Common Questions about Kiteboarding

How long does it take to learn to kiteboard?

Although everybody learns and progresses at a different rate, remarkably many people are able to ride around and kiteboard at a beginner level within their first 4-6 hours of kite experience.  However even though basic skills develop quickly for many, kiteboarding is a complicated and unique sport with many variables that a person can only learn through experience, and therefore we always recommend at least 10-15 hours of supervised kiteboarding to new riders.  Once a new kiter is comfortable and knowledgeable with basic kiting, the learning process never stops as there are always new ways to ride and handle your kite.  One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of kiteboarding is the infinite possibilities to continue to improve and expand your kiting skills, experiences, and fun.

 

How much gear does a kiter need?

Although many kiters do accumulate a small mountain of gear over time, to be a well equipped kiter you don’t really need very many things.  A good basic or streamlined kiteboarding equipment set-up (also known as a kit or quiver) only needs to consist of:

1 Harness,1 Control Bar, 1 Board, and 2  Kites of different sizes plus a Kite-Pump.  In fact all your kite-gear (Kites, Harness, Bar, and Kite-Pump) can usually all fit in one large back-pack or kite-bag.

In addition to a basic set-up, more heavily equipped kiters might have a collection of kites of different sizes or styles (every kite has unique characteristics, and it is nice to have options) additional boards (for the same reason), water gear like wetsuits, highly recommended safety gear such as a helmet and vest (floatation and crash protection).  Many riders also invest in other accessories like sunglasses for on the water, electric kite pumps, weight bags for securing their kite when on the beach, wind meters, waterproof music, waterproof cameras, gloves, and all kinds of other junk nice things.

Is kiteboarding expensive?

Kiteboarding, relatively speaking, actually does not cost very much.  Although learning to kiteboard and purchasing gear does generally costs a few thousand dollars, that can represent virtually all the costs associated with the sport for years worth of riding.  Compared to many sports and other recreational activities with annual or daily expenses (or both), kiteboarding ends up below the average in terms of total cost in the long term.

How Long Does Kiteboarding Gear Last?

Kiteboarding gear will last for years if treated properly. Although it is important to inspect your equipment before every session for signs of wear or damage most riders won’t start finding anything of concern until their gear has at least 3 years of use, and even then the repair or replacement costs for worn out items are generally very low (less than $100). Although nothing lasts forever and its always nice to have new stuff many riders use gear they have had for 10 years or more.

Below is a breakdown of the lifespan of the 4 major kiteboarding equipment items (boards, harnesses, control bars and kites) based on a kiteboarder who uses his gear on average 50 times a year (which is actually quite a lot, thats basically averaging once a week throughout the year), and is somewhat careful with it (doesnt drag it around on the pavement in the parking lot or crash it into trees or rocks, or leave it sitting for hours in the mid- day sun on a 100 degree sand swept beach in 30 mph winds while taking a nap in between awesome sessions every day on South Padre Island, etc)….

Boards: Many kiteboards will generally last for as long as you would like to ride them. Kiteboards are strong and durable, and unless you ride at the most aggressive level, you are not likely to break, damage, or wear out your board. The main reason for buying new boards is because every board feels and rides differently, and its more fun to have options or change your gear for different styles of riding. 10+ years

Board Maintenance and Care: Regularly check your binding and fin screws, periodically remove bindings and fins to clean the screw inserts.  wd40 works nice, and a touch of lock-tite when you reinstall.  If you damage your board’s outer layer or edges by dropping it or running over something hard while riding this can be fixed simply by sanding off any rough edges and filling / sealing the damaged area with epoxy or p-tex (the same stuff used to fill nicks in skis and snowboards).  If the board is delaminating along the edges, meaning the layers of the board are coming apart, it can often be glued together with epoxy or even super glue as necessary.  Unfortunately even after repair, delamination with continue to worsen over time and the board will eventually need to be replaced.

Harnesses: Although they wont last as long as a board, a kiter might have the same good harness for 4 or more years before it is time for a replacement. Webbing, stitching, and the structural support materials inside harnesses will break down with use, and although some harnesses are built stronger than others, all will generally last for at least 4-8 years. 4+ years

Harness Maintenance and Care:  Keep it clean and let it dry (out of the sun) after each session before putting away.

Control Bar: Control bars are made up of a number of parts, and although all aspects of the control bars are built tough, bars do need to be treated carefully, and even so some are more prone to wear than others depending on the conditions they are used in, the riding technique of the kiter, and how well they are taken care of. Control bars include the kite-lines (also know as flying lines), the power control line that runs through the bar, the foam and grip material on the bar itself, the trim adjustment system, and the harness loop that hooks to the kite harness.  All parts of the control bar need to be constantly inspected for wear.  Fortunately if any single part of a control bar is showing wear it can generally be easily replaced. The cost of replacing parts on a control bar range greatly from just a few dollars up to $250 for a new set of flying lines, so take care to not drag your bar across the ground, or snag your lines on rocks or sticks.  Generally a well cared for control bar will last 4 – 5  years with little to no expense, and as parts wear out they can be replaced as needed extending the life of the bar indefinitely (if you want to do the work when its needed).

Control Bar Maintenance and Care: Be careful not to drag your bar across rough surfaces.  Place it, don’t throw or drop it.  Store it in a bag or somewhere it will not rub against hard, sharp, or rough surfaces.  Be careful not to snag your flying lines on rocks or sticks, if you do un-snag them carefully (not by yanking and pulling until they are free).  Rinse sand and grit off your bar thoroughly before riding.  Freshwater rinse your bar after kiting in salt water.  If the bar has metal components, a water displacer like wd40 is a good idea once in a while, although be very careful to avoid any contact with any of the lines (of any kind).

Kites: Kites are a little more variable in terms of longevity and replacement time, as they are the most fragile piece of equipment. The kite’s CANOPY (the main sail area and the stitching holding it together) will last on average, for a kite that is used 50 times a year and treated well, for 3 years. This is not to say that many kiteboarders do not get more life out of their kites, in fact many people use kites that have 7+ years of use on them. However, the canopy material and stitching will break down with use and exposure to the elements (sun and wind are in fact very harsh on fabric and unfortunately weaken it constantly.) Even if a very used and older kite is undamaged and flying like new, it is not as strong as it once was, and should be considered less reliable. A hard crash or even just a lot of force from high winds or aggressive riding could cause the canopy to fail (tear) and you will be swimming back to shore. Although kites may last longer, we recommend for a rider that uses his kite 50 times a year to retire and replace the kite at 3 years.

However, it is important to realize that most kiters have more than one kite (they have two or 3 kites to accommodate different wind strengths). With that in mind, a kiter who rides 50 times a year actually uses each kite much less than 50 times, and therefore a rider can generally expect to use a SET of kites for: 5-7 yrs.

Also Regarding Kites: in addition to the canopy, there are a number of small parts and pieces to kites that need to be checked for wear throughout the life of the kite. Bridle lines, pulleys on the bridles, inflation valves, air hoses that connect valves, and flying line connection points can wear out and need to be replaced at individual rates. Most kites need to have some sort of part or parts replaced in their lifetime. These types of repairs can generally be taken care of for $15 – $75 if and when they are eventually needed.

Kite Maintenance and Care: Store your kites indoors, in a cool dry climate.  Ensure your kite is both dry and clean before packing away.  Don’t leave your kite rigged and sitting in the sun and wind when you are not using it.  Ensure your kite is on a soft surface when it is on the ground.  Take care to not let the kite drag across rough surfaces.  Secure your kite with a soft weighted bag or in some other non-abrasive manner when it is on the ground (try never to pile sand or rocks onto the kite to weight it down).   Kites can periodically be treated with UV protective and waterproof coatings, much like re-waterproofing outdoor clothing.  Although kite-specific gear wash and treatments are available and recommended, any outerwear fabric cleaner and waterproofing should work (test in small area first of course).  Cleaning the canopy material and re-treating once a year will greatly improve the longevity of your kites fabric, especially if you use your kites in high UV settings like tropical climates or on the snow.

What if i tear or break my kite?

Damage to kites besides the wear and tear from years of use can almost always be fixed. Even major repairs to canopies that have been torn completely in half generally dont cost more than a couple hundred bucks. So if your kite does have an unfortunate accident or otherwise gets broken, it can be repaired back to its original perfomance with little to no change in the overall lifespan or usability of the kite.

What are the safety systems in kiteboarding?

Many people talk about safety systems in kiteboarding, and they are referring to built in mechanisms on the gear which we will describe, but first and foremost the number one safety system in kiteboarding is your awareness of your surroundings and good judgement.   Properly assessing the wind strength and quality before launching a kite, ensuring a safe and obstacle free launching and landing area, paying attention to the area you are riding in and not riding close to obstacles in the water, shallow water, or other kiters, putting your kite down when you need to as apposed to trying to fly it while attempting other tasks, being mindful of potentially dangerous situations and avoiding them or being prepared to disable your kite before you are halfway through an accident, are the most important ways to stay safe when flying big kites.  Otherwise, there are 2 safety mechanisms on your kiteboarding gear, know as the Primary and Secondary Quick Releases.

Quick Release Systems:  your kite is attached to you in two places, both are on the kite harness, and at both of those attachment points are a quick release mechanisms which allow the kiter to easily and instantly detach from the kite.  The systems are known as the Primary Quick Release, and the Secondary Quick Release.

Primary Quick Release: The kite is attached to the kite harness by the harness loop on the control bar.  On the harness loop is the Primary Quick Release.  If your kite becomes out of control, or you otherwise need to separate from it in a hurry, the rider uses the Primary Quick Release which opens the harness loop and releases the kite.

Secondary Quick Release: So that the kite is not lost when released by the Primary Quick Release, the rider wears a kiteleash which is also attached to the harness as well as to the leash line on the control bar (also known as a kill line or disable line).  Releasing the kite onto the leash and leash line of the control bar will disable the kite so that it cannot fly or pull, but prevents the kite from being totally separated from the rider and lost.  In the uncommon event that the rider does need to separate completely from the kite, there is a Secondary Quick Release on the kite leash that can also be quickly and easily activated.

The Quick Release Systems are always used in the same order: Primary, then Secondary.  A kiter must be detached from the harness loop to activate the leash, then determine if there is a reason (rarely) to release the leash as well.

What Wind Conditions Are Best For Kiteboarding?

Kiteboarding is now possible in winds as light 10mph or slightly less and up.  However, it is very difficult and takes a high skill level and specific equipment to ride in very light and very strong winds.  Despite the possibilities of riding in very light and very strong wind, in general kiteboarding takes place in wind between 12 or 13 mph at the lightest, and 30 mph at the strongest.  Although it is possible in winds less than 10-11 mph it is very difficult even for specialized lightwind kites to fly in such light wind, and therefore requires a lot of rider kite handling skill.   And although many experienced riders are most excited by and prefer to ride in strong winds above 25 mph, kites are also difficult to use in those conditions as they become very powerful and very fast and sensitive as well.  So although the minimum possible wind for kiteboarding is around 8 mph, and the maximum is determined by a riders skill level, equipment, and judgement, many kiters agree that the best all around wind strength for most levels and styles of kiteboarding is between 15 and 25 mph.

Where Do Kiters Find Information About Wind Conditions And Riding Locations?

There are many resources available to kiters regarding local riding locations as well destinations around the world. Contacting a kiteboarding shop in your area or your vacation destination is always a great way to get good information.  In addition to that, listed below are some popular and recommended online resources:

WindAlert – Up to the minute wind readings from everywhere, plus the best forecasting and historical wind data available.

$20 subscription discount when you sign up for WindAlert through PROKITE.  sign up here:  

International Kiteboarding Organization (IKO) – very important: great info and resources for kiteboarders.  Travel insurance, safety information, listings of certified and accredited schools and stores for destinations around the world.  Kiter and Instructor ability certification governing body.  Sign up and be a member after you get certified by PROKITE.

Kiteforum – Global kiteboarding forum with info from around the world

Nwkite – NorthWest Forum and Information Resource

Pskite – Seattle area Forum and Information Resource

Bayareakiteboarding – San Fransisco and California Forum and Information Resource

Masskiting – Massachusetts and North East Forum and Information Resource

Centraltexaskiteforum – Texas! Austin, SanAntonio, Houston, Dallas, Forum and Information Resource

Lakawa – A school, a store, and a lot of great info regarding the Upper Mid West, Great Lakes Region

Sbc Kiteboarding Magazine Online – stay up to date with this kiteboarding mag covering the Americas and the World scene

The Kiteboarder Magazine Online – another great kiteboarding mag covering the Americas and World

KiteWorld Magazine Online – and another great kiteboarding magazine, lots of worldwide coverage and information

PKRA – official site for the kiteboarding PRO WORLD TOUR

Kite-Trips – Kiteboarding travel and destination information

Need2Kite –  ” The social travel network for kitesurfers only.”