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Kitesurfing – The Essentials

Don’t be fooled into thinking everything comes as standard, invest in your passion, your safety, and yourself. Once fully equipped, kitesurfing isn’t an expensive sport: your kit is fairly easy to transport – kites pack into rucksacks and boards are rarely over 1.5m long, so you don’t need a van.

As for the wind, well, that’s free!

Safety First
There are some common-sense essentials and it may be helpful, until you’re an old pro, to keep a checklist. First-up should be sun block, PLENTY of water and high protein snacks, shades and a towel; then you’ll be needing a wetsuit, a helmet and a lifejacket. A harness is also mandatory, a seat harness is best for the less experienced surfer as it’s more secure although waist harnesses offer more mobility. It also makes sense to always take a mate.

So that’s the serious stuff taken care of, now for the fun. A word to the wise though, approach bargains with caution, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is – the same applies to preloved items. That said, if you’re buying from a reputable source (perhaps a specialist offloading last season’s gear) or a surfer you know, it could be worth it.

The Kite
Ask for expert advice and listen to it. Ignore anyone who suggests something too advanced because you will not grow into it and progress faster, you’ll just get frustrated and take longer to learn. Also, bear in mind that most kites are sold complete, that is with the bar, lines and safety system. If it states ‘kite only’ it’s just that, and so not the bargain it seems.
• C Shaped Kites: until 2006 all kites were C-shaped, but they’re really not suitable for the beginner, as they’re difficult to re-launch and harder to de-power than the alternatives, so really best left to the advanced surfers, as they lend themselves to unhooked tricks.
• Bow Kites: Bow kites are the leading edge inflatable, incorporating a bridle to the leading edge, with a concave trailing edge. They’re flatter when flying and easily de-powered and re-launched and have a wide wind range. Not so good for advanced surfers as they don’t perform as well unhooked, and lack uplift for jumping.
• Hybrid Kites are designed to combine the ‘direct feel’ of a c-shaped kite with the wind range and safety features of a bow kite.

The Board
Again, consult the experts. A good surf shop will be happy to guide you – their reputation is at stake and they’ll want you to return every time you upgrade too. As well as skill level, your height and weight will be taken into account when buying your kiteboard, but as a rule of thumb newbies will have a larger board for buoyancy before graduating to smaller, lighter boards for speed and lift. It’s so important to get this right – you have to be comfortable and happy on your board, as well as secure, so make sure you have suitable foot straps and a harness.

History of Kitesurfing

Nowadays, kitesurfing is one of the most popular water sports, providing a huge adrenaline rush to anyone that gives it a go. But did you know that everyone’s new favourite sport has its origins way back in the 19th Century?

The first kite surfers
Kites were first used as a mean of propelling carts and ships in the 1800s, when one George Pocock developed ‘kitepower’, using a four line system still in use today. As an alternative to horsepower, and, apparently, to avoid a “horse tax”, the concept was exploited by aviation pioneer, Samuel Cody, who crossed the English Channel in 1903 in a small collapsible canvas boat powered by a kite. However, it wasn’t until the late ‘70s with the development of stronger materials for flying lines, and more controllable kites, that the sport began to take shape in earnest.

Getting more adventurous
Through the late 70s and 80s, there were various attempts to combine kites with canoes, skis (snow and water) and skates; but it was the development of parachute skiing and kite skiing, and the various elements that would eventually be needed to create the kitesurf equipment that we know today. The French Atlantic coast saw the Legaignoux brothers develop kites for kitesurfing during this period, with the application for a patent of an inflatable kite design in November 1984.

By 1993, an American father and son, Bill and Cory Roesler had developed a kite ski system, which demonstrated speed, balance and upwind angle. The skis evolved to a single board in the late 90s giving rise to kitesurfing as we know it today.

The popular sport we know today
The sport was popularised off the Hawaiian coast of Maui by Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin. In 1997, the Legaignoux brothers developed and sold the breakthrough “Wipika” kite design which greatly assisted water re-launch. This, along with the development of specialised kite boards by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness, the popularity of kitesurfing was cemented as an extreme sport worldwide. Mainstream manufacturers became involved in the production of equipment in 1999, bringing the sport into everyday life. Ongoing technical developments meant that the sport became more accessible to beginners, too, with governance undertaken by the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) and International Class Association of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

Not yet an Olympic sport, there are several separate kitesurfing categories including wave riding, freestyle and jumping, course racing, speed, and kite cross, with a wide variety of kite types available accordingly.

Top 5 Kitesurfing Locations in the UK

In the 1800s a form of kitesurfing was invented to pull along carts and boats, mainly for commercial purposes, but now kitesurfing is a fun sporting hobby and is enjoyed by millions around the world.

Whilst here at Aurelia Herpin’s Kitesurfing School we are based in the beautiful surrondings of Tarifa, Spain you can enjoy kitesurfing a little closer to home!!!

Here are the best places to enjoy kitesurfing in the UK.

Perranporth Beach
Perranporth beach, on Cornwall’s north coast, boasts golden flat sands, lifeguards and a pub (on the beach!), which is said to be the only one of its kind in Britain. There are plenty of pubs and restaurants surrounding the beach so you can stay well fuelled in between kitesurfing sessions.

There’s also parking available in front of the beach and on the cliffs – the bonus is, it’s free in winter. There are two kiting zones but this beach is also very popular with other beach and watersport users.

Poole Harbour
Poole Harbour in Dorset is good for any level of kitesurfer, from beginner up to advanced level. Beginners can feel safe in the harbour’s shallow areas and for speedier, experienced surfers Dorset’s Weymouth Harbour is the place to be, especially for Weymouth Speed Week in October. This area really is watersports pedigree, with the FC Watersports Academy, Poole Harbour Watersports and Surface to Air Kitesurfing.

Rhosneigr
The UK’s best kitesurfers go to Rhosneigr in Anglesey, venue of the British National Wave Championships. However, don’t be dismayed, it’s also good for learners. Wales also boasts Kimmel Bay, near Rhyl which has a massive beach and when the humongous waves subside, you will see perfectly flat water, which is excellent for novices.

Brandon Bay
Brandon Bay in County Kerry has the great advantage of the rolling Atlantic swell and can be a challenging venue with its variable weather and wind conditions. However, you can sometime be lucky and get flat water conditions, which is great for the novice kitesurfer.

Pettycur Bay Beach
For those north of the border, Scotland is home to Pettycur Bay Beach, off a lovely old fishing village in Fife.

Pettycur Bay itself has free on-street parking and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants for your refreshment in nearby Kinghorn. The tide here can come in very quickly so beginners need to beware of this and stick to low tide rides. The rapidly incoming tide can be a hazard to those who like to stash their gear on the beach so it’s probably best to leave it in the car, well out of the way!

Strictly speaking then, we’ve listed more than five great kitesurfing venues here but the UK has so many fantastic places to enjoy the sport we could be here all day! Just grab your gear and get out there.

Kitesurfing equipment for beginners

The kitesurfing equipment for beginners is made of a kite, a bar, a board, a harness, a life jacket, a wetsuit and a helmet. The kind of equipment we use to learn kitesurfing is totally adapted to beginners, it is easy to use.

Kite, Lines and Bars 

These represent the main part of Kitesurfing equipment and are the first thing we do when we start preparing the kitesurfing equipment is to pump the struts of the kite. We start by pumping the small struts of the kite, located side.ways. Once the small struts are pumped enough (pressure is important), we then pump the main tube of the kite. To pump the kite, we use a especially designed pump that pumps both ways: when you pull up on the pump, and when you pull down on the pump. We recommend to flex your legs while pumping to avoid any back pain.

The second thing we focus on after having pumped our kite is to stretch the lines that are wrapped around the bar. We usually use a four-lines bar, which is commonly used everywhere. Some kitesurfing brands still have a few bar models with five lines, but the majority of bars now have four lines. Always make sure you grab the four lines in your hand when you stretch them on the beach, to avoid lines tangling. We will then walk with the lines in our hand, on the beach, to completely stretch the lines down on the ground. Once lines are stetched, we will then need to separate each line from the other, and attach them to the kite.

Kites for beginners are rather stable, and move pretty slowly in the wind window. Kites that are designed for beginners also tend to be less responsive than kites designed for advanced riders.

Boards 

The second part of kitesurfin equipment to consider is boards, and we can use different kind of boards, with different shapes and sizes. The kind of board most kitesurfers use is called a twin-tip, and is bidirectional.: you can ride it in both directions, without having to turn (or to jibe) and without having to change the position of your feet. Looking a bit like a wakeboard, but with straps instead of boots, that is the kind of board we use to ride and jump.

To learn kitesurfing, beginners will use big and large twin-tip boards, which are very easy to ride with. The kitesurfing boards for beginners are very stable as well. When learning to kitesurf, it is important to choose the right kitesurfing equipment for beginners, that will enable you to learn quicker.

Harnesses

A harness helps using the body weigh to sustain the pull of the kite and counterbalance it. For beginners, we mostly use seat harnesses, and for intermediates and advanced riders, a waist harness is recommended. During beginners kitesurfing lessons, we always use seat harnesses as this kind of harnesses is much more confortable and is the best kitesurfing equipment for beginners.