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Equipment Buying Guide

Buying your first kitesurfing equipment can be daunting. There is not only the financial outlay and potential of getting it wrong, but far more importantly the issue of safety. Be too timid and you will end up with equipment that does not provide enough power. Conversely, be too bold and you may end up with equipment that potentially injures you.

If you read the section on Kitesurfing history you will know that the sport started from very crude beginnings. The modern depower kite only really became widely available in 2006. As such this is your first point of note. Make sure you buy a modern depower kite. There is talk of the kites of yesteryear being more fun to ride and better handling, but for a beginner or intermediate the price to be paid when things go wrong is far in excess of that paid for the experience of nostalgia. All kites can have serious implications when used improperly, but non depower kites can be deadly to the beginner.

Have a look at the image below. It charts the progression in kites from C to Bow to the modern hybrid. Both the Bow and the Hybrid are depower kites, but the Hybrid is by far the easiest and most rewarding to use.

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The size of kite you would buy as a beginner is linked to your weight. The style of kite I am talking about is the kites that everyone should buy in an ideal world when first starting; a modern hybrid depower kite. The size of all modern kites are indicated by their flat area. Some old kites were measured in Projected area (the size of the shadow cast on the ground) but none of the modern brands use this system anymore. It’s quite possible in this day and age to have only one kite and be able to ride 90% of conditions, whereas many prefer to have two kites and this means they will never be stood on the beach watching their friends. Many opt for three, and this gives the perfect sweet spot for all conditions, yet the old days of riders having more than three kites is not only unnecessary but illustrates just how limited the non depower kites were in wind range. Even though all kites are now measures in flat area some manufacturers are not truthful; some still miss-label their kites in order to promote higher levels of lightwind power, but most are fairly truthful, and sticking to one range usually get around any drastic miss labelling. Here follows a table of weight and kite sizes for modern hybrind depower kites.

Rider Weight 55-65kg 65-75kg 75-85kg 85-95kg 95-105kg
One kite quiver 8m 9m 10m 11m 12m
Two kite quiver 6m&10m 7m&11m 8m&12m 9m&13m 10m&14
Three kite quiver 5, 7 &10m 6, 9 &12m 8, 10 & 14m 8, 10 & 14m 8, 12 & 16m

As for boards, 90% of boards sold in the sport are of twin tip design. That means that they are bi-directional. You have a symmetrical stance; ride one way, then simply turn the kite and ride back the other way; no need to turn round.
Twin tips have been around for a very long time, since the start of the sport, yet the technology used to make them changed radically from 2004 onwards. The original twin tips, and their wakeboard counterparts are solid moulded fiberglass pieces that offer little or no flexibility. When the technology of the snow industry was applied then the flexible nature of the design had a radical effect; it gave the new boards far higher comfort and wind range. Called snowboard TT’s these boards spelled the extinction of the solid TT’s overnight. Size choice in your Twin Tip is crucial. There is a great deal of range in the modern board but getting the correct size for your weight is a great benefit. These days kites and boards are so good, have so much range, that the idea of getting a bigger board to start with is not as necessary as it used to be. If feeling tenacious you can go with a smaller board right from the start, a size you will never need to change in the future. If you are not then a larger board will serve you well for the first year, then buy a smaller one when your confidence is high. When assessing the size of a board pay less attention to the length of a board but far more to the width. Width gives you a much better indication to the size of the board; the lateral increase in size is so much more noticeable than the longitudinal. Not only is it simple geometry in that the board is a rectangle shape, but also the width controls how much rail is in the water, as well as being the majority section of board that creates drive. Every board has to be measured in width first.

Most modern twins will be between 128 and 140cm in length. Some exceptions to this include the widebody, which just go to illustrate how length is less relevant to the shaping, but staying under 140 is preferable as the extra length is detrimental to the lively feel and efficiency of the board. Have a look at the following table for weights and sizes in modern twins. There are two columns, one is for low power riding (beginner) and one for high power riding (intermediates to experts). This is the size of modern twin I would recommend – notice length is not even given!

Rider Weight High Power width Low Power width
55-65kg 36-38cm 38-40cm
65-75kg 38-40cm 40-42cm
75-85kg 40-42cm 42-44cm
85-95kg 42-44cm 44-46cm
95-105kg 44-46cm 46-50+cm

Also twins differ in their style; some are for wave use, some for tricks, some for everything. If in doubt go for an allround style, known as “multidiscipline” or “freeride”. Freestyle twins tend to be quite hard to ride on a day to day basis, and wave twins require more power than normal. Have a read of the styles in kiteboarding section for more info on the types of riding that people practice.

The others styles of boards currently used are skims and Surf, Skim and Raceboards.

Skimboards are traditionally strapless and were born from finless boards used by shallow water beach break surfing in the shore break. They are tricky to ride, challenging and very effective in light winds. Of all the various riding styles it is the lightwind aspect that they are most famous for; offering really early planning and a lot of fun for not a lot of wind.

Surfboards are probably the most common second board and used specifically for the riding of waves. Strapless or with straps they allow the surf style of waveriding to be translated into kitesurfing. Riding waves with a kite has become a great deal more accessible with the newest generation of kite designs; they bring a new level of agility and stability needed to let riders surf as opposed to being pulled relentlessly by the kite. The premise is that larger boards use the power of the wave to surf, whereas the smaller boards use the kite as the powersource, not the wave. There are plenty of theories though, but most riders prefer to find there own way with surfboards; let your own style manifest once your experience grows.

Raceboards and racing in kitesurfing is something that has just started to become more mainstream since 2008. These boards are upwind and lightwind machines on the most part; rider comfort comes in second place when compared to the competitive need to get around the windward mark first. As such they have plenty of fins, wide tails and go upwind like a missile.

eBay and Second Hand. There is a great deal of kitesurfing equipment on ebay these days. Armed with the advice above you will have enough knowledge to stay clear of disaster, but when buying a kite check the status of repair and the porosity of the canopy (where the fabric becomes porous as the resin starts to degrade and fall out of the cloth) – especially at the trailing edge where many leave their kites to flap like flags on the beach. This is the first place for irreparable failure. Check all bladders inflate and stay inflated. Check lines and bar systems of wear and the presence of a trustworthy safety system. Also stick to bigger brands. There are many poor knock off copies of kites from china on ebay, brands with little R+D, which at best are poor handling, at worst can be highly dangerous.

As for boards, check for stress cracks in the hull (places where the board has been hyper flexed and left a white mark in the deck) and check for fin and heel side rail damage. Also check that all inserts are clean and functioning. You’ll also want a board that is the right size and style for your ability, so have a read of the styles in kiteboarding section for further info on the types of boards available. If in doubt always go for a multidiscipline or freeride style of board.

Buying from a Retailer
It’s always good to have a solid link with a trusted kite store. If you are good to them they will (or should be) good to you! Make sure you find one that gives you unbiased advice and has plenty of dealerships; this way they are not tempted to railroad you into their latest high margin product. Instead they should be more willing to find the right equipment for you and your needs. Retailers will help you service your equipment, will put their weight behind any warranty issues you may have and will generally help you eliminate the stress and keep you on the water.

Your kit list;

Kite, control bar, pump and safety system
Board (including footstraps, and fin)
Board leash (preferably the retractable design)
Harness (either seat or waist)

Kite repair kit
Buoyancy Aid
Dog screw tether (for landing and launching)
Anemometer (measures the wind)