Common Questions about Kiteboarding

What is kiteboarding?

Kiteboarding is an exhilarating and dynamic sport involving the use of a wind-powered kite for propulsion across the water. There are many variations and styles of kiteboarding, including kitesurfing, freestyle kiting, wakestyle kiting, and hydrofoiling. An endless amount of skills and tricks to learn means that kiteboarding can be as challenging and as rewarding as you wish to make it. Kiteboarding is a very versatile sport, with skills that also carry over to snowkiting and landkiting. Kiteboarders make up a diverse global community anywhere and everywhere that there is wind. 

How long does it take to learn to kiteboard?

Although everybody learns and progresses at different rates, many people are up and riding at a beginner level within their first 4-6 hours of kite experience. Kiteboarding is a complex and unique sport with many variables that can only be learned through experience, and therefore we always recommend at least 10-15 hours of supervised kiteboarding to new riders. Even 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 with which to continue to improve and expand your kiting skills, experiences, and fun.

How much gear does a kiter need?

To be a well equipped kiter, you don’t need much.  A basic set-up (also known as a “kit” or “quiver”) consists of the following:

  • Harness (and Kite Leash)
  • Control Bar
  • Board
  • 2 Kites (Different sizes)
  • Kite Pump

Your entire kit, (excluding the board) can fit into a large back-pack or kite-bag.

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, safety gear such as a helmet and vest (for flotation and crash protection). Many riders also invest in other accessories like floating sunglasses with a headstrap, 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. 

What does it cost to kiteboard?

The up-front cost of kiteboarding can be daunting, however the initial investments of kiteboarding lessons and your first set of gear represent virtually all the costs associated with the sport for several years worth of riding. Compared to many other recreational activities with annual or daily expenses, kiteboarding ends up below the average in terms of long-term cost. It’s important to remember that kiteboarding represents an investment in your fitness as well as inclusion to an amazing and colorful worldwide community.

PROKITE considers competent instruction by trained professionals the single most important investment in kiteboarding. Knowledge concerning safety, environmental awareness, and efficient technique is priceless, and is nearly impossible to replicate under other circumstances lacking a professional structure.

It is always possible to save money by purchasing used gear, and used gear is often perfectly safe (for best results, buy from someone you know or a reputable kiteboarding store). Avoid very dated gear which often lacks modern safety systems.

How long does kiteboarding gear last?

If treated properly, kiteboarding gear will last for years. You can prolong the life of your gear by keeping it stored in a cool place, rinsing with freshwater, inspecting the equipment before every session for signs of wear, and being proactive in replacing aging or heavily worn components. (See next question below for elaboration on care & maintenance). The typical rider won’t start finding anything of concern until their gear has at least 3 years of use. Even then, the repair or replacement costs for worn out items are usually low (less than $100). Although it’s always nice to have newer gear, many riders hold onto their favorite gear for a decade or more by taking great care of it. Being diligent and keeping your gear in good working condition is also a great way to stay safe on the water. 

Below is a breakdown of the lifespan of the 4 major equipment items (boards, harnesses, control bars and kites) based on a kiteboarder who uses his gear on average 50 times a year (nearly once a week), and is somewhat careful with it (doesn’t drag it around on the pavement in the parking lot or crash it into trees or rocks, or leave it baking for hours in the hot sun on a sand-swept beach in 30 mph winds while taking a nap in between awesome sessions every day on South Padre Island, etc)….

Boards: 10+ years. Good quality kiteboards are strong and durable, and will generally last for as long as you would like to ride them. With the exception of those who ride at the most aggressive level, it’s uncommon to break, damage, or wear out a kiteboard. In fact, the main reason that kiters replace their boards 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.

Harnesses: Between 4 and 8 years. Webbing, stitching, and the structural support materials inside harnesses will break down with use, although harnesses vary in quality and construction. 

Control Bars: 4-5 years. Control bars are generally built tough, but longevity depends on the conditions they are used in, the riding technique used, and how well they are cared for. They are made up of a number of components, some which tend to wear out quicker than others. Components include the kite/flying lines, the power control line that runs through the bar and the associated trim adjustment system, the grip material on the bar itself, and the harness loop that hooks to the harness. Fortunately, components can usually be replaced easily, with costs ranging from a few bucks up to $250 (for a new set of lines, for example).

Kites: 5-7+ years per SET of kites, often much longer, sometimes less. Because kites are the most fragile piece of equipment, longevity varies greatly and is highly dependent on care and use. Keep in mind that most kiters have a quiver of 2 or more kites to accommodate varying wind conditions, so the more kites in your quiver, the less wear each will accumulate.

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 the force from high winds or aggressive riding can cause the canopy to fail (tear) and you will be swimming back to shore. Although kites may last a long time, we recommend for a rider that uses his kite 50 times a year to retire the kite after 3 years.

In addition to the canopy, there are a number of smaller components that need to be checked for wear throughout the life of the kite. Bridle lines and pulleys, 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.

How do I care for and maintain my gear?

In general: Keep your gear stored in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, rinse with freshwater, inspect the equipment before every session for signs of wear, and be proactive in replacing aging or heavily worn components.

Boards: 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). Delamination, meaning the separation of the board’s layers, is fatal, but board replacement can be delayed by gluing the layers back together with epoxy or super glue.

Harnesses (and Kite Leash): Quite low-maintenance. Keep it clean and let it dry (out of the sun) after each session before putting away.

Control Bars: Be careful not to drag your bar and lines across rough surfaces. Place it, instead of 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 they become snagged, carefully un-snag, avoiding yanking and pulling.  Rinse sand and grit off your bar thoroughly before riding. Rinse your bar in freshwater 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 contact with any of the lines and ropes.

Kites: Sun and wind are very harsh on your kite’s canopy (the main sail fabric and the stitching holding it together). Deflating and packing up between sessions instead of leaving rigged and sitting in the sun and wind will greatly extend your kite’s longevity. Store your kites indoors, in a cool dry climate.  Ensure your kite is both dry and clean before packing away. Ensure your kite is on a soft surface when it is on the ground- be mindful of sticker burrs, seashells and other sharp objects. Take care to avoid dragging across rough surfaces. Secure your kite with a soft weighted bag or other non-abrasive object when it is on the ground (instead of sand and especially rocks). Kites can be treated periodically with UV-protective and waterproof coatings, much like re-waterproofing outdoor clothing. You can use kite-specific treatments (recommended) or any outerwear fabric cleaner and waterproofing should work (test in small area first).  Cleaning the canopy material and re-treating once a year will greatly improve the longevity of your kite’s fabric, especially if you use your kites in high-UV environments like the tropics or on the snow.

PRO TIP: The delamination of kite valve/bladder attachment points is one of the first things to happen to your kite, and will cause the associated bladder to leak air. Even if just one appears to be leaking air, you’ll likely avoid the same hassle in the near future by having all of them re-glued at once. Repair small holes/rips in your canopy immediately. New kites usually come with a small canopy repair patches. 

What if I tear or break my kite?

Damage to kites outside of the usual wear and tear can almost always be fixed. Even major repairs, such as canopies torn completely in half, generally don’t 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 performance with little to no change in the overall lifespan or usability of the kite. Many kiteboarding lesson centers or stores offer repair services, and there are also mail-service companies that specialize in fixing kites. PROKITE offers repairs on a case-by-case basis. 

What are the safety systems in kiteboarding?

First and foremost, the #1 “safety system” in kiteboarding is your own environmental awareness, common sense and good judgement. Every kiter must know how to properly assess the wind strength and quality before launching a kite, confirm that there is a safe and obstacle free launching and landing area, thoroughly assess the unique conditions and hazards of the area you will be riding in, avoid riding near obstacles and in shallow water, keep a safe distance from other kiters and watermen, avoid unnecessary multi-tasking (put the kite down before attempting distracting tasks), be mindful of potentially dangerous situations, know when to disable the kite and always be prepared to self-rescue. In addition to keeping yourself safe, as a kiter you have a responsibility to be courteous to and protect all bystanders as well. Kites are deceptively powerful and can become dangerous when paired with incompetence or over-confidence. “When in doubt, don’t go out.” Unlike in other sports in which you may be able to “wing it,” in kiteboarding there is no replacement for learning these and other considerations from competent professionals and practicing them in a supervised environment. 

Other than that, “safety systems” in kiteboarding refers mainly to the 2 built-in safety mechanisms on the gear itself- the Primary and Secondary Quick Releases.

Quick Release Systems:  A kiter attaches himself to the control bar (and thus, the kite itself) in two places on the kite harness. At both of those attachment points, quick release mechanisms 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: Control bars have a harness loop which attaches to the harness. On the harness loop is the Primary Quick Release.  If the kite becomes out-of-control, or the rider otherwise needs to separate from it immediately, the rider activates the Primary Quick Release mechanism which opens the harness loop and releases the rider from 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 attaches the harness to the leash line on the control bar (also known as a kill line or disable line). If the kiteleash is properly attached when the Primary Quick Release is activated, the rider should still be attached to the kite by way of the leash line, which disables the kite so that it cannot fly or pull, while preventing the kite from being totally separated from the rider and lost. In the uncommon event that the rider needs to separate completely from the kite, there is a Secondary Quick Release on the kite leash that can also be quickly and easily activated. ***It is very important to double-check that the correct end of the leash is attached to the harness. 

The Quick Release Systems are always used in the same order: Primary, then Secondary.  A kiter must first detach from the harness loop to activate the leash, then determine if it is necessary to release the leash as well.

What wind conditions are best for kiteboarding?

Thanks to new lightweight and large surface area kite models, it is now possible to kite in as little as 8mph wind. Both light-wind and strong-wind kiting require advanced skills and specific equipment. Despite the possibilities of riding in extreme wind scenarios, kiteboarding is usually done in wind between 12/13 mph and 30 mph. In light-wind scenarios, it takes experience to keep the kite in the air, to re-launch, and to stay upwind. In strong-wind scenarios above 25 mph (which experienced kiters get very excited about), kites become very powerful, fast and sensitive, and thus, more difficult to control. 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) – Great info and resources for kiteboarders.  Travel insurance, safety information, listings of certified and accredited schools and stores for destinations around the world. Governing body for multi-level kiter and instructor certification.  Sign up to become 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 Francisco 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 and 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.”