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Expert advice from real kiters
Kitesurfing for Beginners
We all start out as fresh newbies, so don't worry if this sport is all completely new to you. This kitesurfing for beginners article is designed to give you a quick and easy heads up about the greatest water sport of all time, so that you can get hooked as deeply and quickly as the rest of us!
How kitesurfing works
In basic terms, your kite works like the wing of an aircraft, creating lift due to the air passing over the surface of the kite.
The technical explanation
Getting more technical, the speed of the airflow over the top of the kite is faster than the speed under the kite (or under the aircraft wing). This results in lower pressure above compared to that below.
As a result, this creates a force pushing the kite towards the area of low pressure, which is what pulls you if the kite is connected to you. The pressure difference creates this force. Simple! Obviously there are numerous other factors at play such as wind speed and density, drag and the design of the wing or kite. We could also go on and talk about apparent wind, but we’re really getting technical so let’s move on.
Suffice to say, today’s kites are the result of years of research and development to maximise efficiency in all kinds of winds. From light summer breezes to the heaviest storm-force winds, there’s a kite for each condition. Get the right gear and be prepared for anything and have a fun and safe session.
How to kitesurf if you're a beginner
Kitesurfing for beginners, and any kiter for that matter, requires two essential ingredients:
- Wind - the speed can vary, but steady winds are much better than gusty ones
- Water - note, this doesn’t have to be the ocean. It could be a lake, for example
Beginner kitesurfing lessons
Do you need beginner lessons?
Absolutely. There is a lot to learn and you have a responsibility to yourself and those around you to learn how to do this sport safely, competently and considerately.
Learning to kitesurf is potentially dangerous. As a result, we 100% recommend you get lessons from a properly qualified instructor. By qualified we mean someone who is a trained BKSA, IKO or similar internationally recognised instructor.
Best beginner kitesurfing package
A beginner kitesurfing package is the best place to start money-wise. It's going to give you four of the crucial pieces of kiting gear that you have to have in order to get going:
3/ Control bar
4/ Kite pump
Shop the best beginner kitesurfing package here:
Lessons in the UK
When it comes to a really thorough introduction and great lessons, you can’t go past The Kitesurf Academy in Northern Ireland. Gareth will have you boosting in no time!
How long does it take to learn kitesurfing?
This is a fantastic sport and you can learn the basics in just a few hours; however, like all sports, this depends on your natural ability as well as the conditions. Generally, students can take between 15 and 25 hours to get to the stage where they can stay upwind (which means you can cruise back to the spot you started from). We know of younger riders who get going in just a few hours, and some who take many more than the maximum above to get to grips with the basics of getting up and riding out and back. The two key things we’d recommend are:
- Use a qualified instructor/learn with a school - this is an absolute must. See below for schools and recommendation.
- Don’t give up. Yes, the conditions will drag you around a bit and swallow some water to start with, but pretty soon it will click and you’ll be having so much fun!
What size kite for beginner kitesurfing?
Given you’re new to the sport, you should be going out in lighter winds, which means you’ll need a larger kite. The size of kite depends on the weight of the rider, but typically most new kitesurfers start with something between 10 and 12m.
Newbies should avoid strong winds until they have slowly built up their experience - the stronger the wind the faster things happen so the risk factor can rise accordingly. Just like when you learn to drive, you wouldn’t expect to take out a Ferrari and enter an F1 race just after your first lesson!
So enjoy your kitesurfing in lighter winds and slowly build your experience by going out in stronger winds. But make sure you match your gear for the conditions - whilst modern kites have agrea wind range, you’ll need to change your big kite for a smaller model as the wind speed reaches a certain point. Most kitesurfers invest in 2 or even 3 kites as they get more and more addicted to the sport.
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What size board
Just like with kites, board size depends on your ability and weight.
Generally those new to the sport will cut their teeth on a bigger board that is easier to get going as you learn to control the kite. Typically, a newcomer will learn and develop on something between 140 up to 150cm or more in length.
Start with a bigger board
Given this is all stil fairly new to you, your weight and the wind strength will dictate what board you’ll use - the bigger the board the easier it will be to get up on top of the water (rather than the water dragging you along) and stay there as you control the kite and get yourself moving across the water.
Your kite control as a newbie can mean you don’t always maintain the consistent power to keep yourself moving. This is where a bigger board helps - it will keep you up on the water for a fraction longer than a small board and give you time to get the power back on by moving the kite to the correct position. The longer edge and bigger surface area of a bigger board will just make learning loads easier.
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As your skills and confidence progress, consider smaller boards
Boards come in a bewildering array of sizes, but there is a good reason for that. As mentioned above, those new to the sport and heavier riders need a bigger board as it helps them stay on the water and moving as the power generated by the kite changes (due to wind changes or how you’re using it).
As you gain experience and go out in stronger winds the chances are that you might need to move to a smaller board more suited to your actual weight and developing ability. For example, an experienced rider of around 85kg in weight would typically have a board around 136-138cm in length. Lighter riders might opt for a 132-135cm board. We measure board width in cm and wider boards will obviously add more surface area to the board - so a 138 x 43cm board is 414 sq cm bigger than a 138 x 40cm board - this gives a bit of extra support for a rider who might be at the higher end of the weight range for a given board. We are very happy to discuss your requirements so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about any of the gear you’re considering.
Where to kitesurf
Above all, head out with others involved in the sport, especially when you’re learning. Never do this alone or in offshore winds.
Being out on the water with other more experienced buddies means you have the extra advantage of learning from their experience and knowledge. We’re not just talking location, but loads of general hints and tips. There are so many fantastic locationa around the world that we couldn’t possibly list them here but if you need any advice or guidance then contact us or join forums or groups on social media and get to know your local watersports lovers.
Do you need a permit for this sport?
Most beach locations don’t require any special permits but check locally. There may be restrictions around launching locations and times. This sport needs lots of space so you don’t want to be disturbing other beach users or putting them at risk if something goes wrong. Which brings us on to insurance - we strongly recommend you get third party insurance as the minimum.
This is available from international governing bodies such as the British Kitesports Association (BKSA) in the UK. If you’re learning overseas, or on a sporting holiday, make sure your medical insurance covers you for any accident whilst doing specific sports such as this - check the smallprint!. Whilst accidents are rare, you don’t want to find that your holiday insurance doesn’t cover you should the worst happen.
Can you kite anywhere?
No, definitely not. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to get in with a local kiting crowd so that you can not only enjoy the sport with others, but learn where it is safe and permissible. Remember, some locations might be OK at certain times of the year, but not others. It’s your responsibility to know before you head out.
Kitesurfing for beginners is ultimately a heap of fun. We hope this gets you out there sooner rather than later feeling confident and ready for some big air!
We're always happy to help with any questions about this sport, as well as the products we sell. Any opportunity to talk kiting, really...! So be sure to contact us.