Kiteboarding is an action sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport. A kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water, land, or snow.
Compared to the other sailing sports, kiteboarding is both among the less expensive (including equipment) and the more convenient. It is also unique in that it harvests the wind energy from a much larger atmosphere volume, comparing to sail size.
In the 1800s, George Pocock used kites of increased size to propel carts on land and ships on the water, using a four-line control system—the same system in common use today. Both carts and boats were able to turn and sail upwind. The kites could be flown for sustained periods. The intention was to establish kitepower as an alternative to horsepower, partly to avoid the hated "horse tax" that was levied at that time. In 1903, aviation pioneer Samuel Cody developed "man-lifting kites" and succeeded in crossing the English Channel in a small collapsible canvas boat powered by a kite
In the late 1970s, the development of Kevlar then Spectra flying lines and more controllable kites with improved efficiency contributed to practical kite traction. In 1978, Ian Day's "FlexiFoil" kite-powered Tornado catamaran exceeded 40 km/h.
In October 1977 Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise (Netherlands) received the first patent for KiteSurfing. The patent covers, specifically, a water sport using a floating board of a surf board type where a pilot standing up on it is pulled by a wind catching device of a parachute type tied to his harness on a trapeze type belt. Although this patent did not result in any commercial interest, Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise could be considered as the originator of KiteSurfing.
On August 28, 1982 Greg Locke and Simon Carter, from Brighton UK, set the world record for kite traction at sea, travelling nearly 26 miles under wind power alone along the English channel. This followed a successful crossing of the English Channel from Sussex to France by Locke & Carter the previous year.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Dieter Strasilla from Germany developed parachute-skiing and later perfected a kiteskiing system using self made paragliders and a ball-socket swivel allowing the pilot to sail upwind and uphill but also to take off into the air at will. Strasilla and his Swiss friend Andrea Kuhn used this invention also in combination with surfboards and snowboards, grasskies and selfmade buggies. One of his patents describes in 1979 the first use of an inflatable kite design for kitesurfing.
Two brothers, Bruno Legaignoux and Dominique Legaignoux, from the Atlantic coast of France, developed kites for kitesurfing in the late 1970s and early 1980s and patented an inflatable kite design in November 1984, a design that has been used by companies to develop their own products.
In 1990, practical kite buggying was pioneered by Peter Lynn at Argyle Park in Ashburton, New Zealand. Lynn coupled a three-wheeled buggy with a forerunner of the modern parafoil kite. Kite buggying proved to be popular worldwide, with over 14,000 buggies sold up to 1999.
The development of modern-day kitesurfing by the Roeselers in the United States and the Legaignoux in France carried on in parallel to buggying. Bill Roeseler, a Boeing aerodynamicist, and his son Cory Roeseler patented the "KiteSki" system which consisted of water skis powered by a two line delta style kite controlled via a bar mounted combined winch/brake. The KiteSki was commercially available in 1994. The kite had a rudimentary water launch capability and could go upwind. In 1995, Cory Roeseler visited Peter Lynn at New Zealand's Lake Clearwater in the Ashburton Alpine Lakes area, demonstrating speed, balance and upwind angle on his 'ski'. In the late 1990s, Cory's ski evolved to a single board similar to a surfboard.
In 1996, Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin were instrumental in demonstrating and popularising kitesurfing off the Hawaiian coast of Maui while in Florida Raphaël Baruch changed the name of the sport from flysurfing to kitesurfing by starting and promoting the first commercial brand of the industry "Kitesurf".
In 1997, the Legaignoux brothers developed and sold the breakthrough "Wipika" kite design which had a structure of preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips, both of which greatly assisted water re-launch. Bruno Legaignoux has continued to improve kite designs, including developing the bow kite design, which has been licensed to many kite manufacturers.
In 1997, specialized kite boards were developed by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness. By the end of 1998 kitesurfing had become an extreme sport, distributed and taught through a handful group of shops and schools worldwide. The first competition was held on Maui in September 1998 and won by Flash Austin.
Starting in 1999, kitesurfing became a mainstream sport with the entry of key windsurfing manufacturers namely Robby Naish and Neil Pryde. Single direction boards derived from windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kiteboard.
In 2000, a new freestyle competition, sponsored by Red Bull was launched in Maui. The competition, named Red Bull King of the Air, judged riders on height, versatility, and style. The competition is still held annually in Cape Town, South Africa.
From 2001 onwards, twin-tip bi-directional boards became more popular for most flat water riders, with directional boards still in use for surf conditions.
In May 2012, the course racing style of kitesurfing was announced as a sport for the 2016 Rio Olympics, replacing windsurfing. However, after a vote by the General Assembly of ISAF in November 2012 (in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland) the RSX windsurfer was reinstated for both Men and Women this was an unprecedented decision when the constituent members of ISAF overthrew a decision made by the ISAF Council Kitesurfing remains therefore a non-Olympic sport until 2020 at the earliest. The ISAF mid-year meeting of May 2013 proposed seeking an eleventh medal to include kitesurfing in 2020 at the same time there was a commitment made to retain the existing other 10 classes as they are for 2020 and even 2024 including the RSX windsurfer for men and women.
Nick Jacobsen achieved the world record for the highest kite jump measured by WOO Sports on February 19, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, during a session with 40-knot winds. Jacobsen's jump reached 28.6 meters high, with an airtime of 8.5 seconds. The record was broken several times since then and WOO Sports maintains jump-related leaderboards in different categories (airtime, height, etc.) based on the data recorded and uploaded by its users. The current record holder for the height of a single jump is Michael Mac Donald with 33.9 meters. 
French kitesurfer Sébastien Cattelan [fr] became the first sailor to break the 50 knots barrier by reaching 50.26 knots on 3 October 2008 at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. On 4 October, Alex Caizergues [fr] (also of France) broke this record with a 50.57 knots run. Similar speeds are reached by windsurfers in the same location by Anders Bringdal and Antoine Albeau, respectively 50.46 and 50.59 knots. These speeds are verified, but are still subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council. Earlier in the event, on 19 September, American Rob Douglas reached 49.84 knots (92.30 km/h), becoming the first kitesurfer to establish an outright world record in speed sailing. Previously the record was held only by sailboats or windsurfers. Douglas also became the world's third over-50 knots sailor, when on 8 September he made a 50.54 knots (93.60 km/h) run.
On 14 November 2009, Alex Caizergues completed another run of 50.98 knots in Namibia.
October 2010, Rob Douglas became the outright record holder for the short distance 500 meters with 55.65 knots. Sébastien Cattelan became the record holder of France and Europe with 55.49 and was the first rider to reach 55 knots.
|2006-05-13||225 km (121 nmi)||Kirsty Jones, crossing solo from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Tarfaya, Morocco, in about nine hours||"Kirsty Jones Kiteboards from Lanzarote to Morocco". Windsurfing & kitesurfing travel.|
|2007-07-24||207 km (112 nmi)||Raphaël Salles, Marc Blanc and Sylvain Maurain between Saint-Tropez and Calvi, Haute-Corse in 5h30 at 20 knots, beating Manu Bertin's previous record of 6h 30m for the same journey.||"Long Distance between Saint Tropez and Calvi: 207 km in 5 h 30". M8 distribution Australia.|
|2008-10-12||419.9 km (226.7 nmi)||Eric Gramond crossing from Fortaleza to Parnaíba in Brazil during 24 hours||Eric Gramond (26 October 2008). "24h with kitesurf". Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2009.|
|2010-03-22||240 km (130 nmi)||Natalie Clarke crossing Bass Strait from Stanley, Tasmania to Venus Bay, Victoria in Australia in 9h30||"Natalie Clarke kite crosses the Bass Strait in record time". SurferToday.com. 24 March 2010.|
|2010-05-10||369.71 km (199.63 nmi)||Phillip Midler (USA) from South Padre Island, Texas to Matagorda, Texas||"American Phil Midler Breaks Kiteboarding Long Distance World Record". The Kiteboarder. 13 May 2010.|
|2013-07-19||444 km (240 nmi)||Bruno Sroka between Aber Wrac'h, France and Crosshaven, Ireland||"Bruno Sroka completes kite cross between France and Ireland". SurferToday.com. 19 July 2013.|
|2013-09-18||569.5 km (307.5 nmi)||Francisco Lufinha from Porto to Lagos, Portugal||"Francisco Lufinha sets world record for the longest kitesurfing journey". SurferToday.com. 18 September 2013.|
|2015-07-07||874 km (472 nmi)||Francisco Lufinha from Lisboa to Madeira||"Kiteboarder Francisco Lufinha sails for 874 kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean". SurferToday.com. 7 July 2015.|
Louis Tapper completed the longest recorded kite journey, completing 2000 km between Salvador and Sao Luis, Brazil. The journey was completed between July/August 2010 and took over 24 days of kitesurfing. This trip is also the longest solo journey, completed without support crew, using one kite and a 35-litre backpack .
The previous longest recorded kite journey was by Eric Gramond who completed a 13-day trip of 1450 km along the coast of Brazil.
Constantin Bisanz, a 41-year-old Austrian, crossed a 80 km (50 mi) stretch of the Bering Strait embarking from Wales, Alaska on August 12, 2011 at 4:00 am, and arriving in eastern most Russia two hours later, after which he returned by boat to Alaska. It occurred after 2 previously failed attempts, the first of which was on July 28, 2011, in which an incident occurred where he found himself floating in 36 °F water with no board, kite or GPS unit for 1 hour before being rescued. On his second attempt on August 2, he and two friends sailed half the distance before turning around due to poor wind conditions.
A team of six kitesurfers, Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar, Eric Pequeno, Max Blom, Camilla Ringvold, Ike Frans, and Dennis Gijsbers crossed the Atlantic ocean, from the Canary islands to the Turks and Caicos Islands a distance of about 5,600 km (3,500 mi), from 20 November 2013, to 17 December 2013. Each of the six spent four hours each day surfing, broken into two sessions of two hours each, one during the day, and the other during the night.
On water, a kiteboard, similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without footstraps or bindings, is used. Kitesurfing is a style of kiteboarding specific to wave riding, which uses standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for the purpose.
Skis or snowboards are used in snow kiteboarding.
In 2012[update], the number of kitesurfers was estimated by the ISAF and IKA at 1.5 million persons worldwide (pending review). The global market for kite gear sales was then worth US$250 million. The Global Kitesports Association (GKA) estimates 10% of the kitesurfers continue during winter. After substantial growth, activity was levelling by 2017 at around 85.000 kites sold yearly by GKA members, twintip boards sales decreased from 37.000 in 2013 to 28.000 in 2016 and directional boards from 8.000 to 7.000.
The largest manufacturers are Boards and More (previously under the North brand, now Duotone) then Cabrinha (Neil Pryde) with 25-35,000 kites a year each. They are followed by Naish, F-One, Core kiteboarding, Slingshot sports, Liquid Force, Airush, Ozone Kites, Flysurfer, Best then the others. The GKA recorded 100,000 kites sales in 2017 for its members, giving an estimated 140-150,000 total kites sales for 2017. Technavio predicts a global kiteboarding equipment market reaching US$2,120 million by 2021, growing at a CAGR of almost 9% from 2017.
International kiteboarding has several promoting organizations and has undergone many changes in the governance of the sport, including long lasting disputes between several of those entities, trying to negate each other the right to promote such sporting events. The significance of the associated economic activity could explain part of such turbulence, but the intense rate of innovation and of adoption made it difficult to conceive, regulate and formalize the new competitions, and offer opportunities for new players specializing in new variants of the sport.
Some of those international organizations are (or where):
Currently several world cup events are sanctioned by the WS on behalf of the International Olympic Committee.
KPWT exchanged endorsements with IKA in 2009. However, both become opposing parties since IKA also got an agreement with PKRA. IKA repeatedly threatened to ban riders which take part in competitions without its endorsement.
In 2015 PKRA was sold to a group of investors becoming Virgin Kitesurfing World Championships (VKWC).
The WS itself has split the governance of its own events between the GKA for the expression disciplines and the IKA for the racing disciplines. The GKA has then split the expression disciplines, choosing to run the Wave and Strapless Tour themselves, while ceding to the World Kiteboarding League to run the freestyle events and the Kite Park League to run the park events. The freestyle events where then handed to the Kiteboarding Riders United (KRU).
Several different kitesurfing styles are evolving, some of which cross over.
Styles of kiteboarding, include freestyle, freeride, speed, course racing, wakestyle, big air, park, and surfing.
|Freeride||Freeride is anything that you want it to be and the most popular kitesurfing style. Most boards sold today are designed for freeride. It's about having fun and learning new techniques. Twintip boards and kites with good relaunch and a wide wind range are commonly used.|
|Freestyle||The kite and board are used to get big air (jumps) so that various tricks can be done while airborne. This style also used for competitive events and is free-format and "go anywhere". Smaller twintip boards and kites with good boost and hangtime are used.|
|Wave-riding||Wave riding (kitesurfing) in waves is a style that combines kiteboarding with surfing. Locations with a wave break are required. Most kitesurfers use a directional board (either with or without foot straps) that has enough flotation and sufficient turning characteristics to surf the wave. Many kiters use a surfboard that can also be used for regular surfing (with the foot straps removed). The kitesurfer follows the kite when riding the wave, so the pull of the kite is reduced. This style is popular with surfers since it resembles tow-in surfing. Some riders ride waves unhooked, and without foot straps. Foot straps dictate the kitesurfer's foot position and how weight and pressure is applied to the board. Surfers (other than tow-in surfers) do not wear straps and are therefore free to move their feet and position their weight over a greater area of the board to match what is needed to flow with the wave. Kitesurfing using a board without foot straps is referred to as "riding strapless". This allows the kitesurfer's feet to move around the board for optimal performance. Kitesurfers using foot straps often use the power of the kite to position themselves on a wave and to control their board. That is, they rely on the kite for propulsion rather than the power of the wave to surf.||Surfing, tow-in surfing|
|Wakestyle||Tricks and aerials, using a wake-style board with bindings. May also include tricks and jumps involving ramps. Crossover from wakeboarding. Flat water is perfect for this style, and the use of big twintip boards with high rocker and wake booties is common. This style is commonly practiced by younger riders.||Wakeboarding|
|Jumping or Airstyle||Jumping, arguably a subset of Freeride, consists of jumping high to optionally perform tricks, sometimes also using kiteloops to get extra hang-time. Often shorter lines and smaller kites are used in stronger wind. C-kites and twintip boards are commonly used. An extension of this style is Big Air as pioneered by Ruben Lenten where riders go out in gale force conditions and perform high risk moves like kiteloops or more exactly megaloops||—|
|Wakeskate||Wakeskaters use a strapless twintip board, similar to skateboard. Flat water and other conditions similar to Wakestyle.||Skateboarding|
|Course racing||These are racing events - like a yacht race along a course, that involve both speed and tactics. Special purpose directional race boards with long fins are used. Some raceboards resemble windsurfing boards. Foilboards are also now used. The goal is to outperform other kiters and come first in the race.||Windsurfing|
|Speed racing||Speed racing is a style practiced at either formal race events or informally, usually with GPS units. Special purpose directional speed boards, or raceboards with long fins are used. The goal is travel at the maximum possible speed over 500 meters.|
|Park Riding||Park riding resembles wakestyle. Riders use wakeboarding obstacles to perform tricks on them. Difficulty, execution and style|
|Foiling||Foiling involves the attachment of a hydrofoil (foil) and mast to the base a board. The foil allows the board to completely exit the water frees the rider from impact of surface conditions. The extreme efficiency of a foil allows it's rider to propel themselves with significantly less wind than those riding the on water's surface while greatly increasing upwind ability and speed. Different sizes and shapes of the wings on the foil allow one to optimize their boards for speed, stability, or waves.|
Kiteboarding can pose hazards to surfers, beachgoers, bystanders and others on the water. Many problems and dangers that may be encountered while learning kiting can be avoided or minimized by taking professional instruction through lesson centers. Kitesurfing schools provide courses and lessons to teach skills including kite launching, flying, landing, usage of the bar, lines and safety devices. Basic skills include:
Kitesurfers change kite size and/or line length depending on wind strength — stronger winds call for a smaller kite to prevent overpower situations. Kitesurfers will determine the wind strength using either an anemometer or, more typically, visual clues as shown in the Beaufort scale. Modern kites dedicated to kitesurfing provide a "depower" option to reduce the power in the kite. By using depower, the kite's angle of attack to the wind is reduced, thereby catching less wind in the kite and reducing the pull.
Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for unassisted kiteboarding. Direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land or stuck in shallows. Direct offshore winds pose the danger of being blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control. However offshore winds can be quite suitable in confined waters, like in a lake or estuary, or when a safety boat is assisting.
The kiter must maintain a clear perception of the wind direction but also of the wind speed. The Beaufort scale is of great assistance in helping users assess the situation. A range of wind up to 33 knots covers the conditions for a safe practice for an experienced rider. A less experienced one should avoid riding with more than 15 knots. Most twintip boards and inflatable kites would be barely rideable below 11 knots, therefore for most cases a user should focus on the winds classified as moderate up to strong.
Even if there is no wind blowing, a kiter can act on the kite lines and force it to move, and then, like with a row, it generates some force resulting from the incidence of the air into the kite's surface. In a gentle breeze, if the user action increases the air speed around the kite 10 times, the generated force increases 100 times, since the wind force acting on a kite is proportional to the square of the wind speed acting on it. Thus the relevant notion of apparent wind, which is the actual wind acting on the moving kite, sail or wing.
The apparent wind is measured taking the moving kite as the reference frame, therefore its other name as relative wind. By opposition, the wind measured relatively to the ground is called true wind.
While the other wind sports can generate considerable apparent wind, their wind forces are limited by the movement of the user platform, since it is attached more or less rigidly to the wing or sail. In this aspect, kiteboarding seems unique among other wind sports, since it allows the user to generate apparent wind independently of the movement of the user platform, the board. For instance, in the initiating kiteboard technic called waterstart, while the user prepares to start in the water, the kite is sent aggressively, generating a propulsive impulse. Then the resulting movement of the board increases tension on the kite lines, which the user controls to manage the riding speed and to navigate at will. The composition of the movements of both the kite and the board, offer the user a great deal of navigation flexibility and creativity, including the possibility to jump significantly, making this a true 3-dimensional sport.
In some way all wind sports harvest the energy of the wind. The greater the volume of the atmosphere available to be harvested by the sails, the bigger the available energy to propel the users. As a taller sailing ship harvests more energy from the wind, so does a kiteboarder with longer lines. Compared to a kiteboarder, a windsurfer can extract a higher ratio of wind energy from the available atmosphere volume, but since such volume is much smaller, the resulting energy could be much less than in kiteboarding.
To increase the power, the kiteboarder typically navigates the kite along an S-shape path, increasing the harvesting of energy since it is traversing most of the atmosphere volume around him. This S-shaped movement is most common when the kiters need a moderate improvement of power. If the user needs an intense improvement of power, it loops the kite. Such loops are stronger when the loop radius is large, and traverses a larger atmosphere volume. The kite loop is an advanced practice, and its power can be quite dangerous. With most modern kites and control bars, to end a kite loop the user just pushes away or releases the bar.
Regarding the length of the lines connecting the kite to the user, longer lines allow the user to harvest wind energy in a larger volume. Due to the boundary layer effect longer lines also allow to harvest stronger winds higher up in the atmosphere. But longer lines make the kite slower to respond to the user actions on the control bar, since the lines form a more pronounced spring-like catenary. Therefore, kitesurfers, who need to react fast to incoming waves, tend to use shorter lines than the other kiters. For safety reasons the newcomers to the sport are usually trained with short lines, limiting the power build up.
The wind window is the 180 degree arc of the sky downwind of the rider in which the kite can be flown - roughly one fourth of a sphere's surface, which radius is the length of the lines. It is the atmosphere volume in which the kiter can navigate the kite to harvest wind energy.
If the rider is facing downwind on a surface, like the ocean, the wind window covers roughly all the area the rider can see, from the rider's peripheral vision on one side, along the horizon to the other side, and then directly overhead back to the first side. If the rider somehow puts the kite out of the window — for example, by riding downwind too quickly and sending the kite directly overhead and behind, the kite will stall and often fall out of the sky.
The eventual inefficiency of the kite can obviate for it to reach the edge of the wind window. In such cases the magnitude of the wind window can be reduced to as little as a 120 degree arc, instead of the expected 180 degree.
The wind window is centered in the user location. Since the user is carried by the board, the wind window is affected by the movement of the board. Therefore, the wind window rotates as the board moves and generates apparent wind into itself. For instance, when the kiter navigates perpendicular to the true wind at a speed equal to the true wind's, the apparent wind felt on the board increases 42% compared to the true wind, but rotates 45º against the movement. With such rotation, even if the user keeps the kite at the very edge of the wind window for trying to keep it pulling in the travelling direction, the kite lines would be at an angle of 45º downwind of the board path, forcing the kiter to edge the board to oppose its tendency to slip downwind. Such board edging is an indispensable technique for navigating upwind, and can be made at a much more extreme angle to the kite lines, almost up to 90º.
The wind window rotation degrades the performance when riding fast in a path upwind. To minimize the wind window rotation and sail upwind as much as possible, the kiter should keep the slowest board speed without sinking the board by lack of hydrodynamic lift. High flotation boards like surfboards are preferable in such cases. Also, keeping the kite high in window, pulling up the user and the board, is quite efficient in coping both with the reduced hydrodynamic lift of the board and with the intended reduction of the board speed.
The kite is a peculiar sail because it can be swept arbitrarily through the atmosphere, usually in specific patterns, so the user can harvest a significant amount of wind energy, much larger than with an equivalent sail fixed to a mast.
The kite and the lines are light, in the range between 2 and 4 kg, but the aerodynamic drag can be significant since the kite can travel much faster than a windsurf sail. Therefore, part of the energy harvested is spent in the movement of the kite itself, but the remainder propels the user and the board.
For instance, a user riding towards the beach rises the kite to slow it down and convert traction into lift. Then, instead of speed he feels an increase of the force upwards, necessary to keep himself above the breaking waves.
Another specific advantage of the kite being able to be swept at will, is that the user can take advantage of the atmosphere boundary layer, either rising the kite to harvest the stronger winds blowing in the higher zone of the wind window, or during overpowering gusts he can drive the kite low, skimming the water near the edge of the wind window.
Seasoned kiteboarders frequently attribute to moist and hotter air a notable reduction in kite performance. In fact the lift force of a kite is proportional to the air density. Since both the temperature and the relative humidity are important detrimental factors in the air density, the kiters subjective valuation is correct.
In the range between 10 °C and 40 °C a kite loses approximately 0.4% of lift per degree Celsius. It means that a kiter practicing one given day in the Baltic, and then travelling to the Mediterranean, could experience 10% less pull using the very same kite at the very same wind speed.
Any location with consistent, steady side-onshore winds (10 to 35+ knots), large open bodies of water and good launch areas is suitable for kitesurfing. Most kitesurfing takes place along ocean shores, usually off beaches, but it can also be practiced on large lakes and inlets and occasionally on rivers. Since kiteboarding relies heavily on favorable, consistent wind conditions, certain locations tend to become popular and sought out by kiteboarders.
Kitesurfing in Boracay, Philippines
Kitesurfing in Fuerteventura
Kitesurfing in Noordwijk in the Netherlands
With the development of Internet markets for used goods, used but reliable kiteboarding equipment has become much less expensive, significantly reducing the barrier to the adoption of the sport. Moreover, the sport is utterly convenient regarding transportation and storage, since the kites are foldable and the boards are smaller than most surf and paddling boards.
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI kites, are typically made from ripstop polyester with an inflatable plastic bladder that spans the front edge of the kite with separate smaller bladders that are perpendicular to the main bladder to form the chord or foil of the kite. The inflated bladders give the kite its shape and also keep the kite floating once dropped in the water. LEIs are the most popular choice among kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs, easy relaunchability if crashed into the water and resilient nature. If an LEI kite hits the water or ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, bladders can burst or it can be torn apart.
In 2005, Bow kites (also known as flat LEI kites) were developed with features including a concave trailing edge, a shallower arc in planform, and a distinctive bridle with multiple attachment points along the leading edge. These features allow the kite's angle of attack to be altered more and thus adjust the amount of power being generated to a much greater degree than previous LEIs. These kites can be fully depowered, which is a significant safety feature. They can also cover a wider wind range than a comparable C-shaped kite. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes them easier to re-launch when lying front first on the water. Bow kites are popular with riders from beginner to advanced levels. Most LEI kite manufacturers developed a variation of the bow kite by 2006. Bow kites with a straight trailing edge are named ´delta´ kites, given their triangular outline.
Early bow kites had some disadvantages compared to classic LEI kites:
In 2006, second generation flat LEI kites were developed which combine near total depower and easy, safe relaunch with higher performance, no performance penalties and reduced bar pressure. Called Hybrid or SLE kites (Supported Leading Edge), these kites are suitable for both beginners and experts.
In 2008, Naish introduced another kite design, with their "Sigma Series" of kites. These kites are a SLE design and feature a unique "bird in flight" shape with the center of the kite swept back to put much of the sail area behind the tow point, which Naish claims has multiple benefits.
In 2009, the performance revolution shows no sign of slowing. Bridled designs feel more like C kites, and five-line hybrids have better depower capability than ever before. There are more than thirty companies manufacturing Leading edge inflatable kites. The delta-kites are growing in popularity since 2008 with around 12 companies offering delta-kites since 2008/2009.
Between 2009 and 2013 kite technology has continued to grow. Kites have become lighter, more durable, much easier to launch and safer. Manufacturers have continued to add new safety features. This has resulted in a growing number of new riders, both younger and older. In 2013, there are at least 20 "major" kite manufacturers, each with multiple models available. Many of the manufacturers are on their third or fourth generation of kites.
Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. Foil kites have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, a process which, with an LEI, can take up to ten minutes. Foil kites are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration.
Kites come in sizes ranging from 0.7 square meters to 21 square meters, or even larger. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has. Kite power is also directly linked to speed, and smaller kites can be flown faster in stronger winds. The kite size—wind speed curve tapers off, so going to a larger kite to reach lower wind ranges becomes futile at a wind speed of around eight knots. Kites come in a variety of designs. Some kites are more rectangular in shape; others have more tapered ends; each design determines the kite's flying characteristics. 'Aspect ratio' is the ratio of span to length. High aspect ratios (ribbon-like kites) develop more power in lower wind speeds.
Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have three or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels, although bow kites may change this, as they present an enormous wind range; some advanced kiters use only one bow kite. Smaller kites are used by light riders, or in strong wind conditions; larger kites are used by heavier riders or in light wind conditions. Larger and smaller kiteboards have the same effect: with more available power a given rider can ride a smaller board. In general, however, most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites (7-12 sq m in size).
Kiteboarding is seen as a mid to high intensity exercise, but freeriding can be actually a low intensity practice like walking, and is usually done in long sessions of up to 2–3 hours. It is amenable to almost all ages, at least from teenagers up to 70 years old or more. It can be seen as a supplement or a substitute for other fitness practices.
A regular practice of kiteboarding can bring very specific benefits like:
Power kites are powerful enough to pull the rider like a boat in wakeboarding and to lift their users to diving heights. An uncontrolled kite can be dangerous, especially in difficult environments. A rider can lose control from falling or from sudden wind gusts, which can occur in the presence of strong winds from squalls or storms ("collard").
It is possible to be seriously injured after being lofted, dragged, carried off, blown downwind or dashed, resulting in a collision with hard objects including sand, buildings, terrain or power lines or even by hitting the water surface with sufficient speed or height ("kitemare", a portmanteau of kite and nightmare). Adequate quality professional kiteboarding training, careful development of experience and consistent use of good judgement and safety gear should result in fewer problems in kiteboarding.
Weather forecasting and awareness is the principal factor to safe kiteboarding. Lack of weather awareness and understanding the figures is frequent, but avoiding weather problems is possible. Choice of inappropriate locations for kiteboarding where the wind passes over land creating wind shadow, rotor with pronounced gusts and lulls has also factored in many accidents. Paying attention to the weather and staying within the limits of the riders ability will provide the safest experience. Kitesurfing close to storm fronts can be particularly dangerous due to rapid changes in wind strength and direction.
Lack of a sufficient downwind buffer distance between the kiter and hard objects has contributed to accidents reducing the available distance and time for reaction. Jumping and being airborne at inappropriate places such as shallow water or near fixed or floating objects can be hazardous. Collisions with wind surfers, other kite boarders or water craft are hazards, particularly at busy locations.
Solo kiteboarding has been a frequent contributing cause to accidents; kiteboarders should try to kite with friends and keep an eye on one another. A kitesurfer can get farther from shore than an easy swim, which is the primary reason kitesurfing in directly offshore winds is discouraged. Marine hazards include sharks, jellyfish, sea otters, dolphins, and even crocodiles, depending on the location. Drowning has been a factor in severe accidents as well and may have been avoided in some cases through the use of an appropriate flotation aid or impact vest and development of acceptable swimming skills.
Some kite designs from late 2005 and onwards have included immediate and almost full depower integrated with the control bar and improved quick release mechanisms, both of which are making the sport much safer. However, lack of sufficient practice of emergency depowering the kite and going out in excessively strong or unstable weather can reduce the benefit of high depower kites.
Another important part of the safety equipment is the impact vest, which doubles as an improved floatation device. It reduces the severity of eventual impacts, but also improves the user endurance in the long procedures of self-rescue in deep waters, which almost every freeriding kiter experiences sooner or later. It is also important and overlooked as a complement to the harness, precluding it to climb along the chest during powerful kite loops, which otherwise would hurt the ribs.
The other important pieces of a reasonable safety kit are the safety hook knife to cut tangled lines, the helmet in a high visibility colour, a wet suit of reasonable thickness, depending on the water temperature, and possibly neoprene boots if the beach has much shellfish or hard rocks.
Accidents can generate serious injuries or even be deadly. 105 accidents were reported in the Kiteboarding Safety Information Database between 2000 and September 2003, with 14 fatalities. In South Africa between October 2003 and April 2004, 83% of search & rescue missions involving kitesurf were in offshore winds with the kite still attached to the harness, uncontrolled in strong winds or impossible to relaunch in weak winds. On 30 missions, there was no fatalities but five injuries : two had bone fractures after being hit by their boards, two others were suffering from critical hypothermia and exhaustion and the fifth was exhausted and lacerated.
Advances in hybrid and bow kite designs leads to a better ability to control the power that they provide and effective safety release systems.  In 2003, fatality ratings for the U.S. stated that 6 to 12 kiteboarders died for 100'000 participants. This being higher than 4 to 5 in SCUBA diving (and much higher than the two Walkers), comparable to the 15 in Motor Vehicle Traffic, and 56 for Paragliders.
However these figures have to be correctly interpreted, since they do not account for the rate of accidents per hour of practice, which would be the telling index. Kiteboarding lends itself to a rather frequent practice, much like a gym program, arguably more frequent than other risky sports like scuba diving. Therefore, further data is required to properly evaluate the risk associated with kiteboarding.
While some countries have specific regulations on flying kites that may also apply to kitesurfing, most don't. However a kitesurfer should comply to the sailing rules regulating water crafts in many countries, like the U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Developed from such generic rules a set of kitesurf specific rules or recommendations has been taking form since the beginning of the sport.
The first such rule is the prudential rule: with so many people just discovering water sports, a kiter shouldn't assume others adequate knowledge, training or even proper attitude, and be prepared to observe self-preserving distances and always let the others perceive clearly its intentions and its intended path.
Waterstarters have priority: the rider going out from the beach has always priority over the riders coming in.
Kite High Rule - A kiter who is upwind (closest to the wind) must keep their kite high to avoid their lines crossing those of downwind kiters. Similarly, the downwind kiter must keep their kite low to avoid their lines crossing upwind kites. This applies regardless of whether kiters are on the same, or opposing courses.
Clearance Rule - A kiter while jumping must have a clear safety zone of at least 50m downwind because they will move downwind during the jump. A rider must also have a clear safety zone of 30m upwind to jump as his lines could touch the kite or the lines of another rider kiteboarding close by (see Kite High rule). It's important to also consider potential hazards downwind and crosswind of the rider such as people, buildings, trees and other fixed obstacles. Because of the clearance rule a jumper never has the right of way.
Kiters are also considered as sailing vessels – so all the standard sailing rules apply such as:
Starboard Rule When kiters approach from opposite directions the kiter who has the wind on the starboard (right side, right leg/arm leads in direction of travel) has right of way. The kiter who has the wind on the port side (left side, left leg/arm are leads in direction of travel) shall keep out of the way of the other. In simple terms, this means "keep right" with the kiter coming in the opposite direction passing on the left.
In sailing terms, a sailor or kiter with right of way is entitled to "insist" on exercising that right (warning opposing kiters) by shouting "starboard" clearly and in good time.
Many of the sailing rules of right of way are different expressions that the most maneuverable craft should give way to the less maneuverable one. Therefore, kiters should give way to fishing vessels, but not to a jet ski. Other boating rules such as no-go zones, distance from shore and swimmers also apply. Also surfing rules do apply, so for instance, the rider to catch a wave closer to the crest has the right of way even if not on a starboard tack, freeriders included.
In 2012[update], the number of kitesurfers was estimated by the ISAF and IKA at 1.5 million persons worldwide (pending review). The global market for kite gear sales is worth US$250 million. The markets related to kiteboarding keep developing at a very interesting pace, as seen in these statistics from 2012:
Evolution of kite sales, worldwide:
Keep in mind that a kiteboarding quiver for a single user could typically include 2-4 kites and 2-3 boards. With the innovation associated with foil boards and foil kites these numbers will increase. With the exception of foil kites, these equipment pieces are quite rugged and would last from 3 up to 10 years of active use, and be repaired and resold several times. This aftermarket further improves the market development, removing cost barriers for newbies which improves the popularity of the sport, and eventually could bring up new products and services based on a much larger market scale. In locations like Portugal in 2018, a newcomer to kiteboarding typically buys a proper hands-on tutorial and then buys a basic set of used equipment for an overall total below €1000.
The sport is utterly convenient regarding transportation and storage, since the kites are foldable and the boards are smaller than surf and paddling boards. Compared to other sailing sports, kiteboarding is among the less expensive and more convenient. Moreover, nearby most metropolitan areas, it can be practised almost all year long, since it just requires some wind and a reasonably flat surface, like an estuary, a lake, a sandy strip, or a snow flat.
Despite the image of a youth radical sport, many newcomers are middle age, older than the typical wakeboard or snowboard practitioners. Such trends are quite conspicuous, not so much in the trendy summer holiday locations, but in the low season in metropolitan areas around the globe, where kiteboarding is becoming a regular practice for people of middle income, living in apartments not so close to the waterfront, for a short evasion and substituting for the gym.
|Record Speed||55.65 (WR) knots||55.50 knots (Avg. 53.27 Windsurf WR, Antoine Albeau 2/11/15)|
|Upwind Capabilities||About 70° from wind direction on a twin-tip board, or 42° on the more efficient Hydrofoil board. The more a kite board tracks upwind, the more its leeward side must edge into the water to resist lateral drag. Upwind riders adopt a similar stance to kite fliers onshore, who slide their feet forward in the beach sand to brake the kite. The kite board's center line is way off the track line, dramatically reducing speed.||About 45° from wind direction depending on the skills of the rider. The sail board's center line runs virtually parallel to the track line, as most lateral forces are encountered by the tail fin and little edging is required. Because of this, upwind courses are fairly fast. Fastest speeds are achieved at broad reach.|
|Theory||The faster the kite moves the more force it develops. Standing still and actively steering the kite up and down (pumping) one can almost immediately create a lot of force. It is almost always possible to have the kite travel faster (much) than the board. The dynamic nature of the kiter/kite system is why kites have so much range (wind range).||The sail and board move at the same speed. With pumping one can sometimes push oneself onto a plane or maintain planing in marginal conditions. But sail and board travel at basically the same speed. This is the main reason why windsurfing requires a lot of equipment. The equipment must match the wind conditions much closer than kiting.|
|Physical Strain on Rider||The traction force of the kite is solely transferred to the rider via the harness loop attached to the harness hook when hooked in. When "hooked in" the rider uses muscle strength (thumb and index finger suffice) to steer the kite and control the kite power by pushing the bar in and out (depending on setup one might actually notice a slight effort). When "unhooked" the rider steers the kite using their arms with no depower, which can be strenuous. Generally, kitesurfing is more of a light cardio training.||Windsurfing without a harness requires a lot of physical effort, especially in strong wind. With a harness, recovering from a fall or when maneuvering (jibing, tacking, ...) the rider needs to detach the harness completely from the sail, which means that both traction and steering forces are to be countered solely by the rider's muscle. For jibing maneuvers, muscle effort diminishes as the rider becomes more skilled in maintaining board speed in the jibe. In race conditions it can get quite physical as well, planing "over the top" of wave sets keeping the board absolutely level and the sail well powered. In the strongest winds it can get physical as well due to the sheer force of the wind, but that is attributed to poor choice of equipment or lack of skill.|
|Fall Recovery||The kite is fairly easy to keep flying during a fall, with 'Hindenburgs' being rather exceptional. The rider can be pulled out of the water by the force of the moving kite. The kite power can be regulated by changing the angle of attack of the kite. In light winds the kite may fall into the water and stay there.||In light winds (non planing conditions), the rider needs to get on the board and pull the sail out of the water. However, in stronger winds (planing conditions (depending of equipment/weight/experience approx. from 9 knots on)), water starting is a better option. This means positioning the board-sail combination through aligning the sail into the right wind angle, allowing the wind to pull the body out of the water onto the board using the sail, and then easily hooking back in and stepping into foot straps. This maneuver actually requires slightly less than planing conditions.|
|Tacking and Jibing||Twin tip kiteboards (the majority of kiteboards) are designed to be bidirectional. If the rider wants to start the next tack only the kite's sailing direction must be reversed. The "stern" of the board now becomes the "bow", so the feet can be kept in the footstraps. Since the windward edge of the board doesn't change sides, the terms "jibing" or "tacking" are somewhat of a misnomer. Falling into the water is not a major problem, as even beginning riders can quickly and fairly effortlessly execute a water start using the kite to pull them out of the water. Nower days many kiters use directionals as well (all wave, racing as well as foils). These need to be jibed or tacked. This actually requires practice. Full planing race jibes are almost as difficult as in windsurfing.||The rider has the choice between tacking or jibing. In both cases the windward edge changes sides, so the rider will need to change footstraps. At high winds the only option to change tacks while maintaining speed is to carve jibe, which is a maneuver that requires many practise hours for it to be performed with a reasonably low risk of falling. .|
|Jumping||Kitesurfers can use their kite to "jump" (actually using it as a paraglider), without the need for a launch wave. Jumping is relatively easy but can be hazardous. Being launched (jumping) can also happen unintended, even to beginners, especially in shifting winds or fast kite movements, where the rider can get pulled into the air as the kite reverses direction.||The rider needs considerable forward speed and ideally a "ramp wave" to get airborne. When the wave is not large enough, the riders must initiate the jump by kicking down the tail of the board. Unintended jumps rarely occur (unless bouncing over waves, ...), as jumping requires active rider input. Jumping requires skill and can generally only be executed by advanced riders.|
|Aerobatics||Most aerobatics and tricks (tail grab, barrel roll etc.) can be executed without the airfoil's position in the air having to change. Therefore, executing "aerobatics" is only marginally different from executing them on shore suspended by the harness from some fixed point. Beginners with a lot of caution may start attempting some basic tricks after the first few weeks or even days. This part of kiting can actually be physical.||With most aerobatics the airfoil's position in the air changes dramatically. Each figure has its own ideal airfoil movement. With some aerobatics like the barrel roll, the rider needs to jump sufficiently high to allow the full length of the mast to rotate forward underneath. Often the risks to the rider of having fast moving and relatively heavy (board + mast + sail) gear so close by are substantial. As aerobatics are considerably more complicated than jumping, they are the done by the most experienced of riders, commanding huge respect within the sail boarding community.|
|Clearance||Clearance of at least 50 meters upwind (from any object) and 30 meters downwind (from another kitesurfer) is required. The risk of being blown into an airborne situation by a strong wind gust is real, effectively turning the kite boarder into an uncontrolled para-glider in risk of hitting any object downwind.||Since there are no kite lines, no upwind or downwind clearance is required from any object other than a kite surfer or fishing lines, which means that windsurfers do not need to worry about 'rotor' or strong wind gusts. Also, they can emergency stop almost immediately. Experienced riders will do this by 'crashing' while beginning riders (who typically do not wear a harness) can depower the sail instantly by releasing the back hand or letting the mast fall on water. The risk of hitting hard objects or other water-goers is therefore minimal.|
|Learning Curve||Kiteboarding has a different learning curve from windsurfing. At the beginning the handling the kite can be largely taught on shore, as kite boarding evolved from beach kiting. However once on the water you need to be safely guided by an instructor until you learn the basics. After you have the basics and are independent you will progress much faster than in windsurfing.
Recovery from falling is relatively easy (the kites, especially the newest models, stay normally aloft to pull the rider out of the water, with little effort) as is changing tacks, even in strong wind. Staying upwind is regarded as an advanced technique. Light wind kiting (<9 knots) is also an advanced technique: traveling much faster than the wind any mistake can lead to loss of apparent wind -> kite falls into the drink and stays there.
|The learning curve for windsurfing is gradual, and rewarding as the rider progresses through each stage of learning, and one can engage in solo practice. Initially handling of the airfoil (sail) can be learned on the water or on land. Once on the water it takes much of practice to improve.
Recovery from falling takes more effort than kiting. The rider needs to either up haul the sail standing on the board or water start, which both take some balance. Up hauling large sails can be a bit of work. Falling into the water is part of the overall experience.
|Equipment Safety||In case of material failure or accidents, normal kitesurfing equipment offers limited rescue possibilities. Kitesurfers can perform a self rescue and use their kite to sail back to shore. The last option for the rider is to abandon the kite and kiteboard and swim to shore.||Any sail board will allow the rider to keep the body sufficiently out of the water to postpone or avoid hypothermia. Smaller boards may require that the mast be detached, to avoid sinking. Thus, as a rule, a rider should never abandon the board. Windsurfing equipment is inherently safe in high winds against tea bagging or collisions due to loss of control: In case of too strong wind, the rider can depower the sail instantly by letting go with the back hand or letting the sail drop on water. Doing so (or falling) means that the board stops almost immediately as the sail will act as a floating anchor in water.|
|Equipment Transport||A kite and kiteboard will fit in most vehicles. An average rider may need two to three kites and one board to ride in a wide range of wind strength.||The sail board and sail mast (even telescopic) do not fit in most vehicles, and need to be transported on a roof rack or trailer. If they do, they will often exclude passengers from the vehicle. Several different sails and boards (and often masts and booms) are necessary to cover the full range of rideable conditions.|
|2017||Carlos Mario Bebe||Bruna Kajiya|
|2016||Carlos Mario Bebe||Bruna Kajiya|
|2015||Liam Whaley||Gisela Pulido [es]|
|2014||Christophe Tack||Karolina Winkowska|
|2013||Alex Pastor [es]||Gisela Pulido|
|2012||Youri Zoon [nl]||Karolina Winkowska|
|2011||Youri Zoon||Gisela Pulido|
|2010||Andy Yates||Gisela Pulido|
|2009||Kevin Langeree [nl]||Bruna Kajiya|
|2008||Aaron Hadlow||Gisela Pulido|
|2007||Aaron Hadlow||Gisela Pulido|
|2006||Aaron Hadlow||Kristin Boese|
|2005||Aaron Hadlow||Kristin Boese|
|2003||Martin Vari||Cindy Mosey|