Learning to Kiteboard

paullearningSome of the questions often asked about kiteboarding are,  How do I learn to kiteboard? Why do I need to take lessons? Why can’t I just start doing it? Can I learn on the lakes? Kiteboarding is not that simple and can be difficult to learn if you don’t understand the kite, the power zone, how to get up on the board, how to ride, ride upwind and more. So with all that and more, why would you not take lessons?

I started kiteboarding in 1999-2000 after seeing it on the beach while I was on vacation. I had never seen the sport before, nor anyone I knew had ever heard of kiteboarding at that time. There where no kite shops or lessons available and I lived near Austin, TX  about 3 hours from the beach. Location matters in learning this sport. I learned without lessons to ride and jump at Canyon Lake, TX  with gusty winds, sketchy launch sites and deep water. When my wife wanted to start learning to kiteboard, I did not want her to go through the pain and struggle I experienced, so she went to the first kiteboarding clinic offered in Corpus Christi, TX.  I learned so much by watching her lesson that I improved my riding that day and my wife was also up and riding before the weekend was over. It had taken me almost 2 years to go upwind at Canyon Lake however my wife learned quickly at the coast using the tips and tricks that personal lessons and instructors offered.

Kiteboarding equipment and safety gear have improved tremendously and so has the  learning curve. Although the sport and gear have advanced , the beginning kiteboarder can greatly benefit from lessons and working with an instructor. I wish I had taken kiteboarding lessons  and in my experience, riding on the lakes was at times, fun and exciting, however learning on the lakes was very difficult and, at times, dangerous. I agree with Gregory from ESD (Extreme Sports Dallas) “learn where you intend to most frequently kite”.

Below are the questions most asked when beginning to kiteboard and answered by kiteboarding instructors across the state. Sara Murphy 361-779-5510,  Tom Masterson 361kite.com 361-742-7966,  Gregory@esd extremesportsdalls.com 214-494-9356,  Jamie Ellwood Third Coast Kitesurfing 361-563-4640 and Brent Reagan Prokitesurf 361-883-1473.

How should I learn?

 My buddy who kites: Kiteboarding can be a very extreme sport, so it is imperative to learn from a legitimate school/lesson center because Safety is so important in this sport. The newer gear has so many advanced safety features compared to years ago, but a true legitimate school will have up-to-date gear and they will focus on safety as part of the teaching before just throwing you into the water with a huge power source attached to you.  A buddy may be a good kiteboarder, but it does not mean he will be as detailed and cautious with you as a Certified Instructor, and it’s very likely he will not ensure you truly grasp every detail of safety and technique. He doesn’t want to sit there with you for 5 hours; he wants to go ride! And definitely, please don’t teach yourself. Brent Reagan.

I strongly recommend taking a lesson from a certified and professional instructor or school. The reason for this is because certified instructors have completed a certification course on how to teach students the sport safely. Certified instructors also teach with a safe and effective lesson plan in place. This means if a student takes a class with one certified school they can finish learning with another school and pick up right where they left off.  Jamie Ellwood.

We do recommend that beginning students get at least 3 to 5 hours of instruction time before they go off on their own, most students take between 5 to 10 hours before they could be considered an independent beginner, while they may not have “mastered” kiteboarding, they can control the kite, can launch/land safely and work their skills independent of supervision. Tom Masterson.

From an instructor: This is the best way to learn, instructors work hard to get you going as fast and safe as possible, each student is different and learns in their own way. Sara Murphy.

or on my own: This is not recommended. Learning to kiteboard is dangerous for you and others. You will not learn faster and you will destroy your gear. If you do have an accident,  you are responsible for any damage you cause. Kitesurfing Texas.

Where should I go to learn?

The coast or the lakes: If possible, learn where you intend to most frequently kite. Coastal breezes tend to be steadier and shallow bays tend to provide less chop, but neither do much to prepare you for gusty inland conditions and deep water lakes. Gregory@esd. 

Some students can’t make the trip all the way to the coast due to time constraints and/or cost. That being said, learning can be achieved on lakes with boat support. Jamie Ellwood.

We recommend learning in the most consistent and safest conditions possible, which will allow for quick progression, lakes and smaller bodies of water are not ideal for learning, and students will need special skill sets to be able to kite safely, such as deep water rescue, and  body drag, etc. Tom Masterson.

There are many areas where a lake is your only even semi-local option (like DFW area) and so it can be worth it to learn there because it will be your local spot. This just means a possibly slower learning curve. If you can make it to the coast, though, your learning environment is more ideal which simply means you will learn much more much faster without the extra hassles to watch out for.Brent Reagan .

What should I expect to learn from my first lesson?

Definitely most Certified Instructors whether IKO or PASA will start with a “ground school” type session that then progresses into the water. The ground school section is intended to ensure you know how to fly a trainer kite and can control it with power. Plus you will understand many basics like where is the wind window, proper landing and launching direction and technique, proper rigging and walking your lines (and general kite setup), how to operate all the safety systems on the kite, and the basics of what will happen in the water. Some first lessons end there. Others are a bit longer and will then proceed to the water without the board where you learn to fly the large inflatable kites. This gives you real experience with the greater power of the large kites so that you can learn about depowering the kite, body-dragging, water relaunch, self-rescue techniques, and getting the initial power-strokes to get started. Brent Reagan.

Depends on if it’s a land or water lesson, or a combination of both, you should learn set up, basic launching and landing, and basic wind & safety knowledge, you should also be able to work the safety system on land, and in a demonstration on the water , after learning the Kite control skills you move to putting the board and kite together, most people at the end of a three hour lesson with us are usually getting their first starts or their very first short rides. Tom Masterson.

Lessons speed your progression, immeasurably increase your safety and save many hours of frustration, but unless you take a lot of lessons, you’ll still need to get lots of board time to master riding upwind and eventually jumping. Gregory@esd.

The first lesson is typically three hours.  We concentrate on land with a trainer kite learning the wind window and safely launching and landing the kite. Next, we move into the water with an inflatable kite. During the second hour we concentrate on relaunching the kite, body dragging, and utilizing the safety systems of the kite. The third hour we add the board and work on body position and riding. All of these times are approximate depending on the students experience and natural ability. Jamie Ellwood.

How long will it take to learn?

Depends on your experience, time and resources really, it’s all about getting consistent water time, and getting a solid foundation to start off from. Tom Masterson.

Typically, at our school, we get students to the board and starting to ride within three hours. That being said, everyone learns at a different pace. Jamie Ellwood.

You should expect it to vary from person to person. Someone who has many hours of kite flying experience plus board skills from skateboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, etc. will obviously pick it up much faster than someone who has never done board sports and only flown a trainer kite for a small amount of time. In our experience, it takes an average of typically 5-6 hours of instruction to actually be riding to a point you can practice on your own (maybe with supervision). Brent Reagan.

All the fundamentals can usually be taught in as little as 6 hours – but the time required to ride upwind and eventually begin jumping varies greatly from student to student. Gregory@esd.

2-3 lessons is average. It also depends on conditions and gear and if you love it, you will make time for it. Sara Murphy.

What can I do to learn faster?

You can fly a small trainer kite on land and/or try one of the many cable parks here in Texas to learn some basic board skills. Tom Masterson.

Formal lessons are the single best thing you can do to flatten the learning curve and speed your progression. Gregory@esd.

Flying a trainer kite before the lesson helps tremendously. Practicing before the lesson enables the student to move faster to the board instead of having to learn how to fly a kite during the lesson.  Jamie Ellwood.

TAKE A LESSON WITH A CERTIFIED LESSON CENTER. You will learn exponentially faster getting a true lesson with a certified instructor from a legitimate school or lesson center because they will make sure you understand the gear and safety and know how to judge the wind and your riding capabilities before letting you loose. Brent Reagan.

What gear will I need to start kiting?

I recommend buying a trainer kite before the lesson to practice with. Water shoes or surf booties are also recommended. All other equipment is provided during the lesson. Jamie Ellwood.

We recommend that you don’t buy actual kiteboarding gear for the water prior to a lesson, as it’s very possible to get the wrong gear when you don’t know enough about it yet. It is highly recommended, however, to spend time with a trainer kite before a lesson, so whether you buy one or can borrow or rent one, you should fly a trainer first. Brent Reagan.

Most schools provide gear and I’d recommend not buying anything at all until you’ve at least taken a ground school to make sure kiteboarding is right for you. Gregory@esd.

We provide new and modern gear for all the lessons, we do recommend water shoes to protect your feet as you’re walking around. Tom Masterson.

You won’t need any equipment we have all the gear, only booties, sunblock, sun glasses and water. Sara Murphy.

How much do lessons cost?

Prices range from $300 on average for 3 hours to $750 depending on location and amount of support needed. Kitesurfing Texas recommends taking kiteboarding lessons and riding with a safety system for your kite to help in the event of an accident to you or someone else.


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Addicted to Kitesurfing, kiteboarding
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