Ice Palms Limited is pleased to host KitesurfingSchool.Org

Dan Tranh & Dan Bau
Beautiful, exotic musical instruments
DanTranh.com

KitesurfingSchool.org, KiteboardingSchool.org

Contents

Introduction

Techniques

Snow, Land, Boat & Night

Buy, Design, Build & Repair

Teaching & Schools

More Info

Kitesurfing FAQ, Kiteboarding FAQ

This is a copy of the Kitesurfing FAQ originally developed by Hung Vu (with some contributions from Mark Frasier) for the Kitesurfing School web site.  You may find a more up-to-date version at http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/faqs.htm.   This FAQ can be copied and posted at any site subjected to proper authorship acknowledgement.

  1. What is kitesurfing, kite surfing kiteskiing, kiteboarding or flysurfing?
  2. How does it work and how did it all start?
  3. Is kitesurfing safe?
  4. Can a kitesurfer go upwind?
  5. How does a kitesurfer go upwind?
  6. Can I kitesurf in very light wind?
  7. Can I kitesurf in very strong wind?
  8. Can I relaunch the kite from the water?
  9. What equipment do I need to kitesurf?
  10. What types of kite can I use?
  11. What types of kite control device can I use?
  12. What types of board can I use?
  13. Can I use the kite to pull me on snow or ice?
  14. Can I use the kite to pull me on land?
  15. Can I use the kite with a boat?
  16. Do I need an assistance to launch or land the kite?
  17. Who are selling kitesurfing equipment?
  18. How much does it cost?
  19. I don't have $1500! How can I get into this sport?
  20. Where can I buy used kitesurfing equipment?
  21. How hard is it to learn how to kitesurf?
  22. How can I learn to kitesurf?
  23. What is the wind window?
  24. What is the typical wind range of a kite?
  25. Can a kitesurf kite reef automatically as a windsurfing sail?
  26. How does a kitesurfer control the power of a kite?
  27. How many kites do I need?
  28. What line length should I use?
  29. What line strength should I use?
  30. Should I choose a control bar or handles?
  31. How do I change direction on a bidirectional kiteboard?
  32. How do I change direction on a directional kiteboard?
  33. Is it easier to jibe or to go from heel-down to toe-down position on a directional board?
  34. Should I choose a bidirectional or directional kiteboard?
  35. Should I choose bindings or footstraps?
  36. How many kiteboards do I need?
  37. How big a kiteboard should I choose?
  38. How big a kite should I choose?
  39. What is a safety release system?
  40. How does a safety release system work?
  41. Why do I need a safety release system?
  42. Can I build my own kiteboard or convert an old surf or windsurfing board to a kiteboard?
  43. How many fins should I have on my board?
  44. Can I build my own kite?
  45. I am a windsurfer, why should I learn kitesurfing?
  46. I am a windsurfer, is it hard to convert?
  47. How fast is a kiteboard compared to a sailboard?
  48. Can I use my wakeboarding, snowboarding or water-ski skills?
  49. Can I do tricks in kiteboarding as in wakeboarding?
  50. Can I kitesurf where people are windsurfing, water-skiing, jetskiing, or whatever?
  51. How many kitesurfers can kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers?
  52. I'm a kite buggier, is kitesurfing much different?
  53. How fast is a kiteboard compared to a buggy?
  54. Do I have to be the athletic type?
  55. Is there a discussion group on the net for kitesurfing?
  56. I am convinced now so how do I start?

What is kitesurfing, kite surfing, kiteskiing, kiteboarding or flysurfing?

Nose Grab

Nose Grab
Photo by Steve Slaby

Kitesurfing, kite surfing, kiteboarding or flysurfing (if you speak French), is a new exciting water sport for the new millennium.  Kitesurfing is a very, very young sport.  In 1998, there were probably only a couple dozens kitesurfers in the world (there was a "world cup" back then in Hawaii but some of the winners were starting learning kiting a few weeks/months  before the "world cup"). The population of kitesurfers has been growing rapidly to around 150,000 to 200,000 kitesurfers world wide by the end of 2006.  The idea behind kitesurfing is very simple. A kitesurfer stands on a board with foot straps or bindings and use the power of a large controllable kite to propel him and the board across the water. This simplicity also makes kitesurfing challenging. Your body is the only connection between the kite and the board and you have to control them both at the same time: piloting the kite on the sky and steering the board on the water.

How does it work and how did it all start?

Kites originated in China thousands of years ago (two kite masters Kungshu P'an and Mo Zi flew kites as early as 478 BC) and have managed to remain unchanged until the modern time,  when multiple line controllable kites were introduced by George Pocock in 1826. For the first time in history, instead of letting the wind fly the kite, a multiple line controllable kite flyer can actually pilot the kite on the sky. Click http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~et3m-tkkw/history-table.html for a chronological table of kite history and http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~et3m-tkkw/history.html for a bibliography related to history of kites.

When flying across the sky, a kite generates lift like an airplane wing. Since lift is proportional to the size of a kite, some kite flyers realized that if you make a kite big enough it would generate enough power to propel a vehicle on land, snow, ice or water. This type of kite is called traction kite.  Certain forms of traction kite has been used by many pioneers such as George Pocock in the past, but it only became popular in the early 1990's and its popularity has made traction kite flying more a sport than just a recreational activity.  While a windsurfing sail is dependent on the wind to generate power, a kite is only dependent on the wind to fly. When a kite is flying across the sky, it creates its own wind (apparent wind) which is faster and therefore produces much more power than the actual wind can provide. Since lift is proportional to the square of the wind velocity, if the apparent wind of the kite is twice that of the actual wind you will get four times as much power from the kite. This simple fact is not easy to appreciate until you actually fly a traction kite. Numerous first-time traction kite flyers have been injured in the past for misjudging such power.

As soon as traction kite was introduced, a number of kite flyers started thinking of using kites to replace conventional sails in water sports such as windsurfing. To make this popular, you need a kite that can be launched directly from the water. After years of research, a number of water relauncheable kites were introduced: Wipika inflatable kite (introduced by the Legaignoux brothers in the 80's), Kite Ski frame kite (introduced by Bill & Cory Roeseler in the 80's) and in late 1990's FOne closed cell foil kite (Raphael Salles), Concept Air closed cell foil kite (Michel Montmigny and Benoit Tremblay), Arc (Peter Lynn). While the fundamental technologies are different and the degrees of relauncheability vary, these kites share the same characteristic that allows a kite flyer to launch them from the water after a fall.   There are also a number of other pioneer kitesurfers with their passion and devotion has helped to make the sport feasible and spread rapidly in the early days: Laird Hamilton, Manu Bertin, Laurent Ness (Axelair), Robby Naish (Naish Kites), Don Montague (Kiteboat.com), Flash (Marcus) Austin, Dave Culps (Kiteship.com), Stefano Rosso (Yahoo Kitesurf group), Hung Vu (KitesurfingSchool.org) and more.  Thanks to all those pioneers, a new sport named kitesurfing was christened and destined to be the most exciting sport for the new millenium. 

Is kitesurfing safe?

There have been a few known fatal accidents while kitesurfing so for kitesurfing or any other disciplines of power kiting, safety has to be taken seriously.  Make sure you follow the safety guidelines at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/safety.htm and always use a safety release system.

Can a kitesurfer go upwind?

Yes.  With proper equipment and skill, a kitesurfer can easily go upwind.   However, all beginners are likely to go downwind.  Check a pioneer beginner's log at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/kitesurfinglog.htm to see how long it would take for a beginner to learn to go upwind.

How does a kitesurfer go upwind?

To go upwind on a free sail system such as a windsurfer, the sailor move the sail backward to move the center of force behind the center of resistance of the board, fins and keel.

On a kitesurfing system, a kitesurfer holds the kite in his hands and his feet transfer the pull of the kite to the board; therefore the center of force is normally between his two feet.  The kitesurfer can move this center of force slightly by transferring his weight to his front foot or his back foot.  To go upwind on a kitesurfing system the kitesurfer has to move both the center of force and the center of resistance:

  1. Move the center of force backward by transferring his weight  more to the back foot.
  2. More important, move the center of resistance forward by pressing the windward edge to put the board from 15 to 45 degrees to the water.

So to go upwind on a kiteboard simply "ride" on its windward edge. 

Can I kitesurf in very light wind?

Yes.  You can cruise in wind as low as 5 knots with the equipment currently available on the market (large kite and large directional kiteboard).  For jumping you may need around 7-8 knots.

Can I kitesurf in very strong wind?

Yes.  You can kitesurf in very strong wind over 40 knots with equipment currently available on the market.  At the kitesurfing competition in Leucate, France, 1999, a number of kitesurfers could maintain control in 50 knot gusts.  However, kitesurfing in 30+ knots is very dangerous so make sure you have the skill to do so.


Nathan in 40+ knots using a 5m Grunt
(The water here is only waist deep)

Can I relaunch the kite from the water?

Yes.  You can relaunch the kite from the water after a fall.  The degree of relauncheability may vary depending on the type of kite you are using.

What equipment do I need to kitesurf?

To kitesurf you need:

  1. A kitesurf kite (with a certain degree of water relauncheability),
  2. A kiteboard,
  3. A kite control device,
  4. Accessories (safety release system, harness, life jacket, wet suit, helmet, water shoe, etc.).

What types of kite can I use?

There are a number of kites on the market for kitesurfing. All of them has a certain degrees of water relauncheability. There are mainly three types of kitesurfing kites:

  • Inflatable kites
  • Flat Inflatable kites (Bow kites)
  • Framed single skin kites
  • Ram air foil kites

Inflatable Kites

Inflatable Kite
2005 KiteLoose Patriot

Inflatable kites normally have an inflatable leading edge and 5 or more inflatable battens to give it a permanent "crescent moon" shape (this type of kite is also called an inflatable or Leading Edge Inflatable or LEI). They are very dependable to relaunch except for certain conditions such as in very light wind (less than 6-7 knots). The Legaignoux brothers, the original founders of Wipika are the inventor of the inflatable kites and has licensed the technology to many other manufacturers. All inflatable manufacturers continue to develop and market their own version of the kite. The patent was filed in 1984 so it has been expired.  Due to the permanent "intrusive" shape of the kite (to facilitate water relaunching), the kite is always "powered up" even on the water. One needs a good working safety release system when using this kite.

There are generally two types of inflatable kite, 2 line and 4 line inflatables.  The advantages of 2 line inflatable kites are ease of use and stability. The advantage of 4 line inflatable kites are higher performance and better power control (by changing the Angle Of Attack or AOA of the kite).  Most modern inflatable kites are 4 line kites.

Due to many good characteristics, excellent wind range, ease of jump and wide range of choices, inflatable kites have more or less dominated the kitesurfing market and start making major in-road to the kitesnowboarding, kiteskiing market with the introduction of the 5th line to facilitate relaunching on snow.

Flat Inflatable Kites (Bow Kites)

Flat LEI .vs. Classic LEI
Classic LEI profile .vs. Flat LEI profile
(Yarga .vs. Bularoo)

After the expiry of the original inflatable patent, the Legaignoux brothers again worked on a new design consisting of a bridle on the leading edge (discussed first on the Kitesurf Group) and a flat bow profile (with a concave trailing edge).

Since the first successful introduction of the Legaignoux' Bow kites, many other designers have also introduced their own version of the flat Inflatable.  All flat inflatable kites have a simple bridle on the leading edge but the trailing edge can be concave (bow kites) or flat or convex.

A more detail discussion of the flat inflatable kites can be found at Flat LEI Kites

The major advantages of a flat inflatable over the standard inflatable kites are:

  • Flat inflatable kites can be fully depowered
  • Flat inflatable kites have larger wind range
  • Flat inflatable kites can relaunch easier

With such advantages, flat inflatable kites have replaced the standard inflatable kites as the dominant kitesurfing kite in 2006.

Framed Single Skin Kites

Kiteski Kite
Kiteski kite

Frame single skin kites normally have a leading edge made of fibre glass or graphite, one main batten in the center and a number of thin battens along the chord to give the kites the permanent shape. Similarly to windsurfing, it will take quite a bit of practice to learn how to water launch a 2 line framed single skin kite (with the help of a 2 line reel bar). Once one gets the hang of it, these kites are probably the most dependable kites for water relaunching. The only time one may not be able to relaunch these kites is when the wind is light (less than 8-10 knots). KiteSki is the inventor of the relauncheable 2 line framed single skin kite system. KiteSki used to have Banshee manufactured the kites. Both KiteSki and Banshee developed and market their own version of the kites (which could be very different).  After a fall, a framed single skin kite stays flat on the water; therefore, a safety release system may not be needed. However, it is wise to have a safety release system to easily retrieve the kite and the control bar (the kite and the control bar may fly a fairly long distance down wind before landing on the water).

For some reasons, framed single kites are becoming less and less popular among the kitesurfers and rarely one see any kitesurfer using framed single skin kites for kitesurfing anymore.

Ram Air Foil Kites

Foil kites
ConceptAir Leader

Ram air foil kites have no rigid structure. The shape of the kite is formed while flying. These kites have shapes that are very close to airplane wings and therefore, probably are the most aerodynamic kites. Ram air foil kites have been on the market for a long time and have been used by many buggiers. In the early days of kitesurfing, Concept Air and F-One released the first water relauncheable ram air foil kites, the Concept Air EX's Wave and the FOne ATK kites. These kites normally have a limited number of air intakes and a valve system to prevent the air to escape after a fall. Due to this characteristics, these types of kite are also called closed cell foil kites. According to a number of kitesurfers, once one knows how to water launch these kites, they should be very dependable (especially in moderate to strong wind). As closed cell foil kites retain their shape after a fall, one should have a safety release system when using these kites.

Concept Air is the first company introducing the a foil kite incorporating a system allowing the kitesurfer to control the power of the kite by pulling on the third line to change the shape of the kite (therefore changing the camber/projected surface of the kite).  Since then, many other companies (ConceptAir, Flysurfer, Boom Vector, Ozone, etc.) have introduced foils with systems that use AOA to control the power of the kite similar to inflatable.

Peter Lynn has also introduced a new type of foil kite called the Arc.  The Arc is mainly a closed cell ram air foil kite with the sled shape of an inflatable.  Similar to a 4 line inflatable, an Arc kite can also be depowered by pulling on its front lines to change the angle of attack of the kite.

What types of kite control device can I use?

Modern kitesurfers use a control bar with a center power trim line (chicken loop line) to control the kite and its power by changing its Angle of Attack (AOA)

What types of board can I use?

You can use a surfboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps) or a wakeboard-like kiteboard (with foot straps or bindings), a pair of water-ski-like skis (with bindings) or anything in between to kitesurf.

Generally, kiteboards are classified in to two groups: directional and bidirectional boards. 

  • Directional boards have a distinct "head" (bow) and "tail" (stern).  A directional board always travel "head first".   To change direction on a directional board you have to jibe (to turn the "head" of the board in the reverse direction).
    Directional board
     
  • Bidirectional boards have no distinct "head" nor "tail".  Both "tips" of the boards are identical.  A bidirectional board is also called twintip (longer and narrower bidirectional board) or a wakeboard (shorter and wider bidirectional board, similar shape as a wakeboard).   A bidirectional board can travel in both direction.  To change direction on a bidirectional board, you simply go reverse.

Most modern kitesurfers use a bidirectional board (or twintip) due to its ease of jibing and more control when jumping.  Directional boards are only used in special cases (very light wind, wave, etc.)

Can I use the kite to pull me on snow or ice?

Yes.  You can use your kite in the winter with your skis on snow or on ice.  Check http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/kiteskiing.htm for more information on kiteskiing on snow and ice.

You can also use a snowboard with your kite.   Kitesnowboarding is very similar to kitesurfing (especial in more than 1' of powder snow).  Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/kitesnowboarding.htm for more information on kitesnowboarding on snow.

All kiteboards

The picture above shows all the "boards" you can use with your kite.  From left to right:

  • Short skis for use in pure ice or tricks
  • Medium skis for all conditions
  • Long racing skis for speed
  • Snowboard
  • A bidirectional board
  • A small directional board
  • A larger directional board for light wind

Furthermore, you can use other winter toys:

  • Skates
  • Snowblades
  • Telemark skis


Nice Skates!

Can I use the kite to pull me on land?

Yes.  You can use your kite with a buggy (normally 3 wheels) on land.

2 wheel buggy

Dave Folkard's 2 wheel buggy

Buggies are traditional kite vehicles on land; however, the newer generation of land kiters start to use skateboard-like board for land kiting for more challenges.  On parking lot  pavement, they use standard skate board and on grass or hardpacked sand, they use bigger boards with larger wheels (sometimes called a mountain board).

Kitelandboarding

Paul and the Grass Shopper Mountain Board

Can I use the kite with a boat?

Yes.  You can use your kite to pull a boat. 

Kiteboating

KiteCat (Photo by Peter Lynn)

You can kitesail with almost any boat, using the single person KiteCat (photo above) or any larger boat (canoe, kayak, sail boats, etc.).  Normally you need one kitesailor controlling the kite and another steering the boat.  More information regarding kiteboating can be found at http://kitesurfingschool.org/kiteboat.com 

Do I need an assistance to launch or land the kite?

You normally do not need any assistance to launch or land your kite unless you are in a crowded and busy beach with considerable shore break.  Different kites have different launching, landing and water relaunching techniques.  Your vendor should be able to provide you with the appropriate instructions. Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/howto.htm#1. Kite Piloting for information on launching and landing some of the most popular types of kite.

Who are selling kitesurfing equipment?

You can find a list of most kitesurfing vendors at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/kitesurfinglinks.htm#Commercial Links.

How much does it cost?

A kitesurf board normally costs between $500 to $700 and a kitesurf kite normally costs between $700 to $1200 including lines and bar.  A larger kite may cost more and smaller kite may cost less

I don't have $1500! How can I get into this sport?

You can buy used kitesurfing equipment. You can also make your own kite and convert your old surfboard in to a kiteboard. You can also build a kiteboard out of wood.  Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/board.htm   and the boardbuilding group at http://groups.yahoo.com/boardbuilding for information on how to build your board.

Where can I buy used kitesurfing equipment?

You can buy used kitesurfing equipment at http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/used.htm.  Furthermore, kiters normally post used equipment for sales at various kitesurfing groups and forums at http://kitesurfingschool.org/mlist.htm.

How hard is it to learn how to kitesurf?

Learning how to kitesurf is actually easier and takes less time than learning how to windsurf.   However, the learning curve is much steeper.  For example, one of the first kitesurfing moves you need to learn is water starting, which is a rather advanced technique in windsurfing.

How can I learn to kitesurf?

You should learn kitesurfing from a reputable local kitesurfing school.  If none is available in your area, you may want to travel to learn kitesurfing.  Click http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/schools.htm to see a list of kitesurfing schools in the world.  If you have to learn kitesurfing all by yourself, at least see some instructional video and/or take a look at the Kitesurfing School web site at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org.

What is the wind window?

The wind window is the area where a kite can fly.  For all its practical purposes, the wind window is basically the area you can see with your eyes (85 degrees to the left, 85 degrees to the right, 85 degrees upward) when you are facing straight down wind.

Wind window

What is the typical wind range of a kite?

Different kites have different wind ranges.  Normally, the range between the lowest wind and the highest wind of a modern kitesurfing kite is about double the wind speed (the highest wind is twice as much as the lowest wind). Some kite may have a wider wind range (especially the new flat inflatable kites) and some may have a narrower wind range.

Can a kitesurf kite reef automatically like a windsurfing sail?

None of the current kitesurf kite has an automatic reefing system.

However, a kite with some pulley system on the bridle that changes the attachment points as the COP of the kite changes may produce similar "smoothness" as a modern windsurfing sail.

On the other hand, due to the tremendous power requirement during jumping, automatic reefing may not be a good thing for kiters.

How does a kitesurfer control the power of a kite?

A kitesurfer controls the power of the kite using the bar and the trim line (chicken loop line) to change the kite's AOA (therefore changing its projected surface).  The kitesurfer can also control the power of the kite using the speed control method as described at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/howto.htm#2. Kite Power Controlling.

How many kites do I need?

The number of kites you need is dependent on the conditions at your local beach.   Ideally, you should have 3 kites: a light wind kite (5 to 15 knots), a moderate wind kite (10 to 20 knots), a high wind kite (15 to 30 knots).  For an typical kiter, this means a quiver consisting of 18m, 12m and 8m inflatables.

Most kitersurfers doesn't go out in wind less than 12 knots and therefore can be satisfied with only 2 kites.  For such kiters, this means a quiver consisting of a 16m and a 10m inflatables.

What line length should I use?

The right line length to use is dependent on the kite size and the condition.   Given the same kite size, use longer lines for less wind and shorter lines for more wind. 

The standard line length is 23 - 25m.  In high wind, you may want to use shorter line length for more control of the kite; however, don't go shorter than 15m as you will loose much of the "jumpability" of the kite.

What line strength should I use?

For inflatable kites, you should use line strength at least 2.5 times your weight. For example, if you weight 200 lb., use at least 500 lb. lines.

If you use a 4 line foil kite, the main lines should be around 2.5 times your weight and the brake lines could be around your weight. For example, if you are 200 lb., the main lines should be at least 500 lb. and the brake lines should be at least 200 lb.

Modern kites normally sold with lines and bar so you normally don't have to worry much about lines and bar.

Should I choose a control bar or handles?

Modern kitesurfers choose control bars over handles for ease of operation while jumping.  Almost everyone now uses control bar except for some kiteskiers using old foils.

How do I change direction on a bidirectional kiteboard?

Kitesurfers never change feet when they change direction on a bidirectional kiteboard.  They simply go from a heel-down to toe-down position when jibing or simply reverse the direction.


Toe-down riding

How do I change direction on a directional kiteboard?

Kitesurfers change feet similar to windsurfing when they change direction (jibe) on a directional board.

Some kiters prefer to go heel-down in one direction and toe-down in the other direction especially for tiny directional boards.

Is it easier to jibe or to go from heel-down to toe-down position on a directional board?

If you are a water skier, wakeboarder or snowboarder, to go from heel-down to toe-down is easier.  If you are a windsurfer, to jibe is easier.

In any case, one should learn how to do both.  To change direction by jibing or by going from heel-down to toe-down should be the fundamental kitesurfing techniques on a directional board that one should master.

Should I choose a bidirectional or directional kiteboard?

Most modern kitesurfer choose a 2-strap bidirectional board due to its ease of jibing and more control when jumping.

For some special cases, some may want a 2-strap or 3-strap directional board (very light wind, wave, etc.).

Should I choose bindings or foot-straps?

Use foot-straps unless you want binding for whatever reason.

Bindings attach your feet firmly to the board, therefore provide more precise control and "feel" of the board.  However, they could be clumsy and very hard to get in or out when you are on the water.

Modern kitesurfers prefer foot straps for ease of entry/exit and also for certain advanced tricks where you take 1 or both of your feet off your board while in the air (it looks very cool!)

How many kiteboards do I need?

Normally you need only one kiteboard (normally a bidirectional board 40cm shorter than your height).  If you live in a light wind area (5 to 15 knots) with some super high wind days (20 to 30+ knots), you may want to consider having 2 board: a larger one for regular days and a smaller one for super high wind days.

How big a kiteboard should I choose?

If you live in a high wind area (15+ knot most of the time) you should choose a bidirectional kiteboard around 40cm shorter than your height.  If you live in a light wind area (5 to 15 knots most of the time), you should choose a larger kiteboard (10cm shorter than your height for bidirectional board or 30cm longer than your height for directional).

If you ride in waves, use a directional board from 5' to 6'1" depending on your height.

How big a kite should I choose?

For inflatable, the most popular size is 12 m2 flat surface.

The equivalent flat inflatable kite is a 10 m2.

Different kite types have different aerodynamics and therefore there is almost no correlation between the sizes among them. From experiences, for foil to inflatable comparison, use the approximated 8/12 factor (i.e., a 8 m2 flat area foil is somewhat equivalent to a 12 m2 flat area inflatable).

Same kite types are somewhat similar aerodynamically and their powers are proportional to their sizes (a 10 m2 kite deliver twice as much as power as a 5 m2 kite of the same type).  Furthermore, kite size and rider weight are proportional (you should use a kite 1/2 the size of the same type of  kite someone twice your weight uses in the same wind).

What is a safety release system?

A safety release system is a system that allows the kitesurfer to disable the kite anytime. 

The flat inflatable is the kite with the best safety system.  By simply letting go of the bar, a flat inflatable kite is fully depowered.  For whatever reason, should the kite is not completely depowered, the kitesurfer can activate the main safety system to completely disable the kite.

How does a safety release system work?

For inflatable, the safety release system makes one line (either one of  the front line or back line for a 4 line inflatable) about 1 kite span longer than the other lines (applicable to both 2 line or 4 line inflatable) to disable the kite when you stop holding the control bar.  For foil, the safety release system pull on the brake lines to collapse the kite and have it gently landing backward.  Both of the systems have a safety leash attaching to your harness or wrist to allow you to retrieve the control bar.

Normally you cannot disable your kite while hooking in and have to activate the safety release system to detach your harness from the control bar.  The exception here is the flat inflatable kites.  With flat inflatables, you can hook in all the time and simply let go of the bar to fully depower the kite.  For whatever reason, should the kite is not completely depowered, the kitesurfer can further activate the main safety system to disable the kite.

Click http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/safety.htm for more info and other safety release systems.

Why do I need a safety release system?

You need a safety release system because:

  1. If you drop the control bar, your kite may continue flying and injure someone or damage something downwind.
  2. You may loose your kite
  3. You may have a long way to swim to shore and may become shark bait.
  4. You may become a paraglider by hanging on to your kite in very strong wind.

Furthermore, you may want to use a kite which can be fully depowered by simply dropping the control bar because:

  1. You may not have time to activate your safety system while the kite is pulling you into a hard obstacle.
  2. You may be unconscious while the kite is pulling you into a hard obstacle.

Can I build my own kiteboard or convert an old surf or windsurf board to a kiteboard?

Yes.  You can build your own directional kiteboard or convert an old surf or windsurf board to a kite board.  Your directional kiteboard should be from 5' to 6'10".  As a general rule-of-thumb, the front foot straps should be placed just behind the center of the board.  The back foot strap should be your-shoulder-width (or slightly larger) behind your front straps.

Many has built their bidirectional boards from wood very inexpensively.  Check  http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/board.htm  and the boardbuilding group at  http://groups.yahoo.com/boardbuilding for more information.

Home made kiteboard

A beautiful home made board from Diego Fonda in Italy

How many fins should I have on my board?

Kiteboard can have from 1, 2, 3, 4 or even 6 fins.  The fins are mainly used for directional control.  While the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th fin may help to go upwind some what, it is the upwind rail of the board that act as the main fin for going upwind.  More fins will definitely slow the board down.  Most bidirectional kiteboard has 4 fins.

If you use a bidirectional board, you may want to ride it finless once you are used to edging.  Check http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/finless.htm for information on riding finless.

Can I build my own kite?

Yes.  You can build your own kite.  Check the Kite Making section of the Kitesurfing School web site at http://www.kitesurfingschool.org/kite.htm for more information on how to build kites.

I am a windsurfer, why should I learn kitesurfing?

Kitesurfing is complementary to windsurfing and you should learn kitesurfing especially if you are already a windsurfer.   Furthermore, if you live in colder climate, you may want to get in to kitesnowboarding or kiteskiing in the winter to complement you windsurfing in the summer.

While windsurfing in less-than-15 knots is generally "windsuffering", kitesurfing in less-than-15 knots generates a lot of fun (some kitesurfers can go out in wind starting from 5 knots and some kitesurfers can even jump in wind starting from 8-10 knots).  While windsurfers normally need 6' wave and 20 knots of wind to gain any decent altitude, some kitesurfers can gain higher altitude in 10 knots in flat water. 


Jump!
Photo by Steve Slaby

On the other hand, in 30+ knots, currently, windsurfers can go faster (especially on a beam reach or an up-wind run) while kitesurfing in high wind can be much more dangerous than windsurfing.  Besides, being able to both windsurf and kitesurf offer you more perspectives of the conditions at your local beach.

I am a windsurfer, is it hard to convert?

As a windsurfer, you already know how to have good balance on a board and know the "way of the wind".  It should be easier for a windsurfer to learn kitesurfing than for an ordinary person.  However, the learning curve is still pretty steep as you need more balancing act in kitesurfing not to mention doing that while controlling a nervous kite which tends to pull you out of your board.  Once you get pass the beginner stage, you can progress faster in kitesurfing than in windsurfing.

How fast is a kiteboard compared to a sailboard?

Given the same condition and top-of-the-line equipment, a kiteboard is faster than a sailboard on a downwind run and slower than a sailboard on an upwind run.  A kiteboard is ridden fairly flat almost as flat as a sailboard on a downwind run and its smaller size makes it goes faster.  A kiteboard is normally ridden 30 to 45 degrees edging to the water on an upwind run and this edging make it less efficient and slower than a sailboard.

Furthermore, in light to moderate wind, a kitesurfer can fly the kite to generate more power during lulls.  Thus a kitesurfer can go faster than a windsurfer in light and moderate wind conditions.  In very strong wind (more than 25 knots), the dynamic "feature" of the kite  makes it less efficient than a windsurfing sail.   Thus a windsurfer can go faster than a kitesurfer in very strong wind.

Can I use my wakeboarding, snowboarding or water-ski skills?

Yes.  Controlling a kiteboard is very much like controlling a wakeboard, a snowboard or a mono-water-ski.

Can I do tricks in kiteboarding as in wakeboarding?

Yes you can.  Furthermore, the tricks are normally more challenging as you have to do them at twice the altitude and controlling the kite at the same time.


One foot off trick
Photo by Steve Slaby

Can I kitesurf where people are windsurfing, water-skiing, jetskiing, or whatever?

You can probably kitesurf in crowded water but it is dangerous.  Try to get way upwind or downwind of the crowd.as soon as you can.

It is much safer to kitesurf in un-crowded places especially if you are a beginner.

How many kitesurfers can kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers?

A kitesurfer can use lines up to 50 m in length and normally flies the kite in the forward half portion of the wind window. This means a kitesurfer would need a space up to 50 m in width and 50 m in length. As the normal "clearing" distance between two windsurfers is around 5 - 6 m. This would allow only 10 kitesurfers to kitesurf in a space that can normally accommodate 100 windsurfers.

If all the kitesurfers follow the same rule and try to fly the kites at the same diagonal angle (with 15 degree margin for flying error as proposed in http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/rules.htm) then the minimum clearing distance required is only 15 m. This would allow up to 40 kitesurfers to share the space that normally can accommodate 100 windsurfers.

In practice, it's safer to kitesurf way upwind or downwind from the crowd.

I'm a kite buggier, is kitesurfing much different?

Yes. Your kite skills will give you a big advantage in keeping the kite out of the water and controlling the kite power, but riding a board is a whole new thing. It requires a lot more practice than buggying. Don't expect to be able to go upwind on your first try as you did in buggying. Give it at least 10 hours of practice time to be able to ride upwind, and more than that to be able to stay upwind. More if you have never done any kind of board sports before (snowboarding, wakeboarding, etc). You also need a lot more wind to kitesurf than to buggy (about twice as much wind).

How fast is a kiteboard compared to a buggy?

It's certainly a lot easier to go fast in a buggy, and buggying top speeds are currently higher than kitesurfing top speeds. The biggest difference is in light winds when you may not be able to consistently plane the board. Don't sell your buggy if you live where the winds are usually 8 knots or less. However, kitesurfing is more challenging and exciting: the greater power from a bigger kite, the undulating, enchanting surface of the water, the leaning of your body way back over the water, the jumps, etc.

Do I have to be the athletic type?

Not really, at least not to kitesurf casually. Since you should normally use a harness, your body weight is more of a factor in how much kite power you can handle than your strength. You should be strong enough to unhook the kite from your harness when you need to, though (do a lot of pull up). Kitesurfing is not very aerobic - you don't quickly run out of breath like you do when running. The kite does most of the work. Muscle fatigue can wear you out, but as your skills improve it becomes less strenuous.

Is there a discussion group on the net for kitesurfing?

Yes.  There are a number of discussion groups on the net.  Stefano Rosso has set up the original Kitesurfing discussion group on the net since June 1998 and since then it has been the most popular email and web-based kitesurfing discussion group.  You can find more information about this group by going to http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/kitesurf/.   There are also a number of more recent discussion groups and forums, click http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/mlist.htm for the list of all  known kitesurfing groups and forums

I am convinced now so how do I start?

It is wise to take lesson at a local reputable school.  Check http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/schools.htm for a list of kitesurfing schools near you.  It is also wise to review the HowTo and the Tips section of the Kitesurfing School web site at http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/howto.htm and http://www.KitesurfingSchool.org/tips.htm.

 


Copyright 1998 - 2007 by KitesurfingSchool.Org, All Rights Reserved
You are visitor number

Disclaimer
The owners, webmasters, authors and contributors of this site make no representation nor warranty regarding errors, missing of and correctness of the information contained in this web site.  Use the information contained herein at your own risk.  The owners, webmasters, authors and contributors are not responsible for any loss or accident to you or to other third parties including loss of business, loss of sale, equipment or property damage, injury or death resulting from you or other third parties using the information contained herein