Terminolgy – learn the lingo
There are three types of Kitesurfing kites, the original kites were known as C kites which had a very curved outline and square wingtips, only hybrid variants of these are still designed and no full C Kites are still in production.
In 2005 the first Bow kites also known as SLE (supported leading edge) were developed, these being much flatter in with swept back wingtips. These had two huge advantages over the previous kites, the swept wingtip allowed the front line and bridle to attach right up the leading edge allowing massive amounts of depower and incredibly easy relaunch. The Bow kites however did still have a few problems, slow turning coupled with instability in the sky and often being prone to invert put of current riders at the time, however the safety side of them did allow Kitesurfing to appeal to the mass market.
From 2006 onwards hybrid kites have been developed and engulfed the market. Taking the advantages from both the C and Bow style kites to create the perfect mix, they have the large depower and easy re-launch of the bow but the fast turning, stability and performance of the C kites. 90% of the kites available on the market now are hybrids, some which are more beginner/intermediate orientated and others with more performance and less ease of use.
Kite choice is very important and will determine how quickly (and safely) you will progress through the sport. Every brand has a kite in their range aimed at learners and these will help you progress much faster through the sport.
Beginner / intermediate kites are designed to provide safety, performance and convenience so that riders can safely and easily progress through the sport. They generally have a lower aspect ratio (shorter and fatter) to make them stable and predictable. Low aspect ratio kites are also easier to relaunch off the water after a crash so offer increased confidence and more riding time. The hybrid style LEI kites now make kite surfing safer, easier to learn, and accessible to the everyone due to incredible wind range and near 100% depower.
Advanced kites generally have a higher aspect ratio (long and thin) and increased turning rate. They will react faster to rider input and will generate larger amounts of lift and speed through the wind window meaning additional control and skill is required from the rider but more performance can be attained.
What do you want from a kite?
If you are looking at buying a kite either second hand or new then it is good to go for a hybrid, with so much variance in the types there is definitely one for you.
Beginner to intermediate kites, there is a great range with these kites allowing easy relaunch, a stable kite with large amounts of depower.
Beginner/all round kites that we recommend are:
Airush DNA - Great for relaunch, very stable with a huge wind range with quick turning and flies well trimmed in.
Airush Lithium - Similar to the DNA but also has the very strong load frame, more efficient profile giving more performance and one pump system.
Liquid Force Solo - Extremely stable and easy to use kite with thin leading edge giving excellent efficiency and upwind, brilliant in low winds and on the waves.
Liquid Force Envy - Slightly more performaced based allowing better upwind and jumping capabilities. Robust in it's construction a super all round kite.
RRD Passion - Flatter shape giving lots of power and very good at generating apparent wind so allows you to ride along quite underpowered.
RRD Vision - Responsive and great for going upwind with a light construction making it excellent underpowered and on low wind days
North Neo - Stable and solid kite with responsive turning, also used by many pro wave riders
Cabrinha Radar - Allround dependable and steady kite, designed for kiters of all abilites.
For those enthusiastic kitesurfers hoping to progress quickly and have a more performance based kite:
RRD Obsession - A fast performance kite that has kept it's ease of use and water relaunch ability, excellent for jumping and also good in the waves.
Airush Union - The Kitesurf Centre's favourite kite of the 2016 season, fast through the sky and very quick turning, excellent jumping, good bar pressure with superb upwind ability and solid construction with the load frame.
Airush Wave - We think it is the best wave kite on the market but also a fantastic all rounder. Created for waves making it very stable, super fast turning and great upwind but great for all styles of riding, with extra strengthening on the canapy to withstand waves and impacts.
F-one Bandit - A reliable choice for all kiters, popular for all style and levels, this is a top performance hybrid.
North Rebel - Efficient, powerful, solid in the sky and we think the best jumping kite on the market
Cabrinha Switchblade - Predictable and steady kite, unlikely to be caught out whether riding hooked on or trying unhooked tricks.
Liquid Force Wow - Wave/freeride kite which is efficient and works well when riden with a little speed, great on the wave with quick turning and stability but also huge jumps
Performance Kites - C shaped kites for experienced riders into Wakestyle tricks and kiteloops
Liquid Force HiFi X2
There are also riding style specific kites but they are also often very good when used for all-round freeriding due to their attributes. They are mainly designed with one style of riding, eg wave kites, these will be very quick at turning, big depower, stable and good at drifting (Drifts backwards when riding at the kite without falling from the sky) allowing the rider to concentrate on the wave. Another key point to a wave kite is durability as these kites will often have to take a tumble in large breaks:
Liquid Force Wow
If you aren't sure about any of these then come down to the centre, we have many of these kites availiable to demo, although watch out, if it's one of the good ones, you might not be the only one wanting a go so make sure to call first.
There is a huge range of kite sizes available which allow you to cover different wind strengths and rider weights. Most kitesurfers have 2 or 3 kites to allow them to go out in all winds but most start with one kite, in this case it is best to choose the middle or larger size so that you can practice in the best conditions, 12-20mph. When picking a range of kites a 2m gap between sizes is good on smaller sizes and a 2 or 3m gap between larger sizes as it is a similar percentage difference. eg a good 3 kite quiver for an average weight person is 7, 9 and 12m.
Size of kite if buying 1:
7-9 stone: 8/9m
10-11 stone: 9/10m
12-14+ stone: 11-13m
Size of kites if buying 2:
7-9 stone: 6/7 & 10/11m
10-11 stone:8/9 & 11/12m
12-14+ stone: 9 & 12/13m
Size of kites if buying 3:
7-9 stone: 5/6, 7/8/9m and 10/11m
10-11 stone: 6/7, 8/9 & 11/12m
12-14+ stone: 7/8, 9/10 & 13/14m
A kiteboard's performance can be accurately described by its design attributes. Every board design will perform differently and gaining an understanding of the terminology will help you to see how different design attributes affect the performance and therefore find a board that is best for your skill level and riding style.
Seen a board you like but after reading about the rocker, rails, channels, core and stringers you are left completely baffled, well this should help you out.
Types of Boards:
Twin Tip Boards
Twin tips are by far the most popular style of kite board and are the only choice for 95% of riders from beginners to experts alike. They are user friendly, great for all conditions and excel at freestyle riding, providing excellent handling and control of the board during aerial manoeuvres.
Twin Tip boards are symmetrical in shape so the board will ride exactly the same way no matter what direction it is travelling in. The rider is located in a central stance on the board and uses footstraps or bindings to attach their feet to the board.
Foot position does not change during riding; to reverse the direction of travel the rider simply points the board in the other direction (similar to wakeboarding). Twin tips rely very heavily on edging to provide grip and improve upwind performance. Additionally, these boards normally have a total of four fins (two fins on each end) to help provide the board with grip whilst turning or when riding in lighter winds.
Directional boards originated from surfboards and so look similar to a standard short board. These are either used as race boards however more commonly these are used as wave riding specific kite boards. As the name and shape suggest, these are designed to be ridden in one direction only and the rider must switch foot position when changing direction. The construction is usually much more heavy duty than standard surfboards and the edge shape and fin position take the use of a kite into consideration. Footstraps are optional and modern wave style directionals are specifically aimed at utilising wave power over kite power for down the line kite surfing. These are great in light wind when standard twin tips might struggle the greater surface area and buoyancy of these will help dramatically.
Dimensions (length and width)...
The performance of a kite board is largely determined by the planing area (surface area) of the base (but also the shape: more later so read on...). Planing area is influenced predominantly by board length, but changing the board width also affects the overall ride and feel of a board.
Larger boards with more planing area are better suited to beginners and lighter winds. The use of a larger board with increased buoyancy allows a beginner / intermediate rider to use a smaller kite for improved safety and confidence. Shorter boards with less planing area offer a more comfortable ride in powered conditions, making them more suitable for advanced riders and higher wind conditions.
The planing area of a board can also be increased by increasing the width of board, allowing rider to use a shorter board that offers good powered performance, yet still retain good light wind performance. Note that boards with increased width are less suited to choppy conditions since they feel more buoyant and are more likely to bounce around over rough water.
Riders choosing a board need to consider the style of riding they wish to pursue and the type of conditions they are likely to ride in.
Planing area is also influenced by board shape. A rectangular shape with wide tips will plane earlier and will offer improved 'pop' for freestyle riding. Boards with narrow tips (and a more diamond shape) offer enhanced control in powered conditions with smoother transitions from edge to edge during carve turns. Narrower boards excel in powered conditions since they give a smoother and faster ride through choppy water conditions.
Rocker describes the curvature of the base of the board from end to end - the best way to view a board's rocker line is by viewing the rail side on. Kiteboard performance is affected both by degree of rocker and the distribution of rocker along the board's length.
A board with a large degree of rocker will give a smoother ride since the nose is less likely to catch the water when riding the board flat after landing a jump or when turning. These characteristics enable much better performance in chop and give the board more grip and control in powered conditions. However, increasing the rocker demands more kite power to enable the board to plane, so the light wind ability of the board is compromised. Flatter boards with less rocker offer a faster ride in flat water (since they plane more easily) and improved 'pop' since there is more rail in the water to load and release.
Rocker is normally distributed in two way: continuous or in 3 stages. Boards with continuous rocker have a smooth curve along the entire length of the board, creating a smooth and fast ride. Boards with 3-stage rocker have a relatively flat surface overall to aid planing, but with increased rocker at both ends to give a smooth ride and prevent the tips diving when riding chop. 3-stage rocker creates a slower ride but with improved 'pop'.
The flex of a board creates a smoother ride by absorbing energy as the board cuts through the water - this is not necessarily a desirable trait since flex can creates a soggy feeling with limited 'pop'. Increasing the flex also affects the performance by changing the rocker of the board during the application of pressure, when edging hard for example. Practically, this can facilitate early planing whilst offering increasing grip as more pressure (and hence rocker) is applied during edging. Flex clearly plays a crucial role in determining the board's characteristics. Stiff boards favour heavy riders, freestyle riders and powered conditions. A more flexible board will benefit lighter riders and less powered conditions.
A stiff board with flexible tips creates a dynamic ride that can respond accordingly to different riding environments. During powered conditions, the tips will flex as edge pressure is applied enabling the board to ride through chop well, whilst still maintaining a low degree of rocker over the main base of the board to facilitate 'pop'. In lower wind conditions, the board base remains flatter to facilitate planing.
Kiteboards now feature many different base designs from channels, concave formations, combinations of the two, or simply a flat base. Concave describes the curvature of the base of the board from side to side - the best way to view a board's concave is by viewing the board end on.
Concave increases the stability of the board, making it easy to edge and thus promoting upwind performance. Although concave designs have more drag, the smoother ride can actually increase board speed since it is easier for the rider to maintain consistent edge control.
Double concave comes into play when riding the board flat rather than when edging. It helps prevent the rails from catching, so those powered blind landings that we all do suddenly become easier! The smooth edge to edge transitions also add fluidity to wave riding. A well designed double concave board base can provide the increased grip associated with a single concave feature, whilst allowing a nice skatey ride when riding the board flat.
Channels on the board base are rare but simply act like small fins, promoting grip and allowing the board to be edged harder.
There is a many features that go into kite boards but the most important is the length and width. Kitesurfing relies on the surface area of the board as you are constantly on the plan, skimming acorss the surface. The larger the surface area, the easier and longer the board will stay on the plan. The width of the board make a much bigger difference to the overall surface area than the length, if you add 1cm to the length the differece is extremely minimal, 1cm extra on the length makes the board much more efficient and will get up and riding easier and glide for longer.
Other features that affect a board are:
- Shape – The squarer the shape the more surface area there is at the tips, this makes the board more efficient. If the board has a more rounded shape it it better at carving
- Rocker – The rocker is how curved a board is, more rocker gives the board a smooth ride and soft landings but as it sits lower in the water but this produces more drag so it is less efficient.
- Base contours – There are many base shapes that can be put into the base of the board to alter the ride
- Flex – More flex absorbs the chop and gives the board a smooth ride, stiff flex allows better edging potential giving more pop, upwind abilty and light wind performance.
- Rail – A rounder rail is more forgiving and smoother when carving, a shaper rail bites into the water more so it can be edged harder and is better upwind.
These features are all combined into a boards design to give it the specific desired characteristics.
A good first board will be easy to use, efficient and comfortable. The size that you will need depends on your weight, you can go to the shorter end of the size range if it is wide.
7-11 stone: 134-136 x 41-42
11-14 stone: 136-142 x 41-43
+14 stone: 140-146 x 43-45
It is ok to use an intermediate/advanced board for your first kitesurf board as many of them are efficient so will get up and riding easily. They might not be quite as forgiving or comfortable to ride as a beginner board but once you are starting to go for jumps and tricks they will offer more performance.
Some perfect examples are:
Liquid Force Drive
Liquid Force Focus
Liquid Force Legacy
There are two types of harnesses, seat and waist
Seat harnesses have leg straps which keep them securely in position and stop them spinning or moving up your body. Waist harnesses do not have leg straps which allows more manoeuverability.
There are Key advantages and dissadvantages to both, leg straps are very usefull when you are learning as the kite is up above your head a lot when you are body dragging so they help keep it in position. You will find that you will always use harnesses with leg straps with lessons.
Once more advanced and comfortable with your riding it is a good idea to try out a waist harness, usually preferred in terms of comfort and offering more back support these are used by the majority of riders. When riding your kite is lower and so the risk of the harness sliding up is decreased allowing for a harness without legstraps. The key to using these is to have them tightened up as much as possible to allow for minimal movement.
Harnesses come in all shapes and sizes and its is a good idea to try them on in a shop to find one that fits your body well, this is particularly important with waist harnesses.
If you are just starting out then a seat harness such as a Mystic Aviator or Mystic Supporter, Another option is the seat/waist combo Mystic Star kite seat where the harness is effectively a waist harness with extra leg straps which you can decide not to use as you improve.