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About Kite-Surfing Page
This page was created to inform you about the sport of kite surfing.  Please check out the information and links before heading out into the ocean and attempting this very extreme sport.  - Dan Moore

 


About Kite-Surfing
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Kite surfers use inflatable kites tethered to harnesses to glide through water and air. Kite surfing is still in its infancy, but is quickly becoming a safer sport due to innovations in kite design and safety systems. Many riding styles have evolved to suit different types of riders, i.e. 'wake' style, wave riding, freestyle, jumping, and cruising.

Kite surfing, also known as kite boarding, and sometimes as fly surfing in Europe, involves using a power kite to pull a small surfboard (on water), a wheeled board on land, or a .

Generally, the first step of kite surfing is to fly one's power kite into neutral position, in which the kite is de-powered at the edge of the wind window, and therefore not pulling except against one's body weight.

A safe way to launch involves lying down on ones back in shallow water, and strapping the board onto the feet. More experienced kiter's can launch from dry sand or beach. Then, in a (hopefully) coordinated movement, the kite is flown toward the water, in the direction that the board points. If the board doesn't dig into the water or a wave, the kite pulls the surfer up into a powerful planing motion similar to .

It is generally held that kite surfers should never venture onto the water in direct offshore winds (because of the possibility of being 'flown' out to sea) or direct onshore winds (because of the possibility of being thrown against beach objects, trees, rocks etc). There is an exception to riding in offshore winds; if you have someone with a boat or other watercraft which can assist you back to shore. Cross-shore wind directions are widely considered to be the best.

In a strong wind with flat water, it's possible to traverse at fifty km/h (30 mi/h) or more.

Basic technique

To get going and to be able to stay upwind you need about 8 - 10 knots (15 to 19 km/h, approx. 3 Beaufort) on a big kite (16 m²). In 8 - 10 knots (15 to 19 km/h) you can have a lot of fun by doing low jumps and freestyle maneuvers. 12 - 13 knots (22 to 24 km/h) on a 16 square meter kite will have you jumping high, while 17 - 20 knots (31 to 37 km/h) will have you flying with the birds on a 12 square meter kite. An experienced rider generally carries a 'quiver' of different sized kites, appropriate for each wind condition.

A beginner can turn by going to the shallows or another stopping place, 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.

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 dead-man 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, untangling and re-launching 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 reconnects 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 is possible and one of the biggest attractions of the sport, but more difficult and potentially 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 power lines if the move is poorly executed. At least 17 people have been killed in kite boarding-related accidents since 2000, according to a safety adviser for one of the sport's governing bodies.

Some kite claim to be able to catch a "rotor," a horizontally cyclonic ridge updraft, when flying above large waves or ridges in high wind. This extremely difficult and not recommended technique occurs only in dangerous surf and wind conditions, or above land.

To fly the maximum distance, a flyer should reduce aerodynamic drag. Some people recommend laying flat in the air as long as one can't reach the surface. Others claim that attempting this maneuver adds more danger to the already dangerous maneuver of flying.


 


Kite-Surfing Information
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Locations and restrictions

Essentially any locale where consistent, steady winds (10 to 35+ knots), and large open bodies of water are available are suitable for kite surfing. Most kite surfing takes place along the shore, but it can also be practiced on large lakes and occasionally on rivers. Since kite boarding relies heavily on favorable, consistent wind conditions, certain geographic locations tend to become popular and sought out by experienced kite boarders. Some of the world's top kite surfing locations include (no particular order):

  • Maui, Hawaii
  • Dominican Republic
  • Tarifa, Spain
  • Cape Hatteras, NC, US
  • Jericoacoara, CE, Brazil
  • Safaga Bay , Egypt
  • Chumpon , Thailand
  • South Padre Island, TX, US
  • Santa Cruz, CAUS
  • Hood River, OR, US
  • Australia (various)
  • Tranque Puclaro, Chile
  • Costa Calma/Sotavento, Fuerteventura, Canary Isles, Spain
  • Corralejo, Fuerteventura, Canary Isles, Spain
  • Nitinat Lake, British Columbia, Canada
  • Western Cape, South Africa
  • Traverse City, Michigan
  • Jupiter, Florida, US
  • Bonaire, Dutch Antilles
  • Noordwijk Beach, The Netherlands
  • Sea of Galilee (Kineret), Israel

Most of these popular kite surfing destinations, have year-long kite surfing training and provide equipment rentals.

In some locations kite surfing is restricted or banned. This is generally the result of accidents (and liability concerns), in which riders or bystanders were injured and property was damaged. The primary reason why many experienced kite boarders stress safety and proper training is to keep their sport from being banned at their favorite location. Not all locations will have explicit bans posted, and usually, a simple warning from a park ranger, lifeguard or other official will let you know that kite surfing is not allowed. The general rule, if you see other kite boarders on the water, it's probably permitted. New kite designs have included immediate de-power, quick release handles, and other safety equipment, making the sport much safer to the kiter and other. 


Kiting Equipment

In order to begin kite surfing several pieces of basic gear are needed. These include:

A power kite. These usually are available in two major forms:
 

Leading edge inflatables, or simply 'inflatables' or 'LEI kites', are large fabric kites, typically made from nylon with inflatable plastic bladders. The inflated bladders give the kite its shape and also keep the kites floating once dropped in the water. LEIs are the most popular choice among most kite surfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs, easy re-launch ability once crashed into the water, and resilient nature. If a LEI kite hits the water/ground too hard or is crashed into the water in an area with substantial wave activity, it can end up with a burst bladder or be torn apart. A recent development for LEI's is the bow kite which integrates a concave trailing edge, a shallower arc in platform, and frequently a bridle along the leading edge. These changes allow the kite to alter its angle of attack more and thus adjust the amount of power being generated to a somewhat greater degree than previous LEIs. 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 and most manufacturers of LEI kites are developing a bow kite of some description to include in their range.


A foil kite is also mostly fabric (rip stop nylon) with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape. Foils are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration; open cell foils rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves to stay inflated, but are generally impossible to re-launch once they hit the water, since they have no means of avoiding deflation and quickly become soaked. Closed cell foils are almost identical to open cell foils except for the fact that they are equipped with inlet valves that do not allow air to leave the chambers, or water to get in, thus keeping the kite inflated (or, at least, making the deflation extremely slow) even once in the water. Water re-launches with closed cell foil kites are easy; a steady tug on the power lines is usually enough to get them to take off again. Foil kites are more popular for land or snow, where getting the kite wet is a non-issue. While traditionally foil kites are far more expensive than standard LEIs, they can cover a much wider wind range, comparable to that of up to 3 LEI sizes, due to their more refined aerodynamic performance and wide de-power range, although the new LEI "bow" kites have a comparable wide range and are cheaper. Foil kites have the advantage of not having to be inflated, a process which, with a LEI, can take up to ten minutes.


Kites come in various sizes ranging from 2 square meters to 21 square meters, or even larger. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has, although kite power is also directly linked to speed, and smaller kites can be flown faster; a tapering curve results, where 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 kites flying characteristics. 'Aspect ratio' is the ratio of span to length. Wider shorter (ribbon-like) kites have less drag because the wing-tip vortices are smaller. High aspect ratios (ribbon-like kites) develop more power in lower wind speeds.

Seasoned kite boarders will likely have 3 or more kite size(s) which are needed to accommodate various wind levels, although bow kites may change this, as they present an enormous wind range; some advanced kiter's 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 kite boards have the same effect: with more available power a given rider can ride a smaller board. In general, however, most kite boarders only need one board and one to three kites.


Kite prices range from $100 (for small kites) to $1700+ USD. Prices generally increase relative to the kite size.

  • Flying lines are made of a very strong, technologically advanced material, frequently Kevlar, in order to handle the dynamic load of various riders in unpredictable wind while maintaining a small cross-sectional profile to minimize drag. They come in many different sizes, generally between seven and thirty-three meters, although shorter and longer lines are not unheard of; experimentation with different line lengths is common in kite boarding. The lines attach the rider's control bar to the kite at its edges or through the bridle. Most power kites use a 3, 4 or 5-line configuration. The 5th line is used to aid in water re-launching or adjusting the kite's angle of attack.
  • The control bar is a solid metal or composite bar which attaches to the kite via the lines. The rider holds on to this bar and controls the kite by pulling at its ends, causing the kite to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise like a bicycle. Typically a chicken loop from the control bar is attached to a latch or hook on a spreader bar on the rider's harness. Most bars also provide a quick-release safety-system and a control strap to adjust the kite's angle of attack. While kite control bars are made intentionally light, they must also be very strong, and so are usually heavier than water; "bar floats" made of foam are generally fixed to the lines right above the harness to keep the bar from sinking if lost in the water.
  • A kite harness, usually a seat-, waist- or vest-type harness that the rider wears. The harness together with a spreader bar attaches the rider to the control bar. By hooking in, the harness takes most of the strain of the kite's pull off of the rider's arms, and spreads it across a portion of his body. This allows the rider to do jumps and other tricks while remaining attached to the kite via the control bar. Waist harnesses are by far the most popular harnesses among advanced riders, although seat harnesses make it possible to kite surf with less effort from the rider and vest harnesses provide both flotation and impact protection. Kite harnesses look very, very similar to windsurfing or sail boarding harnesses, but are actually much different; usually a windsurfing harness used for kite boarding will break very quickly, leading to unpredictable results including possible injury or gear loss.
  • Kite board, a small composite, wooden, or foam board. There are now several types of kite boards: directional surf-style boards,-style boards, hybrids which can go in either direction but are built to operate better in one of them, and skim-type boards. Some riders also use standard surfboards, or even, although without foot straps much of the high-jump capability of a kite is lost. Twin tip boards are the easiest to learn on and are by far the most popular. The boards generally come with sandal-type foot straps that allow the rider to attach and detach from the board easily; this is required for doing board-off tricks and jumps. Kite boards come in various shapes and sizes to suit the rider's skill level, riding style, wind and water conditions.

 

  
KiteSurfing safety

Power kites can be dangerous. Because of strong forces that can be generated by sudden wind gusts, people can be lofted, carried off, dashed against water, buildings, terrain or power lines, resulting in what's termed a "kite-mare" (kite + nightmare).

Most kite boarding fatalities are the result of being lofted, causing the kite surfer to lose control and to be dragged or thrown against hard objects. Under certain conditions it's possible to be injured simply by impact with the water surface.

To maximize safety, a few basic safety guidelines should always be followed.

  • Avoid kite surfing in crowded areas, near rocks, trees, or power lines. In general there should be a minimum of 100 meters of safe distance from all obstructions.
  • Try to ride with side-shore winds. Avoid offshore or directly onshore winds.
  • Pay attention to changing weather and wind conditions. Particularly dangerous are storm fronts, which are often preceded by strong, variable wind gusts and sometimes involve lightning. If you feel a static shock from the kite bar, land the kite immediately and seek shelter.
  • Do not remove or disable factory-installed safety equipment or releases. The most basic is a quick-release harness safety system. Harness safety systems come in different configurations; most allow the kite surfer to release the kite with one tug or push, leaving only one line which is attached to a kite leash. This one line ideally will cause the kite to lose its shape and fall from the sky, without power. Redundant safety releases are even better; do not remove your kite release because you assume you can simply unhook. "Safety equipment" also includes the bar floats, the foam floats on the outside lines of most kite bars; most kite lines sink, and without bar floats sunk lines are more likely to tangle around an underwater obstruction. This could even happen with the bar floats, but they do help. With the kite in the water, a tangle like this could drag you underwater and hold you there.
  • Never use a board leash without wearing a helmet. Under very common circumstances, a board leash can cause the board to strike the rider in the head. Alternatively, don't use a board leash. A helmet is a wise precaution in most circumstances whether you use a board leash or not, but never use a board leash without wearing a helmet.
  • Avoid riding overpowered. Using too large a kite for the wind conditions or your experience level is extremely dangerous. Underpowered riding is preferable to overpowered riding. When in doubt, go to a smaller kite and see how it goes.
  • Be extra careful when landing or launching the kite. Most accidents occur on shore or while a rider is entering or leaving the water. It's advisable to either-hitch your kite from your harness while on-shore, holding onto it with only your arms, so you can release if necessary, or simply be ready to operate the quick-release mechanism. Ideally, don't spend any time on shore with the kite in the air; launch the kite and then leave the beach immediately, and when coming in, land as quickly as possible. When on shore, keep the kite low: if it's hit by a gust, it can drag the rider, but this does prevent lofting.
  • Carry a knife attached to the harness for cutting tangled lines. Tangles are dangerous because an entangled rider in the water may not be able free themselves quickly enough in the event the kite powers up suddenly (catches a wind gust, suddenly accelerates, or, if it's in the water, gets hit by a wave). The tangled lines around a rider’s body can cut and sever a rider's fingers, toes, or limbs or cause serious and deep lacerations. In a crash situation, with the kite in the water, under no circumstances allow a line to encircle a part of the body.

Another, more subtle hazard is that at fifty km/h (a typical speed for a skillful kite surfer), one can easily get tired, and then get farther from shore than an easy swim, which is the primary reason kite surfing in directly offshore winds is discouraged. Still other general marine hazards include sharks, jellyfish, and collisions with wind surfers, other kite boarders or water craft.

When practiced safely, with the proper training and gear, kite boarding is an enjoyable, addictive extreme sport. Like any other sport, respecting nature, paying attention to the weather and staying within the limits of the riders’ ability will provide the safest and most enjoyable experience.