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What is Kite Surfing?

Kite Surfing is combining the skills of flying a powerful specialized kite using specialized gear (called a power kite), and surfing bodies of water, mostly coastlines along the beach.  Kite Surfing abilities and skills required are physically and cognitively demanding.  However, for one Frenchman with a below elbow amputation was able to hold the boom with his elbow during skill development. So, it can be approached and mastered with a human of strong will and persistence.

Kite Surfing is broken down into two categories - land skill sets and water skill sets.  The major land skill requirement is orientation, which includes understanding equipment, conditions of environment, and safety concerns.  Land skills also include learning wind theory, setting up equipment, knowledge of equipment use, demonstrating the ability to fly on land with the same equipment that is used on the water, and practicing in water for simulated starts.  Water lessons put all the knowledge gained on land into the actual reality of water (see Sample below).  Body drags include harness operations, steering, knowing one’s surroundings, avoiding obstacles (other people, boats, etc.), crashing, re-launching, and water starts in a proficient manner.  Riding will come through learning the logistics of positioning the kite in windows of wind efficiently and eventual ease of body positioning on the board.

Who Can Kite Surf?

Most Kite Surfing experts would agree that it really involves the ability to control the kite in the window of wind, 80% of the work demanded, and the other 20% is guts. While it takes a few weeks for a beginner to learn how to kite surf efficiently, it normally takes only 3-4 days for a beginner to learn all the safety and basic techniques of kite surfing.  The beginners can then use those techniques to continue practicing kite surfing safely all by themselves.

A beginner course is normally divided into a 3 or 4 days lesson (2 or 3 hours each day). Following is a proposed course content. Kitesurfing School has an online resource that provides links and a teacher’s log that is worth perusing for information on a learner’s experience with kite surfing.

Sample Outline


·         The objective of the first day is to learn about the wind, kite safety and how to fly the kite.

·         Learn about the wind and the wind window

·         Learn about the kite safety system and the "let go of the bar" reflex

·         Learn to fly and control a trainer kite on land:

·         Launching

·         Landing

·         Steering left, steering right

·         Kite goes across the wind window from left to right and then from right to left

·         Sine wave, figure 8 patterns while running to the left and then right

·         Learn to fly and control a kite-surfing kite on land:

·         Launching

·         Landing

·         Steering left, steering right

·         Sine wave, figure 8 patterns while running to the left and then right

·         Simulate a water starting while sitting down on land and then dive the kite down to the left (and then to the right)

Equipment (from Kitesurfing School)

There are 5 main components in a kite surfing system:

·         The kite (includes the kite's bridle).

·         The lines

·         The kite control device (including safety release system).

·         The board (including fins, foot straps or binding and leash).

·         And the kitesurfer (including harness, life jacket, water shoe, helmet, etc.).

The kite and lines have optional floatable elements, and would be recommended for beginners. Kite surfboards cannot float with you sitting on it, so a life jacket is recommended, too.  Kites vary in types, but it is suggested that a slow reacting person should start with a low AR kite, but a fast reacting person can start with either type.  Use water shoes if there are rocks or other "unfriendly stuff" under the water.  As a beginner, you will be in the water more often so use a wet suit thicker than the one you normally use.  If you kite surf in strong wind (20+ knots) or in choppy, wavy water, you may want to wear a helmet to protect your head from your board. A hockey helmet is sufficient.

Otherwise known as…

Kite Surfing is also known as Kite Boarding (addition of wheels on the board), Traction Kiting (beach front kiting on feet), Scudding, Fly Surfing (kite as the traveling device) and Power Kiting. All-Terrain Boarders around the world are turning to this type of wind propulsion as an alternative to gravity propulsion (riding down hills).

Kite boarding has derived from windsurfing and is a very popular alternative to many water enthusiasts. “Riders use light-weight 'steerable' parachutes or stacked up kites that are flown similarly to traditional kites but using either 2 or 4 lines to pull you on your board down the beach, across open fields, up mountain slopes and across desert hardback” (, 2004).

The varied-named sport originated in the water, however its popularity has produced favorable outcomes for people with disabilities throughout the world, including France, Scotland, Hawaii, The Netherlands, The Mojave Desert in California, and just about any land formation that is 'rollable' by an all-terrain board or buggy. 

For interested participants Kite Boarding at the beginning is simply sailing downwind on the chosen terrain, and making their way back to start, and doing it again.

“Kite Board jumping uses the kite to lift the flyer off the ground and cushion their return back to the ground. Many good riders who use traction kites catch big air, traveling up to 10 feet in height or more and 50 to 100 feet in length from leaving the ground to touching back down!” (, 2004).


Kite Surfing is inherently limited to participants with mild physical disabilities (upper body amputee, hearing impaired, deaf, and less severe visual impairments).  An inquiry was made to a Kite Surfer expert and instructor about participants with disabilities. Uli Montague of Kitesurfing Hawaii LLC, Maui replied that “in this sport, it is extremely important to not just worry about your own safety, but also about the safety of others around you.  Vision needs to be good enough to be able to recognize distant obstacles, other kite surfers around you, and, last but not least, the coast line to be able to make it back to shore in a safe place, or even from where you took off. If you are unable to see the kite or people around you clearly, you will run into troubles, e.g. when water re-launching the kite, you will need to see the results of your action to get a positive result, and make sure you don't harm anybody who has come close to you and your kite while in the water. Being strapped to a board is an option, but keep in mind that the board can flip which requires the need for help to get back up, if possible without losing or dropping the kite. These little obstacles can be solved in some way. There are lots of options, and I think you are on the right track. See for yourself if this sport and its safety is developed enough for the disabilities you work with. There is always a way, I am sure!”  (, 2004).

Kite Boarding on the other hand, has exponentially more opportunities for meeting the needs of specialized learners.  Learners, adventure seekers, and persons who could retain the lessons of wind theory are able to enjoy the thrill of Kite Boarding the coastlines

References accessed via the web in June 2004. accessed via the web in June 2004. accessed via the web in June 2004. accessed via the web in June 2004.

This content was created by Crystal Reimer,
Master’s Student in Adapted Physical Education, Texas Woman's University
as part of requirements for
“Aquatics for Special Population,” Huettig, Summer, 2004.

page last updated 1/3/2017 1:00 PM