Kitting yourself up for kite surfing is a costly business. And, once you get better, you’ll want better and faster equipment, which just gets more and more expensive. A popular option for beginners is to hire out kit from shops. This way they can try out various types of kites, boards and harness set-ups before they buy.
There are lots of good deals available on second hand kite surfing kit. Nevertheless, make sure what you’re buying fits your particular level of experience — seek advice. All you need after that spending spree is good dose of wind power.
The harness is an essential bit of kit, which has a metal clip on the front for the kite bar to be slotted into once up and cruising. Harnesses are generally available in two styles — the belt harness and seat harness. The belt system fits around the waist only, while the most popular seat system has a full set of crotch straps.
- Floatation or buoyancy
It is vital to have a flotation device, such as a life jacket or vest while on the water.
The wetsuit is another seriously important piece of kite surfing kit. A wetsuit protects you against the cold and from heavy crash landings. The thickness of the wetsuit depends entirely on how cold the surface and water temperatures are. Surfers in warmer climes, such as the Caribbean may choose to wear a thin shortie wetsuit (a suit that cuts off above the knee) or skin tight Lycra rash vest.
- Safety helmet
Another safety essential, a crash helmet will prevent many serious accidents near the shore and in open water.
- Kite surfing board leash
A familiar piece of kit with all surfers and snowboarders, the board leash attaches the board to your ankle or rear of the harness on an elasticised line. It basically stops the board from disappearing if, or more likely, when, you fall off.
- Line cutter
If you find yourself tangled in any lines and need to free yourself quickly, a line cutter should be easily accessible at all times. These are usually attached to the harness with Velcro.
- The kite itself
It should come as no surprise to hear that the most important piece of kite kit equipment you'll need is the kite itself. A surfing kite is controlled by a horizontal bar, which is used to steer the kite. Kite surfing kites are designed to be launched from the water, by remaining inflated when in use. There are basically two types of kite surfing kites: leading edge inflatable wings, which have to be manually pumped full of air, and the self inflating double-skin, where the wind fills the kite and non-return valves keep it inflated. Leading edge inflatable kites are the most commonly used designs.
Picking the size of kite depends on your experience, size and the average wind conditions of where you will be surfing — again you need to seek advice on this. Most kite surfers will use at least three sizes of kites to cover a range of wind speeds and conditions. When increasing their range of kites, beginners are often advised to go for a larger kite for use in lighter winds — everything will generally happen more slowly to the kite, allowing more time to react to situations.
- The board
In the early days of kite surfing, most kite board efforts were made on home-adapted surf or windsurf boards. These all had some kind of foot bindings — essential for working against the pull of the kites. But riders soon learned these designs had their limitations.
Although they did the job for a while, they were not designed to take the strains and loading of kite surfing — so entered the wakeboard. Wakeboards are short and thin and have full foot bindings, making them ideal to be towed across the water by a powerboat. Riders can travel in both directions. Nevertheless, while ideal for intermediate and advanced kite surfers, these types of boards prove difficult for beginners.
Other, larger boards have been developed to pick up the beginner rider and those who want to surf in lighter wind conditions. With the vast range of kite boards now on offer, choosing the right one can be confusing. The general rule is that small boards and big winds are not for beginners. Newcomers need advice.
- Safety system
There are many variations on the safety system in kites, but all work on a similar principle. There are two lines attached to the back of the kite to act as brakes and de-power the kite, but at the same time keep the kite aloft. If you need to ditch the kite as a last resort, there is also a quick release system. This detaches all the lines of the kite from the harness to force it to drop out of the sky, however, one line remains attached to prevent you from losing the kite altogether. This one line can also be ditched by quick-release if necessary.
- Wind meter when kite surfing
This is an important indicator of wind speed and direction. However, expect to pay a lot of cash for a good handheld meter.
- Puncture repair kit
Just like a bicycle puncture repair kit, this will seal up any holes if your kite is torn or punctured.
- Spares for kite surfing
Save time and hassle by carrying spares for straps, bindings and lines. A tool kit is also a handy companion for all the bits and bobs you need to take care of on your equipment.