Kiteboarding instruction by a certified instructor is regarded by most as essential. You will advance more rapidly while helping to protect your equipment, yourself, and ensuring the safety of bystanders. While the mechanics of kiteboarding may be fairly simple, many problems and dangers that may be encountered while learning kiting (some of which may not be immediately obvious) can be avoided or minimised by taking professional instruction.
A good course should include basic kite setup, operation, maintenance, size considerations, various types and operation of important safety systems. It will also include weather planning and hazards, launch area selection, body dragging upwind to avoid board leash use, solo launching and landing, emergency landing, self-rescue, safety gear, tuning, water starting, how to stay upwind while riding, "rules of the road" and other essential topics.
Learning techniques include flying a small kite on a beach to learn how to control the kite within the wind window. Once good kite flying skills are obtained, the next progression is bodydragging, where a larger kite is flown and used to drag the student's body through the water. The effect is similar to bodysurfing, but with an upward lift component. Bodydragging is also a self rescue technique in the event a kiter loses their board and needs to get to the shore.
The next progression is to lie in the water and attach your feet to the board (i.e. through the foot loops) with the board downwind. The kite is then flown left and right with its pull balanced against the board's resistance by matching the pressure with alternate legs. For example, pressure on the left of the control bar is balanced against pressure applied by the left foot to the board, and vice versa.
Generally, the first step of kite surfing is to fly one's power kite into neutral position, in which the kite is overhead at the edge of the wind window, and therefore generating little pull ideally which can be balanced against one's body weight. Note: if an excessive wind gust occurs with your kite , your body weight may not be adequate to anchor the kite resulting in your being lofted or involuntarily lifted off the ground. An instructor would take pains to avoid having this happen to students.
A safe way to launch involves sitting down with legs extended in shallow water, placing one foot then the other into the footstraps of the board. Then, in a (hopefully) coordinated movement, the kite is flown toward the water, with the board initially pointing downwind. The rider is then pulled up out of the water and the board starts to plane. The rider can then use his feet to edge steer the board across the wind and edge into the water, which has the effect of acting like a keel. If the board is not edged into the water or a wave, the kite will pull the surfer in a powerful planing motion similar to wakeboarding.
A beginner can turn by stopping, putting the kite up into neutral, and then turning the kite in the opposite direction. A quicker, more skillful turn moves the kite toward the wind, to swing the surfer's path in a half circle, centered on the kite. As the turn ends, the kite is flown over to be in front of the surfer again. Turns away from the wind steal lift.
Kite surfing off in strong onshore winds off the north shore of O‘ahu in Hawai‘i. Note the wind-surfer catching the wave break. A poorly executed turn will "fly" the surfer, and is often followed by a tumble if the surfer can't put the board down at the right angle. It is important to use safety equipment like a deadman system where the kite lines can be detached from the surfer's harness quickly because the kite can (unintentionally) power up after tumbles and pull the rider under water or against objects at uncontrollable speeds. Safety knives are a must to quickly cut lines in the event of dangerous entanglements. After a tumble, detangling and relaunching the kite can be difficult. Experienced kite surfers try to keep the kite in the air.
If the kite is only turned partially, or is not straightened at the right rate, a turning surfer can swing up and be dragged into the air by the kite, then get hurt when he recontacts the surface. Even in water, flying a power kite can be a brutal contact sport. The kite is usually twenty meters (sixty feet) in the air, and a careless turn in high winds can easily swing one five meters (two stories) into the air and down to an uncontrolled contact.
Controlled flying and jumpingEdit
Controlled flying is possible and one of the biggest attractions of the sport, but more difficult and dangerous. Flying occurs when the momentum of the surfer pulls the kite. Before jumping, the surfer builds up as much tension as possible by accelerating and strongly edging the board. Then in controlled, straight flight, the kite is flown quickly (snapped) to an overhead position, usually just as the surfer goes over a wave. The kite must then be quickly turned to glide in the direction of motion, usually into the wind. A large variety of maneuvers can be performed while jumping such as rotations, taking the board off one's feet etc..
However, a kite surfer can also be flown into a nearby building, highway, or powerlines if the move is poorly executed or more commonly if the rider is caught by a wind storm or squall, or launches too large a kite whether in the water or on land. Weather planning and awareness are key to safe kiteboarding. A substantial quantity of riders have been killed in kiteboarding-related accidents since 2000, according to a safety adviser for one of the sport's governing bodies.