A beginners Guide to Kitesurfing part 1

Kitesurfing is an amazing sport , that can take over your life after your first tack upwind. Many new comers have seen it time and time again on their local beach or on TV and start out with a quick visit to e-bay for some cheap kit and then rush down to the beach to try out their new toys.  Many of these people will not end up as kitesurfers. One thing that is not obvious to many who want to start the sport is the vast amount of information that you must be familiar with before even putting a Kitesurfing kite in the air. Hopefully we can clear a lot of this up right now for those of you interested in the sport.

Back in 1995,  I first witnessed power kites being flown at our local beach. I was immediately aware of the power in one of these land kites, and one guy was using it to drag himself up and down the beach. It looked like great fun , so i bought myself a 1.8m Foil kite (a flexifoil stacker which was big in those days) , and proceeded to launch and fly it with out any tuition what so ever. After about 5 minutes of crashing it into the ground i pretty much had this kite figured out. In no time at all i was dragging myself up and down the beach and even getting a few small jumps.  I messed about with my kite every so often in the summer and even got into a bit of team Delta kite flying which involved 2 – 8 kiters each looping stunt kites around each other  other in a kind of aerobatic display with kites.  By 2000 , it was safe to say i was a pretty good kite flyer.

I was a pretty good team stunt kite flyer before attempting kitesurfing

In the spring of 2002 , i hadn’t bothered that much with kites lately , until i noticed a picture of some guy riding a surfboard , being pulled along by a kite. There where a few pictures of him jumping 20ft into the air, and this really looked exciting to me. Within a few days i had found a local sports shop who sold equipment for kitesurfing. When i visited them, the guys told me that the sport was pretty new and that they didn’t really know to much about it. I explained that i had been flying kites for 6 years , and it would be no problem. Just give me a kite, a board , and a wetsuit. They explained that a harness will be required also. £1400 later … and i was kitted out. This was gonna be so good…

Robby Naish - the early days. This was one of the images that made me want to start kitesurfing

I immediately took my equipment to the beach and i was filled with some serious excitement. The kite was a 12m North Rhino and a 148cm light wave board. The kite was much bigger than i had flown before , but seemed pretty straight forward. The wind was blowing a very poor 7knots , but after a quick read of how to set up, and a very quick dismissal of the warnings, i had the kite set up and ready for flight. All the kites i had flown in the past had warnings, and this was just the same thing except bigger so i was pretty confident i could handle it. I suppose now is a good time to mention i was also wearing my wetsuit and had my board right beside me. After all, by the end of today , i was gonna be kitesurfing, or so i thought.

I attempted to launch the kite the best way i know how for light winds. Right in the centre of the wind window. (IE the wind on my back and the kite straight in front of me. ) Within about 0.25 of a second i had hit the sand hard. Lucky for me there were no rocks in the way or i would have been sore. I regained control and with a bit more caution , proceeded to steer the kite left and right. I was getting the hang of it pretty much and found it quite easy, thanks to my previous years of experience. The wind was still only blowing a poor 7 knots , but the power in this kite was incredible for such light winds.  Then just as i was getting comfortable the kite fell out of the sky. I had absolutely no control of it and just watched as it hit the deck giving me a hard pull on the way. With no one about to help the kite was upside down, and i had no idea how to get it back in the air again. It started to come to me that this was more difficult than i had first thought. After a bit of messing about the kite looked like it might just take off. the wind had picked up by a few knots , and i was teasing the kite into a launch position.  Just as i was about to brace for relaunch the kite took off and went straight up, dragging me kicking and screaming behind it. It lifted me into the air , and dropped me down on the sand with a thud. I was being dragged fast towards a wall and the kite was completely out of control. The kite slammed hard into the ground and i got back to my feet, only to be slammed into the ground again . I was fast running out of beach , and just couldn’t seem to gain control of the kite. Luckily for me the kite crashed down into a heavey thicket, and was quickly deflated by about 30 thorns that pierced the bladder. Well i guess that sorted out the landing issues.

Everyone should know and understand the wind window before attempting to fly any kite

Everyone should know and understand the wind window before attempting to fly any kite

I had learnt a very valuable lesson the hard way that day. Kitesurfing kites are very dangerous , and even more so in the hands of over confident amateurs who don’t know the dangers. They have very few similarities with small 1-2m foil kites and are much much more dangerous. Luckily i escaped with a few bruises and a badly damaged kite. It could have been a lot worse.

I did a little bit of research and found a local instructor , who taught kitesurfing most weekends not far from me. As it was such a new sport , he was the only one in the country at the time, but now there are quite a few. I learned about many of the dangers of the sport, some of which didn’t even involve the kite. We where taught how judge the right kite size for different conditions, how to launch and land safely , what to do in different emergency situations, how to retrieve our boards when you lose them in the water and the kite is pulling you in the wrong direction, and a whole bunch of other stuff that i just could not have taught my self. It needed some one to show us because there are just to many things that can go wrong. Flying the kite is one thing , but if the kite drops down in the water when you are 1/4 mile out to sea and dragging you away from the bay , you need to know what to do right away. Now is not the time for trial and error. There a lot of situations a kitesurfer may find themselves in , and you must know how to react to them quickly. If not if could prove fatal.

Would you know how to re-launch this?

Would you know how to re-launch this?

After some lessons, our instructor put us in touch with some local kitesurfers who where very helpful. I still had a long way to go, but many of the local lads helped me out and a few weeks on i was kitesurfing . From then on it was just adrenaline wind filled addiction.

The mistakes i made, was the same mistake many newbies make. I thought i could teach myself. To a kitesurfer, this seems almost ludicrous, but when you know nothing about the sport it just seems the natural thing to do. So first and foremost get a few lessons. You can trash your instructors kite before trashing your own. You will get a feel for the sport and and chance to decide if it is for you before purchasing equipment. You will also get an idea of just how much there is to learn in this sport and some of the dangers associated with it. If your budget does not allow for an instructor , you need someone with experience to spend time with you and teach you the basics and emergency routines, but i would recommend professional tuition first and foremost. A list of professional instructors will be in part 2.

The next part of our beginners guide will concentrate on some useful resources that will help out anyone just starting or thinking about starting kitesurfing.

9 Responses to “A beginners Guide to Kitesurfing part 1”

  1. Wayne Holt Says:

    Thanks for some good advice. Just come back from bank holiday weekend down in Poole and saw loads of these guys making it look very easy, but as you said guessed it wasn’t. Ex motorcycle track day instructor wanting a change and this looked a similar sort of adrenaline rush so i’ll be looking for some lessons soon. Looking forward to part 2, cheers again

  2. Aaron Williams Says:

    Hi There,

    I really would like to give this a go. Where can I get lessons in N.Ireland?

    I will also require a starter package, what do you recomend?

    Thanks for your knowledge.


  3. Hi Aaron

    no problem. Just drop me an email via our website, kitesurfwarehouse.com and i will put you in touch with an instructor and advise you on equipment.

  4. Read your piece with interest, first saw the sport in Greece came back and had two lessons but never got onto the board. Instructor now in Aus not due back till April, lucky sod. Looking to practice what I’ve been taught and need a kite, got harness, can you recommend something for 80kg bloke 6ft.

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