How do I get started with kiteboarding?

  1. Master flying a small foil trainer kite on land. The best way to get started with kiteboarding is to come to one of our Boardsports Intro to Kite Clinics and learn how to fly a small bar controlled on land.
  2. Take a beginner land and water lesson from a certified kite school. Kiteboarding is an extreme sport that is obtrusive and potentially dangerous to you and others around you. Safety considerations are extremely important, and taking a lesson with a certified kite school is a must. Not only will you be safer, you also won’t jeopardize the safety of others.
  3. Buy gear. Once you have completed beginner lessons and know how to waterstart onto a kiteboard, you are ready to get gear and practice on your own. All students taking our 2 part land and water lesson receive a $200 discount on a complete kiteboard package. We have a big selection of all the gear you will need – kite, control bar, board, harness, helmet, float vest, and wetsuit.

Kiteboarding is 80% kite control, 20% board skills. The most relevant sports to kiteboarding are stunt kite flying, hang gliding, paragliding, and snowboarding. If you have flown stunt kites, snowboarded or wake boarded you will have an advantage.

Our trainer kite lesson is $50, and our 2 part beginner lesson is $350 for a 5-6 hour lesson.

How long does it take before I am consistently riding on the kiteboard?

The average person takes between 20 and 40 hours of total practice and lessons (including trainer kite practice) before they are consistently riding on the board. Kiteboarding is hard to learn, but easy to master. Kiteboarding is all about the kite. Many people ask us, “can I just go right to the water and skip the land lesson?”, and that is like asking to play polo without knowing how to ride a horse. You have to master the kite on land (first the trainer kite, then an inflatable kite) before you will be proficient enough to control the kite on the water.

Level Step: Time Line:
Beginner 1. fly a trainer kite 6-10 hours
2. take a land/water lesson 5-6 hours
3.consistently ride the board 5-20 hours of practice and lessons beyond the
beginner basics
Intermediate 4. Learn to ride upwind 10-20 hours of practice
5. Learn transitions lesson and 5-10 hours of practice
6. Learn to jump lesson and 5-10 hours of practice
Advanced 7. Learn freestyle tricks 20-30 sessions. Take a lesson and practice,
practice, practice
8. Wave Riding For elite level kiteboarders. Advance instruction
recommended (wave clinics in Hawaii or Mexico).

Trainer Kite Intro

Step 1 - Flying a small kite on land

Check out equipment!

Kiteboard Gear

What is the kiteboarding wind window?

The kiteboarding wind window is the flying area of your kite. Think of it as a quarter sphere or concert dome. Along the front edge of the quarter sphere is the edge of the wind window. Downwind of you is the back of the wind window. Put your back to the wind and your arms out to the sides. On your right side is the right of the wind window or 3 o’clock, overhead is 12 o’clock, and to your left is 9 o’clock (think of being inside a big clock). Along the edge of the wind window, the kite has minimal power. As you fly the kite lower into the wind window, the kite is exposed to more wind and has more power. The area directly downwind of you is max power and you rarely fly a big kite in this zone.

Further down into the concert dome is called the power zone. You as the kiteboarder are at the edge and center of the wind window with your back to the wind. The lower you fly your kite in the wind window, the more power it will generate. If you fly your kite high in the wind window or along the edge of the wind window, it will have minimal power.

The inflatable kites launch at the edge of the wind window on either side (3 or 9 o’clock in diagram below) where there is minimal power so you can control the kite when launching and landing. When you are kiteboarding to the right (riding across the wind to your right) you will keep the kite on the right side of the wind window and it will pull you to the right. When you are kiteboarding to the left (riding across the wind to your left) you will keep the kite on the left side of the wind window and it will pull you to the left.

To generate power with your kite, you will learn a basic power stroke which involves signing the kite up and down in a figure eight pattern. This signing generates more pull when you need power. If you are fully powered on a windy day, you can simply park your kite on one side of the wind window and it will pull you along the water.

What should I practice with my trainer kite before taking lessons?

Trainer Kite Flying and Practice Skills:

How to self launch and fly a foil trainer kite:

  • lay kite out perpendicular to the wind (sealed edge to windward, open cells to leeward)
  • secure the trailing edge with sand or two water bottles
  • walk the bar/lines directly upwind (foil kites self launch directly downwind)
  • make sure there are no tangles in the lines and the left line goes to the left side of kite and right to right
  • walk backwards slowly to let air fill the foil cells
  • the kite will then pop up to 12 o’clock
  • hold the bar steady (both arms straight) and keep the kite at 12 o’clock
  • make sure you have a clear flying area with no obstacles or people in your flying zone
  • start flying the kite
  • to steer your kite, use a “push pull” technique similar to driving a shopping cart at the grocery store. if you want the kite to go to the left, pull in on the left hand and push out with the right hand
  • the kite steering has a small delay, so wait for the kite to respond before countering your steering to get the kite to steer the other way
  • keep the bar parallel to the ground and in front of you (no lateral movement with the bar, no driving it like a steering wheel)
  • relax and lean your shoulders back when the kite starts to pull. Don’t bend at the waist.
  • keep your feet planted and your back to the wind. do not rotate your body around as the kite goes left or right

What skills to develop on your trainer kite:

The most important skill to develop on a trainer kite is generating constant pull on the bar. You will need to generate constant pull in order to stay up on your board. If you fly the kite erratically from one side of the wind window to the other, you may find yourself being hurled off your board when you try to ride it. To ride on a kiteboard, you need to generate constant steady pull in a controlled manner. That is why mastering a trainer kite accelerates your learning curve so well. Practice the following to develop good kite skills:

  • Horizontal figure eights from one side of wind window to the other
  • Vertical figure eights on both sides of wind window
  • Practice landing/bringing the kite down to the edge of the wind window on both sides
  • Walk with the kite while steering kite up and down on one side of the wind window
  • Run with the kite while steering kite up and down on one side of the wind window
  • Fly the kite with one hand
  • Fly the kite with one hand and pick up a stick without looking at the kite and keeping it under control
  • Fly the kite while not looking at it
  • Fly kite loops and undo your kite loops
  • Practice body spins to undo twists in the line
  • Fly the kite while sitting down
  • Try to have to the kite pull you up from a sitting position by bringing the kite over to 11 o’clock and then diving it to 2 o’clock. This is practice for water starting onto your kiteboard

How to self land and store your foil trainer kite:

  • bring the kite gently down to the ground on the edge of the wind window
  • keep an eye on the kite as it may try to relaunch
  • roll the lines onto the bar in a figure eight while keeping an eye on the kite
  • if you have a friend with you, have them secure/hold the kite
  • when you get to the kite, put the bungee line over both sides of the bar to secure the lines (or use rubber bands if not bungee is on your trainer
  • fold the wing tips (edges) of kite over to the middle of the kite. Keep the bridle lines on top of the kite
  • put the bar on the kite in the middle, and roll the kite up
  • put the kite in the bag and go home :)
  • if your kite gets wet, fully dry it before putting in bag
  • don’t rinse your kite with fresh water as mold may grow
  • you can leave your bar attached to your trainer

Now, you’re ready for a lesson with a full size kite!

How much do lessons cost?

Our trainer kite lesson is $50, and our 2 part beginner lesson is $350 for a 5 hour lesson. Please visit our kiteboarding page for more pricing information.

What type of equipment do I need?

You will need the following for your kiteboarding:

  • full size kite complete with bar, lines, pump
  • board
  • harness
  • helmet
  • impact vest
  • retractable board leash
  • knife (to cut your lines in the event of an emergency)
  • wetsuit

All of our students taking our 2 part land and water lesson receive $200 off a complete kite gear package.

How does kiteboarding gear work?

Kiteboarding was invented by 2 Frenchmen in the 1980s, and has evolved from simple 2 line kites with no depower ability, to today’s kites with full depower, safety release systems and the ability to water relaunch. The kite pulls you along while you ride on a wakeboard style board with footstraps. Kiteboarding uses the same engineering principals as flying. The kite acts as a foil, and the wind creates “lift” in the kite that makes you glide along the water. The more wind in the kite, the faster you go. Turning is accomplished by pulling on one side of the control bar. If you want to turn the kite to the left, you pull in on the left side. If you want to turn the kite to the right, you pull in on the right side of the bar. The sport is very versatile and can be enjoyed in light winds (10mph) on flat water, or high winds and waves (and everything in between). Kiting can also be enjoyed on land (land boarding on a skate board with footstraps) or on snow (snow kiting with skiis or snowboard).

Can I rent gear or do I have to buy it?

We can rent you everything except the kite (for liability reasons). We rent kite boards, harnesses, helmets, and wetsuits. You can purchase a demo kite for as little as $499 (includes bar and lines) and rent everything else until you know you are hooked on the sport. Our beginner boards rent for $20, wetsuits rent for $15, and you can try various items to see what you like best before you buy.

Visit our gear page for more details on equipment.

How much does the gear cost?

A complete kite package that includes kite/bar/lines/pump, board, harness, wetsuit, helmet, board leash, and knife runs approximately $2000-$2500 for all new equipment. We also offer used a closeout gear that is less expensive. Kiteboarding safety systems have progressed tremendously over the years, so be very careful if you look for used gear. Make sure you know who you are buying from and are getting the right kite and something more current. Visit our gear page for more details on equipment. All of our students taking our 2 part land and water lesson receive $200 off a complete kite gear package.

What type of kites does Boardsports teach on?

We are a Naish, North, Cabrinha, Nobile, Airush, F-One and Ozone kiteboarding dealer and teach on any one of these brands of kites. This allows you to try different kite styles and brands before you decide to buy.

Visit our gear page for more details on equipment.

How important are safety considerations?

Kiteboarding can be an extreme sport – so safety considerations are very important. We will teach you how to understand wind and site considerations to maximize your safety for your kiteboarding. These are the most important items to consider to maximize your safety:

  • Learn and practice at a beginner friendly site (ask the locals for advice, Alameda is the best for the Bay area)
  • Learning in side on-shore winds (as opposed to offshore winds)
  • Learn/practice in manageable
    wind speeds (ideally between 10-15mph when you are learning)
  • Be aware of tides and how they effect your riding (incoming flood tide decreases power of the wind, outgoing ebb tide increases power of the wind)
  • Avoid storm winds and gusty unstable winds
  • Be aware of your safety/buffer zone and keep 200 feet clear of you downwind when launching/landing
  • Be aware of your safety/buffer zone while on the water
  • Be aware of any water obstacles
  • Be aware of right of way rules
  • Use all safety equipment available including helmet, impact vest, safety release systems, kite leash with safety release system, retractable board leash (and always wear helmet when using board leash)
  • Be aware of water temperature
    awareness and wearing the right wetsuit. Hypothermia is a real risk in the SF Bay Area. We recommend you wear a full wetsuit with a thickness of 4/3 mm or more.
  • Respect for mother nature and judging wind conditions – “when in doubt, don’t go out”. Knowing when it’s too windy, too gusty, or your kite is too big for the conditions.

Where are good places to learn and practice kiteboarding in the SF Bay area?

Boardsports School enjoys exclusive teaching rights at the best beginner location in the Bay Area – Crown Beach Alameda. We have side on shore wind, a 2 mile long sandy beach, and shallow warm water. Learn at this ideal beginner location where you will come back to practice on your own.

When you are learning,:

  • AVOID off shore wind
  • AVOID water obstacles (pilings, rocks,
    or any obstacles in the water)
  • AVOID rock levees
  • AVOID limited launch space
  • AVOID gusty conditions
  • AVOID crowded water (boat traffic,
    shipping lanes, recreations boats)
  • AVOID cold water (coastal sites)
  • AVOID waves (too hard to learn in
    waves)

Once you have learned how to ride upwind and are an advanced beginner (making transitions, riding upwind, able to handle higher winds (15-20+) you may consider going to 3rd Avenue or Rio Vista (Delta). Alameda is the best spot for learning and practicing until then.