Kiteboarding

Kiteboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and is increasing in popularity particularly in South East Asia where there is a wealth of excellent kiteboarding sites situated in the coastal regions. In most tourist areas now you are sure to find kiteboarding centres with qualified instructors and safe equipment.

This isn’t a sport for the faint hearted, and all you need to do to prove this is to go out and watch some kiteboarding in action. As the kiteboarders skim across the surface of the sea, deftly controlling the kite and the board, occasionally leaping high into the air as they catch a wind current, it becomes obvious that strength, stamina and a basic level of fitness are required to even think about learning this adventurous sport.

Kiteboarding is also sometimes known as kitesurfing, but in fact they are two different sports. Kiteboarding refers to a style of riding which is freestyle or wake-style, whereas kitesurfing is more about actually riding the waves. The two require different kites and boards for the real enthusiasts.

Before taking up kiteboarding you need a few basic things in place. Firstly you need to not only know how to swim but to feel confident in deep water. Before even putting a toe into the water you should have a few hours instruction in flying a stunt kite as basic flying skills will help you when you first go out on the board.

Lessons are important. This is one sport which should not be taken lightly as it can be quite dangerous. The kites are heavy and need to be handled with care, and riding the wind requires dexterity and skill. IKO (International Kiteboarding Association) acts to kiteboarding as PADI does to scuba diving. It regulates and certifies the sport for novices and advanced kiteboarders alike. Kiteboarding schools and centres should be certified by IKO as should their instructors.

An IKO training course means qualifying at three different levels from beginner to advance: Discovery, Intermediate and Independent. There is a handbook to study, stunt kites to practice with and different tasks to complete at every level. For example at the Independent level you need to demonstrate a toe side turn, land a basic jump and show that you can change direction without stopping.

Taking up kiteboarding is not a decision to be made lightly as the equipment is expensive and necessitates a lot of looking after. Kites change and advance every year, much like cars, and you therefore need to be wary of purchasing older gear as you need to have detailed information on how the control and safety features operate. You also need to know how the kite differs from the one you practiced with in your lessons and how comfortable you are going to be if it is an older model requiring more control and attention to safety.

Companies and websites often offer cheap deals on kites and novices buy without reading the small print. Modern, depowerable kites need bars and lines and if they aren’t included in the deal you will have an expensive added extra. You need to do some careful research first, looking into the brand and type of kite you are buying to see if all of the equipment is included in the asking price.

Once you have your kite you need to look after it carefully. Unfortunately sand is your kite’s worst enemy as it is so abrasive. It needs to be thoroughly cleaned and dried before being packed away.

Never go kiteboarding alone. Launching by yourself is not only dangerous but actually causes more wear and tear on your kite. If you go with other kiteboarders or near a kiteboard centre, the etiquette is to help each other launch the kite. This also means there are people around to help if things go awry at any stage.

Kiteboarding is a sport which guarantees an adrenaline rush and tends to become very addictive. Many people spend half their salary on equipment and hours and hours discussing intricate maneuvers with other enthusiasts. As a beginner you need to push through the first few lessons which will leave you red-faced and embarrassed as gawkers roll around in hysterics on the beach, but once you have mastered the kite and board you won’t look back.