape kite is the oldest type of LEI kite used for traction kiting. To control the kite rider normally use 4 control lines, some of those kites have the option to add the 5th line for safety and easier relaunching. This design do not have any lines that support the leading edge of the kite, this is the main difference between the C-shape kite and other LEI kites.
Bow, hybrid and delta kites are the sub types of Supported Leading Edge kites (SLE). As the name suggesting, Supported Leading Edge kite have a bridle which supports the leading edge.
Bow kite is a flat Leading Edge Inflatable kite with concave trailing edge and can be almost fully depowered, which is significant safety feature. It can cover a wider wind range compare to the C-shaped kite. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also make bow kite easier to relaunch when laying on the water.
Bow kites with a straight trailing edge are named delta kites and they are growing in popularity since 2008.
Hybrid or Supported Leading Edge (SLE) kites are the second generation of flat LEI/Bow kites and combines near total depower, easy safe relaunch with higher performance without any losses and with reduced bar pressure. They were developed in 2006, since then kite technology is growing, kites become lighter, more durable, much easier to launch and relaunch and a lot safe.
Foil kite is made from fabric – ripstop nylon. The design is similar to a paraglider, it has air pockets (air cells) to provide the kite with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the arc-shape of the kite. Foil kite is lighter than LEI kite and it doesn’t need to be inflated manually. The air pockets – cells can have either open or closed configuration.
Open cell foil kite rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves, and is impossible to relaunch if it get in to the water (easy become deflated and quickly become soaked).
Closed cell foil is almost identical to the open cell one except is equipped with inlet valves to hold the air in the chambers. This design makes the deflation of the kite extremely slow, so it is possible to relaunch once it hit the water.
Whichever kite you want to use they all comes with different sizes from 0.7 to 21 square meters, or even larger. The larger the surface area of the kite, the more power it has. Kite power is also linked to speed, smaller kites can be flown faster in stronger winds. Generally the larger the kite, the less wind power it require.
Depends on the season many kiteboarders have three or more kite sizes which are needed to be ready for various wind levels. Smaller kites are used by lighter and smaller kiters, and opposite side, heavier riders are using larger kites. The most common combination of kites among the kiters is 7 – 12 square meters.
Most popular kite brands and shapes
The highest world jump record belongs to Nick Jacobsen who achieved it on 19th of February 2017, measured by WOO Sports, and It was performed in Cape Town, South Africa. With the wind power of 40knots Jacobsen jumped 28.6 meters high and stays in the air for 8.5 seconds.
But the longest airtime record belongs to Jesse Richman and it’s whooping 22 seconds.
When it comes to a speed, French rider Alex Caizergues became the world speed record holder on 13th of November 2017, in Salin de Giraud, France he reached 57.97 knots/ 107.36 km/h!
The longest distance belongs to Francisco Lufinha, he achieved the length of 472 nautical miles 874 km on 7th of July 2015, traveling from Lisboa to Madeira.