Kite surfing

Friday, February 9th, 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Sport

Kitesurfing © flickr.com - Christopher Michel/cc-by-2.0

Kitesurfing © flickr.com – Christopher Michel/cc-by-2.0

Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport. A kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without footstraps or bindings. Kitesurfing is a style of kiteboarding specific to wave riding, which uses standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for the purpose. There are different styles of kiteboarding, including freestyle, freeride, downwinders, speed, course racing, wakestyle, jumping and kitesurfing in the waves. In 2012, the number of kitesurfers was estimated by the World Sailing and International Kiteboarding Association at 1.5 million persons worldwide.

Board
Kiteboard, a small composite, wooden, or foam board. There are now several types of kiteboards: directional surf-style boards, wakeboard-style boards, hybrids which can go in either direction but are built to operate better in one of them, and skim-type boards. Some riders also use standard surfboards, or even long boards, although without foot straps much of the high-jump capability of a kite is lost. Twin tip boards are the easiest to learn on and are by far the most popular. The boards generally come with sandal-type footstraps that allow the rider to attach and detach from the board easily; this is required for doing board-off tricks and jumps. Bindings are used mainly by the wakestyle riders wishing to replicate wakeboarding tricks such as KGBs and other pop initiated tricks. Kiteboards come in shapes and sizes to suit the rider’s skill level, riding style, wind and water conditions.

Power kites
A power kite is available in two major forms: leading edge inflatables and foil kites. Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI kites, are typically made from ripstop polyester with an inflatable plastic bladder that spans the front edge of the kite with separate smaller bladders that are perpendicular to the main bladder to form the chord or foil of the kite. 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 kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider’s inputs, easy relaunchability if crashed into the water and resilient nature. If an LEI kite hits the water or ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, bladders can burst or it can be torn apart. 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 have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, a process which, with an LEI, can take up to ten minutes. Foil kites are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration.

Kitesurfing © flickr.com - Christopher Michel/cc-by-2.0 Kitesurfing in San Francisco Bay © flickr.com - Alec Perkins/cc-by-2.0 Kitesurfing at Banana Bay, Florida Keys © Pietro/cc-by-sa-3.0 Kitesurfing off Mokuleia, O'ahu © Eric Guinther/cc-by-sa-3.0 Kite surfing © flickr.com - StellarD/cc-by-2.0
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Kitesurfing in San Francisco Bay © flickr.com - Alec Perkins/cc-by-2.0
Bar
The control bar is a solid metal or composite bar which attaches to the kite via the lines. The rider holds on to this bar and controls the kite by pulling at its ends, causing the kite to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise like a bicycle. Typically a chicken loop from the control bar is attached to a latch or hook on a spreader bar on the rider’s harness. Most bars also provide a quick-release safety-system and a control strap to adjust the kite’s angle of attack. 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 right above the harness to keep the bar from sinking if lost in the water. Control bars are usually specific to a particular kite type and size and are not usually suitable for use with different kite types.

Power kites are powerful enough to pull the rider like a boat in wakeboarding and to lift their users to diving heights. But a kite could become uncontrolled and that situation can be very dangerous; especially within a difficult environment. A kite can get out of control after the rider falling or in a sudden wind gust, which can happen more frequently due to excessively strong winds from squalls or storms (“collard”). It is possible to be seriously injured after being lofted, dragged, carried off, blown downwind or dashed, resulting in a collision with hard objects including sand, buildings, terrain or power lines or even by hitting the water surface with sufficient speed or height (“kitemare”, a portmanteau of kite and nightmare). Adequate quality professional kiteboarding training, careful development of experience and consistent use of good judgement and safety gear should result in fewer problems in kiteboarding. Weather forecasting and awareness is the principal factor to safe kiteboarding. Lack of weather awareness and understanding figures in many of these cases, but avoiding weather problems is possible. Choice of inappropriate locations for kiteboarding where the wind passes over land creating wind shadow, rotor with pronounced gusts and lulls has also factored in many accidents. Paying attention to the weather and staying within the limits of the riders ability will provide the safest experience. Kitesurfing storm fronts can be particularly dangerous due to rapid changes in wind strength and direction. Some kite designs from late 2005 and onwards have included immediate and almost full depower integrated with the control bar and improved quick release mechanisms, both of which are making the sport much safer. However, lack of sufficient practice of emergency depowering the kite and going out in excessively strong or unstable weather can reduce the benefit of high depower kites. A safety knife is useful if lines become tangled and dangerous.

Read more on International Kiteboarding Association, International Kiteboarding Association, Wikivoyage Kitesurfing and Wikipedia Kitesurfing (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.



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