Kite surfing , also known as kitesurfing and kiteboarding, and sometimes as flysurfing, involves using a power kite to pull a small surfboard, or wakeboard on water. Kitesurfing is an exhilarating and energetic sport. The current speed record over a 500 meter (1,640 ft) course is 77.4 kilometers per hour (41.79 knots) held by Olaf Marting.

A kitesurfer stands on a board with foot straps or bindings and uses the power of a large controllable kite to propel themselves and the board across the water. However, this simplicity also makes kitesurfing challenging. Your body is the only connection between the kite and the board and you have to control them both at the same time: piloting the kite in the sky and steering the board on the water.

The sport is still in its infancy but is rapidly growing in popularity. In 1998, there were probably less than thirty kitesurfers worldwide. In 2006, the number of kitesurfers has been estimated at around 150,000 to 200,000.

The sport is becoming safer due to innovations in kite design, safety release systems and instruction. Many riding styles have evolved to suit different types of riders and conditions, such as wake style, wave riding, freestyle, jumping, and cruising.

Other variations of using kites for propulsion include kite landboarding, snowkiting, kite buggying, kite jumping and using kites to propel a sea kayaks.

Kitesurfing was developed in the mid 1990s by Manu Bertin, a French sportsman then living in Hawaii, and the Legaignoux brothers.

Adequate quality kiteboarding instruction by a certified instructor is essential. You will advance more rapidly while helping to protect your new equipment, yourself, bystanders and access to our sport. The mechanics of kiteboarding can be simplistic, they ways in which things can go wrong and readily avoided may not be obvious to new kiters. A good course should include basic kite setup, operation, maintenance, size considerations, various types and operation of important safety systems. It will also include weather planning and hazards, launch area selection, solo launching and landing, emergency landing, self-rescue, safety gear, tuning, water starting, how to stay upwind while riding, "rules of the road" and other essential topics.

Learning techniques include flying a small kite on a beach to learn how to control the kite within the wind window.

Once good kite flying skills are obtained, the next progression is bodydragging , where a larger kite is flown and used to drag the student's body through the water. The effect is similar to bodysurfing, but with an upward lift component. Bodydragging is also a self rescue technique in the event a kiter loses their board and needs to get to the shore.

The next progression is to lie in the water and attach your feet to the board (i.e. through the foot loops) with the board downwind. The kite is then flown left and right with its pull balanced against the board's resistance by matching the pressure with alternate legs. For example, pressure on the left of the control bar is balanced against pressure applied by the left foot to the board, and vice versa.

Getting going
Generally, the first step of kite surfing is to fly one's power kite into neutral position, in which the kite is overhead at the edge of the wind window, and therefore generating little pull ideally which can be balanced against one's body weight. Note: if an excessive wind gust occurs with your kite , your body weight may not be adequate to anchor the kite resulting in your being lofted or involuntarily lifted off the ground. An instructor would take pains to avoid having this happen to students.

A safe way to launch involves sitting down with legs extended in shallow water, placing one foot then the other into the footstraps of the board. Then, in a (hopefully) coordinated movement, the kite is flown toward the water, with the board initially pointing downwind. The rider is then pulled up out of the water and the board starts to plane. The rider can then use his feet to edge steer the board across the wind and edge into the water, which has the effect of acting like a keel. If the board is not edged into the water or a wave, the kite will pull the surfer in a powerful planing motion similar to wakeboarding.

A beginner can turn by stopping, 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 deadman 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, detangling and relaunching 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 recontacts 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 and jumping
Controlled flying is possible and one of the biggest attractions of the sport, but more difficult and 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 powerlines if the move is poorly executed or more commonly if the rider is caught by a wind storm or squall, launches too large a kite whether in the water or on land. Weather planning and awareness are key to safe kiteboarding. A substantial quantity of riders have been killed in kiteboarding-related accidents since 2000, according to a safety adviser for one of the sport's governing bodies.

Assessing the wind
Wind strength
Getting going and staying upwind is a function of wind speed, board size, experience, body weight and wave height. It is important to avoid using too large a kite, particularly when you are new to the sport. The more optimal these factors, the lower wind speed you will be able to perform in. Most riders at around 170 lbs. will you need about 8 to 10 knots sustained wind on a larger kite (16 m” or bigger) with effort. In 12 - 15 knots you can have a lot of fun by doing low jumps and freestyle maneuvers. 16 - 20 knots on a 16 square meter kite will allow you jumping high, while 20 to 24 knots might allow you to fly 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 typical kite quiver might include 9m”, 13m” and 18m” traditional "C-kites" depending on rider weight and desired wind range. Quiver variations are quite common particularly for higher winds and heavier or substantially lighter rider weights. The new bow kites perform in a wider wind range and as such two to three kite sizes might form an effective quiver for typical wind conditions.

Wind direction
It is generally held that kitesurfers 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 are two exceptions to riding in offshore winds. If you have someone with a boat or other watercraft which can assist you back to shore, or if you are riding on inland lakes where you'll inevitably hit the far shore eventually. Cross-shore wind directions are widely considered to be the best. Offshore winds are also generally gusty and much more difficult to kitesurf in.

Other equipment

  • Flying lines are made of a very strong, technologically advanced material,  frequently Dyneema, 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 kiteboarding. 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. SeaSpecs Sunglasses Non-elastic, Easily Adjustable and Comfortable Secure Strap keeps the sunglasses on your head during your Extreme Surfing, Kite Surfing, Windsurfing, Jet Skiing, Snowboarding and all other Extreme Sports!

  • A kite harness comes in seat (with leg  loops), waist or vest types. 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 kitesurf with less effort from the rider and vest harnesses  provide both flotation and impact protection. Kite harnesses look very, very  similar to windsurfing or sailboarding harnesses, but are actually much  different; usually a windsurfing harness used for kiteboarding will break very  quickly, leading to unpredictable results including possible injury or gear  loss.

  • Kiteboard , a small composite, wooden, or foam board. There are now several  types of kiteboards: directional surf-style boards, wakeboard-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 longboards, although without footstraps much of the high-jump  capability of a kite is lost. Twintip boards are the easiest to learn on and  are by far the most popular. The boards generally come with sandle-type  footstraps that allow the rider to attach and detach from the board easily;  this is required for doing board-off tricks and jumps. Kiteboards come in  various shapes and sizes to suit the rider's skill level, riding style, wind  and water conditions.




Dangers and 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 "kitemare" (kite + nightmare).

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

To maximize safety, basic safety guidelines should always be followed, some of which follow:

  • "Always  check the weather forecast, color radar, realtime wind reports on the Internet  for indications of storms/squalls and excessively gusty winds, wind direction  changes and lightning hazards.

  • 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. NOTE: board leashes have propelled boards  through helmets in the past. The best course is normally to not use a board  leash.  

  • 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 un-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 may  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  themself 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 riders 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, collisions with wind surfers, other kite boarders or water craft.

New kite designs have included immediate and full depower, improved quick release mechanisms, and other safety equipment which is making the sport much safer.