It is the sport of the moment, now openly challenging windsurfing in the hearts of enthusiasts. But kitesurfing, if you think about it for a moment, has ancient roots, when a hundred years ago the kite was already being used in many areas. In 1985 a Frenchman named Bruno le Gaignoux patented the first buoyant systems affixed to a wing (that’s the technical term for a kite), but the real revolution came in 1999, when the world’s leading windsurfing and paragliding (yes, paragliding) companies entered this new market. From the beaches of Maui to those around the world, the spread of kitesurfing is very rapid and is reminiscent of that which occurred in the world of skiing with snowboarding.
THE CHOICE OF MATERIALS: THE BOARD AND THE WING
Kitesurfing boards are mainly divided into two groups, directional and bidirectional boards. Regardless of the model you choose and the manufacturer, each board is made with its own specific shape (i.e., a particular shape). The board then has its own curvature, the rocker, so as to create the water lines that give it the optimal sailing qualities in various sea situations. The rails, on the other hand, are its edges, which give the board its grip on the water and are very important as the type of edge affects its performance. Let us now turn to the other mainstay of the sport, the wing.
Lately, Bow Kites, introduced in 2005, have become popular and represent one of the biggest revolutions in the kitesurfing world. They usually have an inflation point and are flatter than traditional sails, have more direct surface area exposed to the wind while weighing less. They also make it easier to conduct in gusty winds, which is why they are also recommended for beginners. Another important innovation introduced with the advent of these new kites is “total de-power,” which allows the kite to cancel sail pull without having to release the kite from the trapeze.
THE FIRST STEPS: THE POSITIONS OF THE WING
You are there, the sail is set and the board is ready; you have identified the wind direction and position yourself by offering your back to it, firmly grasp the boom (i.e., the bar that allows you to adjust the wing) and start flying the kite. If you place it above your head (at the zenith), the wing has little traction and is ideal for resting or walking. Instead, get the area of maximum traction by holding it at an angle of about 45° to the water surface. Precisely the continuous position of the wing with respect to the wind is critical to achieving the desired thrust at all times. In steady wind conditions there will be no need to damn your soul, but when the gusts start to come, you will have to get used to reacting quickly to stay in glide without drifting.
IT’S TIME TO SAIL
Body position is critical to conducting your kite at its best. So, arms outstretched, legs somewhat bent, with the front one almost extended and the back one flexed, but above all, back and shoulders back: the more the kite pulls the more you have to throw your weight back! If you have a bi-directional board and want to perform an inversion, you must decrease your speed by raising the kite to the zenith, then unbalance your shoulders back until you rest your body in the sea. At this point, flatten the board on the water and steer it in the new direction; to restart, bring the wing forward suddenly, thus obtaining the power needed to regain speed.
What if you want to jump? First of all, it is necessary to achieve a good speed keeping the wing low over the water and then starting the maneuver by raising it between 70° and 80° over the sea. it is at this time that you will need to give a violent command to the boom and steer the kite in the direction opposite to the direction of sailing. The maneuver is successful when for a few moments of in the direction to which you were going: the combination of this force and that of the wing (which you brought in the opposite direction) generates the breakaway from the water. When you are in the air you will want to pick up your legs, which you will then spread out when you land.
Among the most fun tricks (i.e., figures you can perform in the air) is the handle pass, which involves passing the boom behind your back. To succeed, the jump must be very high and prolonged in time, otherwise you will not have time to finish the maneuver! To start, you can practice the railey, a basic trick that you perform with the wing on power, simulating the traction you get in wakeboarding (you know water skiing with a kind of snowboard…). To succeed you will therefore need to have good sailing speed and perfect timing on the wave you choose to break away from the water.
The opening photo of this report is by (c)Lukas Nazdraczew/Red Bull Photofiles