Get Gear: It's Time To Ride
If you've come this far, get some gear and go ride! Kites change and advance every year, just like cars, so be cautious of buying cheap, old gear unless you can get good information on how its control and safety features work, how the kite differs from your lesson gear, and how comfortable you are learning on a kite that requires more control and attention to safety. Also, many “cheap deals” for new gear will be for the kite only, without bar and lines, so know what you are getting. If you have any questions before you make a major investment, give us a call to get our professional opinion on what gear works and lasts. We have been repairing kites longer than anyone else, and if you don't see a particular brand for sale on kiteboarding.com there is a reason. We have first-hand experience riding and using the gear on our site so if you have any questions give us a call at 361-704-6659, or contact us, for honest advice about what gear will work best for you.
Leading Edge Inflatable Kites
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI, or tube kites, are typically made from Dacron, ripstop nylon, and inflatable polyurethane bladders. The bladders inflate much like a bicycle tire to give the kite its shape and also allow the kite to float if it is dropped in the water. Inflatable kites are the most popular choice among most kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs and easy relaunchability once crashed into the water. If an LEI kite hits the water/ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, the sail can be torn or bladders can burst.
Inflatable kites also have bridle lines that attach to the leading edge and wingtips where you connect the lines from the control system. The bridles allow the kite's angle of attack to be altered, adjusting the amount of power delivered by the kite and increasing the range of wind the kite can be comfortably flown in. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes kites easier to re-launch from the water.
Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (cells) to provide it with lift and a bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. A foil kite can either be a fixed-bridle design or depowerable. With a fixed-bridle design, there is no way to adjust the angle of attack of the kite while it's flying, so it relies on the skill and experience of the pilot to fly the kite in the area of the wind window that provides the optimal power. Because of this reason fixed bridle kites have a smaller wind range and more sizes are needed to cover a broad spectrum of wind. With a depowerable foil, there are either pulleys located in the bridle of the kite or on the control bar that allow the front and back lines to adjust relative to each other and change the angle of attack, increasing the wind range or the kite.
Foil kites are also 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, since 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 cells, 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 or if it landed leading edge down pulling on the brake strap for a reverse relaunch typically allows them to take off again.
Foil kites are more popular for land or snow, where getting the kite wet is not a factor, but recently the closed cell foils are becoming more common for riding on water with new light wind and race designs. A depowerable foil kite is typically more powerful compared to a same-size inflatable kite so the rider can use a smaller kite during their session, or fly the same-sized kite in lighter winds. Foil kites also have the advantage of not needing to have bladders to inflate during setup or burst due to crashing, but the trade-off is a more complex bridle system to manage during setup, launching, and landing.
Kites come in various sizes typically ranging from .7 square meters to to 21 square meters. Trainer kites range roughly from .7 to 3m, land/snow kites from 4 to 13m, and water kites from 4 to 18m. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has, although kite power is also directly linked to how fast the kite flies: some kites can be turned faster to generate power or designed with a certain wing shape to fly faster for more power. Kites come in a variety of designs. Some kites are more rectangular in shape; others have more tapered ends; each design determines the kites flying characteristics. 'Aspect ratio' is the ratio of span to length. High-aspect kites (long and skinny) have less drag and develop more power by flying through the window, but tend to be slower turning. Lower-aspect kites (short and fat) handle gusty conditions better and tend to hang further back in the wind window for a gruntier feeling/power delivery.
Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have three or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels. 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 most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites, though many end up with more boards and more kites to cover more wind ranges and different styles of riding.
- The control bar is a solid metal or composite bar which attaches to the kite via flying lines. The rider holds on to the bar and steers the kite by pulling at its ends, causing the kite to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise, much like turning a a bicycle. Typically a chicken loop from the control bar is attached to the spreader bar on the rider's harness. Most bars also provide a quick-release safety-system that allows you to take all the power out of the kite by flagging it out on one or two lines, rendering the kite unable to fly. 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 or integrated into the ends of the bar itself to keep the bar from sinking if lost in the water. Other parts of the bar are the lock tube that loosely holds the chicken loop to the spreader bar and the trim strap/depower system that allows you to adjust the kite's angle of attack during flight.
- Flying lines are made of a very strong, technologically advanced material, frequently Dyneema. Flying lines need to be strong in order to handle the dynamic load of various riders in unpredictable wind while also maintaining a small cross-sectional profile to minimize drag. The lines connect the rider's control bar to the kite through the bridle or directly to the leading edge. 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. They come in many different lengths, generally between 20 and 25 meters, although shorter and longer lines are not unheard of; experimentation with different line lengths is common in kiteboarding. Longer lines will give more power when the kite is actively flown and can sometimes reach cleaner (less gusty or turbulent) wind higher up at the expense of slightly slower turning reaction of the kite and are most commonly used in light wind conditions. Shorter lines will speed up the reaction of the kite, allowing quicker turning or loops at the cost of having slightly less power. Short lines are commonly found used when just starting to learn kiteboarding and also preferred by surf riders to quickly navigate on or off of waves without being pulled off their board. Extensions are also commonly used to augment a set of lines to quickly extend or shorten the overall line length on a bar as you are setting up your kite. Extensions come in sizes from 1 to 15 meters in length.
- A kite harness is direct connection that wraps around the rider and hooks to bar, allowing the power of the kite to be taken off of the rider's arms and upper body and instead spread across a portion of the body. This allows the rider to ride, do jumps, and other tricks while remaining attached and in control of the kite. Harnesses are generally made of neoprene and foam for support and structure along with a spreader bar to connect to the chickenloop of the bar. The harness also has a place to hook a leash which connects from the harness to the safety flagout system of the control bar. There are several different shapes of harnesses: seat, waist, and vest. Waist harnesses are by far the most popular harnesses, providing the most flexibility for rider movement during both riding, jumps, and tricks. Seat harnesses sit lower and are held down by leg straps, giving a lower center of gravity to the rider and also providing a more comfortable fit if you have lower back problems. Vest harnesses are not quite as common as waist or seat harnesses, but provide a combination of both flotation and impact protection. For kiteboarding, always make sure you are using a kiteboarding harness, they look similar to windusrfing harnesses, but have a much different design.
- Kite leashes provide a level of safety for preventing you from losing your kite. This simple attachment goes between your harness to your kite's safety system.
- Kiteboards are typically made from a combination of layers of composite, wooden, or foam. There are now several types of kiteboards: twintips which can ride easily in either direction, directional surf-style boards, wakeboard-style boards, and skim-type boards. Twintip boards are the easiest to learn on and are by far the most popular. They generally come with sandle-type footstraps that allow the rider to attach and detach from the board easily; this is necessary for safety reasons and also desired for some doing board-off tricks and jumps. Bindings or boots are used mainly by the wakestyle riders wishing to replicate wakeboarding tricks and are like having a pair of lace-up boots attached to your board, so not easy to get on or off but giving a more direct control of the board. Kite-specific surfboards can be ridden with or without straps and are great for riding waves and some shapes also work well for riding in light wind conditions. Skim boards bridge the gap between twin and surf design, commonly having the directional shaping of a surfboard but the compact size of a twintip. Skim boards are typically used to ride on light wind days or to do various spins and tricks in the flat shallows. Overall, kiteboards come in various shapes and sizes to suit the rider's skill level, riding style, wind and water conditions.
Having it all together in a bag will keep you prepared and protect your gear; when the wind is perfect you'll be ready!
Gear & multi board bags: called & many times labeled with the word golf for airline deceiving during travel are great for holding all of your gear (kite, board, and all the extras.) CrazyFly bags are a shop and local favorite because they feature high quality lining, foam padding, and are durable yet lightweight.
- If you're just looking for something to protect your board, single board bags are also available. Again, CrazyFly is our favorite brand.
- The CrazyFly Gear Trunk will literally hold EVERYthing you could possibly need for a trip, and the Dakine Dry Backpack is excellent for temporarily stowing wet gear till you get home or for keeping what's inside dry if everything around it is wet. The best feature is the waterproof zippered front pocket for keeping your phone and wallet safe and dry.
- Gear & multi board bags: called & many times labeled with the word golf for airline deceiving during travel are great for holding all of your gear (kite, board, and all the extras.) CrazyFly bags are a shop and local favorite because they feature high quality lining, foam padding, and are durable yet lightweight.
- A wetsuit is often worn by kitesurfers to stay warm in colder conditions. When kitesurfing in strong winds, body heat loss is reduced by wearing a wetsuit appropriate for the conditions. A shortie is worn to protect the torso, coming either with short-sleeve arms and/or legs. A full suit covers the torso, arms, and legs and 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. Drysuits are used to kitesurf in cold conditions in winter, keeping the rider totally sealed and dry from the cold weather. Wetsuits are also used in conjunction with booties to protect the feet, gloves to protect the hands, and beanies or hoods to protect the head. Similar to wetsuits, these are made in different types and thicknesses for warm, cold, or frigid climates.
- If you live in a warmer climate and don't need to wear a wetuit year-round, a Rashguard or Water Jersey can offer protection from the sun and jellyfish. This lightweight water apparel item is a local favorite.
- Men's/Women's Changing Towel are great when you're ready to get out of your wet clothes and drive home. A lot of times locations don't offer a shelter to change clothes so the changing towel gives privacy for a quick change.
- 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. Maintaining consciousness after a head injury can also reduce exposure to further injury. Helmets either come with or without earflaps. Earflaps can help prevent some hearing loss if your ear impacts the water.
- Water Shades protect your eyes from UV and constant water splashes. Cataracts are most commonly caused by UV radiation from the sun, so protect your eyes!
- 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 or needs to swim a far distance to return to shore.
- An impact vest provides some protection against impacts to the torso area, softening botched landings from tricks and hopefully preventing broken ribs. Impact vests also can provide some flotation without the size or bulk of a personal flotation device.
- Wind Meters help you keep tabs on the wind before going out. They are very handy when you want to know the wind speeds so you know what size kite to pump. Whether you have your own meter or check through an online service such as iKiteSurf or Windalert, know the current conditions before heading out to stay safe on the water.
- A board leash that attaches the board to the kitesurfer's leg or harness is used by some riders. We recommend a reel-style leash that slowly recalls the leash so the board does not get yanked back towards you at speed and impact your hear or body. The reel leashes are great to prevent the loss of your board or having to worry about body-dragging back after falling off your board.
- If you find yourself catching the early or late session before/after your friends have kited, a Self-Launch tool is great to have around. The a self-launch Sand Anchor can be buried in the sand or weighed down with rocks while the Self Launch Tool wraps around a post, tailgate, or other secure object. Secure your kite to one of these tools and launch like you would with a friend to avoid the wear, tear, and expensive repair from dragging your kite on the ground.
- A Sand weight bag will help to help stop your kite from blowing away on a windy day, reduce sail fluttering (which also reduces wear on your kite), and can also be used for self launching.
- The Hitch Safe is a great solution for safely locking up your vehicle keys so that you don't have to worry about losing them during your ride. Lock all your gear in your vehicle, then lock your keys in the hitchsafe. With a simple 4 digit code, you or your kite buddy can have quick access to your keys.
- A safety hook knife is widely considered required equipment. It can be used to cut entangled or snagged kite lines, or to release the kite if the safety release system fails. Many kitesurfing harnesses are equipped with a small pocket for the knife and come with a knife. The corrosion resistant stainless-steel blade is partially protected by a curved plastic hook so it's easy to cut the lines but not yourself or your other gear.
- 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 Cooler/Ice Chest filled with your favorite drinks and snacks will help keep your energy up and hydrated in between or at the end of your session!
- It's also really important to kite with a buddy or friend. They can help with launching and landing your kite, retrieving the kite if something goes wrong, or assist in an emergency. Plus it's always more fun to kite with friends!