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Kitesurfing 101

Author:  Kenji Murapa

What is Kitesurfing?

You’ve probably come across kite surfing at some point, even if only on the internet. Kite surfing is an action sport that relies on a wind powered sailing kite to propel a manned board or skis across water and sometimes hard terrain. It is both a recreational activity and a professional, competitive sport.

It’s what many would call an “extreme sport”. An inherently fringe and somewhat dangerous activity with a relatively high skill ceiling. Crazy, mop haired adrenaline junkies darting through eternities of salt sprayed air with no reservations and even less hesitation.

This is true in a sense, kite surfing can be edgy and dangerous, but if you take a deeper look, you’ll soon find that in essence, kitesurfing is a natural and rewarding relationship between man and the elements.

Another aspect of kitesurfing that makes it so intriguing is the fact that it’s actually a fusion of several other extreme sports. Take windsurfing, wakeboarding and paragliding, mash them together and you have a portal to a wind powered dimension.

Even more curious is the real history behind the sport.

The History of Kitesurfing

Kite surfing as a popular sport has only been around for just over two decades. Many consider 1996 the year of the kite. This is when kitesurfing became accessible to a mainstream public as a recreational activity.

Before this however, kitesurfing has its humble origins all the way back to the 19th century. As the world began to industrialize in the 1800s, a man named George Pocock had an idea.

Because manufacturing and production for a new modern world required larger and larger shipments of, well, everything, the issue of how to efficiently transport them soon emerged. On land, horse powered haulage was the only way to get by. And by sea, boats and ships.

When it came to the horses, they were generally effective, but being living animals, they required constant inputs and management of constant...outputs. This meant horses became a general burden and in order to compensate for this, a tax was imposed on owners of horses and carriage services.

Back to our buddy George Pocock, who after realizing he didn't want to pay tax (don’t we all) he decided to find a workaround. He took his inspiration from the sea.

Noticing the power and efficiency of wind, a free energy source, he decided to apply it on a smaller scale. Instead of massive sails and spinnakers, George went for the humble kite.

He used the kite to efficiently propel carts of goods and bails across land and water. He employed the same four line system used in modern kiting. So despite it not being a sport at the time, George Pocock basically invented kite surfing.

Kiting Today. What's The Vibe?

Today, kitesurfing is a major action sport. In 2000, Red Bull established the Red Bull King of the Air in Maui and since then, it happens every year in Cape Town. South Africa.

Other developments in the kitesurfing include it almost becoming an Olympic sport. After a 2012 vote which allowed kiting to replace windsurfing at Rio 2016, the decision was reversed.

We might still see kiting in a future Olympic games, but for now, that idea is dead in the water. As a consolation however, kitesurfing featured as an official event at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.

Because of the popularity of the sport and it’s rise as an illustrious career, many stars have emerged from the community.

Kitesurfing hotshots: Meet the Big Fish.

Because it’s an extreme sport, kiting tends to attract and produce some crazy characters. The funny thing is, the top athletes in the field tend to be more sane and composed than most. Allow an introduction.

Ruben Lenten.

Ruben is a Dutch mega-loop lover. He’s as brave and adventurous as you could imagine a top tier athlete in such an insane world would be. He won the 2005 Red Bull King of the Air and is considered one of the forerunners of modern kiting.

His greatest victory however, was winning a battle against cancer. His life stands as one of the most inspiring hero stories in modern action sports. Catch him on Instagram.

Paula Novotna

This Czech born water baby has been at it harder than most. Considered one of the kiting world’s most progressive riders.

Having been a junior European and European champion, as well as regularly placing on the podium in global comps, Paula is a gale-force to reckon with.

Bruna Kajiya

This Brazilian pro is a true force of nature. She is the 2015 and 2016 world champion and has a reputation worthy of worship.

Her position in the community has not only made her a role model and inspiration to her peers, but she’s also used the platform to inspire young girls in discovering the magic of kitesurfing. See more of her on Instagram here.

Keahi de Aboitiz

This Australian megastar has been kiting since he was 11. He soon began taking on the big leagues, appearing in freestyle comps around the world.

His appetite for adventure sees him chasing the stoke around the world. Riding big wave competitions and hunting for the biggest swells nature can produce.

Location, Location, Location: Where to Kite?

Two things you need to consider when deciding where to kite. These are community and conditions.

Firstly you will need the right conditions, namely the windy variety. You also need the right kind of terrain, which in most cases means no terrain at all, but instead, the deep blue sea. Secondly you’ll need a community that supports kite surfers and sustains an economy for kitesurfing to be viable in that place. So here are the best places to Kitesurf.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is the home of the Red Bull King of the Air. The famous Big Bay spot on Cape Town’s west coast receives a crazy amount of wind.

Cape Town also has a thriving kiting community, further backed up by one of the worlds most established water sports communities.

Maui, Hawaii

Probably the most popular kiting spot in the world, Maui has a time-honoured legacy of aquatic action sports in general.

The lush, tropical setting is constantly bathed in strong trade winds, making Maui ready when you are. Maui was also the location of the first ever Red Bull King of the Air.

La Ventana, Baja, California

Nothing quite as charming as a sleepy surf town with an element of insanity embedded in the fabric of the community. Welcome to La Ventana.

La Ventana is also a place of learning and has a robust community of surf and kitesurfing instructors. This makes it a great place to dip your toes in the water.

Gear Up!

With all that out of the way, the last, and certainly not the least thing you’ll need is the correct gear. First we look at the kitesurfing gear checklist. These are the essentials you can’t go without.

As for brands, there are quite a few tried and trusted sources. Have a look at our brands:  Kitesurfing


So there you have it folks, Kitesurfing 101. If you’re still not sure where to begin, we suggest you hit up your nearest Kitesurfing school and book a trip.

Don't forget to check out our store for some awesome options and gear setups!

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