Kiteboard Buyers Guide

Getting Started

Trainer Kites

If you are just getting into kiteboarding, you should know that the learning curve is fairly abrupt. You will need to master a number of skills all at once. But so long as you go about this in the appropriate way, you can become a competent kiteboarder quickly and safely. We recommend that you begin by investing in a trainer kite. A trainer kite is a 1-3m kite that is used for land training. They are much smaller than the full-sized kites used for kiting on water, so that you can develop your technique without the need for instructor supervision. They are also foil kites, so do not need to be inflated. Trainer kites usually use two lines for steering but may also include a third line for easier relaunch. You can expect to spend 8-12 hours practicing with your trainer kite. The more confident you feel with it, the easier it will be when you hit the water. Trainer kites cost between $150 and $300. We understand that this may be perceived as a limited investment, but nonetheless a necessary step. At Boardsports, we allow trainer kites to be traded back in for a full credit towards your kiteboard package within six months.

View our full selection of trainer kites here.

Kiteboarding Lessons

Once you have mastered your trainer, you are ready to start looking at acquiring your own gear. You should be accompanied by a certified instructor your first time flying a full-size kite. Taking lessons will drastically increase how quickly you will progress. Instructors will also make sure that you have all the knowledge you need to kite safely; including picking spots, launching and landing, self-rescue, etc.

Looking for lessons in Ontario?

Choosing where to ride

    To find wind forecasts, check out these sites. They can give you extended reports of wind conditions and directions in a number of locations:

  • WindFinder.com - Wind and weather reports & forecasts for kitesurfers, windsurfers, surfers, sailors and paragliders for over 35000 locations worldwide.
  • iKitesurf.com - Real-Time Wind Reports, Professional Forecasts, Discussion Forums, Worldwide Photo Galleries.
  • SailFlow.com - Weather service designed specifically for nearshore sailors. Provides animated radar, satellite, and wind information.
  • To learn more about popular launch points near you, check out LocalKiteSpots.com

Choosing your Kite

Kite Sizing

Picking the size of your first kite depends on a number of factors. Your weight and anticipated wind conditions are the first two. If you are planning on riding in Ontario and are over 140 pounds, generally you are looking for a 10-12m kite. If you are lighter, an 8-9m might be more useful. If you are planning on kiting primarily where there are heavier winds than we typically have in Ontario, you may want to size down. Check out what the locals are riding! The second factor is your board size. Some larger fellas might be tempted to go for the biggest kite available. But opting for a 12m and investing in a larger board can help you get going on lighter wind days and will ensure you won't be overpowered when the wind picks up. We'll talk more about boards later.

So far we have been looking for the best size kite to get you going in the widest array of wind conditions. But no one kite will work for everything. Most kiteboarders have a quiver of kites that allows them to ride in variable wind conditions. If you're purchasing your first kite, you may want to consider whether you will be looking for other kites to compliment it in heavier or lighter winds. If you already have a kite and are looking to buy a second, you will want to think about your new kite will compliment the wind range you already have covered. Choosing the sizing for your quiver greatly depends on your size, how big you want your quiver to be, and the wind range of the kites you are using.

Some examples of popular two-kite quivers in Ontario are: 10m and 14m, 8m and 12m.

An example of a popular three-kite quiver is: 7m, 10m and 14m.

Types of Kites

There are a number of different designs of kites that are suited for different riding styles. The kite designers and manufacturers can make this area murky water to wade through. There are three basic kite designs: C-kites, bow kites, and hybrids. It is important to look at the features of a kite that suit you (i.e. ease of relaunch, depower, wind range), and not necessarily which broad category it falls into.

C-Kites

C-kites get their name from their shape.

C-kites have a curved leading edge with abrupt wingtips. Their design affords them less projected area to catch the wind, which means they often do not have as much power for their size as other designs might. They may also have narrower wind ranges. The original c-kites had four lines, which meant that they lack an adequate safety depower system and were notoriously difficult to relaunch. The addition of the fifth line solved both of these problems. So if you interested in a c-kite, we highly recommend that you ensure it is equipped with a fifth line. The primary appeal of c-kites is that they have a very direct bar feel, quick steering and deliver consistent power through turns. Advanced kiters may want to consider a c-kite if they looking for something that is great for riding unhooked, kitelooping, or providing pop for powered wakestyle tricks.

Bow Kite

Bow kites are four-line kites with swept wingtips and a concave trailing edge. Their flatter shape gives them a greater projected area than c-kites, meaning they tend to have greater power for their size.

Bows were originally designed to allow maximum depower off the bar by adding a bridle to the kite. A bridle is a series of lines that connect from the front lines to the leading edge of a kite. They support and stabilize flatter kite designs, like bows, and give them significant depower off the bar. This can make bow kites very appealing to beginners and those looking to do hooked-in tricks and lofty airs. However, the original bow kites often suffered from slow steering or heavy bar pressure.

Hybrid Kites

Most kites on the market fall into this category and as you might have guessed, they represent the middle ground between bow and c-kites. With either four or five lines, hybrids aim to combine accessible features (such as ease of relaunch, depower and wind range) with precise handling. For this reason, novice and advanced kiters will feel equally at home on any number of hybrid kites. Many hybrid kites are great for multiple riding styles. If you want to learn flatwater wakestyle tricks and play around in the surf as well, there is a kite that can manage both.

Delta kites, such as the Best Kahoona, are popular style of hybrid. These feature a swept leading edge and bridle like a bow, but more c-shaped leading edge and convex trailing edge. These designs tend to have good depower off the bar, easy relaunch, and excellent low-end power.

Another popular hybrid design is the open-c hybrid. Open-c's, such as the Naish Park, have abrupt wingtips and a more moderate c-shape. They also feature four-line set up with a bridle for off-the-bar depower and easy relaunch. Open-c shapes are great for novices as well as more advanced kiters looking to cross over multiple riding styles.

There is no end to the vast array of design styles that define this category. The North Rebel, for example, combines a direct fifth-line feel with a flatter, swept shape. The result is a hugely popular freeride kite with massive wind range that is equally at home in the waves and flatwater. Four or Five Lines?

Four or Five Lines?

We have mentioned that a fifth line is important for c-kites but what if you decide to go with a hybrid design? Should you still consider a kite with five lines? Five line kites certainly have their advantages; safety being the primary one. Should you need to pull your quick release, you will only be attached to the kite by the fifth line that connects to the centre of the leading edge. Pulling your quick release will completely depower your five line kite and it will lie on its back in the water waiting for you to reset and relaunch it. A fifth line can also be very handy to relaunch your kite in light winds.

Of course, there are critics of five line kites. The main reason cited is simplicity. And it is true, you will have a set up one more line, but for most people this isn't a major issue. Kiteboarders who ride in waves may prefer four lines because the fifth line is perceived as a threat should you roll your kite in the waves. But you could just as easily wrap the bridle of a four-line kite around the leading edge.

It is also worth noting that four-line safety systems have drastically improved in recent years. All four-line kites we carry at Boardsports feature a virtual fifth line. This is a short line that runs from the bottom of one of the front lines below the bar, allowing you to attaching your leash to it. This means that if you pull your release, the kite will flag out to just one of the front lines.

Choosing your Board

Twin Tips

Twin tips are versatile bi-directional boards. To the untrained eye, they resemble wakeboards but there are key differences. Wakeboards have a lot of rocker, sit low in the water, and have fairly small fins. This means it is extremely difficult to ride upwind on a wakeboard. Kiteboards, the other hand, are flatter and more efficiently skim across the water. While wakeboards are constructed with a foam core, kiteboards are typically built more like snowboards. They often have ABS plastic sidewalls and a wood core, which the rider to more easily absorb choppier conditions.

Sizing a kiteboard is no straight forward task. There are a number of factors besides weight, such as skill level, riding style, and wind conditions. The following will give you a rough idea.

Weight Kiteboard Length
120lbs to 150lbs 130-138cm
150lbs to 180lbs 135-143cm
180lbs to 210lbs 138-146cm
210lbs and up 142-150cm

Beginners should look at getting a bigger board. A wider board will keep a kiteboarder from im/mediately sinking if his/her kite skills are still developing. And a longer board will help a novice when learning to stay upwind. If you are looking for a board specifically for light wind, keep these characteristics in mind as well.

Straps or Boots?

If you are beginner, straps are the way to go. Riding with straps allow you adjust your stance on the fly, which makes riding upwind much easier. With straps, you can also easily escape your board if you fall or make a mistake. And it is easy to get in while flying a kite.

However, if you are confident riding upwind, transitioning and getting a bit of air, you might want to look into riding boots. They are great for flat water wakestyle riding as they give you a very locked-in feeling and direct connection to the board. However, you will need to be powered up because it can be harder to stay upwind in boots. Also, consider getting a board that is a couple centimeters longer.

Surfboards

Once you are a proficient kiteboarder, you might want to consider adding a surfboard to your quiver. Not only great for wave riding, surfboards also make excellent light wind boards. Kiting puts surfboards through some pretty heavy abuse in comparison to traditional surfing. For this reason, kite brands reinforce their boards so they won't be as susceptible heel dents, dings, and snapping. If you are looking at a board from a traditional surf brand, make sure that the board's construction is equally durable.

You can ride a surfboard with or without straps. If you are learning on fairly flat water, riding strapless will make it easier to learn to gybe (change direction). Riding without straps in the waves can be difficult, but rewarding. Many kiteboarders choose to ride with straps in waves for a more locked-in feeling.

There are two types of fin set ups that are popular with kiteboarders. A three-fin thruster set up places the pivot point on the board close to your back foot, which makes for grippy, hairpin turns. On a four-fin quad, the pivot point is moved closer to the center of the board, which makes these boards excel upwind. They also have a looser feel, which makes them great for smaller, mushy waves. Some brands offer versatile boards that can be set up as quad or thruster.

Surfboards are just one way you can diversify your kiteboarding. It isn't uncommon to see kiters make use of wakeskates or skimboards on the water. In the winter, you can fly your kite on a frozen lake or open field with a snowboard. In the summer, try out a mountain board. We have focused on kiteboarding on water in this buyer's guide. But this is an all-season sport and there are multiple ways to kite on land as well.

Other Essentials

Harnesses

There are two types of kiteboarding harnesses: seat harnesses and waist harnesses. Seat harnesses have leg straps and sit lower on the body. Their lower tow point can make it easier for beginners to get up riding. Also, the leg straps keep the harness from riding up, which is useful for beginners who tend to fly their kites higher in the wind. However, most riders find seat harnesses bulky, restrictive, and uncomfortable.

Waist harnesses are the choice of most kiteboarders because they are typically more comfortable and allow for greater maneuverability. If you are a beginner, a waist harness is also suitable. Just make sure that it fits snug and won't ride up.

Ideally, you will try on a harness before purchasing it to ensure a good fit. However, you can form a good idea based on your waist size.

Men
Waist Size Harness Size
25-29" XS
30-33" M
32-35" L
34-37" XL
36-40" XXL
Women
Waist Size Harness Size
24-27" XS
26-29" M
28-31" L
30-33" XL

Wetsuits

Ontario is windiest in the spring and fall when water temperatures are quite frigid. For this reason, a wetsuit is definitely essential for kiteboarders in this region. The bread and butter suit is 4/3mm semi-dry wetsuit, which extend your season from late April until October. 2mm shorties are also popular on the Great Lakes in the summer months.