Common Beginner FAQs
I am writing this to help beginners answer some questions they may have. It is safe to say Iím sure I missed one or two that you might have. If you ask it on this thread or send me a PM I can answer it and post it here if you want so others can learn too.
My background. I am not a kiteboarding pro. I consider myself a beginner still. I started my first trainer kite lesson the end of the í03 season. I flew my trainer during the winter when it was windy. When I took my lesson at the beginning of the í04 season I was ready because I was tired of playing with that trainer kite. It helped me move right through my lessons. I had some wakeboarding experience (5 times) and am an avid snowboarder.
I set this up as a question and answer to some of the frequently asked questions. Because I am still fairly new these are some of the questions I remember having when I waiting for the 2004 season to start.
Questions to answer:
What trainer should I buy? What size? Brand? I would recommend a 2 or 3 meter foil kite. A 1 meter kite is very skittish and doesnít provide as much power as a 2 or 3m does. Also you could use a 3 meter kite later for land boarding with a kite. You could also use it on the snow for snowkiting if the wind is pretty good. The brand doesnít really matter here. If you get a cheapo kite off eBay or something make sure it has a control bar and not handles. You will be using a control bar when you use bigger kites so that is what you should learn with.
I am an avid wakeboarder who wants big air time. I already have the board skills to pay the bills, I donít need lessons. Let me be the first one to tell you that an attitude like that doesnít go over to well at the beach with fellow kiters and with your instructor. It is great you have good board skills but flying a big kite is 100% different then being pulled by a big boat. Thinking you are the sh1t on a wakeboard is great, but save that thought for when you are wakeboarding not kiting. It will suck for you when your instructor or people on the beach are laughing at your expense because you have an inflated ego.
Iíve read on the internet some sites say wear a leash, others donít. Whatís up with that? From what I have seen in my research is that at the beginning of this sport (only like 5 years ago) that was the way to do it with a board leash. There have been many accidents because of using a board leash since then. So now it is taught to get rid of it as soon as possible. Let me fill you in on why it is dangerous and my experience with using a board leash. Ok you have had your lessons you are out kiting have a good all time. You are new so crashing off the board and crashing the kite happens more frequently to an intermediate kiter. You lose control of your board because of death chop (it happens). You are doing a superman like reenactment with no board under your feet yet still being pulled by the kite. You happen to bring the kite through a bit of the power zone on you way getting it back up to neutral. While this is happening you have some attachment to your board via an ankle leash or recoil type leash. Well your board went a bit underwater when you got ejected and is diving its way to china building tension in your leash. So as you steer your kite to non pulling position you relieve tension on this leash. It then comes back to you faster than you would like. You can end up with you board in your back or head. This happens often to leash users. It happened to me but I was lucky because the board shot past me to the right. I was wearing a helmet but that isnít foolproof if the board tagged me in the back of the neck there would have been some pain involved. If you use a board leash you should wear a helmet. Some kite shops sell basic pro-tec helmets at cost because they donít want to see people get hurt.
Iím a starving student, how much $$$ to get started in kiting? Kiteboarding isnít cheap. You can be cheap and still do it right but it may cost you other ways. (see below for what i mean here) Iíd say plan around $500-600 for lessons. This sucks I know and I hated paying it. But I think it is one of the best investments you can make in your kiteboarding career. Most instructors learned kiteboarding before there were instructors for them. They took a beating and made the learning curve way steep for themselves. With lessons you can learn in a week what they learned in years. Donít skimp on this! Gear: Get a used kite no more than 2 years older than the current model year. In 2003 serious improvements were made to safety systems and overall kite performance. Iíd say shop around on the internet a complete kite can be had for $400. You need a harness also. I wouldnít skimp here either. You comfort on the water hinges on this. If get some beat up used harness that digs into your side during your session you will not be having fun. Women usually like a seat harness better because it doesnít ride up into their chest, and they work better for women with a pear shape. Plan about $80-100 for a harness. Ok a board you could get away with a wake board but from what I hear they donít go upwind too well. They are made for going off a wake while being pulled by a boat. A kite board has much less rocker (if at all) than a wake board. Rocker is the longitudinal curve of the board. Iíd say plan on $200 for a used board. You might want to think about a wet suit too. Approx. $100
Wet suit $100
Total $1280-1400 Way cheaper than buying a wakeboard boat.
Why do I need more than one kite? You need different kites for different wind conditions. There is no magic kite that works best for all wind conditions. Smaller kites are used when it is windier and bigger kites when it is less windy. If you go cheap and only get one kite more often than not you are on the beach pray the wind will do the opposite of what it is doing so you can go out and kite. It is really hard to be in this position because you are watching everyone else have fun as you sit and pout. (this is what i was referring to at the begining of the the last question.)
What kite should I buy? If by that do you mean a foil (double skin) kite or leading edge inflatable (L.E.I.), Iíd say go with the lei they are becoming the most popular kite. They turn way faster which means less delay from rider input to kite reaction.
If by that you mean which brand I would say it doesnít really matter. As long as you are getting something 2003 or newer you should be fine. Some manufactures have higher quality or more attention to detail. They will do you fine because you have never flown a big kite before and wonít know the difference how it turns or hang time or blah blah blah.
If by that you mean low, medium or high aspect ratio (also referred to as AR) I would say low or medium suits a beginner better. Aspect ratio is a techy thing that is the length of the kite divided by the width. Here is what you need to know as a beginner low and medium aspect kites are easier to relaunch from the water. High aspect kites can be faster turning from what I understand. This is bad for a beginner because you donít have your kite skills down so a wrong control bar movement means you are getting yanked faster if you had a low or medium aspect kite.
What kite size is right for me? There are so many variables here it is best suited for your instructor. Let me try to give you an idea what Iím talking about. Weight; someone who is 120lbs. isnít going to need as big a kite as someone 200lbs. Board size plays a factor. A big board (i.e. 160cm range) requires not as much power to get and stay on plane. Location; Sherman Island is usually 20mph winds other places it is less so you may need a bigger kite. Depowerability; 5th line technology and others like it will allow you to use a little larger kite because you can depower kite more.
What board should I buy? Some of the same variables as above apply here. You could also ad are you going to be riding waves or flat water? I would say get something that isnít good for you after a month. A real big board 169 or so is great to learn on but too big once you want to jump. You will out grow it fast is what Iím trying to say. Think about getting a size that you can use for an entire season then once you are hooked you can spend the big bucks for a high quality board. Ask your instructor what size you should get based on all the factors.
Where is it windy? Go here to find info about launches where it is windy and you can ask questions/sponge knowledge off other kiters. You can also go here find a place on the map near you and then click the local info link on the left column. The info given is windsurfer based so be aware of that.
Where do I fly my trainer kite? See above. Go to a local kite beach and fly your trainer there. But ask some questions to people there where there is a safe place to fly a trainer so you are not in the way of people launching and landing. Also donít forget to be aware of innocent bystanders and beach goers.
Should I buy 2 line or 4 line kites? This question confused me when I started. Everywhere I read said a 2 line kite is best for beginners because it is easier to fly and less complicated. Basically that is true. A 2 line kite is good to learn on which is probably what your instructor will have. After that point a 4 line set up is better. You can depower a 4 line kite where you canít do that with a 2 line kite. Your only 2 line kite should be your trainer kite.
Do I need a wet suit? Shorty? Full? Dry suit? If you are going to be kiting in the delta and the bay you will need a wet suit. If you go to the coast you will need a full suit in the 4mm thickness. At the delta (Sherman Island) you can ditch your suit and ride in board shorts and a rash guard type top by summertime. Some ride at the delta with only a shorty wetsuit. If you are somebody who is always cold I would think you would want a thicker full wet suit. Drysuits are twice the price of a wet suit and are for places where it gets real cold. I think a drysuit is a real luxury item that may not even be necessary in California (kiting Tahoe would be real cold burrrr)
Iím interested in kiteboarding but my friends know nothing about it. How do I get them into it also? Take them to a kite beach and have them watch the guys and gals boosting huge. That usually will spark some interest.
Why do I need lessons? Because you will learn faster and do it with someone elseís gear. I happened to do some good damage to my instructors kite when I accidentally drove it into the water at a great velocity. Make sure your instructor isP.A.S.A. and/or I.K.O. certified.
Where should I buy my gear? Iíd buy it here BAK Classifieds Another good resource is ikitesurf also try craigslist. If you want to buy new stuff go to your local shop. There are a few in the bay and one in the delta.
Where do I get lessons? This page has a list of resources of local instructors.
How long before I am boosting like the kiters I saw at the beach? It is possible to be boosting in a few months if you are determined and get lots of time in on the water. I got the hang of the sport pretty good. But I was bad at making time for kiting so I went like 2-3 times a month. I ended up doing jumps by the end of the season.