Posted on 24 June 2010.
Welcome back to the next in our series of ‘Have a go’ Guides, which are all about discovering the many fantastic, different ways to enjoy the Great British outdoors
Have you always wanted to have a go at… kite surfing? Timo from Mobius Kite School in Cornwall is a BKSA national trainer and has been teaching kite sports for over 9 years. So he’s just the man to take us through the basics. Over to you Timo…
“Kitesurfing started around 10 years ago when the inflatable kite was invented. This kite can be crashed into the water and then relaunched to continue. You have a board shaped like a wakeboard/snowboard under your feet with foot straps to keep them there, and you skim across the top of the water and can jump much higher as you have a softer landing compared to land boarding. There are now speed races, big air contests, boarder cross challenges, slider park sessions, and freestyle and wave competitions. All the kite fanatics who participate in these different activities enjoy the thrill of harnessing the power of the wind, and get to move along at some speed (some at big heights!) without the use of any engine.
Do you need really strong arms?
No not at all, you start on small kites and when you progress and start to use bigger, more powerful kites that pull your arms, then we introduce harnesses that take all the pull away. This transfers all the power through your body and legs and allows you to hold on to much bigger kites and stay out for longer. Large men with big arms will need bigger kites to get them moving whilst smaller ladies can have less power and stay out for the same amount of time. At first you may tire quickly, as with trying all new sports, but you soon start to get kite fit after a few sessions.
Does it take a long time to learn?
Kitesurfing will take a while to get to the stage of staying up and riding, but compared to other sports the learning curve is still really quick. You just need to keep at it for a while, as a lot of people have their lessons few and far between so never progress quickly. It also helps to find a place where you get consistent wind, as here in the UK it can switch off for a day or two and if you only have the weekends off work, then you might only get out once a month. A week trip to somewhere warm and sunny with trade winds, you will learn loads. If you use the new equipment that’s come out now, this will also accelerate your progression.
How did you get started?
At University, using some well spent student loan money and missing lots of lectures to head down the beach, which got me up and going quite rapidly! A friend of mine there named Will got given a kite that me and another friend helped him to set up and fly. None of us knew what we were doing, so after being dragged across fields on our faces, through hedges and losing kites in trees, we can safely say we learnt the hard way! We then built our own contraptions with wheels to be pulled along with the kites. One invention involved Geoff’s little sister’s bike, a lawn mower, a wheel barrow wheel and some motorbike foot pegs! After mastering the kites on the land and buying bigger and bigger kites to get us going faster and higher, we decided to take it into the water and try kite surfing.
Is it an expensive sport?
It can be. If you decided to go for all new kite surfing equipment, then it will set you back between £1000 and £1500. If you bought second hand equipment then it will cost you about half that amount for some thing still decent. Equipment has progressed very quickly over the last 10 years so it is important to buy something that is not more than a few years old – the newer the better and the quicker you will learn. Once you have spent the initial outlay it is free to kite (apart from the odd location in the UK where it has been regulated and requires membership fees). Kites should also last years if you look after them, so this cost will be spread over hundreds of sessions before you need to buy new ones. Of course you do get those that always want this year’s kite in this year’s colours so it can be expensive for them. To purchase equipment you can speak to local kite schools or visit your local kite shop. The main store in Cornwall is in Truro, called Westcountry Watersports.
Where are your favourite spots in the UK for kite surfing?
I would have to say Cornwall – but I may be a little biased! With Cornwall’s sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and golden sunsets its not a difficult decision! We are spoilt for choice with loads of great beaches to choose from and have conditions for every level of rider. The beginners can find calm seas with plenty of space all around and the experts can ride the Atlantic waves and go out in the strong winds we can get at times. On a good day, Cornwall can have world class conditions. The rest of the UK also has some great spots and the BKSA competition tour travels to some of them throughout the season every year.
Sounds good to me, so what do I do now?
First you need to book yourself a lesson. It’s not like surfing where you are allowed to hire the equipment and give it a go. Kite flying can potentially be very dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, so tuition from qualified instructors/schools is very important. A few of hours learning the basics is enough if you want to stay on dry land. Most people learning to kite surf need about 3 days of tuition to get up and going, they are then ready to buy their own equipment and keep practicing under supervision of others. Of course some people need more tuition, and some less than others, depending on what experience you already have and how quickly you grasp the skills. When you buy your own equipment you will then need to join the BKSA and get 3rd party liability insurance to keep access open for the future.