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!
Imagine not being able to continue your lesson because of a leaking kite and wasting valuable time waiting for the instructor to pack that leaking kite down and set up another one. Even worse is the fear that the kite may rip due to the evidence that the material lacks maintenance and is overused.
When you first learn to kitesurf, you will likely use the equipment from the school you choose. But how do you know if they have the right kitesurfing equipment to allow you to start off great? That is why we have made this guide to help you.
It takes everyone a different time to become a kitesurfer. As a beginner, you should know what you are up against and how fast you will be able to enjoy riding the wind. To help beginners like you, we made a helpful guide to learning how to kitesurf.
Here is a list of all the kitesurfing equipment that you’ll need. We also added a few additional information to help you familiarize yourself with the gear.
This is the most important equipment and usually the first thing that attracts people’s attention. Kites vary in shapes and sizes depending on your weight, the strength of the wind, your level, and the discipline you are practicing. Sometimes, you can notice a number on the canopy of the kite, which indicates its size in square meters.
Types of Kites
There are now a lot of different kite variations, but the two main categories are LEI and Foil.
- Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI)
These kites are single-skin kites with inflatable bladders to provide structure. They are flown using a control bar with 2, 4, or 5 lines.LEI kites are the most common ones because they are great for water use due to the inflatable bladders that cause the kite to float on the water surface. Unlike foil kites, they can sit on the water for an extended period and still be re-launched easily.
LEI kites come in four designs: C-kites, delta kites, hybrid kites, and bow kites. Compared to foil kites, LEI kites are easier to fly, can be quickly re-launched, and are more stable in gusty winds.
- Foil Kites (Arc/Bridled)
Foil kites do not have inflatable bladders. Instead, they work with either open or closed air cells that fill up to take shape and let the airflow enter the kite.If the kite is dropped on the water surface, it can sink because the air cells could potentially fill up with water. That is why foil with valves is used for water practice. However, foil kites are still an efficient design because they can generate more power and operate in lighter winds than LEI kites.
To distinguish an LEI kite a foil kite, you can look at its shape. Foil kites have a higher aspect ratio, and so, appear thinner and longer, similar to a paragliding wing.
You should look for a kite that is compatible with your size, has a reliable safety release system, and a good amount of depower. It should also be easy to launch and have a wide wind range and stability. Below are charts of kite sizes based on an average rider using a twin-tip kiteboard.
- Wind 12-18 mph
|Rider’s Weight||Kite Size|
- Wind 16-24 mph
|Rider’s Weight||Kite Size|
- Wind 22-30 mph
|Rider’s Weight||Kite Size|
Ripstop polyester is the material that is generally used to make kites. In addition to this ripstop fabric is the inflatable plastic bladder that expands the front edge of the kite and its smaller struts. Inflating these bladders will give form and rigidity to the kite’s shape.
In addition, you will often see some kites constructed with a mix of ballistic Kevlar, high-tenacity Dacron, Dacron DP175, neoprene, polyurethane, and/or Cuben fiber to offer the kite more durability and reinforcement, as well as overall shape rigidity while flying.
Although having a kite is essential, one without a control bar will be pretty much useless for kitesurfing. Combining both the kite and control bar with lines that attach to the kite will bring you closer to having all the equipment you need for kitesurfing.
Control bars vary in weight, lengths, and comfort depending on the manufacturer. Some control bars are shorter, while others are longer anywhere between 30 and 60 cm (12 to 23 inches). Generally, smaller control bars are made for smaller kites, while larger control bars are made for larger ones. The control bars’ sizes change based on the kite size to allow for easy control and proportional leverage.
You may also notice that some control bars are lighter than others. This can slightly affect its performance, but predominantly affects the rider’s comfort. Some people prefer a bolder and heavier feel, while other riders prefer a thinner and lighter control bar. In the end, all control bars are created to control the kite as safely and efficiently as possible.
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.
When you steer, your input in the bar will be transferred to the kite through its lines. The number of lines varies based on the manufacturer and type of kite you are flying. Generally, you can either have 2, 4, or 5 lines with varying lengths from 5 to 24 meters (16 to 79 feet) and more. The length of the lines can change based on your level of progression since shorter lines are recommended when learning to fly, while 20-and-above-meter (65-and-more-foot) lines are used to start riding.
Two of those steering lines are connected on the outside parts of the bar, or the backlines, and 2 or 3 of those lines, or front lines, are going through the center of the bar. The main safety system is attached to one of the front lines.
The safety system of each control bar may also slightly vary because there now is a modern and safer system that utilizes a “push-away – quick-release” system that will open the “chicken-loop” and decrease the power of the kite. Doing this will engage a re-ride safety system that will instantly flag out the kite and stop it from pulling you.
The quick-release safety system is one of the main reasons for the growth of this sport. When it did not exist, kitesurfing was classified as a dangerous activity since it did not come with a way to decrease the kite’s power. This innovation, along with the depower system, made kitesurfing much safer and more accessible.
The harness will connect you to the control bar through the chicken loop and transfer the kite’s pull to your waist. Holding the bar, steering, and feeling the whole pull of the kite on your hands is extremely exhausting, hence why we use a harness to support the power of the kite.
Although a harness may come in many different shapes and sizes, it is generally either a:
- Waist harness
This type of harness wraps around your waist and is similar to those used for rock climbing or sailing.
- Seat harness
This type of harness wraps around your legs and hips and offers more support and comfort. However, it can restrict your ease of motion if trying advanced tricks.
Harnesses are categorized as soft, medium, and hard depending on their overall rigidity and personal preferences and comfort. The spreader bar, which spreads the pull of the kite out on the entire structure of the harness, is a rounded and fixed metal hook that acts as its attachment point to the chicken loop. Some models offer a sliding mechanism that gives more mobility to the attachment point and is commonly used by wave riders and foilers to expand their range of motion.
Kitesurfing boards vary in shapes and sizes, which affect their performance. They also vary based on one’s level and the discipline practiced. The most commonly used board is known as a twin tip, while others use directional and foil boards. These are the three most popular types of kitesurfing boards. However, you might have also seen some creative riders who decide to ride skis, a kayak, skimboard, or even their old fridge’s door.
Types of Kitesurfing Boards
- Twin Tip
As previously mentioned, these are the most common types of boards. The term “twin tip” refers to the symmetrical outline of the board, wherein both tips are identical and enable the kiter to go left or right without switching foot positions. A twin-tip board is commonly used by beginners learning to kitesurf and can also be used as you progress.They vary in size and shape depending on your weight and level. The average size for an adult is around 137 cm (4’5) long and 42 cm (16 ½ inches) wide, while the average size for a kid is around 127 cm (4’2) long and 36 cm (14 inches) wide.
- Directional Board
These boards are primarily designed for wave riding because they enable riders to carve through the swell while being pulled by the kite and experience a feeling close to surfing. Moving from a twin tip to a directional board is a challenging and thrilling step that opens up a whole new perspective on kitesurfing.Directional boards allow riders to go in one direction at a time, hence their name. They also allow riders to change direction by switching their feet position or riding on a toeside position.
These boards also come in various shapes and sizes, with even more variety than twin tip boards, based on the rider’s preferences, level, and type of waves they ride.
- Hydrofoil Board
Hydrofoil boards are the latest obsession. These boards have a vertical mast that varies from 15-115cm (6-45 inches) long and are attached to a wing and stabilizer to act as a plane underwater and lift the board above the water surface.Basically, you generate more lift to make you hover above the water. You can then glide around using your balance, which results in very little drag in the water. Somehow, the water particles that flow above and under the foil wing can lift you above the water the same way the air particles around your kite can lift you in the air.
Hydrofoil boards have lately helped open up new kitesurfing perspectives because they are very efficient in lighter wind conditions, which enables riders to enjoy kitesurfing even more often than before.
Although some of these pieces of equipment may not have a direct impact on your performance, they are still considered essential as they provide support and increase safety.
- Short kite leash
This safety leash is connected to the front part of the harness and onto the safety line to allow your control bar safety system to work efficiently. It enables you to flag out your kite by simply activating the chicken-loop quick-release system if you are in a dangerous situation. If the solution is not resolved by doing this, you can still completely detach from your kite using your kite leash quick-release system.
Since kitesurfing is an extreme or action sport, many things can happen, and a helmet can protect your head from swinging boards, falling kites, obstacles, and other hazards on the beach, and even water impact.
- Buoyancy aid
Kitesurfing involves water, and therefore, also involves swimming. Although you might be a good swimmer, waters can still be treacherous, even on a perfect day. That is why a personal flotation device (PFD) with 50 Newtons (metric unit for force) can give you the amount of buoyancy you need to stay afloat and catch your breath after a crash and can also give you time to swim back to shore if needed.
- Line cutter
This equipment is for rare emergencies and is used to cut a line from your kite or from someone else’s line that gets wrapped around you. Modern harnesses usually come with a slot under their spreader bars, which you can use to store and quickly access a line cutter. When taking kitesurfing lessons, your instructor will have a line cutter for you and will show you how it is used.
- In addition to these, you can also use sunglasses made specifically for water sports, a hat, rash guard, sun protector, safe board recovery aids, waterproof music players, walkie-talkies, and more. Although these are not essential, they can enhance your overall experience.
- Board leashes should never be used because they are dangerous and can cause head, back, and spine injuries. A competent instructor will teach you how to retrieve your board on the water as this skill is needed to become a truly independent kitesurfer.
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.
What is the best kitesurfing kite for beginners?
The best kitesurfing kite for beginners is the Cabrinha Switchblade kite. It is considered the world’s best-selling kite for a reason. The Switchblade from Cabrinha is extremely smooth, easy to control, and easy to power up for a beginner. Few kites offer beginner-friendly handling, and most newbies who start on a different kite usually get comfortable with the Cabrinha Switchblade very quickly.
This kite facilitates waterstarts for learners and is very stable and highly predictable, making it very forgiving. It also reduces the impact of steering mistakes for beginners.
It is a 5-strut kite with a very sturdy and durable airframe and canopy, which is known to last for years and withstand abuse outstandingly. One of its most attractive features for new kiters is its outstanding capability to re-launch very reliably and fast.
In most cases, when the kite is face down on the water surface, all you have to do is pull on a backline and get the kite rolling onto its wingtip for it to shoot straight into the air. For this reason, this kite became one of the safest kites for beginners who are riding in irregular winds as it will be the first to re-launch with the least amount of wind and the last one to crash whenever the wind drops.
As beginners progress, the Cabrinha Switchblade remains relevant and still allows them to work on tricks while remaining stable and powered-up, even across gusts and lulls. It is an awesome kite for learning how to jump, reaching greater heights, and for beginners to have the confidence to push things further.
One way of ensuring that you’ll have a good time kitesurfing as a beginner is by using good quality equipment. But, as a newbie, it is inevitable that you won’t know much about the equipment that you need to use for the sport. We wrote this article to help you familiarize yourself with kitesurfing gear even before you hit the waters. As long as you remember what we shared above, you’re good to go.