Kiting 101

The exciting sport of kitesurfing harnesses wind and wave, but first you need to find a professional trainer and a safe environment in which to learn

Text by Neil Godbold and Steve White

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Harnessed to a parachute-like kite, your feet strapped to a board, you are free to skim the water at speed. With little effort you are able to negotiate each bump of swell or crest of a wave, a push off and you can get airborne. You feel master of the elements: you are kiteboarding.

Kiteboarding is a three-dimensional sport that combines aspects of surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing and paragliding. It has several incarnations including freeriding, freestyle, long-distance, speed, racing and wave riding. Together they make it a sport that can be as extreme as you want, or a Sunday afternoon cruise with friends.

Kiteboarding is relatively quick to learn, but it’s not an ‘out-of-the-box’ sport. You need to put in the groundwork, acquire the core skills and understand the potential dangers. Then you can look forward to a lifetime of great experiences out on the water.

As a beginner you should consider the following factors:

• Choose a recognised school, with qualified instructors. These should be qualified by the International Kiteboarding Organisation (IKO) or the national governing body for your country.

• The school should supply all your training equipment and cover safety and self-rescue as well as kite handling and board riding.

• Check your lessons include background knowledge as well as practical skills training. Being aware of the right and the wrong wind and weather conditions to kite in and any hazards specific to your location, is key to your future enjoyment and safety as a kiter.

• Look for a location that offers flat-water training areas, preferably waist deep and not too open to waves and swell.

• Find out when the most stable winds for your chosen location blow, avoid gusty spots. Winds that are strong or too light make learning harder. Ideally aim for winds of 12 – 16kts.

• Avoid the quick ‘crash’ course offers: most people take 12-16hrs to gain the basics. It depends on the location, but short courses often mean short-cuts and elements of the training could be missed.

The kiteboarding scene has matured in Asia over the past few years and there are now a wealth of destinations to aim for and good kite schools to train with.

Hong Kong

Wind strength in Hong Kong is quite variable and the city is not blessed with year-round waves, but when typhoon season swings round, things definitely turn on.

From October to April, Shui Hau Wan on Lantau Island has ideal conditions, while Pui O beach, just down the coast, is preferred during the summer typhoon-season months between May and September.

The Kiteboarding Association of Hong Kong, www.Kiteboarding.org.hk, provides courses for learners and can cater for one-on-one or small-group training.

Boracay, Philippines

This is one of the great spots to learn in Asia due to consistent wind from the end of October until end of April, with 18-20 knots on average. The usual venue is Bulabog Beach, where the wind comes in side-onshore most of the time and the lagoon is shallow – mostly waist- to chest-deep which is ideal for teaching.

A number of training centres have sprung up here including Freestyle Academy, a school run by the Philippines most successful kiter, Ken Nacor. www.freestyle-boracay.com

Isla Kitesurfing also offers courses, along with rentals, storage and kite repairs. Call Francois on (63-362) 288 5352 or see www.islakitesurfing.com

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Bintan, Indonesia

The strongest local kiting scene in Indonesia is to be found on Bintan Island, just a short high-speed ferry ride from Singapore. As such this is also Singaporean’s kite destination of choice, offering better winds and less restrictions than back home.

Bintan works for kiteboarding in both monsoon seasons, with the key months being December-March and July-September. With winds in the 14-18kt range and a large number of beautiful flatwater spots, the island is ideal for beginners and idyllic for more experienced riders.

To ride and to learn, head to Kittoons Kiteboarding School at the Agro Hotel Resort www.kitoons.asia. The location offers a reef-protected training lagoon, open water freeriding and some of the most stunning downwind runs to be found in Asia.

Hainan, China

Hainan Island, being the only tropical location in the country, is considered a kiting mecca for local riders. It is a large island that offers a variety of riding conditions all-year-round, with a number of different locations.

Kitesurf China is Hainan’s only international kite school and is based in Boao, where they can teach in all wind directions and in waist-deep water. Courses run all through the year, as Hainan Island stays warm and has wind 12 months of the year. Website: www.kitesurfchina.com

Pranburi, Thailand

Many first come across kiting while on holiday at a beach resort in Thailand but you should be wary when choosing a kiting school here –  look for IKO certification.

Kite Cable Thailand, www.kitecable.com, in Pranburi, offer a different and safe way to get into the sport, with their cable park meaning you can practice your skills, wind or no wind, and even do night sessions.

Graduating from the park, you then move to a seven-kilometre-long, coral-free beach, with huge sandbar areas for shallow-water teaching and deeper channels for waist-depth lessons.

Kiteboarding Asia have a centre at Pranburi too, as well in several other spots including Hua Hin where the main season runs from October through to May with very consistent side-shore winds. See www.kiteboardingasia.com

Okinawa, Japan

M-Air is one of Japan’s most established and experienced kite schools, operating from the beautiful sandy beaches of Miyako, on the island of Okinawa. More information at www2.miyako-ma.jp

Vietnam

C2Sky, www.c2skykitecenter.com, is an IKO instructor training centre and has good links with the local community, offering specialist courses such as the KB4Girls women’s clinics.

Located near Phan Rang, Ninh Chu Bay is a fast growing alternate where there is year-round wind, using both monsoon seasons. The Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club is the hub here: visit
www.ninhchubay.com for more details.

Zhunan, Taiwan

The country has some of the best conditions in Asia, albeit a little colder than elsewhere.

SPOT, in the town of Zhunan on the west coast of Miaoli County is an ocean training centre, with a well-established kiteboarding school. The location works well in both monsoons and its wide shallow beaches are ideal for training. Website: www.spottaiwan.com AA