Quality professional kiteboarding instruction allows rapid, safer learning under controlled conditions using someone else’s gear. Much of the trial, error, hazards and frustration that plague riders trying to figure out kiteboarding on their own can be avoided when you work with a capable instructor. This process should reduce the odds of painful and costly injury, damaged kiteboard gear, and threats to our riding access. Training also gives you the experience necessary to buy the proper gear.
A primary goal of adequate, quality instruction is to aid the rider in becoming an independent kiteboarder. Don’t fall in the trap of trying to figure out how to kiteboard from scratch with a friend who is new to the sport. This practice is not that uncommon and a very bad idea. Too much can go wrong during inexpert “training” and after.
Proper instruction can also help you avoid looking like a kook. Experienced riders can give kooks a hard time at the local launch. Nobody wants to be an outsider. Learning mistakes that result in accidents or incidents can even lead to bans. Also, there is a growing trend in which certification is required to access some riding areas.
How much time should you spend in instruction? Can adequate instruction be accomplished in a single lesson? No. A taste of the sport, sure, but not much else. Scuba diving, hang gliding, boat operation and kiteboarding demand a realistic amount of training time. Teaching the basic mechanical skills can be fairly quick, but there is all that necessary safety knowledge. It’s a package deal. There is knowing how to steer an airplane, for example, and then there is learning how to operate a plane under all the varied conditions, including emergencies.
Kite instructors indicate that first-time students are requesting three to five lessons. Kiteboarders may wish to come back to hone skills following initial training. Though costly, quality instruction may be the best kiteboarding investment you make, as it can last a lifetime. I still remember and draw from my fi rst scuba- diving course, which I took over 30 years ago.
What should you learn during professional instruction before you go out on your own and continue to carefully build experience? You would do well to fi nd a program that properly addresses the following:
Knowledge development 1. How kites, boards and gear work. 2. Insight into the wind, wind window and influences on kite performance and power. 3. What to look for in good launch, riding and landing areas. 4. Safety buffers and the importance of maintaining them. 5. Environment planning and monitoring. What causes unstable weather and its associated hazards, how to predict it, and what to watch out for. 6. Minimum kiteboarder physical capabilities, such as swimming, fi tness, warm-up and cooldown procedures. 7. Kiting rules of the road, kiting responsibilities and protecting access to kite. 8. Gear selection (kite, line, board, wetsuit/drysuit) or predicted conditions and safety gear (helmets, impact vests, gloves, knives, signaling devices). 9. Standard voice and hand signals (launch, landing, rescue). 10. Hazards, emergency scenarios, avoidance and management. 11. What skills to work on following the initial training, tips for achieving them and precautions.
Some of this information may be conveyed while working with the instructor on the beach or in the water, during lectures, or in handouts. If your instructor doesn’t cover all this information, you would do well to research these topics on your own.
Skill development 1. Gear setup and put-away, pre-flighting, basic preventative maintenance. 2. Launching and landing. Launch angle selection for conditions. 3. Capable stable kite flight under a variety of conditions both unhooked and hooked in. 4. Ability to vary and maintain constant kite power through kite positioning and sinusoiding. 5. Kite safety in simulated emergencies, including an overview of current safety systems. 6. Harness and trim-strap use. 7. Solo and assisted launching and landing. 8. Body-dragging upwind with and without a board from point to point. 9. Self-rescue techniques , including using the kite as a sail to return to shore and securing the kite and lines and swimming into shore. 10. Ability to relaunch from the water. 11. Beachstarting and rudiments of waterstarting on a board. 12. Tips on how to ride upwind.
Here are some things to compare when selecting an instructor or school. Not all instruction is equal; it is in your interest to find the best training available. Bottom line, don’t take things for granted, do your homework, and get the most out of your training.
1. Is the instructor certified by a recognized training organization (PASA , IKO , Real , FFVL,VDWS)? 2. How long has he/she been professionally teaching kiteboarding? 3. What is the instructor-to-student ratio? 4. What are his lesson plans, anticipated skill progression and time requirements for you, considering your related experience, physical condition and predicted wind/conditions? 5. Is training self-suffi cient kiteboarders a primary goal? 6. Is the training area suffi ciently large, uncrowded and away from hard objects? 7. Does he have liability insurance? Is the business registered? 8. Does he use a chase watercraft (boat, jetski, kayak) and radio communications? 9. Try to schedule your lessons when conditions are appropriate for learning: 12 to 18 knots, side to side-onshore. 10. Do you communicate well and comfortably with the instructor? 11. Watch a class. What did they accomplish? Did it appear well organized and effective? What do the students think about the experience? 12. Has the instructor dealt with student injuries? If so, what are his emergency procedures? 13. Is new, well-maintained equipment used with current safety systems along with helmets and impact vests? 14. Can he offer any discounts on the purchase of kiteboarding gear? 15. Is he affiliated with the local kiteboarding association? 16. Cost is an important consideration but not the most important consideration. Effective instruction can save you a lot of time, frustration and possibly injury or damaged equipment.
If you’re interested in kiteboarding, take the intelligent path and hook up with a professional instructor for adequate training. The experience should speed you on your way to safer enjoyment of this excellent sport. More information related to kiteboarding training and this article appears at http://fksa.org/viewforum.php?f=93.
Rick Iossi founded the Florida Kiteboarding Association and several other groups for safe kiteboarding access. He is an engineer and a PASA instructor.