16 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Getting started – kitesurfing

July 7, 2009
kitesurf-anchor

Are you looking for a new sport to try this summer? It’s the perfect time of the year to learn a new water sport, so why not try kitesurfing. It’s growing in popularity across the UK, with plenty of schools to teach you, and is a great option if you have tried and enjoyed surfing.

What’s it all about?

Kitesurfing is a hybrid of surfing, wakeboarding and kite flying. It is also closely related to windsurfing; in fact many of the first kitesurfers were windsurfers or surfers too. The first skill you will have to master is flying a kite as it is that which powers you. The next step is to take to the water –  your feet are strapped to a board similar to a wakeboard, while a harness connects you to your kitesurf kite which pulls you across the water. Once up and running you can learn to wave hop, pull tricks or just enjoy the ride!
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The basics

Is it very dangerous?

If you take to the open seas without proper guidance and instruction then yes it can be very dangerous for both yourself and the others in the sea and on the beach. That’s why it is essential to start with lessons from a qualified instructor. But with correct supervision it is no more dangerous than other similar sports like surfing or wakeboarding. There are some great courses available, both in the UK and abroad, and that’s definitely the best way to learn. See the Courses and Holidays section further down.

Where can I do it?

The two things you need are a large expanse of water and wind. Because of this, the most popular areas to try kitesurfing in the UK are in the south west in Cornwall and Devon, on the Welsh coast and along the south coast. The British Kite Surfing Association is the regulatory body for the sport in the UK. On their site is a list of both affiliated and recognised kitesurfing clubs and it is recommended that you contact your local one to get information about kitesurfing in your area. www.britishkitesurfingassociation.co.uk

If you want to head further a field you will be spoilt for choice – Tarifa in Southern Spain, Lanzarote, South Africa, Australia and Borocay in the Philippines are just some of the amazing locations you can kitesurf in.

Do I need to be very fit or have any particular skills?

Like all sports a good level of fitness will help you when starting out. While you may assume you need to be very strong, this is not the case and skill is a much more important factor. Most importantly you do need to be a decent swimmer who is confident in the sea.

If you have wakeboarded this is useful as the boards feel similar to kiteboards. If you surf you will be familiar with the waves while windsurfers will have a good knowledge of how to use the wind to their advantage. But don’t be put off if you have not done any of these sports before.

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The first skill to learn is how to fly your kitesurf kite and you will do this on dry land, usually on the beach. It is usual to start with a training kite to learn the basics. Once you have done this on the beach, usually for half to one day, you will move into the shallows to try in water and practice bodydragging – letting the kite drag you through the water. Once this is mastered it’s time to strap the board on.

What equipment do I need?

As a beginner it is not necessary to buy anything, as any course you do will provide you with the necessary equipment. This includes your kite, the harness and the board. If you get the bug you will probably want to look at investing in these for yourself though. There is lots of second hand equipment available and you may want to consider this for a cheaper alternative, particularly until your skills improve and you are inflicting less wear and tear on your kite. It’s best to get expert advice before purchasing from a kitesurf shop or school, as they will be able to advise you on the best equipment for beginners.

If you are buying kit new you can expect to spend £700 – £1000 on a 11/12m kite complete with bar and lines, £400- £600 on your board and  £50 – £100 on your harness.

If you go for second hand please be very wary of buying really cheap kit, it’s likely to be old and not have the up to date safety systems  Also be careful on ebay for your first kite as there’s a lot of difference between the models – it’s best to take advice from an instructor or shop. Finally be careful when buying kit from schools abroad as they have a bad habit of getting rid of unsuitable kit because there not going to see you again.

If you are buying good second hand kit you can expect to spend  £250 – £400 on a 11/12m kite complete with bar and lines,  £175 – £300 on your board and £25 – £60 on the harness.

The above list of kit is a minimum requirement, once you are experienced you will end up with two kites to cover a larger wind range.

What do I wear?

Like other watersports it depends a lot on where you are doing it and therefore the temperature of the water. In the UK you will want to wear a wetsuit, but if you venture to warmer waters, boardshorts and a rash vest will be fine. Just make sure that you are covered where your harness sits or else it may rub. Many kitesurfers are now choosing to wear a helmet and this is advised for beginners.

A new winter wetsuit will cost around £120-£300, a new summer wetsuit will be £40-£150 while a new helmet (don’t buy helmets second hand) will be from £40-£120.

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Courses and holidays

You can sign up for any length of time from just a few hours to a week, but Liesa from Coastriders kitesurf school in Wales says, “On average it takes an average student up to 15 hours with little or no experience under the guidance of one of our professional instructors accompanied by the ideal wind and water conditions in order to learn the basics.”

Coastriders is run by two qualified female instructors in a beginner friendly spot in Aberdovey in west Wales. They teach you on big fat kitesurf boards with the latest bow style kitesurf kites to make sure you are up riding as quickly and safely as possible. You can join a group or have one on one tuition.  www.coastriders.co.uk

Learn2Ride kitesurfing school in Poole harbour, Dorest is another great choice for beginners. Protected from the sea by the Sandbanks Peninsular, Learn2ride teach in a warm, shallow sandy bay in wave free water. The protected bay also offers near perfect wind conditions making it ideal for those new to kite surfing. They offer course of varying lengths but guarantee you will be in a class size of four maximum meaning you will get plenty of attention to help you get started. Instructor Karl has been involved in kitesurfing since it first began and what doesn’t know about the sport isn’t worth knowing! www.learn2ridekitesurfing.com

If you want to head abroad, Tarifa in southern Spain has an abundance of schools, thanks to its two prevailing winds that blow through the Straits of Gibraltar. Courses vary in length from a couple of days to a full week, and you can choose one with or without accommodation to suit your needs. Take a look at Kite School Tarifa www.kiteschooltarifa.net or Tarifa Boost www.tarifaboost.com for some more information.

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Once you are riding you can then pick the style of kiteboarding to suit you.

Freeride – this is a combination of all disciplines. It can include general riding, doing a few tricks and using waves to ride and may include a cruise across to another beach.

Freestyle – this is with tricks like you would see in snowboarding or wakeboarding including big air, huge jumps with up to 30seconds in the air and speed riding.

Surf – this is riding surfboards using the kite to pull you into waves and then surfing back along them.

Downwind touring – you start out miles further up the coast and kite back down to the beach. This can take all day.

Glossary

Air Time – the amount of time you are in the air for when jumping. Five to ten seconds is not unusual.

Body dragging – when you are pulled though the water without your board. You will do this on your beginner’s course.

Freestyle – this style of kitesurfing involves tricks and jumps as opposed to Freeride where the main goal is keeping a good edge and ability to traverse upwind.

Heel side and Toe side – The side of a board on the edge where a rider’s toes/heels are

Power up – a sudden increase in power to the kite, usually because of wind

Re-launch – the term for getting your kite back up in the air after it crashes

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Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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