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Kite Surfing
Kite Surfing

 

Kite launch at Allonby
 

Kite surfing is a relatively new sport that has taken off over the past 10 years or so.  It started around 1995 with the pioneers using various types of kites on surfboards.  Around 1997 a couple of french brothers developed the first water based kites (Leading Edge Inflatables) that were specifically designed to be used on water.  The fact that the kites had an inflatable leading edge meant that they could easily be relaunched on water.  Foil or closed cell type kites do not relaunch on water once they get swamped. 

For more information on how to get started read on.  Information on local locations and spots further afield see the links at the bottom of this page.

Here are some of the main equipment manufacturers, in no particular order - Flexifoil, Slingshot, Ozone, Naish, North, Gin, Best, Nobile, Star Kites, Liquid Force, Cabrinha, FOne, Takoon, there are probably many others I've not mentioned. In terms of which is best, well, I would suggest demo as much kit as you can, there are few bad kites out there these days but they all have their subtle quirks or minor short comings ask around and try and fly em.

The sport is becoming ever more popular, its reckoned that there are about 250,000 kite surfers worldwide. The sport has two competitive world tours, the most popular and highest level is the PKRA which has been running since the back end of 2002. It just so happens that the current 5 times world champion (Aaron Hadlow) is from the UK.  He is also going heading for his 6th.

The sport involves using a power kite attached to the rider via a harness to power the rider on the water on either a surfboard or a twin tip wakeboard style kiteboard.  There are arguably 3 different disciplines, freestyle, waveriding and course racing.  Each of them use a different type of board, freestyle uses the wakeboard style board with straps or bindings, waveriding used a surfboard similar or the same as surfing with straps or strapless and course racing uses a board more like a windsurfer where the board is riden more on the fins.  Lots of people think the sport requires a huge amount of strength to hang onto the kite.  This is not the case, the rider is attached to the kite via a harness and in actual fact once you have reached a certain level, have got your kite and board skills nailed, it actually becomes reasonably effortless to ride.
 
There is a decent article on Wikipedia  on kite surfing that tells you about the sport.

If you want to get into the sport in the West Cumbria area its best to take some lessons.  Fraser at Euphoria Extreme teaches at the beaches in West Cumbria, contact him for more details.  For lessons in the south of the county check out North West Kite Surfing.

Its worth paying a little up front to get lessons before you decide whether you want to get into the sport as the learning curve can be pretty steep (and painful if you don't get the right safety advice), learning in the UK can also be quite difficult, learning abroad is better as you get steady, predictable wind, warm water and if you select the right location, waist deep lagoons which are much easier to learn in that the deeper water areas we tend to get in Cumbria.  In addtion getting lessons will tell you whether you want to spend the money on the equipment.   The worst thing you can do is buy a very cheap kite off ebay and head to the beach with no knowledge of how to set the kite up or how to fly it. You will get hurt for sure, or much worse, kites can generate a hugh amount of power and the older cheaper kites are not as safe as the latest equipment so beware.

New kites can cost around 750 - 1000 for the latest hybrid technology (and you will need at least two kites) and a board around 350 - 600. Add in wetsuit, harness and helmet and you can see the entry costs are quite high.  However there is a very busy second hand market where you can get some very good deals. We have a buying and selling forum on our discussion forum, there are also lots of kite surfing equipment sales on Ebay, Flexifoil forums and Kiteboarder forums.  Its worth talking to some of the kiters here before you just leap in and buy some kit though.  Some of the recent new starters have acquired all the equipment needed second hand with some new bargains thrown in for around 1000 all in, maybe a little less. That includes 2 kites, board, harness, wetsuit, helmet etc etc.. 

There is good community of riders in West Cumbria and we ride all year round, we also have quite a few trips away from time to time and they have pretty much all turned out to be epic.  If you decide to get into the sport and stick with it until you have it nailed you will not regret it, its one of the most rewarding sports out there, most of the guys have tried pretty most of the extreme sports out there and rate this as one of the top adrenaline rushes!

The most important part of kiting is to do it safely, respect the beach and others around you and again BE SAFE and have fun and enjoy the stoke.