Kitesurf Theory

The fundamentals of learning to kitesurf

Explora Watersports Kitesurf School

Kite Theory: 1st Step to How Kitesurfing Works

Kitesurfing is a sport that will require proper training to learn how to ride safely and successfully. An instructor with years of knowledge and passion for working with people will come a long way for your beginner lessons.

If you have never flown a sport kite, it is a good idea to first learn about kite theory and the wind to get the best out of your first lessons.

While this explanation is not meant to replace any proper training with a qualified kitesurfing instructor, it will help you feel more confident and comfortable when first working with a kite and getting up on a board.

Let’s start with some basic terms used for sea navigation and kiting that is helpful in kitesurfing.

Wind Terms for Kitesurfing

THE Wind Direction to Shore

Offshore

The wind towards the water from the shore.

Onshore

The wind blows from the water straight to the shore.

Sideshore (Cross-shore)

The wind blows parallel to the shore

Side onshore (cross-onshore)

The wind blows parallel to the shore with more direction towards the shore.

Side offshore (cross-offshore)

The wind blows parallel to the shore with more direction towards the water.

Let’s continue with an explanation of the best conditions for kitesurfing in relation to the wind.

Best Wind Directions for Kitesurfing

The direction of the wind in relation to shore is important as it will determine if there are safe conditions for kitesurfing. In the illustration below, the arrows in green are the conditions you will look for when going out for a ride.

The wind directions to shore
What are the best wind directions for kitesurfing?

Sideshore and side onshore are the best for beginner and intermediate kitesurfers. It allows the rider to get in the water, ride downwind parallel to the shore, and easily get back to the shore.

What wind directions are not recommended to ride in for kitesurfing?

Offshore and Side Offshore are not good for kiteboarding as the wind direction takes you away from shore. These wind directions may present extreme challenges since you can be swept out to sea. Equipment failure and gusty winds from land can create a dangerous and potentially deadly situation. Overall, you should not consider taking your kite out in these conditions unless you are an expert rider who is familiar with the challenges and risks.

CAUTIONARY WARNING: Do not kite in offshore and side offshore winds unless you are 100% an experienced rider with a boat backup.
What wind directions are good for experience kitesurfers only?

Onshore winds can be a good direction for experienced riders. Since the wind is facing the shore at a 90 degree angle, you have to be skilled at riding upwind to move out towards the sea. It can be very challenging to move past the shore breaks and if you do not have the proper skills, you may find yourself being blown onto the beach if you dunk your kite.

When you first get started with kiteboarding, your instructor will only bring you out on the water in the right conditions but it is good to understand the wind directions before your first lesson.

Now that we have covered the directions of the wind, let’s cover the basics of the wind window and how it is used when it comes to kitesurfing.

Understanding the Wind Window for Kiteboarding

Having a clear understanding of the wind window is one of the most fundamental parts of kitesurfing.

What is the wind window?

The wind window is a three-dimensional area that is downwind of a rider in which the kite can be flown. A rider controls the kite within this window.

It is helpful to think of it as a half dome that exists downwind of the rider.

The radius of the wind window can vary depending on the length of the kite lines. If the kite lines are longer, the wind window radius is longer. To avoid confusion with this, there is a simple method for determining the exact location of the kite above water.

As shown in the illustration below, kiteboarders will use a clock from 9:00 – 3:00 to understand the location of the kite.

When the kite is at 12:00 (also known as Zenith), it is directly above your head in your field of vision downwind. It is important to use caution with this position on the beach as this is also the least stable position. A sudden gust could potentially bring yourself off your feet and place yourself and others in danger.

Your instructor will be able to inform you on the current wind conditions and the best position to hold your kite while on the beach.

There are three zones that are included in the wind window.
1. Edge of the Wind Window

This “window border” that is illustrated in the green section of the wind window is where the kite has the least amount of power. It is in this area that a kite is launched or parked from either 9 o’clock all the way to the left or 3 o’clock to the right. This window border is also used to keep the kite in a neutral position while in the water.

2. Intermediate Zone

This is the area downwind of the neutral zone and it is where the kite generates medium power in good wind. This zone is where the kite starts to move dynamically and will be used while in riding mode. Keep in mind that the power in this zone is gradual. The closer the kite gets to the power zone, the stronger the power.

3. Power Zone

This is the zone where the kite produces the highest power. The closer the kite is to the ground, the more it catches the wind and generates more power. This area is primarily used for water starts, advanced tricks, and low winds. It is important to use caution in this zone as the kite cannot be stopped in the area and will continue to move towards the neutral position. As a beginner kiteboarder, this area will more than likely only be used for a water start.

Other External Factors when beginning Kiteboarding?

There are also many external factors to consider when you first start learning to fly a kite. Having a simple understanding of some of these factors can help you be more comfortable when flying your kite and beginning on the water.

Wind Obstacles

The wind is generally pleasant and less gusty when it comes from the sea. Offshore winds have to pass through and above many obstacles on land before it reaches the shore and can be unpredictable and dangerous. While you will not be kitesurfing in offshore winds, there can be obstacles in cross winds if there is some sort of landmass from the direction of the wind. This can call for more gusty winds, making it more of a challenge to control the kite as a beginner.

Current and Waves

The ocean current and waves can play a role when first learning how to properly get started with kiteboarding. Large waves can make the learning process more difficult and at times may be a challenge to stay in a comfortable position for a water start. Nevertheless, it is always important to keep a cool head and to have fun with the process.

Ocean Tides

High tides and low tides are at their highest and lowest during the new and full moons. Sometimes this can play a factor on if there is enough beach to launch correctly or can make it more difficult to learn how to water start.

Beginner Kiteboarding with an Experienced Instructor

Kitesurfing is a sport that is essential to have proper training with an experienced instructor. No amount of reading or watching videos can match the time you will have to learn from a seasoned professional. While it may seem like a good bit to understand when first flying a kite for water sports, once you spend some time handling the kite, you will gain a good feel for it.

If you are looking for some excellent options to begin your kitesurfing vacation, make sure to check in with the Explora Watersports team to find the right location and time for you.

As always, have fun and be safe with one of the most exciting water sports.

Kitesurf Theory
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