As a newbie to kiteboarding or kitesurfing, I know there are many like me who think it’s a really cool extreme sport. Most of the people I know who are already into extreme sports are nervous to try kitesurfing because they all remember the YouTube video of the guy crashing into a building. Scary stuff, right? For those of you who don’t know what this sport is, I’ll explain. Kitesurfing is the fastest and most adrenaline-pumping version of surfing. You don’t have to wait for a wave that looks good, you are in full control of where you go, how fast you go and what wave to catch. When using a kite, you use the wind to propel you and your board through the water. I’d say it’s a close cousin to wakeboarding, but you don’t need the boat. If you fall, you don’t have to wait for the board to turn and come get you. The difficulties presented by using the wind to control your speed and movement are probably pretty obvious: you have to rely on the wind. The wind has to have a good speed, direction, blow at a steady rate, and you have to have the right size kite for the wind. You also need to know how to control it. If you let the wind carry you, you could fly 60 feet in the air, get scared and collapse. So it’s important to know what you’re getting into, and it’s important to learn the basics so you’re safe and can have the most fun. I’ll go over some of those basics here and hopefully pique the interest of those of you who think it’s too crazy a sport to try.
From the beginning, you must learn to use your kite to drag yourself through the water. The first thing most people practice is called body dragging. Body drag is when you let the kite pull you through the water, without using your board. This helps you understand the wind, but more importantly, it will help you have a good experience when you go out on your board. Just like wakeboarding or surfing, sometimes you’re going to fall off the board. So if that happens, you need to know how to get to your dashboard in the easiest way possible. To get to your board, you use the kite to drag your body through the water. You don’t want to drop your kite, swim to your board, and then try to get back on your kite. Your board will survive even if it washes up on land. You want to make sure you take care of your kite. It is your most important piece of equipment. If you know how to use your kite correctly, you can lose your board a million times, get back on it, and get back up for a good ride.
Another technique you’ll want to learn early on is how to control your speed no matter how fast the wind blows. Most of the time, you’re not going to let the wind decide how fast you’re going and where you’re going. You can control your speed by paying attention to the sweet spot. This place is where your kite is completely caught up in the wind and where you will get the most power. Areas just outside of this sweet spot will still catch the wind, but it will be at a different angle and allow you to keep moving, but also slow down. It is important to use a mixture of all these areas. A good kitesurfer will rotate between the sweet spot and the two areas around it, one just above and one just below. You can achieve this very easily by rotating your arms in an “S” shape. This will allow you to gain power and control it, gain power and control it, always moving through the sweet spot and then out of it again. This way you avoid sailing through the air without control and bowing to the whim of the wind. You definitely want to control your kite and your speed.
Once you get control of your speed and learn how to properly handle the wind that has been given to you, then you can start playing. This is where you can use the wind to lift yourself into the air, do a flip, and land safely on the water. Of course, there are many other things that you have to learn, and for that you have to go to a school. My husband and I chose Honolulu Kite School which I highly recommend if you are going to Hawaii. I recommend kitesurfing in Hawaii in general around Kailua Bay. Many people go here because the winds are strong and extremely consistent in direction and speed. It’s hard to learn in that bay, so definitely go with an instructor to a sandbar or something else.
Honolulu Kite School had a boat that went alongside us which was perfect! If you are an experienced rider, a technique lesson is not a bad idea, but you can also head straight to the bay and enjoy some of the best kitesurfing in the world.