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Kiteboarding (commonly refered toy as kite boarding, sky boarding, and kitesurfing) is an adventure watersport that consists of using a large steerable kite to pull yourself around on a board on top of the water. The kites are controlled through the bar and lines that connect to your harness, which is worn around your midsection. The kite can be flown specific patterns to generate power, and can even be used to jump high in the air. And when we say jump, we really mean it. Professional kiteboarders can jump 50 or 60 feet high and can easily float for hundreds of feet when the conditions are right. That's nearly 10 seconds of air time!
You might be saying, "Yea, but they need to be really strong and have built arms to do that!". Thankfully, that is a common misconception. The harness that you wear takes most of the brunt of the force, while your arms are free to steer the kite quite effortlessly. In other sports such as wakeboarding, you are required to hang onto the bar with all you're might in order to perform your tricks and ride. However, in kiteboarding, the power of the kite is directed straight to the hook on your harness which is near your center of gravity and allows you to use your body as leverage against the kite. This takes the load off your arms, which are used for steering, powering up, and de-powering the kite. When you pull the bar towards you it adds power, when you push the bar away you decrease power.
The kiteboarding equipment also offers several safety releases, which can be used to kill power in case of emergencies. The freedom that kiteboarding provides, while also having the ability to be safe and effortless, allows you to ride in most large bodies of water that have a steady breeze. Like a sailboat you can go any direction you want except directly into the wind. If you want to go upwind you can tack back and forth at about a 45 degree angle to the wind.
Kite boarding is the fastest growing watersport in the world, and for good reasons. The freedom of jumping 10, 20, 30ft off the water, without the necessity of a wave for a ramp, means that people can go home to a lake and still fly through the air.
To begin kiteboarding the rider dives the kite in the direction he wants to ride to generate power and get up on the kiteboard. This is called the waterstart. Riding or skimming on the water is referred to as planing. To begin a waterstart, the kiteboarder points his kiteboard slightly downwind or chases the kite. After getting up on the kiteboard the kiteboarder turns upwind to avoid de-powering the kite by moving downwind to quickly. The kiteboarder is constantly working to channel the pull of the wind at an angle such that he or she is moving perpendicular to the wind direction. If done successfully the kiteboarder is staying upwind. This is one of the first skills a new kiteboarder must learn.
Later, by putting kite and board skills together the kiteboarder can actually work upwind. From there the host of turns (called transitions), moves and tricks seem to be endless with pros and amateurs constantly pushing the envelope.
Traditional kites are referred to as C-kites because of their C shape. Yes, you can learn on a c-kite but BEWARE there are drawbacks. Not to mention that you will have to buy two c-kites to get the wind range of one bow or SLE kite. C-kites tend to offer only a 20-30% de-power range which means if you lose control of the kite you will suffer 70-80% of the consequences. To be fair, many advanced and pro-kiteboarders choose to use c-kites because of specific flying characteristics that are not advantageous to the beginning kiteboarder. Wait to buy until after you learn! Would you buy a car without test driving it? Let's not jump the gun with kites either! There are many many different kinds of kites, bars, lines, boards and safety systems to choose from. Factors like what conditions you will be riding in, your weight and skill level all determine which kite is best for you. Your qualified kiteboarding instructor can be of definite help in qualifying which kiteboarding set-up is best for your needs.
At Air Padre Kiteboarding we pride ourselves in our state of the art kiteboarding equipment. For kiteboarding lessons we use 2011 SLE (Supported Leading Edge)/Hybrid kites like the Best Kahoona or Ozone Catalyst. These kites feature the latest safety systems, de-power ability and easy relaunch from the water. These kites also have lower bar pressure than other styles of kites and this can save a lot of wear and tear on shoulder, elbow and wrist joints.
Another new style of kite is the Bow Kite. Bow kites and SLE/hybrids are very similar. Both have bridles on the kite and often have pulleys. The differences are that bow kites are generally flatter, have a concave trailing edge, and often times have pulleys on the bar which lends to greater bar pressure. Some kiteboarders prefer heavier bar pressure because they find it easier to tell where the kite is without looking at it.
Both the new bow and SLE kites offer never before seen de-power ability. This means that by simply letting go of the bar (yet remaining connected to the kite through the harness) the beginner kiteboarder can avoid being thrown around by the kite when it generates too much power. Never before has the exciting sport of kiteboarding been so accessible and safe. Although like hang gliding, just because it's gotten safer doesn't mean you should teach yourself.
For instructional purposes we use Litewave Wing and Spleene kiteboards. We have found that these kiteboards are easier for people to get up and ride. Plus, because they are big and long and wide, less power is required to get the kiteboarder up and moving. The school has a range of sizes depending on the kiteboarder's weight, abilities as well as the wind speed. Some kiteboards are similar to wakeboards with the fins moved out to the rails for improved tracking while riding on the edge. This type of board is referred to as a twin tip or bi-directional board because either end of the board can be in front depending on the direction of travel.
Other kiteboards look more like a surfboard with foot straps. Directional boards, as these are called are generally easier to ride than twin tips (esp. in light to mod. wind) because the fins are deeper and the volume of the board requires less power to support the kiteboarder's weight. Experienced windsurfers often find directional style boards much easier to get their first ride on because the shape and feel of the board are similar to a windsurf board.
Seat Harness: A seat harness has wrap-around and full-bottom support with leg loops. Seat harnesses are the most popular for beginning kiteboarders.
Waist Harness: The waist harness is a Wrap-around support with spreader bar fits on the kiteboarder's waist.
Impact Harness: Waist harness with a complete impact vest on top to protect the kiteboarder's chest, ribs and spine.
Boardshorts Harness: Seat harness integrated into a pair of boardshorts. These are second most popular for beginning kiteboarders.
Helmet: We suggest you buy a helmet which reflects the value of your head. If you prize your head don't buy a cheap helmet!
Sunglasses: Polarized to reduce glare off the water and UV sun protection. Also use straps to keep'em on and a floating device in case they come off!
Impact Vest/Personal Flotation Device: It's good to have flotation when kiteboarding in deep water. Advanced Kiteboarders often where impact vests to protect their ribs when learning tricks.
Booties: Getting a bad cut on your foot is a good way to end up on the beach watching your friends have fun. Kite Flyline Knife: Can be used in an emergency to cut kite lines.
Taking lessons with a qualified instructor is a must and you can improve the amount of progress you achieve in your first lesson if you follow these simple steps.
The best thing to do first is to buy or rent a trainer kite, and the instructional video to get the basics down ( if you don't want to wait don't worry, we have taught many people to kiteboard who had never flown a multi-line kite before). The trainer kite will teach you the controls, a basic understanding of the wind window, and how to generate power. The video is especially valuable because it will introduce you to concepts and terminology involved in kiteboarding that will allow you to move through the lessons efficiently while retaining more valuable information.
If you haven’t already, try out any sort of a board sport: snowboard, surfboard, wakeboard, skateboard or balance board. If you can’t ride a board now it will be twice as hard to learn to ride a board on water while flying kite. When you have relative board skills you can concentrate more on flying the kite.
If you can't get your homework done before you come down you will most likely learn slower. Those who take these first steps to prepare before they get here consistently get up and ride sooner than those who don't.
Next, is the first three hour kiteboarding lesson, in which you will learn the safety issues and systems, setup of the kite, launching and landing, the wind window and power stokes, water relaunching, self rescue and body dragging. At this point if you like to learn on your own, and don't mind the "walk of shame" back upwind, then you have the foundation skills to build on. Many decide that the convenience of boat support and the presence of an instructor are far too valuable to pass up. Often times those who have experience flying the trainer kite get their first chance to get up on the board because of the time saved by advancing through the lesson rapidly.
After the first three hour kiteboarding lesson you will have a basic understanding of how to setup, launch and fly a kite. The second lesson is the 3 hour waterstart lesson and beyond, where you go out the Air Padre Boat with a radio helmet and kites. Now we'll take those skills onto the water and work on body surfing, directional dragging, advanced kite control and water-starts. Once riding and later staying upwind, the learning curve accelerates VERY quickly. Many of our students who do 4 or more lessons finish with their first jumps, riding toe side and transitions.
Safety for yourself and the public.The huge kites used in kiteboarding are very dangerous in the hands of a person lacking instruction. Most spectators don't realize how much power a kite can generate. There’s a better chance you will stick with the sport. Many people try to teach themselves or learn from friends and end up quitting due to lack of thorough instructions and adequate safety. Kiteboard lessons may be expensive but kites and their accompanying equipment cost even more. Beginner kiters innocently thrash the gear they learn on so why not use the school’s instead of your own? Taking a lesson may allow you outgrow beginner gear and when you’re ready to buy you can jump into the intermediate gear.
Kiteboarding lessons are lead by certified instructors who strive to help create independent and safe riders. An experienced instructor will have knowledge, patience, and an ability to communicate. Each of these are essential to a safe learning environment.
In the end, after saving yourself and innocent bystanders from possible kitemares, saving your friendships with other kiteboarders and saving time and money by learning and buying the right gear.
South Padre Island ( SPI ) boasts warm, flat and shallow water coupled with consistent winds and tropical temperatures, all perfect for kite surfing. Additionally, SPI offers a variety of riding conditions at surf, bay and mainland locations. Add all these factors together and you get the best place to take a kiteboarding lesson, period.
Every kiteboarding web site boasts that they have shallow, flat water. If you go to a place with some shallow water then you will be in shallow water some of the time. Here on SPI we don’t have some shallow water- we have over a million acres of perfection! Being able to stand up after a gulp of sea water or a head first plunge into the bay is not only convenient but comforting.
Remember, as instructors we strive to make you a safe and independent kiteboarder. The shallow water is excellent for learning but once you’re capable of riding we will challenge you to perfect the techniques that will allow you to bring your skills home to the deeper water.