Kitesurfing for beginners: What you need to know (so that you don’t sound like a newbie)

by Bridget Langer Apr 4

Kitesurfing is quickly becoming an extremely popular water sport, taking over beaches across the globe. If this super cool sport has caught your eye, but you have no idea where to even begin, then you’ve come to the right place. We have put together a few top tips for kitesurfing beginners.

Figuring out the ropes of kitesurfing can be overwhelming and intimidating. What is this sport actually? Are you fit enough? What is all the equipment that you’ll need? Do I need to take lessons?

Our kitesurfing guide for beginners will help you not sound like such a newbie and help you feel a bit more comfortable to take the leap and get in the water.

Firstly, what is kitesurfing?

Kitesurfing, also referred to as kiteboarding, is a wind-powered watersport that uses a kite and a board to move you across the water. It combines aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing.

Unlike what its name suggests, all you need is wind and water – kitesurfing does not need choppy seas or big waves as surfing does.

Once you get the basics of riding, then there are loads of ways to play around. You can start going faster, jumping, experimenting with freestyle tricks, or start riding waves. It just keeps on getting more fun!

Warning: kitesurfing is highly addictive. Once you get started, you’ll be hooked!

What does it take to be a kitesurfer?

You don’t need to be super fit to kitesurf. You also don’t need to have super strong biceps. It’s more your core that gets a workout than your arms. With the right kitesurfing gear, nearly everyone can kitesurf. You do however need to have a reasonable level of fitness and of course be comfortable in the water.

If it doesn’t come naturally to you, then learning to kitesurf can be quite a frustrating experience in the beginning. Just keep trying though and you will quickly transform from the ‘beginner’ stage to the ‘having fun’ stage. Typically, a 3-day, 4 hour per day course should see you up and riding with confidence.

Children as young as 10 years old can start kitesurfing.

Guide to kitesurfing gear for beginners

When starting out, the gear that you will need includes a kite, bar and lines, harness and a board. If you’re a beginner kitesurfer we recommend that you hire the gear, and only after you decide that you really want to get into this sport then you can look at buying yourself a kit.

So, what is all this kitesurfing equipment?

  • The Kite: You need a kite that will generate enough pull, easy and safe to manoeuvre. The ideal size will depend on your weight and height but also on your spot weather. In a very windy spot, you’ll prefer a smaller kite than in a rather calm area. There are many different kite shapes available, each with their own uses and advantages. There are special kitesurfing trainer kites, but if these aren’t easily available when you are learning then you can get by without one. Other types of kites to consider include bow kites, hybrids and delta kites.

  • Bar: The bar is the control device that you use to direct the kite. Most kitesurfers use a four-line control bar for a four-line inflatable kite.

  • Lines: This is the connection between you (the kitesurfer) and the kite. In modern kitesurfing, either four or five lines are used. It’s good to have minimal stretch and of course, be able to float. The length of the lines can vary, depending on the size of the kite and the general wind conditions. Shorter lines can reduce the risk of picking up uncontrollable speed, where longer lines extend the kite’s flight path and allow the rider to gain more power from the wind.

  • Harness: A harness is used for transferring the pull of the kite to your body and to create a centre balance point, allowing you to steer with one hand. As a beginner, you can choose between a waist or a seat harness. Both work fine.

  • Board: This is what you put your feet on. Like the kites, there are many different types of kitesurfing boards. Common kitesurfing boards include:

  • Bi-directional boards (also known as a twin-tip) – these are the most common and the best to begin with.

  • Directional boards – these are slightly thinner than a surfboard and have sharper legs. Usually used by intermediate to advanced riders.

Along with all this kitesurfing gear, there’s also you, the kitesurfer. You are in control of the gear – you need to position the kite for the wind, edge the board accurately and of course steer the whole thing. You are the connection between the power of the kite and the kiteboard. All this and avoid obstacles that pop up. Sounds easy, right?

Vemgoo’s top tips for kitesurfing for beginners

Sabine from Vemgoo has shared her top 10 tips for kitesurfing for beginners, by a beginner. Sabine started kitesurfing three months ago in Cape Town. She hasn’t learnt from an instructor, rather just from a friend who’s a very good rider.

  1. Never go alone as a beginner. It’s dangerous for both you and the people around you. Always start with an instructor or with someone who really knows what they’re doing (I stress that it must be someone who REALLY knows, not just your buddy who did a two-week camp one year ago). Find kitesurfing lessons around the world on Vemgoo.

  2. Kitesurfing trainer kites are cool but not a necessity. If you can’t afford one, don’t worry. You can start on a normal kite, just make sure that the wind is quite low and that you have someone watching your back.

  3. Get gear adapted to your level. Many different kite shapes are available on the market and they all have their advantages. You need to get the right size and the right shape. Same with the boards. It’s easier to start with a larger board so you can rapidly go out of the water and start enjoying yourself. With inappropriate gear, you might either get discouraged or hurt. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice around you or in specific social media groups.

  1. Doing long body dragging helps to understand the kite. While training on the beach, I couldn’t manage to keep the kite up, I always had the wrong reflexes and ended up crashing it. One of my friends suggested doing a very long downwind body drag. It was tough, not gonna lie (I did it in a wavy area and the ocean was pretty cold), but totally worth it. In the end, I could fly my kite properly.

  2. If possible, don’t start in over-crowded places. When you’re surrounded by a lot of other riders you can get stressed as you don’t really know what you’re doing and if they’re also beginners, well, they also don’t know what they’re doing…

  3. Ask questions and/or watch videos. If you’re learning by yourself, ask fellow riders each time that you’re interested in learning something new, or just how to correct your posture, etc. The kitesurfing community is very welcoming and most of its members are very happy to help newbies.

  4. Watch the experienced riders. When it’s too windy for you, go to the beach and watch the other kite surfer’s moves. See how they steer the bar, angle the kite, launch it etc. and then try to do it yourself next time on the water.

  5. When in doubt, always leave the priority to the others. Especially as a beginner in a non-beginner spot. You will get in the way of others, most riders are cool with it as long as you show respect and try to avoid collisions to the best of your abilities.

  6. Don’t give up and keep pushing! The first few times might be hectic (especially if you’re not a natural) but you need to keep trying. Give yourself goals before each session and don’t hesitate to tell others. It will encourage you to work harder on it.

  7. Finally: Never forget the most important rule! Keep the kite up. As you begin it should be your number one priority, always! Even when you start riding the board and hitting the waves. As long as your kite is up, you’re good, no matter what’s going on, whether you have lost your board, you got scared or saw your bestie, KEEP THE KITE UP!

Conclusion

Contrary to what it might look like, kite surfing is a relatively easy sport to learn. The best advice that we can give is to sign up for a few kitesurfing for beginners’ lessons and just try it out. It might be hard in the beginning but push through. Start off slowly, stick to the quieter spots and make sure to use the right gear. Ask questions and get involved in the community – they are a very welcoming and friendly bunch.

We promise that you’ll get the hang of it in no time. And as we warned earlier, you’ll soon be addicted.

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