Kitesurfing Equipment: Safety and Choice

Like any sport in it’s infancy, kitesurfing equipment has evolved. There are three landmark inventions which made kitesurfing safer and more accessible for the broader public. Pre-2,000, kitesurfing was a two line sport. A disadvantage to only have two lines meant that the rider couldn’t adjust the power of the kite in varying wind conditions.

Manufacturers in 2000 revolutionised the sport by including two more lines to the kites, which enabled the rider to depower the kite in gusts or stronger winds. Then, in 2005, manufacturers added one more line.  

The fifth line made it easier to relaunch the kite when it dropped in the water.   Finally, in 2006, kitesurfing became infinitely safer with a new invention that fully depowered the kite whenever the rider felt they were in danger.

Nowadays the equipment caters for different types of riders and riding styles. Basic equipment comprises three different elements:  a board, a kite, and a harness in order to hold the power of the kite.

Boards can be categorized into “twin tips” and “directional” boards.  Around 1.40m long, twin tip boards are akin to wakeboards, and have two straps on them to place the feet. These boards are used not only to learn kitesurfing, but also to do high jumps and tricks in the air.

Directional boards come in two different flavors. One type of directional board resembles the classic surfboard, and is used to surf waves.

Some riders use these boards without straps, giving more freedom of movement and the original “surf-feeling”. The other type of directional board is called a “race board”.

These boards are meant for high speed and low wind. It is most likely that these types od boards will be used if kitesurfing becomes an olympic discipline.

There are two main shapes of kites to choose from.  Bow-kites tend to have a lot of power in low winds, but also high depower and are easy to relaunch in the water. These kites are used also for high jumps with long hang time in the air. “C-shape” kites, on the other hand, are used for freestyle tricks, such as kiteloops and handlepasses but need plenty of wind to relaunch.

Beginners will usually start with a bow kite. Kites come in sizes from approximately 5 square meters to 17 square meters. Depending on the body weight and the predominant wind conditions, kiters choose one or more kites in different sizes.

In Mui Ne, for example, most kiters have two kites: one 11 to 13 sqm kite for low winds in the morning, and one 7 or 8 sqm kite for strong winds in the afternoon.

A harness is important as it holds the power of the kite.  Beginners usually start with a “seat harness”, which doesn’t slip up the body when the kite is in a high position. More advanced riders often prefer a “waist harness”, which increases mobility for freestyle tricks and when riding waves.

Complete equipment costs with one kite may run between 1,000 and 2,000 USD.   But at least  the wind is free, and the investment is definitely worth all the fun!

Updated: Feb. 20, 2017

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