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A Brief Overview of Kitesurfing

Sonal Panse
Kitesurfing is a comparatively new sport, but the idea of using a kite for propulsion purposes has been around for centuries. Let's have a look...

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Kitesurfing, which is also known as kiteboarding, is the sport of surfing or riding over a water surface on a kiteboard powered by a kite. It is best done on large open water bodies with uncrowded launch areas.
Most kitesurfers prefer to surf in the ocean, but it can also be done on rivers and lakes. It is not a sport without risk, and you need to have an understanding about wind direction, be in a reasonably good physical state, and must know how to swim well.

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The History

Though the sport is a new one, the idea of using a kite for propulsion has been around for centuries.

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The Chinese, in the 13th century, experimented with harnessing kite-power. Kite-power, controlled with an innovative 4-line control system was used by George Pocock in the 1800s as an alternative to horsepower to power carts and boats.
The first long-range kite-powered venture―across the English Channel―was successfully attempted by Samuel Cody in 1903. Fast forward to 1978, when Ian Day demonstrated that a kite-powered catamaran could go faster than 40 kph. During the 1980s, some adventurous souls had a go at speeding up skating, skiing, and canoeing, with the help of kites.
But kitesurfing did not come into its own as a sport until the France-based Legaignoux brothers, Bruno and Dominique, and the USA-based father-son duo, Bill and Corey Roeseler, separately developed specific and inflatable kite designs for that very purpose.

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The Roeselers patented water skis that were powered by a two-line kite, and had a kite-control bar and surfboard-like skis. Kite and kiteboard designs continued to be improved and the sport turned mainstream.


If you want to get started, it is essential that you equip yourself with the best gear available. Here is the list of what you will need.
Power Kite: Many kitesurfers keep a 'quiver' or 3 or 4 kites, large as well as small ones, with lines of varying lengths. The type depends upon the level of experience, the rider's weight, and the wind conditions. If you are a beginner or it is very windy, a small kite will prove much more manageable.
Kiteboard: This is a small board―like a wakeboard―which has foot-straps or bindings. It is what you use to skim over the water. Some people use a leash to attach the board to themselves, but this is not recommended.
Wetsuit: This is to protect you in cold water, and from jellyfish and other marine organisms.

Sharp Knife: You will need this to cut the kite lines if it becomes necessary.
It's important to take a few lessons from seasoned kitesurfers or certified instructors before attempting kiteboarding yourself, and you should never venture out solo. You should know about the following things:

» The size and type of kite to use.
» The way to set up and operate a kite.
» The way to maintain a kite.
» The way the safety systems work.
» The way the winds work, and how you should gauge the weather.
» The way to avoid hazards.
» The way to select the launch area.
» The way to launch yourself.
» The way to ride the board on water.
» The way to land correctly.
» The way to make emergency landings.

Safety Factors

Kiteboarding, if not undertaken with care, can pose a hazard to the kitesurfers themselves, to other kitesurfers, to beachgoers, bystanders, swimmers, regular surfers, and others in the water. To avoid accidents and avoid giving the sport a bad reputation follow the necessary things.

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» Take lessons from professionals first, and understand everything you can about the sport.
» Find out if it is allowed before you try it at any beach. There may be a notice stating if it's allowed or not, or you can ask a lifeguard or a beach patrol officer.
» Avoid a crowded beach, especially if you are a beginner.
Never venture out onto the water in direct offshore and onshore winds. Direct offshore winds can blow you out to sea to such a great distance that it would be physically tiring or even impossible to swim all the way back to shore.
Direct onshore winds, on the other hand, would blow you back to shore, and you would risk dashing against rocks, piers, buildings, and other objects.
Cross-shore winds are the best for kitesurfing. It should never be done solo because of the risks involved. Take a friend along, preferably someone with a boat and enough knowledge of the sport, so as to be able to rescue you if the need arises.