Here’s an outline of the kiteboarding kites and boards I use and why.
Your kite provides you the power to move around on the water and how it handles is critical for your kiteboarding experience. If you are on a budget and have to cut corners do it anywhere, but here. A poor quality kite is going to make your life hard and unpleasant. Don’t buy junk!
I ride only Naish kites simply because they are the highest quality kites I’ve ever seen. The craftsmanship and thought that goes into these kites is clear and once you own one you won’t want to ride anything else. They are stable and easy to relaunch if you put them down on the water. Their beginner kites are docile and as you move up their line up you get faster handling and more power.
My Naish kites:
- 12m Code 2008 [16-23 knots]
- 9m Code 2008 [23-30 knots]
- 6m Cult 2009 [30-37 knots]
The Code is a discontinued Naish model that was aimed at the new kiteboarder. Accordingly it is safe, stable and easy to use. The handling isn’t too sporty, but more than enough for your first couple seasons until your skills develop.
The Cult is the model that replaced the Code in Naish’s kite line up and is their beginner/intermediate kite. It is more performance oriented than the Code, but is so stable and easy to use it’s fine for a new kiteboarder. When I add new kites to my quiver I’ll be buying Cults as they are the perfect balance of ease of use and performance for me for the next few years.
You’ll notice I have 3 kites. That’s pretty standard for a full quiver. You can get by with 1 kite or 2, but you won’t always be able to kite when there is wind and you won’t always be riding a good size for the current conditions. If you are riding a kite that’s too small for conditions you’ll be struggling to get enough power to ride. If you are riding a kite that’s too big for conditions you’ll have too much power which is just as tough to ride and can be dangerous. Modern kites have a broad range of usable wind speed. Easily 10-15 knots for a lot of kites. However, at the extreme ends of their ranges they aren’t a lot of fun to use. That’s why I’ve listed about a 7 knot speed range for my kites above. I can fly them outside these ranges, but I prefer not to.
A basic rule of thumb for kiting is with:
- one kite you’ll be kiting 50% of the time when it’s rideable
- two kites you’ll be kiting 75% of the time when it’s rideable
- three kites you’ll be riding 95% of the time when it’s rideable
Control Bar and Lines:
You are attached to your kite via some kevlar lines that run from your kite to a control bar that you use to steer the kite. Except for advanced riders doing wild tricks you will hook up your control bar to your harness so the kite pulls directly on your body and you don’t have to hold on for dear life while riding. This is nice and lets you control the kite with one finger from each hand if you want.
Two important features of your control bar are:
- main safety release which lets you detach your kite from your harness in an emergency.
- secondary safety release on a flexible leash that retains your kite in a depowered state when you use the main release. When you use this secondary safety release you are totally freed from the kite and lines when needed in an emergency.
Naish makes a great control bar designed especially for their kites. I have 3 bars one for each kite. I tend to use just one bar and move it from kite to kite. This gives me 2 spare bars. That’s probably one more than I need, but bars/lines bought with a kite are much cheaper than buying separately.
The kites used for water kiteboarding [vs. land or snow kiting] are inflatable. This keeps the floating when they hit the water and provides an extra measure of safety if things go wrong as you can turn your kite into a raft and float in to shore.
Every time you use your kite you’ll be pumping it up and for a large kite like my 12m it takes a lot of pumping to put enough air inside. To make matters worse the sand and grit typically found at kiting beaches loves to get in your pump and wear out the seals.
I’ve got 2 Naish pumps which are very efficient and easy to use. Definitely the best kite pumps I’ve seen. You always want a spare pump as your are dead in the water if you can’t pump up your kite.
My Naish kites came with a repair kit including:
- patches for the inflatable kite bladder
- spare air valves
- patches for the kite canopy
I haven’t had to use any of these yet, but if you are far from a repair shop an emergency kit could be the difference between kiting or driving home.
After your kites your boards are the next most critical items in your quiver. I’d recommend buying a quality name brand board, but since technology doesn’t change that fast in this area you can save $$$ by getting a used board or a new board that’s a couple years old.
The OR Mako is my everyday board. It rides upwind really well and due to the rounded tail is very smooth on the choppy water that occurs when it gets really windy. This board features a lot of rocker [tip to tip curvature] as well as a ton of concave [edge to edge curvature] which combined with only one fin on each end makes it handle very differently from a more typical kite board like the RRD Placebo. The Mako is loose and easy to spin/maneuver when you don’t dig in an edge making it a lot of fun to play around on. When you do push the edge into the water the concave really helps it bite and drive upwind.
The RRD Placebo is a big board and although the measurements seem not a lot greater than the Mako the more rectangular outline, lack of any concave and much less rocker give it more surface area in the water at any given time. This means you need less power from the kite to ride. This board is easy to ride and great for light wind conditions where the Mako would just sink. The downside is the weight and size make it less fun to play on than the Mako.
If I was going to do it all over again I’d probably buy a Mako King which is OR’s bigger light wind board. That would give me the benefits of having a big board combined with the same handling and feel as my smaller Mako.
Besides having a spare in case you damage your main board the benefit of two boards is that the size of your board determines how big a kite you need to use to generate enough power to ride. Having a smaller and a larger board essentially gives you two “gears” for any one kite. This means you can fine tune your ride very easily. Rigging up a kite takes 15-20mins, but swapping a board takes only 2 mins. So if you are out on a small kite and need more power the easy thing to do is come in and grab your bigger board. Since boards are much cheaper than kites you can also make do with less kites by having a few boards at your disposal saving a lot of $$$.
You need a set of two foot pads and two straps to attach your board to your feet. These bindings are quite important for an enjoyable ride and there are lots of designs out there. When you are buying a board pay attention to the bindings. If they aren’t going to work for you consider that replacing them can cost $100-$200. I’m using the stock OR and RRD bindings. They both work well so I have no complaints.