Posts Tagged ‘kites’


BKSA recommendations if you want to start kite surfing

May 29, 2008

You wouldn’t believe it but summer has started in the UK and with that in mind those who are thinking of trying out kite surfing should read the following.

According to the British Kite Surfing Association (BKSA), the best way to get started is to take a 2-3 day kite surfing course at a BKSA approved school. The BKSA recommends that you be able to swim 200m in open water and a good level of physical fitness is required. The good news here is that you don’t have to have super human powers of strength because it’s all about technique.


Like all sports, there are risks involved but if you receive proper tuition to become aware of the hazards and talk to experienced kite surfers then the risks are minimised.

If you do take risks and go out in conditions that you can’t handle (too much wind) then obviously you are increasing the risk level.

It’s important to remain in full control of your kite at all times, and watch your lines, especially if there are other kite surfers out at the same location.

Learning to fly a two-line power kite before you take a course will help you learn significantly faster, though most people are standing by the end of the first day of a three day course.

Within three months you can be a competent kite surfer and within six months to a year you may well be pulling off jumps of 10 – 15 foot.


You are looking at between £500 – 1000 for your start up costs, though it’s nearer to the £500 mark if you buy some of your kit second hand.
You will need:

· An Inflatable kite. You need a kite between 9 – 14m depending on your body weight, but an instructor will be able to tell you which is most suited to you. Expect to pay between £200 – 400 for a used kite, with 5 line types costing the most. A top of the range current model can cost up to £850 but this expenditure is not required until you have convinced yourself that this sport is for you. Initially you will be able to use a kite provided by your instructor.

· A kiteboard and leash. Board-wise you are looking for one between 130 – 150cm in length. The twin tip wakeboard style is ideal as you can ride it in either direction.
For those with a windsurfing or surfing background directional boards are great for speed and light wind conditions, however, the fact that they can only be ridden one way may well hamper your learning curve. Expect to pay around £250 for a second hand board and between £300 – 500 for a new one.
A leash is also a pretty essential piece of kit enabling you to keep the board attached to you when you wipe out- you must use a helmet if you use a leash. Approx £40.

· Lines and control bar. Modern kites normally come complete with lines and bar so you don’t have to worry much about the lines. The line length is dependant on the size of the kite and wind conditions, though most kite surfers use 25m – 30m lines to give the most versatile range for starting, pointing (going upwind) and for jumping. Whichever control device you use, make sure that it has a dependable safety release system, and a depower device. This system should be able to disable the kite completely even in the event that you become unconscious. Expect to pay between £100 – 250 for a control bar.

· A harness. This performs the basic function of attaching you to your kite. There are two types of harness – the seat harness and the waist harness.
As a beginner, the best harness for you is the seat harness as this is less likely to ride up when the kite is in the zenith position (directly above your head) where the kite will probably spend most of its time as you learn. Around £70-£90.

· A helmet. Pretty straight forward, useful for protecting your noggin while racing across the water at speed. Expect to pay between £30 – 50.

· A Wetsuit. This is the UK not Hawaii, you will need one. Your best bet is a winter suit (3/5mm) if you plan to kite surf all year round, though the summer suits are cheaper, thinner and are guaranteed to give you hyperthermia if you wear one in the winter.
A winter wetsuit will cost you between £120 – 220, where as a summer suit will set you back between £80 – 180.

Finally I would like to reiterate that any BKSA accredited instructor will provide all the equipment you need and so the initial expenditure is limited to the cost of the lessons. If you do decide to continue with the sport you will then, after 3 to 5 lessons, have a much better idea of what to buy when you go shopping. My advice is that you should be prepared for this expenditure as ‘once bitten you are forever smitten!’


Kite surfing – leading edge inflatables versus foil

May 6, 2008

I have decided to restrict this morning’s entry on kite surfing to talk about the type of kites that are available today. Being a relatively young sport the design of the kite is changing with some regularity . You are therefore advised to use equipment provided by your kite surfing instructor/school before rushing out and spending a considerable amount of money on purchasing a kite. You need to get familiar with all the jargon of kite surfing world so you can talk from a position of knowledge when it comes to making a purchase and this is a topic I will be addressing over the next couple of days. The power kite is available in two major forms: leading edge inflatables and foil kites.

Leading edge inflatables
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI kites or C-shaped kites, are typically made from ripstop nylon with inflatable plastic bladders. The inflated bladders give the kite its shape and also keep the kite floating once dropped in the water. LEIs are the most popular choice among most kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider’s inputs, easy relaunchability once crashed into the water, and resillient nature. If a LEI kite hits the water/ground too hard or is subjected on water to substantial wave activity, bladders can burst or it can be torn apart.
In 2005 Bow kites (also known as flat LEI kites) were developed with features including a concave trailing edge, a shallower arc in planform, and frequently a bridle along the leading edge. These features allow the kite’s angle of attack to be altered more and thus adjust the amount and range of power being generated to a much greater degree than previous LEIs. These kites can be fully depowered, which is a significant safety feature. They can also cover a wider wind range than a comparable C-shaped kite. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes them easier to re-launch when lying front first on the water. Bow kites are popular with riders from beginner to advanced levels. Most LEI kite manufacturers developed a variation of the bow kite by 2006.

However, early bow kites had the following disadvantages compared to classic LEI kites:
* They can get inverted and not fly properly
* They are a bit twitchy and not as stable
* Heavier bar pressure makes them more tiring to fly
* More difficult to relaunch
* Lack of “sled boosting” effect when jumping

In 2006 second generation flat LEI kites were developed which combine 100% depower and easy, safe relaunch with higher performance, no performance penalties and reduced bar pressure. These kites are suitable for both beginners and experts.

Foil kites
Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite’s arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. Foil kites are 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 chambers, thus 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 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. A depowerable foil kite can cover about the same wind range as two traditional C-shape LEI kite sizes, so the rider can use a smaller kite, giving a wider depower range, although the new LEI “bow” kites have a comparable wide range. Foil kites have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, a process which, with a LEI, can take up to ten minutes.

Kite sizes
Kites come in various sizes ranging from 7 square meters to 21 square meters, or even larger. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has, although kite power is also directly linked to speed, and smaller kites can be flown faster; a tapering curve results, where going to a larger kite to reach lower wind ranges becomes futile at a wind speed of around eight knots. 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. Wider shorter (ribbon-like) kites have less drag because the wing-tip vortices are smaller. High aspect ratios (ribbon-like kites) develop more power in lower wind speeds.
Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have 3 or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels, although bow kites may change this, as they present an enormous wind range; some advanced kiters use only one bow kite. 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, however, most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites.

So there you have it – leading edge inflatables certainly seem to have it over on the foil kites, particularly when it comes to kite surfing on the water but as I said earlier do not rush into making a decision before you have some proficiency and understanding of what your requirements are – I would hate to hear that you had been ripped off by some overly aggressive salesman and ended up with the wrong kite. My thanks go out again to Adventure Escapades of South Africa for their useful input to this article.