It takes everyone a different time to become a kitesurfer. To learn how to kitesurf, you should know what you are up against and how fast you will be able to enjoy riding the wind.
With the goal of riding upwind, it should take 15 to 20 hours to learn how to kitesurf, and this includes instructor training. The actual learning time will depend on your skills, fitness level, the water and wind conditions, the quality of your instruction, and the frequency of your sessions. So if you really set your mind to it and have access to the right instructor and conditions, you can learn to kiteboard in just a few days.
To give you an idea of the steps involved and how much time each one takes, read along.
It is important that you have the right kitesurfing equipment set up, especially when you are just starting. Having high-quality and well-maintained equipment will make learning much easier and enjoyable. If you’re a beginner, check out our guide to choosing kitesurfing equipment to know more about the gear that you need for the sport.
Learning How to Kitesurf
These are the things that you should expect when you sign-up for kitesurfing lessons.
Stage 1: Flying and Security (3 hours)
- The first thing you need to learn with an instructor is how the wind works and how to fly the kite. You’ll probably start with a beginner kite, which is small and has a low power so you can maneuver it easily with your hands, without any harness.
- At this stage, you learn basic wind theories and need to spend about half an hour familiarizing yourself with flying a small kite to learn how to give it power, turn it around, and feel the traction.
- Afterward, you can use an actual kitesurf kite that has the power to pull you. This step requires you to wear a harness around your waist, on which you can tie the lines.
- Finally, you will learn how to set up your kite and lines, launch, and fly your kite in a neutral and power zone. You will also learn how to land your kite safely, depower the kite, and use the quick-release system.
Stage 2: Body Dragging (3 hours)
- The next stage consists of learning body dragging. This is done by getting dragged by your kite in the water without any board and in a controlled way and direction.
- This step may be the most exhausting, particularly if the wind is strong, but it will teach you how to get into the water with the kite up, get yourself dragged downwind, right, and left, and away from the shore and back. You will also learn how to steer your kite with only one hand, exit the water, re-launch your kite after a crash, and control your kite with the bar detached from your harness.
- This stage requires another 3 hours because you will also learn some essential self-rescue techniques with full safety gear. That is the part where you will spend a lot of time walking back up against the wind as the body dragging can take you far downwind.
Stage 3: Water Start (3 hours)
- At this stage, you will be using your kiteboard. This is a difficult step because, at this point, most people do not yet know how to completely control their kites, especially while in the water. Three hours is narrowly enough to master this phase, but it will still give you enough exposure so you can continue on your own later.
- You will then learn how to get in the water with the board in your hand, be in a water start position with your feet in the straps, and control the kite’s position using the bar. You will learn how to power your kite and get pulled into a standing position on your board, how to stay up and ride forward, and how to recover your board through an upwind body drag. This process will also help you get used to riding your board in both directions, which, for most people, feels unnatural and requires more practice.
- At this stage, you may end up even further down the beach than in the previous stage due to your many attempts to ride your board. Again, expect to exert more effort in walking upwind on the beach with your kite pulling you backward. A lot of time can be wasted walking, but if someone can come pick you up in a buggy, that part can be avoided.
Stage 4: Actual Riding (3 hours)
- At this stage, you are done with most of the hard parts. Now, you are ready to start having some real fun. Most people actually decide to do this step on their own, but others still want to be under an instructor’s supervision.
- Assuming that you already mastered the water start, this stage mainly involves riding. However, you still can’t ride upwind, so you are only riding downwind, which results in long, tedious walks back up on the beach while your kite is pulling on your harness in the opposite direction.
- At this point, you will learn how to improve your board stance, body position, leg pressure to edge the board, and how to maintain the power of your kite after your water start. You will practice riding downwind without losing too much power and avoid your kite dropping.
- This is a big step because beginners tend to ride in the same direction as the kite, which results in the loss of all tension in their lines.
- Again, you can waste a lot of time walking back up the beach, getting back into the water, and doing another water start. So, in reality, you will have very little riding time to work on your stance and edging.
Stage 5: Riding Upwind (3-8 hours)
- By then, you will have already spent about 12 hours training and learning how to power and depower the kite and how to get yourself pulled in a controlled way on the water. You will also have already learned how to get and stay up on the board to enjoy the traction in your harness. But, you still have one more thing to learn, and this is how to ride upwind. Note that this is the part where many people actually give up, even though they have already done all the hard work. At this point, most people already know how to ride downwind within the above time frames, give or take just a couple of hours.
- For riding upwind, on the other hand, things can be more inconsistent. You must reach that point where things are already aligned and your body suddenly understands how to maintain the tension in your kite lines and how to really push the board upwind.
- This stage may be delayed for these reasons:
- Very little effective practice time due to beach upwind walks.
- Perfect conditions, like flat water and constant yet sufficient wind conditions, are rare.
- Most beginners do not have enough free time every day/week for practice.
- Not everyone has friends who can give expert tips on how to stay upwind.
- The good news is that you are not the first person to go through this, and you can tell most kitesurf beginners, regardless of their gender, age, and level, eventually end up getting the hang of it.
Kiteboard bars or kiteboarding control bars are important pieces of equipment that you can use to steer foil or inflatable kites. Because of technological innovations, the market is filled with control bars from different manufacturers. The question is: Are kiteboard bars interchangeable? Read our article to learn more.
Tips for Beginners
Everyone starts as a beginner. We prepared 10 tips to help you improve your kitesurfing skills quickly.
- Once you are done with the stages listed above, you can ask your school if they can pair you up with another rider of the same level and rent one kite, one board, and two harnesses, helmets, and vests, so you could take turns and practice riding upwind while helping each other walk back up.
- Plan several independent kitesurf sessions, right after or the day after your last stage of lessons so your brain and body are still fresh and you can make progress right away. If you wait for too long, you might have to start some stages all over again, although at a much faster pace.
- You can also plan a trip to a kitesurfing location with steady onshore or sideshore winds, just between 15-25 knots. These are mostly lagoons or lakes that are surrounded by sandbanks and have a wide beach to launch and land the kite. Doing this can speed up your learning curve.
- Do not pull the bar tightly and close to you as you will get more power, and too much of it will get you in trouble if you begin to panic. Although doing this may seem like you have something to hold on to, it can result in a hard crash. It is best to either release the bar entirely or, more commonly, slowly push it away from you. This will not only depower your kite but will also relax the tension in your steering lines, which will make the kite turn more slowly. In the first stages of your lesson, you will probably hear your instructor tell you to “release the bar.” Don’t worry as it’s all part of the plan, and this is possibly one of the most important tricks you can learn.
- Hand position is important. That is why you should not hold the bar right to the edges as this will make your kite overly sensitive through the turns and will not lend itself well and veer off to the side. If you watch pro kitesurfers, whether in the racing, wave-riding, or freestyle discipline, you will see that they always put their hands close to the center of the bar.
- Always try to keep some tension in the steering lines and keep in mind that you can still fly the kite while releasing the control bar. This will allow you to know where the kite is and fly it without having to watch it all the time.
- When you re-launch and land the kite, your bar should be fully released. This will result in a fully depowered kite and no tension in the steering lines. It is safer to land and launch the kite on the beach when it is fully depowered and bring it down to 9 or 3 o’clock or the edge of the wind window slowly and gently.
- When your kite is at 12 o’clock, you should have enough tension to steer it, but not so much that you are being pulled downwind. Try to slightly release the control bar to keep control of your kite while preventing being pulled downwind.
- Your chest should be facing your kite at all times. You must sufficiently lean back so that you are continuously being pulled downwind. You should make sure your chest follows the kite wherever it goes, so that you can be ready to embrace the power and pull of your kite by leaning back into the harness and adding weight by making yourself heavier. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart to have a solid footing on the board, and your body should be angled back to be ready to be pulled by your kite.
- Remember that leaning back and timing are essential. Lean back earlier and put some faith in the top of the line kite. As the kite begins to dive down into the power zone, you will begin to get pulled. It is important to lean back early and put some of that extra weight into the harness not to fall forward. If you fall forward into the water, you can lose your board, and it can be really difficult to recover. Thus, it is always better to fall backward and keep the board on your feet so you can simply put your kite back up and try again.
Can I teach myself how to kitesurf?
Although it is possible to teach yourself how to kitesurf, remember that it is a high-risk activity that can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. So generally, it is not worth the risk.
If you really want to teach yourself how to kitesurf, you have to follow these steps:
- Learn the basic wind theory.
- Start with a trainer kite.
- Make sure you use reliable equipment.
- Remember to wear safety gear.
- Make sure you have a kitesurfer friend around.
- Choose the right day and place.
- Make you have a water rescue plan.
Dangers Involved in Kitesurfing
These are based on real-life experiences. However, with a minimum of awareness and quick reaction time, you can easily avoid these scenarios and stay safe.
The wind may be too strong in relation to your body weight, flying skills, and kite’s size, so you may mess up your launch, lose control of your kite, get dragged onto the rocks, down the beach, out to sea, or even inland into a tree, power lines, or building.
Temporary wind hull
Sometimes, your kite can also crash and you can’t re-launch it. There are also times where you walk up to the kite but the wind picks up again and your kite takes off and pulls you off the ground.
Quick-release system/equipment failure
Sometimes, your kite can rush down the beach with the lines and bar behind it, which can potentially hit someone and the lines can cut them like a knife.
As you are still learning, you might steer the kite too hard into the power zone, which will cause it to fall to the ground and get dragged out of control. When you hang onto the bar, you are giving more power to your kite. And as you roll down on the floor, your hands can get caught in the lines and badly cut.
The wind picks up unexpectedly
Even if your kite is in a neutral zone, the weather may suddenly change and an upward wind may lift your kite toward the sky. If you don’t react fast enough, your kite will keep going up until you just drop from a high altitude.
Unable to re-launch after a crash
The wind can sometimes side-off or off-shore, so the kite can drag you parallel to or away from the shore. If you try to trigger the quick release but your lines are tangled in the harness hook, you can get continuously dragged, at times with your head already underwater.
In the water, your kite can suddenly deflate or one of your lines can snap. As a result, the kite starts doing crazy loops, makes you lose all control, and throws you around violently. If you are wearing a board leash, your board can whip back toward your head.
Kitesurfers are likely to suffer back pain at one point or another throughout their life. Whether such back problems are due to kitesurfing itself or not, they can still greatly impact their abilities to keep riding, and sometimes, can keep them out of the water for long periods. Is kitesurfing bad for your back? Read our article to find out.
If you find kitesurfing a little frustrating, you do not have to worry as you can progress quickly by following our tips and guide above. Note that you need to learn with the right gear and at a suitable spot with a qualified instructor. If you do these, you can confidently be up and riding in just three days.
Kitesurfing is a rare sport but is also one of the fastest-growing extreme sports in the world. With that being said, you need to be comfortable in the water and have a reasonable fitness level to help you learn and progress more quickly. Be patient, take things one step at a time, and you’ll be riding the waves in no time.