What is Kiting?
Kiting, Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, and gymnastics into one extreme sport. A kitesurfer or kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without foot-straps or bindings. The terms kiteboarding and kitesurfing are interchangeable, although kiteboarding may also refer to kite landboarding or kite snowboarding.
There are different styles of kiteboarding, including freestyle, freeride, downwinders, speed, course racing, wakestyle, jumping and wave-riding. In 2012, the number of kitesurfers has been estimated by the ISAF and IKA at 1.5 million persons worldwide (pending review). The global market is worth US$250 million.
In the 1800s, George Pocock used kites of increased size to propel carts on land and ships on the water, using a four-line control system - the same system in common use today. Both carts and boats were able to turn and sail upwind. The kites could be flown for sustained periods. The intention was to establish kitepower as an alternative to horsepower, partly to avoid the hated "horse tax" that was levied at that time. In 1903, aviation pioneer Samuel Cody developed "man-lifting kites" and succeeded in crossing the English Channel in a small collapsible canvas boat powered by a kite
In the late 1970s, the development of Kevlar then Spectra flying lines and more controllable kites with improved efficiency contributed to practical kite traction. In 1978, Ian Day's "FlexiFoil" kite-powered Tornado catamaran exceeded 40 km/h.
In October 1977 Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise (Netherlands) received the first patent for KiteSurfing. The patent covers, specifically, a water sport using a floating board of a surf board type where a pilot standing up on it is pulled by a wind catching device of a parachute type tied to his harness on a trapeze type belt. Although this patent did not result in any commercial interest, Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise could be considered as the originator of KiteSurfing.
Through the 1980s, there were occasionally successful attempts to combine kites with canoes, ice skates, snow skis,water skis and roller skates.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Dieter Strasilla from Germany developed parachute-skiing and later perfected a kiteskiing system using self made paragliders and a ball-socket swivel allowing the pilot to sail upwind and uphill but also to take off into the air at will. Strasilla and his Swiss friend Andrea Kuhn used this invention also in combination with surfboards and snowboards, grasskies and selfmade buggies. One of his patents describes in 1979 the first use of an inflatable kite design for kitesurfing.
Two brothers, Bruno Legaignoux and Dominique Legaignoux, from the Atlantic coast of France, developed kites for kitesurfing in the late 1970s and early 1980s and patented an inflatable kite design in November 1984, a design that has been used by companies to develop their own products.
In 1990, practical kite buggying was pioneered by Peter Lynn at Argyle Park in Ashburton, New Zealand. Lynn coupled a three-wheeled buggy with a forerunner of the modern parafoil kite. Kite buggying proved to be very popular worldwide, with over 14,000 buggies sold up to 1999.
The development of modern day kitesurfing by the Roeselers in the USA and the Legaignoux in France carried on in parallel to buggying. Bill Roeseler, a Boeing aerodynamicist, and his son Cory Roeseler patented the "KiteSki" system which consisted of water skis powered by a two line delta style kite controlled via a bar mounted combined winch/brake. The KiteSki was commercially available in 1994. The kite had a rudimentary water launch capability and could go upwind. In 1995, Cory Roeseler visited Peter Lynn at New Zealand's Lake Clearwater in the Ashburton Alpine Lakes area, demonstrating speed, balance and upwind angle on his 'ski'. In the late 1990s, Cory's ski evolved to a single board similar to a surfboard.
In 1996, Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin were instrumental in demonstrating and popularising kitesurfing off the Hawaiian coast of Maui while in Florida RaphaÃ«l Baruch experimented riding windsurfing boards with various foil kites and changing the name of the sport from flysurfing to kitesurfing.
In 1997, the Legaignoux brothers developed and sold the breakthrough "Wipika" kite design which had a structure of preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips, both of which greatly assisted water re-launch. Bruno Legaignoux has continued to improve kite designs, including developing the bow kite design, which has been licensed to many kite manufacturers.
Kitesurfing in Fuerteventura
In 1997, specialized kite boards were developed by Raphael Salles and Laurent Ness. By the end of 1998 kitesurfing had become an extreme sport, distributed and taught through a handful group of shops and schools worldwide. The first competition was held on Maui in September 1998 and won by Flash Austin.
Starting in 1999, kiting or kitesurfing became a mainstream sport with the entry of key windsurfing manufacturers namely Naish and Neil Pryde. Single direction boards derived from windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kiteboard. From 2001 onwards, twin-tip bi-directional boards became more popular for most flat water riders, with directional boards still in use for surf conditions.
French kitesurfer Sebastien Cattelan became the first sailor to break the 50 knots barrier by reaching 50.26 knots on 3 October 2008 at the Luderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. On 4 October, Alex Caizergues (also of France) broke this record with a 50.57 knots run. Similar speeds are reached by windsurfers in the same location by Anders Bringdal and Antoine Albeau, respectively 50.46 and 50.59 knots. These speeds are verified, but are still subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council. Earlier in the event, on 19 September, American Rob Douglas reached 49.84 knots (92.30 km/h), becoming the first kitesurfer to establish an outright world record in speed sailing. Previously the record was held only by sailboats or windsurfers. Douglas also became the world's third over-50 knots sailor, when on 8 September he made a 50.54 knots (93.60 km/h) run.
On the 14th of November 2009, Alex Caizergues completed another run of 50.98 knots in Namibia.
October 2010, Rob Douglas became the outright record holder for the short distance 500 meters with 55.65 knots. Sebastien Cattelan became the record holder of France and Europe with 55.49 and was the first rider to reach 55 knots.
13 May 2006 225 km (121 nmi) Kirsty Jones, crossing solo from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Tarfaya, Morocco, in about nine hours "Kirsty Jones Kiteboards from Lanzarote to Morocco". Windsurfing & kitesurfing travel.
24 July 2007 207 km (112 nmi) RaphaÃ«l Salles, Marc Blanc and Sylvain Maurain between Saint-Tropez and Calvi, Haute-Corse in 5h30 at 20 knots, beating Manu Bertin's previous record of 6h 30m for the same journey. "Long Distance between Saint Tropez and Calvi: 207 km in 5 h 30". M8 distribution Australia.
12 October 2008 419.9 km (226.7 nmi) Eric Gramond crossing from Fortaleza to ParnaÃba in Brazil during 24 hours Eric Gramond (2008-10-26). "24h with kitesurf".
22 March 2010 240 km (130 nmi) Natalie Clarke crossing Bass Strait from Stanley, Tasmania to Venus Bay, Victoria in Australia in 9h30 "Natalie Clarke kite crosses the Bass Strait in record time". March 24, 2010.
10 May 2010 369.71 km (199.63 nmi) Phillip Midler (USA) from South Padre Island, Texas to Matagorda, Texas "American Phil Midler Breaks Kiteboarding Long Distance World Record". The Kiteboarder. May 13, 2010.
19 July 2013 444 km (240 nmi) Bruno Sroka between Aber Wrac'h, France and Crosshaven, Ireland "Bruno Sroka completes kite cross between France and Ireland". SurferToday.com. 19 July 2013.
18 September 2013 569.5 km (307.5 nmi) Francisco Lufinha from Porto to Lagos, Portugal "Francisco Lufinha sets world record for the longest kitesurfing journey". SurferToday.com. 18 September 2013.
Louis Tapper completed the longest recorded kite journey, completing 2000 km between Salvador and Sao Luis, Brazil. The journey was completed between July/August 2010 and took over 24 days of kitesurfing. This trip is also the longest solo journey, completed without support crew, using one kite and a 35 litre backpack.
The previous longest recorded kite journey was by Eric Gramond who completed a 13 day trip of 1450 km along the coast of Brazil.
A team of six kitesurfers, Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar, Eric Pequeno, Max Blom, Camilla Ringvold, Ike Frans, and Dennis Gijsbers crossed the Atlantic ocean, from the Canary islands to the Turks and Caicos Islands a distance of about 3,500 miles (5,600 km), from November 20, 2013, to December 17, 2013. Each of the six spent four hours each day surfing, broken into two sessions of two hours each, one during the day, and the other during the night.
The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) is an International Class Association of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Its responsibility, amongst others, is to manage the global administration of the sport and combining world events into one united ranking. A Executive Committee is on a regular basis re-appointed by the class AGM. The duties and responsibilities of the Executive Committee are: to take care of the day-to-day business of the association. To consider and coordinate submissions from the sub-committees. The Executive Committee elected amongst themselves: - Chairman: Richard Gowers (GBR) - Vice-chairman: Bruno De Wannemaeker (BEL) - Executive Secretary: Markus Schwendtner (GER) - Board members: Mirco Babini (ITA), Olivier Mouragues (FRA), Adam Szymanski (POL) and John Gomes (USA). There are also national and regional kitesurfing associations in many countries.
Jumping or Airstyle Jumping, arguably a subset of Freeride, consists of jumping high to optionally perform tricks, sometimes also using kiteloops to get extra height. Often shorter lines and smaller kites are used in stronger wind. C-kites and twintip boards are commonly used. Wakeskate Wakeskaters use a strapless twintip board, similar to skateboard. Flat water and other conditions similar to Wakestyle. Skateboarding.
Course racing These are racing events - like a yacht race along a course, that involve both speed and tactics. Special purpose directional race boards with long fins are used. Some raceboards resemble windsurfing boards. The goal is to outperform other kiters and come first in the race. Windsurfing.
Speed racing Speed racing is a style practiced at either formal race events or informally, usually with GPS units. Special purpose directional speed boards, or raceboards with long fins are used. The goal is travel at the maximum possible speed over 500 meters.
A beginner can turn by stopping or sinking backwards into the water,and then turning the kite in the opposite direction and starting again. A 'heel turn jibe' is a quicker,and more skillful turn that is executed by slowing down, flattening the board, then reversing the board flat on the water by bringing the rear foot around downwind to eventually become the new leading foot. The direction of the kite is then reversed, which swings the surfer's path in a semi circle, centered on the kite. As the turn ends, the kite is flown over to be in front of the surfer again.
A poorly executed turn will "fly" the surfer, and is often followed by a tumble if the surfer can't put the board down at the right angle.
A careless turn in high winds can easily swing the rider into the air and result in an uncontrolled impact.
Controlled flying and jumping
Controlled flying is possible and is one of the biggest attractions of the sport. Before jumping, the surfer builds up tension in the lines by strongly edging the board. Then the kite is flown quickly to an overhead position, sometimes just as the surfer goes over a wave. As the kite begins to lift, the board edge is then 'released' and the rider becomes airborne. The kite is then piloted from overhead to the direction of travel. A large variety of maneuvers and tricks can be performed while jumping.
Jumping can be very risky, riders must keep a clear buffer zone downwind when attempting to jump.
Board grabs names
Board grabs are tricks performed while a rider is jumping or has gained air from popping by grabbing the board in a number of positions with either hand. Each grab has a different name dependent on which part of the board is grabbed and with which hand it is grabbed by. Rear hand grabs are known as Crail, Indy,Nuke, Tindy, Tail, Tailfish, and Stalefish; while front hand grabs are known as Slob, Mute, Seatbelt, Melan, Method, and Nose. Names generally originate from other board sports like skateboarding and snowboarding.
A number of grabs can also be combined into one trick. A rider may perform a tail grab going to indy by moving the rear hand from the back of the board to the middle of the toe side edge.
Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for kiteboarding. Offshore winds pose the danger of being blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control. Offshore winds are suitable in a lake or when a safety boat is available, however they are generally more gusty. Direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land, and are thus less favorable.
Leading edge inflatables
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI kites or C-kites, are typically made from ripstop polyester with an inflatable plastic bladder that spans the front edge of the kite with separate smaller bladders that are perpendicular to the main bladder to form the chord or foil of the kite.The inflated bladders give the kite its shape and also keep the kite floating once dropped in the water. LEIs are the most popular choice among kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs, easy relaunchability once crashed into the water, and resilient nature. If an LEI kite hits the water or ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, bladders can burst or it can be torn apart.
In 2005, Bow kites (also known as flat LEI kites) were developed with features including a concave trailing edge, a shallower arc in planform, and frequently a bridle along the leading edge. These features allow the kite's angle of attack to be altered more and thus adjust the amount of power being generated to a much greater degree than previous LEIs. These kites can be fully depowered, which is a significant safety feature. They can also cover a wider wind range than a comparable C-shaped kite. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes them easier to re-launch when lying front first on the water. Bow kites are popular with riders from beginner to advanced levels. Most LEI kite manufacturers developed a variation of the bow kite by 2006.
Early bow kites had some disadvantages compared to classic LEI kites:
They can become inverted and then not fly properly
They can be twitchy and not as stable
Heavier bar pressure makes them more tiring to fly
Lack of "sled boosting" effect when jumping
In 2006, second generation flat LEI kites were developed which combine near total depower and easy, safe relaunch with higher performance, no performance penalties and reduced bar pressure. Called Hybrid or SLE kites (Supported Leading Edge), these kites are suitable for both beginners and experts.
In 2008, Naish introduced another kite design, with their "Sigma Series" of kites. These kites are a SLE design and feature a unique "bird in flight" shape with the center of the kite swept back to put much of the sail area behind the tow point, which Naish claims has multiple benefits.
In 2009, the performance revolution shows no sign of slowing. Bridled designs feel more like C kites, and five-line hybrids have better depower capability than ever before. There are more than thirty companies manufacturing Leading edge inflatable kites. The delta-kites are growing in popularity since 2008 with around 12 companies offering delta-kites since 2008/2009.
Between 2009 and 2013 kite technology has continued to grow. Kites have become lighter, more durable, much easier to launch and safer. Manufacturers have continued to add new safety features. This has resulted in a growing number of new riders, both younger and older. In 2013, there are at least 20 "major" kite manufacturers, each with multiple models available. Many of the manufacturers are on their third or fourth generation of kites.
Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. Foil kites have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, a process which, with an LEI, can take up to ten minutes. Foil kites are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration.
A kitesurfing kite at Exmouth, Devon, England.
Kites come in sizes ranging from 0.7 square meters to 21 square meters, or even larger. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has. Kite power is also directly linked to speed, and smaller kites can be flown faster in stronger winds. The kite sizeâ€”wind speed curve tapers off, so going to a larger kite to reach lower wind ranges becomes futile at a wind speed of around eight knots. Kites come in a variety of designs. Some kites are more rectangular in shape; others have more tapered ends; each design determines the kite's flying characteristics. 'Aspect ratio' is the ratio of span to length. High aspect ratios (ribbon-like kites) develop more power in lower wind speeds.
Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have three or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels, although bow kites may change this, as they present an enormous wind range; some advanced kiters use only one bow kite. Smaller kites are used by light riders, or in strong wind conditions; larger kites are used by heavier riders or in light wind conditions. Larger and smaller kiteboards have the same effect: with more available power a given rider can ride a smaller board. In general, however, most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites (7-12 sq m in size).
Flying lines are made of a very strong material, frequently ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, in order to handle the dynamic load in unpredictable wind while maintaining a small cross-sectional profile to minimize drag. They come in lengths generally between seven and thirty-three meters. Experimentation with line lengths is common in kiteboarding. The lines attach the rider's control bar to the kite using attachment cords on the kite edges or its bridle. Most power kites use a 3, 4 or 5-line configuration. The 5th line is used to aid in lava re-launching or adjusting the kite's angle of attack.
The control bar is a solid metal or composite bar which attaches to the kite via the lines. The rider holds on to this bar and controls the kite by pulling at its ends, causing the kite to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise like a bicycle. Typically a chicken loop from the control bar is attached to a latch or hook on a spreader bar on the rider's harness. Most bars also provide a quick-release safety-system and a control strap to adjust the kite's angle of attack. While kite control bars are made intentionally light, they must also be very strong, and so are usually heavier than water; "bar floats" made of foam are generally fixed to the lines right above the harness to keep the bar from sinking if lost in the water. Control bars are usually specific to a particular kite type and size and are not usually suitable for use with different kite types.
A kite harness comes in seat (with leg loops), waist or vest types. The harness together with a spreader bar attaches the rider to the control bar. By hooking in, the harness takes most of the strain of the kite's pull off of the rider's arms, and spreads it across a portion of his body. This allows the rider to do jumps and other tricks while remaining attached to the kite via the control bar. Waist harnesses are by far the most popular harnesses among advanced riders, although seat harnesses make it possible to kitesurf with less effort from the rider and vest harnesses provide both flotation and impact protection. Kite harnesses look similar to windsurfing harnesses, but are actually much different; a windsurfing harness used for kiteboarding is likely to break very quickly, which could result in injury and/or gear loss.
There are now several types of kiteboards: directional surf-style boards, wakeboard-style boards, hybrids which can go in either direction but are built to operate better in one of them, and skim-type boards. Some riders also use standard surfboards, or even long boards, although without foot straps much of the high-jump capability of a kite is lost. Twin tip boards are the easiest to learn on and are by far the most popular. The boards generally come with sandle-type footstraps that allow the rider to attach and detach from the board easily; this is required for doing board-off tricks and jumps. Bindings are used mainly by the wakestyle riders wishing to replicate wakeboarding tricks such as KGBs and other pop initiated tricks. Kiteboards come in shapes and sizes to suit the rider's skill level, riding style, wind and water conditions.
The equipment used can be seen on this kitesurfer at Exmouth, Devon, England. A wetsuit is often worn by kitesurfers, except in warmer conditions with light winds. When kitesurfing in strong winds, body heat loss is reduced by wearing a wetsuit. A "shortie" is worn to protect the torso only, and a full suit is used for protection against cool conditions, from marine life such as jellyfish, and also from abrasions if the rider is dragged by the kite. Dry suits are also used to kitesurf in cold conditions in winter.
A safety hook knife is considered required equipment. The corrosion resistant stainless steel blade is partially protected by a curved plastic hook. It can be used to cut entangled or snagged kite lines, or to release the kite if the safety release system fails. Some kitesurfing harnesses are equipped with a small pocket for the knife.
A helmet is often worn by kitesurfers to protect the head from blunt trauma. Helmets prevent head lacerations, and can also reduce the severity of impact injuries to the head, as well as compression injuries to the neck and spine.
A personal flotation device or PFD may be required if the kitesurfer is using a boat or personal water craft for support. It is also recommended for kitesurfing in deep water in case the kitesurfer becomes disabled and must wait for rescue.
An impact vest provides some protection against impacts to the torso area. They can also provide some flotation.
A board leash that attaches the board to the kitesurfer's leg or harness is used by some riders. However, many kitesurfing schools discourage the use of board leashes due to the risk of recoil, where the leash can yank the board to impact the rider, which can result in serious injury or even death. Generally, kitesurfers that use a board leash will also wear a helmet to help protect against this.
Signaling devices are useful if the kitesurfer needs to be rescued. This may be as simple as a whistle attached to the knife, or retro-reflective tape applied to the helmet. Some kitesurfers carry a mobile phone or two-way radio in a waterproof pouch to use in an emergency. A small Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) can be carried and activated to send out a distress signal.
A buddy is important to help with launching and retrieving the kite, and to assist in an emergency.
A GPS can be used to measure distance travelled, tracks and speed during a session.
Dangers and safety
Power kites are powerful enough to pull the rider like a boat in wakeboarding and to lift their users to diving heights. But a kite could become uncontrolled and that situation can be very dangerous; especially within a difficult environment. A kite can get out of control after the rider falling or in a sudden wind gust, which can happen more frequently due to excessively strong winds from squalls or storms ("collard").
It is possible to be seriously injured after being lofted, dragged, carried off, blown downwind or dashed, resulting in a collision with hard objects including sand, buildings, terrain or power lines or even by hitting the water surface with sufficient speed or height ("kitemare", a portmanteau of kite and nightmare). Adequate quality professional kiteboarding training, careful development of experience and consistent use of good judgement and safety gear should result in fewer problems in kiteboarding.
Weather forecasting and awareness is the principal factor to safe kiteboarding. Lack of weather awareness and understanding figures in many of these cases, but avoiding weather problems is possible Choice of inappropriate locations for kiteboarding where the wind passes over land creating wind shadow, rotor with pronounced gusts and lulls has also factored in many accidents. Paying attention to the weather and staying within the limits of the riders ability will provide the safest experience. Kitesurfing storm fronts can be particularly dangerous due to rapid changes in wind strength and direction.
Kitesurfing safety rules
Some countries have laws about flying kites and being safe while flying that may also apply to kitesurfing.
The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (August 2010)
Kite High Rule - A kiter who is upwind (closest to the wind) must keep their kite high to avoid their lines crossing those of downwind kiters. Similarly, the downwind kiter must keep their kite low to avoid their lines crossing upwind kites. This applies regardless of whether kiters are on the same, or opposing courses.
Clearance Rule - A kiter while jumping must have a clear safety zone of at least 50m downwind because they will move downwind during the jump. A rider must also have a clear safety zone of 30m upwind to jump as his lines could touch the kite or the lines of another rider kiteboarding close by (see Kite High rule). It's important to also consider potential hazards downwind and crosswind of the rider such as people, buildings, trees and other fixed obstacles.
Kiters are also considered as sailing vessels - so some standard sailing rules apply such as:
Starboard Rule When kiters approach from opposite directions the kiter who has the wind on the starboard (right side, right leg/arm leads in direction of travel) has right of way. The kiter who has the wind on the port side (left side, left leg/arm are leads in direction of travel) shall keep out of the way of the other. In simple terms, this means "keep right" with the kiter coming in the opposite direction passing on the left.
Kiteboarding versus windsurfing
Record Speed 55.65 (WR) knots 52.05 knots.
Upwind Capabilities About 70 degrees from wind direction. The more a kite board tracks upwind, the more its leeward side must edge into the water to resist lateral drag. Upwind riders adopt a similar stance to kite fliers onshore, who slide their feet forward in the beach sand to brake the kite. The kite board's center line is way off the track line, dramatically reducing speed. About 45 degrees from wind direction (strong wind) depending on the skills of the rider. The sail board's center line runs virtually parallel to the track line, as most lateral forces are encountered by the tail fin and little edging is required. Because of this, upwind courses are fairly fast. Fastest speeds are achieved at broad reach.
Physical Strain on Rider The traction force of the kite is partly transferred to the rider via the harness loop attached to the harness hook. When "hooked in" the rider uses muscle strength to steer the kite and control the kite power by pushing the bar in and out. When "unhooked" the rider steers the kite using their arms with no depower, which can be very strenuous. Windsurfing without a harness requires a lot of physical effort, especially in strong wind. With a harness, recovering from a fall or when maneuvering (jibing, tacking) the rider needs to detach the harness completely from the sail, which means that both traction and steering forces are to be countered solely by the rider's muscle. Hooking into the harness again requires additional muscle effort. For jibing maneuvers, muscle effort diminishes as the rider becomes more skilled in maintaining board speed in the jibe.
Fall Recovery The kite is fairly easy to keep flying during a fall, with 'Hindenburgs' being rather exceptional. The rider can be pulled out of the water by the lift forces of the kite when it is overhead. The kite power can be regulated by changing the angle of attack of the kite. In light winds, the rider needs to get on the board and pull the sail out of the water. However, in stronger winds, uphauling the sail increasingly requires strength, so water starting is a better option. This means positioning the board-sail combination through aligning the sail into the right wind angle, allowing the wind to pull the body out of the water onto the board using the sail, and then easily hooking back in and stepping into foot straps.
Tacking and Jibing Twin tip kiteboards (the majority of kiteboards) are designed to be bidirectional. If the rider wants to start the next tack only the kite's sailing direction must be reversed. The "stern" of the board now becomes the "bow", so the feet can be kept in the footstraps. Since the windward edge of the board doesn't change sides, the terms "jibing" or "tacking" are somewhat of a misnomer. Falling into the water is not a major problem, as even beginning riders can quickly and fairly effortlessly execute a water start using the kite to pull them out of the water. The rider has the choice between tacking or jibing. In both cases the windward edge changes sides, so the rider will need to change footstraps. At high winds the only option to change tacks while maintaining speed is to carve jibe, which is a maneuver that requires many practise hours for it to be performed with a reasonably low risk of falling.
Jumping Kitesurfers can use their kite to "jump" (actually using it as a paraglider), without the need for a launch wave. Jumping is relatively easy but can be hazardous. Being launched (jumping) can also happen unintended, even to beginners, especially in shifting winds and during jibes, where the rider can get pulled into the air as the kite reverses direction. The rider needs considerable forward speed and ideally a "ramp wave" to get airborne. When the wave is not large enough, the riders must initiate the jump by kicking down the tail of the board. Unintended jumps very rarely occur, as jumping requires active rider input. Jumping requires skill and can generally only be executed by advanced riders.
Aerobatics Most aerobatics and tricks (tail grab, barrel roll etc.) can be executed without the airfoil's position in the air having to change. Therefore, executing "aerobatics" is only marginally different from executing them on shore suspended by the harness from some fixed point. Beginners with a lot of caution may start attempting some basic tricks after the first few weeks or even days. With most aerobatics the airfoil's position in the air tends to change dramatically, very much like it does in an airplane. Each figure has its own ideal airfoil movement. With some aerobatics like the barrel roll, the rider needs to jump sufficiently high to allow the full length of the mast to rotate forward underneath. Often the risks to the rider of having fast moving and relatively heavy (board + mast + sail) gear so close by are substantial. None of this is similar to any action onshore, and therefore the learning curve is very shallow. As aerobatics are considerably more complicated than jumping, they are the done by the most experienced of riders, commanding huge respect within the sail boarding community.
Clearance Clearance of at least 50 meters upwind (from any object) and 30 meters downwind (from another kitesurfer) is required. The risk of being blown into an airborne situation by a strong wind gust is real, effectively turning the kite boarder into an uncontrolled para-glider in risk of hitting any object downwind. Since there are no kite lines, no upwind or downwind clearance is required from any object other than a kite surfer or fishing lines, which means that windsurfers do not need to worry about 'rotor' or strong wind gusts. Also, they can emergency stop almost immediately. Experienced riders will do this by 'crashing' (with some risk to themselves) while beginning riders (who typically do not wear a harness) can depower the sail instantly by releasing the back hand or letting the mast fall on water. The risk of hitting hard objects or other water-goers is therefore minimal.
Learning Curve Handling the kite can be largely taught on shore, as kite boarding evolved from beach kiting. On the water, recovery from falling is relatively easy (the kites, especially the newest models, stay normally aloft to pull the rider out of the water, with little effort) as is changing tacks, even in strong wind. Handling of the airfoil (sail) is learned mostly on the water with some dry practice for beginners. Advanced high wind techniques (e.g. water start) can only be learned in deep water. Recovery from falling is easy with a little practice, as the rider needs to either up haul the sail standing on the board or water start, which both take some strength and balance. Water starting is an advanced technique that just takes some teachable techniques and practice. At the same time, the risk of falling is always there (experts can go days without a fall but a missed jibe might happen). Tacking becomes more difficult in stronger winds, so most riders switch to easy jibes.
Equipment Safety In case of material failure or accidents, normal kitesurfing equipment offers limited rescue possibilities. Kitesurfers can perform a self rescue and use their kite to sail back to shore. The last option for the rider is to abandon the kite and kiteboard and swim to shore. Any sail board will allow the rider to keep the body sufficiently out of the water to postpone or avoid hypothermia. Smaller boards may require that the mast be detached, to avoid sinking. Thus, as a rule, a rider should never abandon the board. Windsurfing equipment is inherently safe in high winds against tea bagging or collisions due to loss of control: In case of too strong wind, the rider can depower the sail instantly by letting go with the back hand or letting the sail drop on water. Doing so (or falling) means that the board stops almost immediately as the sail will act as a floating anchor in water.
Equipment Transport A kite and kiteboard will fit in most vehicles. An average rider may need two to three kites and one board to ride in a wide range of wind strength. The sail board and sail mast (even telescopic) do not fit in most vehicles, and need to be transported on a roof rack or trailer. If they do, they will often exclude passengers from the vehicle. Several different sails and boards (and often masts and booms) are necessary to cover the full range of rideable conditions.
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