Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Dieter Strasilla from Germany and Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux from France were developing water-relaunchable kites. They tried using these kites to pull themselves along and experimeneted using all sorts of boards, from skis to surf boards. It took some time for this new concept to filter through; windsurfing was still all-popular and it wasn’t until the mid-nineties that specialist kites were licensed and produced on a commercial scale.
As with many sports, technological and design developments have molded kitesurfing gear into what we see today, and this continues to evolve. As participants develop the sport, new concepts are taken to the drawing board and the design process advances.
Today, leading kitesurf figures and champions include men and women from around the globe. Take Aaron Hadlow, a 21-year-old, five-time kitesurf World Champion who continues to push the boundaries. Kristin Boese is the female equivalent in this sport; she is the holder of nine World Championship titles and has now made it in to the Guinness Book of Records with her unparalleled achievements.
A serious amount of energy can be harnessed kitesurfing; you can ride harder and faster compared to many other board sports. However, there is more room for fatal error, so it is crucial that you get lessons.
Take instruction with a registered, permitted and insured school, they will cover the basics before you even get in the water. The main objective is to control and fly the kite competently.
The key areas and points taught during the first kitesurfing lessons include: equipment, wind direction and location, safety and rigging, basic kite flying skills and emergency release, upwind and downwind theory, wind window, launch and land, body dragging and power strokes.
Current speed records for kitesurfers exceed 50 knots. Kites hold the world sailing speed record. Speed Kiting concentrates on moving as quickly as possible in a straight line. For normal riders, 10 – 35+ knots of consistent, steady, side, on-shore winds are perfect.
Broken down into Freestyle and Wave Riding, with Freestyle being the most popular and versatile discipline. Experienced riders can jump high in the air and do multiple spins (with the board on or off), while in total control
Also known as ‘Hangtime’, when the rider does massive jumps and tries to remain in the air as long as possible. Riders are normally in the air from five – ten seconds, the current record is 13 seconds.
Kickers and Sliders
Ramps and rails in the water, built either with wood and plastic tubing or inflatable buoys. Used to bring another element into freestyle kitesurfing for advanced kitesurfers. Similar practice found in skateboarding, wakeboarding and snowboarding.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few terms to get you started.
Air Time: the amount of time spent in the air from a jump
Body Dragging: being dragged through the water without standing on the board, a common point of practice whilst learning
Boost: to maneuver the kite to enable rider flight
Chicken Loop: a safety point and attaches the control bar to the harness
De-power: an act to lessen the kites power
DP (Dawn Patrol): an early morning session
Edge: by tilting the board on to its edge, the rider can control the direction of travel
Handlepass: passing the control bar behind the riders back while in the air and unhooked
Heel Side: opposite of ‘toe side’, to ride with weight on the heels, the most comfortable and normal riding position
Neutral Zone: an area within the ‘wind window’ that does not generate power from the wind
Nuking: when the wind blows at gale force speeds: 30 – 40 knots
Offshore: when the wind blows from the shore and across the water
Onshore: wind blowing at a 90 degree angle to and directly at the shore from the water
Overpowered: having too much power in the kite, can be for various reasons
Power Up: when the kite harnesses an increase in energy, through wind or movement
Power Zone: the area where the kite harnesses the most energy while flying, see ‘Wind Window’
Send It: to move the kite assertively up and through the power zone
Toeside: the opposite to ‘heel side’, to ride with the edge leaning down past your toes
Upwind: into the wind / following the direction of the wind
Wind Window: a three-dimensional area describing where the kite will fly. Something that illustrates the pocket of space that is necessary for harnessing the wind’s energy. Its easiest to visualized it as a clock, from times nine o’clock to three o’clock, with midday in the middle and directly over head. Within the wind window are the ‘power zones’ and ‘neutral zones’.