What is kiteboarding or kitesurfing?
Kiteboarding, also known as kitesurfing, is a water sport that blends elements and characteristics of wakeboarding, surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding, paragliding, and skateboarding.
Harnessed to a large hand-controlled kite, and powered by the wind, the kiteboarder uses a board (similar to a snowboard, wakeboard or skateboard) to ride and glide across the water.
Kiteboarders are only able to fly their kites through an imaginary wind window. Unlike in windsurfing and other sailing disciplines, kiteboarders need minimum wind speed to get their wings up in the sky.
The sport of kiteboarding has its roots in the south of France. Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, brothers Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux started testing the use of a dual line kite in water skiing.
They got the inspiration from the “Jacob’s Ladder” catamaran and its stacked Flexifoil kites, and from the Birdsail, a kind of mini hang-glider that replaced the windsurf sail. In the early 1990s, and after a few years of research, development, and testing, Oregon’s Cory Roeseler and his dad founded KiteSki. The company developed an eye-catching patent-protected kite sports bundle that included a kite, board, and a reel bar.
The early kiteboarding prototypes caught the attention of a few action sports enthusiasts in Maui, the windy Hawaiian island. Joe Koehl, Robby Naish, Don Montague, Laid Hamilton, Emmanuel Bertin, and others helped improve the technical aspects of kitesurfing and gave a notoriety it never had.
The first ever kiteboarding competition was held in September 1998, in Maui, and attracted 22 athletes. The winner was Marcus “Flash” Austin.
Kiteboarding has evolved a lot in its first three decades of existence. The outdoor activity is now performed in the water, but also on land. Over the year, the sport divided into several disciplines – wave riding, freestyle, slalom/course, speed, big air, wake park riding, kite buggying, and kite landboarding.
The sport has already developed an extensive list of tricks and maneuvers. Some of them were inspired by surfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, and skateboarding, but kite enthusiasts have already created their own original moves.
There are various types of kiteboarding kites, different types of boards, and multiple combinations for each riding style and situation.
The most common types of kites are inflatable kites (C-Kite, Bow Kite, Delta Kite, Hybrid Kite), and foil kites. The most popular kiteboard models are twin-tip boards, wake-style boards, race boards, wave boards, and foil boards.
In the first decade of the 21st century, kiteboarding became the fastest growing sport in the world. Unfortunately, in its early years, hundreds of accidents caused dozens of deaths due to equipment failure and inadequate mechanisms.
Today, the sport of kiteboarding rides under the flag of World Sailing, and it has an estimated number of 1,5 million participants worldwide.
Three organizations run the main pro kiteboarding world tours: Global Kitesports Association (wave), World Kiteboarding League (freestyle), and the International Kiteboarding Association (slalom/course racing).
There are many smaller popular events like Red Bull King of the air that’s normally held in Cape Town South Africa. That’s my favorite to watch.