Learning to Kiteboard - Are Kiteboarding Lessons Really Necessary?

Kiteboarding or kitesurfing is the latest water sport sweeping the globe in the new millennium. If you have seen someone kiteboarding you know that not only does this sport look amazing but it is fun to watch. Many kiteboarders became enthralled and obsessed with learning this sport after seeing it for the first time. "..but it looks so easy" is a common statement I hear from students who thought they would be riding in the three hour lesson. The truth is kiteboarding is really not that hard. It is multitasking of wakeboarding and flying a kite. And learning to safely launch and fly kiteboarding kites takes some time. A minimum of about 3 hours of lesson time is a must. There is no bunny hill in kiteboarding; at any second the wind can pick up and you are on the triple black diamond. The first goal of new kiteboarders should be safe and independent.

Some things that you could look for which make learning much easier include: a lesson location with lots of shallow water, boat/waverunner support and radio helmets. Deep water makes relaunching the kite harder and often has more waves to splash you in the face. Boat support will cost extra but is worth it, as you are out practicing with the huge kite it is pulling you down wind, walking back is a waist of valuable time and energy. In 3 hour lesson you could easily end up 3-5 miles downwind from where you started, no problem if the instructor is in a boat following you. Lastly radio helmets, without one your instructor will be yelling at you and you will be trying to hear the instructions over the sound of the wind and splashing water.

A kiteboarding lesson will start out with a discussion including launch site considerations, wind theory and equipment terminology. Additionally we will take a look at the gear and talk about functional parts of the kite the control bar, kite leash and the harness. Here special emphasis is given the the safety systems incorporated into the control bar and kite leash. Although not the fun part of the lesson the safety information is critical. We should practice releasing the quick releases, or safety systems a number of times. In case of a emergency we need to fully understand these.

Next we learn how to setup and launch the kite. This first kite may be a small foil kite or trainer kite (generally for land use only), or may be a small inflatable kite (the kind used for kiteboarding). Again not super fun but mega important. The inflatable kites mostly run on 4 lines; being 100% sure we understand how and where each line hooks up is critical. A improperly rigged kite is dangerous. If you start with a trainer kite you won't cover this yet as trainer kites are often simplified 2 line systems and also launch quite differently than the inflatable 4 line kites. The idea with starting with a small kite is that the smaller kite won't have too much power as most people take some time understand how and when and why the kite pulls hard or soft. Once we have control of the smaller kite it is time to move on to a larger kite.

Now we have a set of skills that we must become proficient with before trying the board for the first time.

These kite control skills include:

* holding the kite still (both two handed and one handed)
* flying the kite one handed while carrying the board
* stroking the kite through the power zone and stop the kite at any given position
* stroking the kite through the power zone continuously
* re-launching the kite off the water after a crash
* preforming directional boarding dragging (technique to recover your board)
* floating on ones back while staying square to kite kite and flying one handed
* putting the board on while holding the floating position

The stroking the kite skills listed above are performed in the water as this technique powers up the kite, if done on land the kite would likely pull you off your feet. In the water this is fun and includes some splashing. On land this would be face planting and hard impacts. Not safe.

This is a very simplified version of how a lesson might go and I would say this is the minimum amount of instruction that everyone wanting to get into the sport should have. After you understand the basics you could buy gear and continue practicing with the kiteboard. The reality, in my experience, is many people don't feel 100% comfortable at this point. Most people take a total of 6-10 hours of lessons before heading out solo. If you are interested in getting into kiteboarding you can look me up, just Google Air Padre Kiteboarding.

Hope to see ya on the water!

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