A water sport currently booming in popularity and gaining more and more enthusiasts every day, kitesurfing provides simply unparalleled sensations of gliding across the water at surfing spots of breathtakingly wild and untamed beauty.
However, and though accessible to all, it can be a dangerous sport and requires a certain amount of discipline (i.e. a patient approach and strict adherence to safety rules). Want to find out if kitesurfing is right for you? Discover the pros and cons of this extreme sport right here.
What is kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing is a water sport that involves being towed across the surface of the water by the wind using a large kite and a board strapped to the feet.
Invented in 1984 by two water-sport-loving natives of Brittany in France (Dominique and Bruno LEGAIGNOUX), kitesurfing – also known as kiteboarding– has grown considerably in popularity over the past 20 years and now has thousands of enthusiastic practitioners across the world. Wearing a neoprene wetsuit and strapped to the kiteboard, the surfer steers the kite using a control bar connected to it by between two and four flying lines, with the whole set up attached to the kitesurfer by means of a harness.
Just like conventional surfing and other water sports of the same type, it’s possible to kitesurf at many surfing spots throughout the world. Lagoons, oceans, large bodies of freshwater: all that’s required is a strong enough wind to tow the kitesurfer along.
Due to the risks and dangers it involves, kitesurfing is classed as an extreme sport. Before practising this sport, it’s essential to undergo some form of training and be familiar with the various safety rules that need to be followed to avoid putting yourself in danger.
To ensure you feel comfortable with your equipment before venturing out on the water alone, it’s highly recommended to take a course of kitesurfing lessons with a professional instructor (at least three half-day sessions).
The instructor will teach you how to use the kite, both on the beach and on the water, including getting set up, inflating the kite, laying out the flying lines and connecting them to the kite, as well as getting it flying and manoeuvring it in the air, practising towed swimming exercises in the water, and getting back up on the board and into the wind.
An experienced professional can also teach you how to choose the right equipment for your body type (and adjust it properly), how to gauge wind force and direction and predict its power with respect to the kite chosen, how to understand tides and currents and work out which areas are safe, and what rules to follow when manoeuvring around on the water (especially right-of-way rules). As a kitesurfer, It’s essential to know these things to avoid posing a danger (to both yourself and to others) on the beach or out on the water.
The advantages the sport has to offer
In addition to the exciting sensations it provides, the sport has many other advantages to offer. To begin with, it’s worth noting that though kitesurfing does require you to be in good physical shape, it’s not a sport reserved exclusively for the highly fit and athletic.
Additionally, it’s perfectly possible to take up kitesurfing as a complete beginner with little or no experience of surfing type sports and water sports in general. Though it requires a considerable amount of practice to get better and requires strict adherence to safety rules, kitesurfing is a sport in which you quickly reach the stage where you can go out on your own (lagoons and bodies of relatively shallow water are recommended when it comes to learning how to kitesurf).
Freeride, freestyle, wakestyle, kite foil… the various styles of kitesurfing available enable you to vary the enjoyment you get from the sport and provide lots of possible ways you can specialise, which means you can choose to concentrate on perfecting your skills in one particular area.
The equipment required to practise the sport is not particularly bulky and cumbersome, and whether on shallow water or large waves, kitesurfing provides unparalleled sensations of gliding across the water no matter what your chosen surfing spot… And there are so many!
There are thousands of kitesurfing spots all over the globe popular with kitesurfers from all around the world. A kitesurfing course in Cape Verde, the freestyle kitesurfing World Cup in France, a road trip around the various different spots in north-east Brazil: all offer the promise of unforgettable experiences in wild, untamed, idyllic settings. Click here for a fantastic range of kitesurfing equipment! Kitesurf is cool but follow my 5 tips to prepare your parachute flight.
The disadvantages of kitesurfing
The main disadvantage of kitesurfing is that it’s enormously dependent on the right kind of weather conditions, especially in terms of having enough wind. Furthermore, and to practise the sport safely, you need to know how to adapt to the changing weather conditions you’re likely to encounter once out on the water. Kitesurfing requires reasonably strong winds to tow the kitesurfer along, though not too strong, as this can make it dangerous.
It’s a sport that needs to be practised in suitable locations, as there needs to be enough space available to set everything up safely (i.e. laying out the lines, inflating the kite and getting it flying) and, if necessary, to allow you to practise using the kite on land (getting it flying, controlling it and landing it). The equipment required can also be expensive to buy (at least 1,000 euros), though for occasional and one-off sessions, there are plenty of shops located close to kitesurfing spots that offer equipment for hire.
Though accessible to novices, kitesurfing does require considerable perseverance. This is because it requires patience to learn to control the kite properly and coordinate its direction with that of the board; and to avoid injuries or damage to equipment, it’s important not to cut corners during the learning process.
And finally, kitesurfing is considered an extreme sport and is one of the most dangerous of all water sports. You therefore need to be fully familiar with (and strictly follow) maritime and meteorological safety rules, and familiarise yourself with the specific natural features of the various different surfing spots (currents, reefs, tides, etc.) before doing any kitesurfing, otherwise you risk putting yourself in danger and/or injuring someone else.
Amongst all the water sports, kitesurfing is undoubtedly the one that provides the most intense sensations of gliding across the water. Though an extreme sport accessible to all and practised at sublime surfing spots all around the globe, it nevertheless requires a very cautious and safety-conscious approach, as well as a thorough knowledge of the safety rules, which, if properly followed and adhered too, will provide you with an unparalleled sensation of freedom, both on the water and in the air.