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Yesterday I was invited to participate in a SheFlies event “BADASS BEGINNERS” as part of a panel to chat with beginners in Kitesurfing and Wakeboarding. The main topic was to talk about the hard part of starting these wonderful sports and sports in general I would say. I’ve found in front of me an incredible group of about 40 women eager to ask questions and know more about others´ experiences.
It was an incredibly interesting call as some of us always think that we are the only ones going through some difficulties which instead are pretty much shared between the beginners.
I’m a constant beginner in a lot of things: kite foil, wing foil, surf, surf skate, balance boarding so I completely understand the frustration part of when your learning curve seems to slow down. Also being an instructor I live frustration through the eyes of some of my students as they might arrive with very high expectations and then the lesson plan doesn’t go as planned.
Let’s be honest, if you’ve learned how to kitesurf you know that there are several points where the learning process gets steep like the water start. Some of us have the impression to be stuck in the water start forever and ever and ever. No worries people… you are not alone!
Another incredible barrier that people don’t talk about but it’s shared is the fear of deep water and the unknown below. I know something about it … I fought against it for years just imagine that 6 years ago I would not enter the water alone, I would count the chances of getting eaten by a shark even in a swimming pool – irrational I know! And to be honest, in new spots, I still feel uneasy.
Some of us have beach anxiety, some have crowd anxiety, some have “what if I don’t make it back to the beach” fear, each one of us has is own little devil to fight. As Josie from SheFlies said when we are talking about an extreme sport this includes that there is a physical but also a mental barrier that needs to be overcome, and that’s right. As practicing an extreme sport means going out of your comfort zone, by a lot and this is never easy.
Another interesting point was about feeling that you don’t progress as much while learning in many different spots. And I can understand that. If you are a very beginner and you keep on changing the spot and instructors it takes a longer time to adapt as if you were an experienced kitesurfer. So you “waste” time in getting to know the spot and the instructor needs to get to know you instead of getting in and go for the exercise you’ve done the last time. So, piece of advice, if you want to learn to kitesurf the best solution is to take a few days and go to an easy spot so that you can learn all the basics at once and then you have those locked in.
People sometimes ask me “how long does it take to ride on a board?” This is one of the most difficult questions to answer as it depends on the person. It depends on the spot you are: if it is a flat lagoon with stable wind or a wavy spot with gusty wind. Trust me the first option is way easier. It depends if you have a little devil to fight against (see above). It depends if you are a coordinated person or not. I would say that it could take you 8-10 hours to do your first meters on the board. Some might need less and some might need way more.
As the call moved forward more technical questions arise and I noticed that sometimes when it’s time to buy your material there is a bit of uncertainty about what to buy.
So here´s a guide on HOW TO SELECT YOUR EQUIPMENT!
The first items that I would buy would be a wetsuit (in case you are in a spot you need it) and the harness.
OMG THE HARNESS!!! I spent 1 year with the wrong harness and after 30 min of riding my back would hurt!!! You need to find a harness that will suit your body like a glove. My suggestion is to buy a new harness as it usually lasts lots of years, almost forever I would say. I used mine for 5 years and then the fabric parts start to wear out so it does not look cool anymore but it’s still functional and can be used. Even if you don’t plan on buying all the equipment because you’ll rent it. If you have back problems having your harness will help a lot. Last but not least, during most of the classes you wear a seat harness but when you buy your first one you can upgrade to a waist harness unless you have heavy back problems.
By the way, nowadays most brands have specific lines of harnesses for women some of the best ones are RRD Sense, Mystic Diva, ION NOVA CURV, Ride Engine Elite.
For all the rest, as a beginner, you don’t need brand new shiny equipment. You need good second-hand equipment that you can destroy and won’t feel so bad about it. Your first kite is going to be your guinea pig and you’ll have to experiment a lot with it. Make lots of errors and lots of crashes. I’ve bought a brand new kite after 5 years of kiting.
As a beginner the safer choice is a 4 lines re-ride safety system (which is the most common one) in terms of shape it can either be bow or hybrid. As long as you stay clear of pure C-kites for your beginner kite and a 5 lines bar you’ll be good. The C-kites are hard to water re-launch and the 5th line could be a nightmare in some cases.
The canopy and fabric: It is not recommended to buy a kite older than 4-5 years, although it also depends on how they were used. You will need to check how worn-out is the kite. Usually, the fabric of new kites is very crunchy when you touch it. So if you feel there is no crunching sound left when touching the kite it might be too worn-out. You would need to also check reparations, holes in the fabric. If it has a big reparation that could have an impact on how the kite flies.
The valves: You need to check that the kite stays inflated to do so usually it’s best to inflate the kite and wait for 30min. When checking the valves you need to see that they are well attached and that the tubes are not dry or cracked if so, this means that they have lost elasticity and they will break.
Try to buy a one-pump kite it means that you’ll have to inflate it only from one valve instead of inflating all the struts separately and then inflate the leading edge.
The kite size.
Which size is good for you? This is a very tricky question. If you have your home spot, I would start to buy one kite that will allow you to ride most of the wind days. If you will travel a lot then having two kites a small and a big would be recommended so that you can cover more wind range. Choosing the right size of the kite is not a specific science and there are plenty of different points of view.
Somebody has created a formula to calculate the kite size to choose:Weight (kg) / wind (knots) x 2.2 = size of kite you should be using
E.g. 58 kg / 16 knots x 2.2 = 7.9 so use an 8m kite.
Here’s another chart from Surfertoday.com
The best suggestion is: when you go to your lesson always check how many knots and which size you are using and if you felt good or not with it. So that you start to be aware of what’s the best size for you.
*Please remember that this is just an indication for beginners, then when you start to be more experienced you will be able to choose the kite size depending on your style!
The most important thing, the safety system needs to work perfectly and smoothly. You might want to check how the bar and lines alignment, watch this video for the instructions on how to do it (from min 1:15)
Choosing the right board size is also a fun game. The best option is to start with a twin-tip and the size depends mostly on your weight and your home spot conditions.
More or less these are the most recommended measurements based on weight for a beginner:
• 55kg / 65kg = 39/41 x 132/136 cm
• 65kg / 75kg = 40/43 x 136/142 cm
• 75kg / 85kg = 41/44 x 138/145 cm
• 85kg / 100kg= 43/45 x 140/148 cm
Then you need to know that if you are on a flat spot you can use a slightly bigger board but on a wavy/choppy spot a big board can challenging and too heavy.
In flat water you can use a more stiff board (like a carbon one) however for choppy spots is suggested to use a more flexible one so your knees won´t hurt so much!
Hope this article was helpful, if you want to know more or have questions comment below or reach out to me!
And to all the beginners out there, I know sometimes learning to kitesurf can be frustrating and a struggle but don’t give up because once you’ll be able to ride it will change your life forever!
Ciao ciao, LaGioKite
If you are not doing it already follow me on Instagram too 😛 and if you come to Tenerife come to El Médano to say “hello” in the windy days I´ll be at the beach working as kite instructor with the PKS Tenerife School!