You never forget your first wave: the feel of your feet on the board. The pull of the wave beneath you. The bird’s eye view of the ocean.
And, for more and more adrenaline seekers, kitesurfing is the perfect way to let off steam on the waves. One of the fastest growing water sports in the world, kitesurfing combines the surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding, paragliding, skateboarding and kite flying that you loved as a kid, in one experience. with high octane number. Also called kitesurfing, it uses the power of the wind – and kites 30 feet or longer – to pull athletes up and over the water, which they ride while standing on a narrow board. that looks like a snowboard.
This wind gives kitesurfers a kind of freedom that you just can’t get in other water sports. After all, unlike surfing, you don’t have to be on top of a wave to stay above the water when kitesurfing. The wind and some skillful maneuvering with the kite keep you constantly afloat.
âYou just need the wind to ride the waves with the kite, get on top of a wave, ride it, unleash the power of the kite, then ride the wave like a surfer. When the wave is over you use the kite to get on the next wave, âsays top kiteboarder Constantine bisanz. (In 2011, he set a world record for kitesurfing from Alaska to Russia across the Bering Strait.)
Plus, for advanced kitesurfers, the wind lets you take some serious air. âYou have the freedom to jump 10, 20, 30 feet from the water, even without the use of a wave,â says kitesurf instructor Nick Brouwer, owner Nix Kite Curacao.
Like many kitesurfers, Brouwer got into the sport after looking for an alternative to windsurfing. âI windsurfed for many years, but I didn’t like all the bulky equipment. It was difficult to travel with it. When kitesurfing, it’s easy to stow the kite, harness and board, and ride waves all over the world.
Sculpt your body on the water
If adrenaline alone isn’t enough to sell you kitesurfing, the full body benefits should be.
âI was shocked at how sore my abs were after my first use of a kiteboard,â says the exercise physiologist and recreational kitesurfing. Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., CSCS That’s because kitesurfing success is all about stability and control in the face of breaking waves and heavy winds. To stay upright on the board, you need to exercise the stabilizing muscles in your core while changing the positioning of your legs and arms to adapt to the elements and propel you where you want to go.
âWhen I’m traveling, I’ll go out and ride for three to four hours at a time. For some people, it’s a long time. For some, it’s short. But the amount of exercise you do during this time is great. And you don’t even feel like you’re exercising, âhe says.
Fortunately, for all the fitness benefits of kitesurfing, you don’t have to be very strong or in good aerobic shape to play the sport, Brouwer says. As long as you have good mobility and overall health, everyone from children to adults over 80 can participate. So don’t be intimidated.
Take some fresh air
Yet unlike what most beginner kitesurfers expect (or maybe they just hope), you usually don’t ride the waves, or even get on the board, during the first lesson, says Brouwer.
It’s disappointing, but kitesurfing is a sport of skill, and you need to master these skills before you can successfully ride this board. In fact, reputable kite instructors (make sure that when learning the sport you go through a school affiliated with the International Kitesurf Association) usually won’t even get the board out until halfway through the second lesson, he says.
It usually takes three lessons, each lasting around two hours, to get a kitesurfing license, meaning you are certified to kitesurf on your own without the supervision of an IKO instructor. People who want to get on the board ASAP (who doesn’t?) Once you have your license you can practice on your own, get on the water whenever you want to hone your skills and accomplish new feats on the water, says Bisanz.
In the first lesson, you practice flying the kite on the beach and in the water during what is called âbody draggingâ. It sounds bad, but it’s actually fun; it’s just a matter of steering the kite so that the wind blows you through the water as you float to the side.
Still, don’t be surprised if your first session is a bit, well, messy, says Bisanz. A lot of people are really bad the first time around and can get frustrated. Meanwhile, some are just too excited or happy, causing people to pull on the bar that controls the kite when they shouldn’t be. âKitesurfing can be a vicious cycle of emotions the first time around, but the learning curve is short. Stay relaxed and you’ll be fine, âsays Brouwer.
In the second lesson, you perform body streaks with less help from the instructor, try to get up on the board, and can even roll for a few seconds at a time. In the third lesson, you learn to drive more consistently and to control driving speed and direction. This third lesson is what kitesurfing is.
âI usually tell people that if they like their first lesson, they can’t stop until you get up at the board for a few seconds,â says Nelson. “Once you get up, you get addicted to this feeling.”
5 kitesurfing spots to add to your summer travel itinerary
These locations, from your own backyard halfway around the world, are perfect for kitesurfers of all skill levels.
Tarifa, Spain: A mecca for kitesurfers from all over the world, Tarifa is located at the southern end of Spain, at one end of the Strait of Gibraltar, and is constantly hit by some of the most intense winds in the world. Every kiteboarder should aspire to harness these winds.
Curacao: 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela, this island boasts some of the most consistent winds in the Caribbean. And while the island has more open water than any kitesurfing could possibly do with it, St. Joris Bay, where Brouwer teaches, is the island’s most popular kitesurfing spot. Since the strong bay winds blow perpendicular to the bay, kitesurfers head for shore and you know you’ll never have to struggle to get back to base camp.
The Great Lakes: This is not a joke. The Great Lakes are secretly great for kitesurfing. Plus, they’re easily accessible to people who can’t just travel to the tropics on a regular basis. Grand Haven, Michigan and Tawas Lake Huron State Park are two of the most popular spots among professionals, but the possibilities for kitesurfing are endless. City dwellers can even take care of the famous Chicago Winds at sites like Montrose Beach. (Just search online for kitesurfing rules and regulations before you go.)
Maui, Hawaii: Seriously, what could be better on the Hawaiian Island? âMaui is one of my favorite places in the world to go kitesurfing,â says Bisanz. âIt’s a perfect combination of very strong winds, great waves and beautiful nature.â The availability of instructor kitesurfing spots on the island is endless, and many resorts partner with kitesurfing schools or offer on-site lessons.
Cape Town, South Africa: Close to the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town’s waves and powerful winds make it ideal for water sports junkies looking for a solution, Bisanz says. Plus, wildlife lovers will knock over all the penguins and seals that hang out in the waters of Cape Town. Local kitesurfing instructors can place you in whatever waters are right for you, as winds, weather and the best kitesurfing spots change frequently around the African coast.