Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, and gymnastics into one extreme sport. A kitesurfer or kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without foot-straps or bindings. The terms kiteboarding and kitesurfing are interchangeable.
There are different styles of kiteboarding, including freestyle, freeride, downwinders, speed, course racing, wakestyle, jumping and wave-riding. In 2012, the number of kitesurfers has been estimated by the ISAF and IKA at 1.5 million persons worldwide  (pending review).
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) gets 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.
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 kitesail upwind and uphill but also to take off into the air at will. Strasilla and his friend Andrea Kuhn/Switzerland used this invention also in combination with surfboards and Skurfs, 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 very popular worldwide, with over 14,000 buggies sold up to 1999.
The development of modern day kitesurfing by the Roeselers in the USA 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 was experimenting riding windsurfing boards with various foil kites naming the sport kitesurfing.
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 Naish and Neil Pryde. Single direction boards derived from windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kiteboard. 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. The unprecedented Facebook campaign to retain windsurfing was therefore even more successful than the initial aims to retain it for 2016 in the first instance. It is not clear how an eleventh medal for kitesurfing would work in practice would it be gender neutral, just for males or a team event?
French kitesurfer Sébastien Cattelan 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 (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.
The outright sailing speed record currently claimed by the French trimaran Hydroptère which, on 4 September 2009, reached a speed of 51.36 knots over 500 meters, and an amazing 50.17 over a nautical mile (1852 meters). Both records were set in open ocean, as opposed to the Lüderitz site that is basically a stretch of ultra-shallow water 8-15 centimeters deep. Hydroptère sails with amazing efficiency: the records were set in 25 to 30 knots of wind, as opposed to the 45-50 knots required by kitesurfers .
On the 14th of 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.
Distance records and notable journeys
It is possible to travel great distances on a kiteboard.
Kirsty Jones set a distance record for a kiteboard when she travelled 225 km (140 mi), crossing solo from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Tarfaya, Morocco, in about nine hours on 13 May 2006.
A record combination of distance and speed of 207 km in 5h 30m was set by Raphaël Salles, Marc Blanc and Sylvain Maurain on July 24, 2007, between Saint-Tropez and Calvi, beating Manu Bertin's previous record of 6h 30m for the same journey. Their average speed was almost 38 km/h.
In June/August 2010, an unofficial record of 2000 km was recorded by Louis Tapper in 23 days.
The official 24-hour record for The longest kite surfing journey is 199.63 nautical miles (369.71 km; 229.73 statute miles) and was achieved by Phillip McCoy Midler (USA) who travelled from South Padre Island, Texas to Matagorda, Texas, USA, from 10 to 11 May 2010.
The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) is an International Class Association of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Its responsibility, amongst others, is to manage the global administration of the sport and combining world events into one united ranking. A Executive Committee is on a regular basis re-appointed by the class AGM. The duties and responsabilites of the Executive Committee are: to take care of the day to day business of the association. To consider and coordinate submissions from the sub-committees. The Executive Committee elected amongst themselves: - Chairman: Richard Gowers (GBR) - Vice-chairman: Bruno De Wannemaeker (BEL) - Executive Secretary: Markus Schwendtner (GER) - Board members: Mirco Babini (ITA), Olivier Mouragues (FRA), Adam Szymanski (POL) and John Gomes (USA).
There are also national and regional kitesurfing associations in many countries.
Several different kitesurfing styles are evolving, some of which cross over.
|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 good turning characteristics to surf the wave. Many kiters use a board that can be used for regular surfing too (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.||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||Jumping, arguably a subset of Freeride, consists of jumping high to optionally perform tricks, sometimes also using kiteloops to get extra height. Often shorter lines and smaller kites are used in stronger wind. C-kites and twintip boards are commonly used.||—|
|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. 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.|
||This article contains instructions, advice, or how-to content. (August 2010)|
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 centres. Kitesurfing schools provide courses and lessons to teach skills including kite launching, flying, landing, usage of the bar, lines and safety devices.
A beginner can turn by stopping or sinking backwards into the water,and then turning the kite in the opposite direction and starting again. A 'heel turn jibe' is a quicker,and more skillful turn that is executed by slowing down, flattening the board, then reversing the board flat on the water by bringing the rear foot around downwind to eventually become the new leading foot. The direction of the kite is then reversed, which swings the surfer's path in a semi circle, centered on the kite. As the turn ends, the kite is flown over to be in front of the surfer again.
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.
A careless turn in high winds can easily swing the rider into the air and result in an uncontrolled impact.
Controlled flying and jumping
Controlled flying is possible and is one of the biggest attractions of the sport. Before jumping, the surfer builds up tension in the lines by strongly edging the board. Then the kite is flown quickly to an overhead position, sometimes just as the surfer goes over a wave. As the kite begins to lift, the board edge is then 'released' and the rider becomes airborne. The kite is then piloted from overhead to the direction of travel. A large variety of maneuvers and tricks can be performed while jumping.
Jumping can be very risky, riders must keep a clear buffer zone downwind when attempting to jump.
Board grabs are tricks performed while a rider is jumping or has gained air from popping by grabbing the board in a number of positions with either hand. Each grab has a different name dependent on which part of the board is grabbed and with which hand it is grabbed by. Rear hand grabs are known as Crail, Indy, Trindy, Tail, Tailfish, and Stalefish; while front hand grabs are known as Slob, Mute, Seatbelt, Melon, Lien, and Nose. Names generally originate from other board sports like skateboarding and snowboarding.
A number of grabs can also be combined into one trick. A rider may perform a tail grab going to indy by moving the rear hand from the back of the board to the middle of the toe side edge.
Assessing the wind
Wind strength and kite sizes
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.
All 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 power or pull.
Wind speed, rider experience and weight, board size, kite design and riding style are all interdependent and affect the choice of kite.
An experienced rider generally carries a 'quiver' of different sized kites appropriate for the wind speed range. A typical kite quiver might include 8 m², 10 m² and 12 m² traditional "C-kites". Exact kite sizes will vary depending on rider weight and desired wind ranges.
Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for kiteboarding. Offshore winds pose the danger of being blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control. Offshore winds are suitable in a lake or when a safety boat is available, however they are generally more gusty. Direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land, and are thus less favorable.
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.
To kitesurf, a kite, board, harness, ropes,a surfboard,...
Leading edge inflatables
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI kites or C-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 once 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 frequently a bridle 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.
Early bow kites had some disadvantages compared to classic LEI kites:
- They can become inverted and then not fly properly
- They can be twitchy and not as stable
- Heavier bar pressure makes them more tiring to fly
- Lack of "sled boosting" effect when jumping
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.
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. A depowerable foil kite can cover about the same wind range as two traditional C-shape LEI kite sizes, so the rider can use a smaller kite, giving a wider depower range, although the new LEI "bow" kites have a comparable wide range. 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.
Open cell foils rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves to stay inflated, but are generally impossible to relaunch if they hit the water, because they have no means of avoiding deflation, and quickly become soaked.
Closed cell foils are almost identical to open cell foils except they are equipped with inlet valves to hold air in the chambers, thus keeping the kite inflated (or, at least, making the deflation extremely slow) even once in the water. Water relaunches with closed cell foil kites are simpler; a steady tug on the power lines typically allows them to take off again. An example for a closed cell kite is the Arc Kite.
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).
- Flying lines are made of a very strong material, frequently ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, in order to handle the dynamic load in unpredictable wind while maintaining a small cross-sectional profile to minimize drag. They come in lengths generally between seven and thirty-three meters. Experimentation with line lengths is common in kiteboarding. The lines attach the rider's control bar to the kite using attachment cords on the kite edges or its bridle. Most power kites use a 3, 4 or 5-line configuration. The 5th line is used to aid in lava 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. Control bars are usually specific to a particular kite type and size and are not usually suitable for use with different kite types.
- 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 similar to windsurfing harnesses, but are actually much different; a windsurfing harness used for kiteboarding is likely to break very quickly, which could result in injury and/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 long boards, 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 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. Bindings are used mainly by the wakestyle riders wishing to replicate wakeboarding tricks such as KGBs and other pop initiated tricks. Kiteboards come in shapes and sizes to suit the rider's skill level, riding style, wind and water conditions.
- A wetsuit is often worn by kitesurfers, except in warmer conditions with light winds. When kitesurfing in strong winds, body heat loss is reduced by wearing a wetsuit. A "shortie" is worn to protect the torso only, and a full suit is used for protection against cool conditions, from marine life such as jellyfish, and also from abrasions if the rider is dragged by the kite. Dry suits are also used to kitesurf in cold conditions in winter.
- A safety hook knife is considered required equipment. The corrosion resistant stainless steel blade is partially protected by a curved plastic hook. It can be used to cut entangled or snagged kite lines, or to release the kite if the safety release system fails. Some kitesurfing harnesses are equipped with a small pocket for the knife.
- A helmet is often worn by kitesurfers to protect the head from blunt trauma. Helmets prevent head lacerations, and can also reduce the severity of impact injuries to the head, as well as compression injuries to the neck and spine.
- A personal flotation device or PFD may be required if the kitesurfer is using a boat or personal water craft for support. It is also recommended for kitesurfing in deep water in case the kitesurfer becomes disabled and must wait for rescue.
- An impact vest provides some protection against impacts to the torso area. They can also provide some flotation.
- A board leash that attaches the board to the kitesurfer's leg or harness is used by some riders. However, many kitesurfing schools discourage the use of board leashes due to the risk of recoil, where the leash can yank the board to impact the rider, which can result in serious injury or even death. Generally, kitesurfers that use a board leash will also wear a helmet to help protect against this.
- Signaling devices are useful if the kitesurfer needs to be rescued. This may be as simple as a whistle attached to the knife, or retro-reflective tape applied to the helmet. Some kitesurfers carry a mobile phone or two-way radio in a waterproof pouch to use in an emergency. A small Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) can be carried and activated to send out a distress signal.
- A buddy is important to help with launching and retrieving the kite, and to assist in an emergency.
Dangers and safety
Power kites are powerful enough to pull the rider like a boat in wakeboarding and to lift their users to diving heights. But a kite could become uncontrolled and that situation can be very dangerous; especially within a difficult environment. A kite can get out of control after the rider falling or in a sudden wind gust, which can happen more frequently due to excessively 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 figures in many of these cases, 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 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. A safety knife is useful if lines become tangled and dangerous.
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 USA around 2003, the fatality rate with 6 to 12 for 100'000 participants was higher than 4 to 5 in SCUBA diving (and much higher than the two Walkers), comparable to the 15 in Motor Vehicle Traffic, and much lower than all accidents with 56 or the 88 Paragliders. 
Reports of casualties
- "Stuart man, 38, identified as kite surfer killed by sharks off Stuart Beach". Palm Beach Post. 4 Feb. 2010.
- "Kitesurfer, 70, killed at remote beach". WA Today. 6 February 2012.
- "Kite surfer killed at Redcliffe". Brisbane Times. 6 March 2012.
- "Dante Torres, Malibu Kite Surfer Dies in Tragic Kelp Accident". LA Weekly Blogs. 13 March 2012.
- "Phuket beach toll rises as kitesurfing American dies". Phuket Gazette. 31 May 2012.
- "Kiteboarder killed at Cheney Lake identified". KWCH-TV. 6 August 2012.
Kitesurfing safety rules
Some countries have laws about flying kites and being safe while flying that may also apply to kitesurfing.
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (August 2010)|
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.
Kiters are also considered as sailing vessels – so some 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" very clearly and in good time.
Other boating rules such as no-go zones, distance from shore and swimmers also apply.
Terminology and jargon
- Air time: the amount of time spent in the air while jumping. This can be remarkably long; the record is Jesse Richman's 22 second long jump. Five to ten seconds is not unusual.
- Apparent wind: the kite's speed relative to the surrounding air. When kitesurfing in a straight line, the kite's apparent wind is a combination of the wind speed and the speed of the kite and rider over the surface, but since the kite is highly steerable apparent wind can vary widely depending on how the kite is being flown. Most ways of increasing power from the kite involve giving it a higher apparent wind somehow, i.e. diving the kite, riding faster, or riding at a greater angle into the wind. Any of these raises the kite's apparent wind speed.
- Big Air: doing a very high jump utilizing the lift of the kite. The jump is often assisted in its initial stage by the rider being catapulted off the lip of a wave.
- Body dragging: being pulled through the water without standing on a board. This is an early step in the learning process, and is recommended before trying the board after flying a trainer kite.
- Boost: to suddenly become airborne
- Charlie browner: same as kiteboarder or kitesurfer.
- Chicken loop: a hard rubber loop attached to the middle line which has been fed through the control bar. It is used to attach the control bar to the harness so the kitesurfer can produce tension in the lines using their entire bodyweight instead of using purely arm strength.
- Chicken bone/chicken finger/donkey dick: a hard rubber "tongue" attached to the chicken loop which the rider feeds through the spreader bar hook to prevent the rider from becoming "unhooked".
- De-power: to reduce the kite's power (pull), generally by adjusting the angle of attack of the kite. Most kites and control bars now allow a rider to rig a kite for a number of different power levels before launching, in addition to powering the kite up and down "on the fly" by moving the bar up and down. Depowerability makes a kite safer and easier to handle. Some new kite models, especially "bow" kites, can be de-powered to practically zero power, giving them an enormous wind range.
- DP: dawn patrol; a very early morning session.
- downwind: the direction the wind is blowing towards; to leeward. When a rider is facing downwind the wind is at their back.
- Downwinder: a kitesurfing "trip" (could actually be as short as a few minutes) where the rider starts at one point and ends up at another point downwind of their original position.
- Edge: tilting the board with its edge into the water. Used to control the direction of travel. Learning to edge properly is critical for learning to tack upwind. Edging is one of the fundamental skills of kitesurfing and is one of the ways kitesurfing is different from windsurfing or wakeboarding. While windsurf boards have daggerboards and/or skegs to steer the board upwind while lift and planing is provided by the board itself, generally kiteboards actually combine both functions and the bottom of the board lifts the rider and steers simultaneously. Kiteboard fins are generally much smaller and are for keeping the board in the water (see "tea-bagging"), but are not essential. Because kite boards have a small rocker, a deep edge can allow the board to act as a large low drag fin. Edging in wakeboarding is used for steering the board; whereas in kite boarding not only does edging steer the kite board, it is essential for kite control and controlling board speed. Riding downwind towards the kite subtracts massively from the kite's power and helps control board speed as well.
- Facial: total loss of flying kite control whilst on the beach resulting in the harnessed rider being dragged face first down wind, along the sandy/rocky beach.
- Freeride: kiteboarding style. Plain kiteboarding that does not involve tricks or jumping. The main goal is keeping a good edge and ability to traverse upwind. This would normally require a board with little rocker.
- Freestyle: kiteboarding style. Freestyle involves tricks (or combinations of tricks) where the rider is jumping off the water and experiencing enhanced elevation using lift generated from the kite. Freestyle is, weather-wise, a multi-condition concept and is to some degree equipment-specific. "Big air" is commonly associated with freestyle.
- Goofy: the footedness of the rider, with the right foot leading.
- Guinea pig a person who goes out to test if the wind is rideable or not. If it is, others start riding too. Also known as a Wind-dummy.
- Heel side: the side of a board on the edge where a rider's heels are (opposite of toe side). "Riding heel side" is riding with heels down.
- Hindenburg: (a reference to the Hindenburg Airship disaster of 1937) a kite stalling and then crashing. Hindenburging can be caused either by lack of wind or by the kite advancing to a position upwind of the kitesurfer in the wind window, also called "overflying the kite".
- Handlepass: while unhooked, passing the control bar behind a riders back while in the air.
- Hot Launch: recovering and launching the kite from a position deep inside the wind window so the kite is immediately under maximum power (potentially dangerous).
- Kiteloop: is a powered group of tricks where a rider loops the kite through the power zone while spinning through the air
- Kitemare: a kiteboardsurfing accident or dangerous mishap. Kitemares can be deadly.
- Launch: getting the kite in the air. The kite may be launched assisted or unassisted. An assisted launch is generally safer than an unassisted launch.
- Lofted: to get lifted vertically into the air by the kite due to a strong gust of wind. A very dangerous occurrence that has resulted in several fatalities when kiters on or near land have been dragged into obstacles. Can be avoided by minimizing time on land with the kite flying directly overhead, and by not kiting in overpowered situations.
- Luff : when the air flow stalls around the kite. It may then stall and fall out of the sky. Like sails, a luffing kite has rippling and flapping panels. When launching the kite, if the kite is luffing, the rider should move farther upwind, or the person holding the kite should move downwind.
- Mobe: this term has two meanings: either a class of wakestyle tricks involving an invert with a 360-degree spin or a specific trick involving a back roll with a frontside 360 handlepass (while keeping the kite below 45 degrees). The former meaning stems from the latter, which was the first type of mobe to ever be landed. Other types of mobes include: mobe 540, mobe 720, slim chance, KGB, crow mobe, moby dick, Pete Rose, blind pete, crow mobe 540, etc.
- Nuking: wind blowing at great speeds (30-40 knots). These conditions are very extreme and dangerous for most riders.
- Offshore: wind blowing at the water from the shore. Never ride in offshore winds without some means of recovery, i.e. a chase boat. This is somewhat less important in smaller bodies of water, of course.
- Onshore: wind blowing perpendicular to and directly at the shore from the water. A challenging condition for beginners, especially if waves are present.
- Dookie Dive: loss of power during air time resulting in a crash into the water.
- O-Shit Loop: two loops on either ends of the bar that are attached to the kite lines and run through rings attached to the bar. A standard leash attachment point.
- Overhead waves: waves two or more meters (6 ft) from trough to crest;
- Overpowered: the condition of having too much power from the kite. Can be a result of an increase in wind, incorrect kite choice (too large for the conditions), incorrect adjustment, simply going too fast, etc. Interestingly, experienced riders who are overpowered can switch to a smaller board to compensate, to a degree, although it's common to have just one board.
- pop: height gained above the water using only the board and tension in the lines to get lift, with the kite usually positioned at 45 degrees. Lower kite angles are possible for more experienced riders. Used as a basis for many tricks and regarded as an essential skill for progressing.
- Port the left side of a ship, as perceived by a person on board facing the bow (front).
- Power up: when the kite's power increases (suddenly), because of wind gusts or the kite's movement.
- Power zone: is the area in the sky where the kite generates the most lift (pull), this is generally between 0 to 60 degrees arc from the center of the downwind direction.
- Re-Launch: a general term for getting the kite back up in the air after crashing it (on land or water). A relaunch is unassisted and requires the rider to follow a kite-specific procedure (check the manual). As years of development have gone by, the more recent kites are easier to relaunch.
- Send it: to move the kite aggressively up through the power zone.
- Schlogging: this is riding extremely underpowered. A rider has no power to plane and definitely not enough to jump. A rider and their board bounce from planing on the surface to being dragged in the water.
- Shit hot: the art of stylish smooth moves.
- SLE: Supported Leading Edge. A C shaped kite with an inflatable leading edge, currently the most advanced kite design available allowing massive de-power.
- Side offshore: wind blowing between sideshore and at a 45-degree angle away from the shore.
- Side onshore: wind blowing between sideshore and at a 45-degree angle towards the shore.
- side shore: winds blowing parallel to the shore. Usually the most desirable direction for kitesurfing.
- Spreader bar: a stainless steel bar that attaches to the rider's harness. It has a hook that holds the "chicken loop" when riding hooked in.
- Starboard the right side of a vessel as perceived by a person on board facing the bow (front).
- Stomp: to successfully perform a trick.
- Tack: the direction which is being sailed, normally either starboard tack or port tack. In a starboard tack the wind is coming in from the rider's starboard (right-hand) side, similar to sailing a boat. In normal riding, the kitesurfer takes a heading which is as close to into the wind as possible, and in any event leads at some angle slightly upwind, sometimes as much as 45 degrees; jumping or wave riding usually results in traveling downwind, so the net result is to maintain relative position. Alternatively, see "downwinder".
- Tea-bagging: popping out of and falling back into the water intermittently due to light or gusty wind, poor flying skills, twisted lines etc.
- Toe side: the side of a board on the edge where a riders toes are (opposite of heel side). "Riding toe side" is riding with toes down.
- Underpowered: the condition of having insufficient power from the kite. Can be a result of insufficient wind, choosing a kite that is too small for the wind, rigging incorrectly, board too small, water current in the same direction as the wind, not riding fast enough, etc. A rider who is continuously diving the kite and sending it back up in a sine-wave pattern is usually underpowered.
- Unhooked is when a kitesurfer is riding while the chicken loop is not attached to the rider's harness.
- Upwind: the direction from which the wind is blowing; windward; into the wind.
- VaS conditions: Victory at Sea; very rough sea conditions, generally with overhead wind waves causing severe shore break.
- Wakestyle: kiteboarding style.
- Walk of Shame is the act of walking back upwind to the location where the kite was originally launched.
- Wind-dummy a person who goes out to test if the wind is rideable or not. If it is, others start riding too. Also known as a Guinea pig.
- Wind window is the 120- to 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. If the rider is facing downwind on a flat surface, like the ocean, the wind window consists of 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 very quickly and sending the kite directly overhead and behind—the kite will stall and frequently fall out of the sky.
- Zenith the location in the wind window directly over the kiter's head. This is the neutral position where kitesurfers can place the kite to stop moving or prior to movement. This places the kite in a more vulnerable to "Hindenburgs" position than any other.
Kiteboarding versus sailboarding
|Record Speed||55.65 (WR) knots||52.05 knots|
|Upwind Capabilities||About 70° from wind direction. 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 (strong wind) 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.|
|Physical Strain on Rider||The traction force of the kite is partly transferred to the rider via the harness loop attached to the harness hook. When "hooked in" the rider uses muscle strength to steer the kite and control the kite power by pushing the bar in and out. When "unhooked" the rider steers the kite using their arms with no depower, which can be very strenuous.||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. Hooking into the harness again requires additional muscle effort. For jibing maneuvers, muscle effort diminishes as the rider becomes more skilled in maintaining board speed in the jibe.|
|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 lift forces of the kite when it is overhead. The kite power can be regulated by changing the angle of attack of the kite.||In light winds, the rider needs to get on the board and pull the sail out of the water. However, in stronger winds, uphauling the sail increasingly requires strength, so 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.|
|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.||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 and during jibes, 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 most initiate the jump by kicking down the tail of the board. Unintended jumps very rarely occur, 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.||With most aerobatics the airfoil's position in the air tends to change dramatically, very much like it does in an airplane. 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. None of this is similar to any action onshore, and therefore the learning curve is very shallow. 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' (with some risk to themselves) 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||Handling the kite can be largely taught on shore, as kite boarding evolved form beach kiting. On the water, 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.||Handling of the airfoil (sail) is learned mostly on the water with some dry practice for beginners. Advanced high wind techniques (e.g. water start) can only be learned in deep water. Recovery from falling is easy with a little practice, as the rider needs to either up haul the sail standing on the board or water start, which both take some strength and balance. Water starting is an advanced technique that just takes some teachable techniques and practice. At the same time, the risk of falling is always there (experts can go days without a fall but a missed jibe might happen). Tacking becomes more difficult in stronger winds, so most riders switch to easy jibes.|
|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.|
Kitesurfers use power kites hooked into harnesses
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- Are you kiting Safely?? Are you aware of the Rules??, kbv.org.au
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