One has to ask: when do you switch to a new sport? What can make you try something new? Those of us who pursue extreme sports, though, know the answer. Whenever we can! There is a thrill in becoming the best, or at least very skilled, at a sport. It’s a rush that most people (sorry for them!) never get to experience. But sometimes, a new sport comes along that combines all the elements needed to make it great. One such sport is kitesurfing.
What It Is
Kitesurfing is an interesting amalgam of other sports mashed up together that makes something awesome in the end. It combines elements of surfing, paragliding, wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, skateboarding and gymnastics. The kitesurfer basically uses a huge power kite that helps to pull them through the water on a kiteboard, which is basically a small surfboard. It can be done with or without being harnessed to the board.
What Can You Do?
What can’t you might be the better question! The average kitesurfer (more than two million in the world!) has a number of choices of styles they might like to pursue. You can be a jumper and kitesurf in the waves. You could go wakestyle, which is very popular for younger riders, doing tricks and aerials with a more wakeboard-like kiteboard. You could be a speed kitesurfer, aiming to race to get every ounce of speed you can. It’s pretty hardcore, considering that the world record is more than 50 knots, which is just shy of 60 miles per hour!
Then we get down to the most popular two styles. Wave riding is combining kitesurfing with surfing, and it is awesome! This style allows the ‘surfer to use the power kite for additional speed, balance and turning, which takes the surfing to a whole different level.
The most popular style of all, though, is freeride. This is the base of kitesurfing, and it’s all about learning how to kitesurf and getting a feel for this amazing sport. Some kitesurfers never leave this “style” as they love the freedom associated with it, and the vast maneuverability and relaunch capability of the kites that are available.
Getting Your Gear
Most people, unless super extreme high-level athletes, will want to begin with a freeride kit. These typically include twintip boards and power kites which are wide and easy to use, and all the other accessories you need. Kitesurfing has become popular enough that there are over a dozen major brands of boards and power kites at this point, and many minor brands as well.
A good all-around freeride kit will cost you a bit under 2,000 dollars, though this doesn’t include general things like a wetsuit, kite pumps (as most kites have inflatable edges), specialized steering bars, harnesses, and many other little items such as carry bags and action cameras, etc. One thing you may want to look at, though, is the clearance section of kitesurfing gear retailers. If you are willing to do your own research on what goes into a kit for a specific style, you can get some great deals by buying piecemeal. A strong suggestion from us, though, is to try before you buy.
Getting Ready to Go
If you have your own gear, the sky (well, the water really!) is the limit. Pretty much anywhere that has a large body of water and wind is fair game. One needn't travel all the way to the ocean or a sea to kitesurf, for large lakes can do just as well, if not better, for those who are learning. There are literally kitesurfing centers around the world, including but not limited to: England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Morocco, Zanzibar, the Grenadines, Namibia, South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Greece, every single island we looked at in the Caribbean, and all throughout the U.S. on lakes, reservoirs, and up and down the coastlines.
Each and every one of them offers courses and kit rentals. Usually, kitesurfing lessons for beginners and intermediates are around $150 to $350 per session for private lessons, and about half that for group lessons, which almost never go above 3 people. This includes the gear rental as well. Don’t worry though, it only takes a few sessions to really get the hang of it! You will be jumping, turning and doing a few basic tricks by the end of the first session, guaranteed!
Some Great Places
In the U.S., there are a bunch of different areas that have the right conditions. Remember that most of these places are good only in spring and fall, as the wind conditions tend to be heavier in those seasons. Winter in some places is ok, as long as it is a warmer climate, but invariably summertime mostly sucks. Cape Cod is a great place to go, especially if you have a good wetsuit. Hawaii seems to be a hotspot, with two of the best places in the U.S. there, on Maui and Oahu. The southern tip of Florida, including the Florida Keys and Miami, are great places to go, especially for beginners, as the wind is good and the waves are small.
Perhaps the best place to go in the U.S., though, is the Outer Banks, North Carolina. This is a chain of long, thin islands of the northern coast. Perfect wind, wave riding outside of the islands, and glass-flat waters on the coastal side make this a great place for beginners and hardcore riders alike. This area also hosts the yearly Triple S competition, one of the biggest events in the sport.
Outside of the U.S., Grand Cayman is an excellent spot. Heading to the other side of the world, Nabq Bay, Egypt has some excellent riding, with 20-knot winds and a reef-protected bay to glide in. The Calamianes Islands in the Philippines are fabulous, with a great kitesurf camp (which is completely solar powered!) and the town of Coron nearby, which is awesome for snorkeling, jungle hiking, and kayaking.
In Europe, one of the hottest spots for kitesurfers is Tarifa, Spain, which has loads of beaches, warm weather nearly all year round, and constant and consistent winds. One of the best spots in the world is La Ventana, Baja California. There are great winds for three seasons out of the year, warm water, and the watersports go way beyond just kitesurfing. Extreme sports seem to be the theme there, though scuba diving, snorkeling and deep sea fishing are all very popular as well. It’s a great spot, and very, very cheap compared to some of the others. Trust us, you WILL love this one. Try heading down in winter for a warm weather blast!
Get Out and Try It
While it seems like a hardcore extreme sport, to get the basics of kitesurfing down isn’t a serious commitment, especially if you already practice a sport related to it, like surfing or skateboarding. One of the best feelings in the world is when you finally begin to get it down, crest the top of a wave and your power kite is hit by the right gust, and you soar into the air with incredible hangtime. Fourteen seconds at a dozen feet above the water? Yup! It. Was. AWESOME. So get out there, plan that trip, and go try it. You won’t be sorry even a little bit.