Kiteboarding Gear Selection Guide
Kiteboarding gear has come a long way since the sport first took off around the turn of the century. Kiteboarders are getting out in lower winds, having more fun with higher performance gear in all conditions, and using more reliable safety systems than years past. There really is no “right” or “wrong” equipment these days, just different gear for individual riding styles, skill levels, and conditions.
This guide is meant to be used only as a starting point in your search for the perfect kite and board. There are a number of factors that go into selecting the best gear for you. If you are just starting out and are overwhelmed by all the choices, please feel free to call one of our shops and talk to our gear experts or ask the advice of your Kitesurfari instructor. You can also check out our selection of used kites and boards if you don’t want to beat up new equipment during your first season (and you will!).
For those intermediate and advanced riders who know how they ride and what they like, we are proud to offer Southern California’s best selection of demo gear. Stop by the tent at Belmont Shore to demo our kites and boards and test drive them for yourself.
Bow kites are characterized by a relatively flat shape, swept-back wingtips, and a concave trailing edge. They have massive power for their size but because of the way modern bridle and pulley systems work, bows also retain almost complete depower by sheeting out the bar. If you crash your bow kite, the swept-back wingtips allow less of the leading edge to sit in the water, making relaunch an absolute breeze.
Bows are also very stable in the air meaning gusts and lulls won’t cause your kite to jump all around the wind window.
What kind of rider is this for?
Bow kites produce so much power and lift for their size that they’re perfect for those riders that want to boost to the moon and get maximum float on their way back to earth. They also make great options for riders first starting out due to their range, depower, stability, and ease of relaunch. If you live in a light wind area like Southern California, bows will maximize your days on the water.
C-kites get their name from their “C” shape. They are more curved along their length than the other types and therefore have a smaller projected area to “catch”the wind. This translates into having less pull size-for-size than the other styles of kites. C-kites also do not have a bridle and for this reason, they have much less depower by sheeting the bar. A large part of a c-kite’s depower is accomplished by proper edging technique and forcing the kite to where youwant it in the wind window to generate the right amount of power.
Without a bridle, these kites are also harder to relaunch, but a few of them come with 5-line bars which make relaunch very reliable. Not having a bridle also causes heavier bar pressure, but many riders prefer this direct feel of where the kite is in the sky.
The way that c-kites turn feels a little different than the other types as well. C-kites pivot around a wingtip whereas the others spin around a tighter arc. This allows the c-kite to generate power while it’s turning whereas the other styles tend to lose a little power in the turns.
-Liquid Force HiFi
What kind of rider is this for?
Most of the people that ride c-kites are wakestyle riders who like to unhook and throw load-and-pop tricks. The lack of power/depower by sheeting allows these kites to perform just as well unh
Hybrid kites get their name from being a hybrid of c-kites and bow kites. Some are closer to bows in shape and performance while others are closer to c’s, but they all try to combine the advantages of both styles. Generally speaking, hybrids will have a flatter shape than c-kites but not as flat as bows, have depower and range somewhere between the two, good power for their size but not huge low-end grunt, etc.
-Liquid Force Havoc
Hybrids are the best option for riders looking for a kite that’s pretty good at everything. If you like to mix up your riding by throwing load-and-pop freestyle tricks, then boost some big airs, and mix in some wave surfing on a good swell, then you should test drive a few hybrid kites to see what suits you best. There are a lot of variations of hybrids, so the best thing to do is stop by our tent at Belmont Shore and demo, demo, demo.
Deltas are a style of hybrid kite. They have the same type of swept back wingtips as bows, but they are more c-shaped and don't have a concave trailing edge. They still retain a lot of power for their size and are generally faster than bows, but not quite as stable. With more of a c-shape, they unhook pretty well andhave more depower than c-kites.
What kind of rider is this for?
Just like the other hybrid kites, deltas are a good option for the kiteboarder looking for a good all-around kite. One of their strengths compared to other hybrids is that they also have very good low end, so if you live in a light-wind area, consider a delta.
Foil kites are quite different than the more common leading edge inflatables described above. Instead of having an air bladder that you pump up yourself, foils have cells running from the leading edge to trailing edge that allow air to flow through and create an airfoil. Most beginners will fly a 2-line foil trainer kite in their lessons, but foils made for the water have closed cells so they hold air if you crash them into the water and won’t sink.
Without the air bladder in the leading edge, foils need complex bridle systems to support their shape. One big advantage of foils is that the kite itself is extremely light with only fabric and no bladders. They are also very good at absorbing gusts and not delivering variations in power to the rider.
-Peter Lynn Charger
What kind of rider is this for?
Most of the kiters riding foils do so to be able to ride in the lightest wind possible. With a big foil kite and a race board, experienced riders can start having fun in 10 knots or less. Foil kites have the best size to weight ratio so they’ll keep pulling when the wind is so light that heavier leading edge inflatables tend to fall out of the sky. They are also popular for snowkiting and some inland areas because of their gust-absorbing ability.
The downside of foils is that they are generally considered to be lower performance,
4-line vs. 5-line bars
Most manufacturers are producing leading edge inflatable kites with 4-line bars for maximum simplicity. The two front lines connect to some number of attachment points along the leading edge of your kite, and the two back lines (or steering lines) connect to the wingtips. Most safety systems will release your kite onto one or both front lines to completely depower your kite.
5-line bars add an extra line that runs up to one or more connection points along the center of your kite’s leading edge. The advantage is that on some kites, the extra line helps support the leading edge profile, especially on some c-kites without a bridle. Other kites use a non-tensioned fifth line just to aid in relaunch. C-kites in particular can be tricky to relaunch when flown with only four lines.
The fifth line can also be used as your flagging line. This is probably the absolute safest option, but many experienced riders don’t like to release to the fifth line because when you do, your only option is to swim in to shore. With four-line safety systems, you can often sort out any problems in the water and then get your kite back up in the air and continue riding.
Most experienced riders have a quiver of 2-4 kites for different wind strengths. Kite sizes are measured in square meters but abbreviated as just “m”. Almost all kite models are offered in a variety of sizes. There are a number of factors to consider when selecting the proper kite size – wind speed, rider weight, board size, experience level, water conditions, etc. If you need help selecting the right size kite for you, call one of our shops for advice or ask an experienced local rider.
Probably the most common kite size worldwide is around 12m. This will be the bread and butter size for a 170 lb kiter riding a twintip board in 15 – 20 knots. For those people who want to be able to ride in less wind, consider getting another kite one to two sizes larger – something in the 14m – 16m range. Heavier riders will also want to move up a kite size for the extra pull.
Likewise, for stronger winds above 20 knots or lighter riders, consider going down in size. Stronger winds in particular are for experienced riders only and require good judgment in selecting the proper kite size. Don’t go out in conditions that you’re unsure of and aren’t ready for. Priority #1 is live to kite another day!
Twintip boards get their name from the fact that they can be ridden in either direction, or either tip can be the nose or the tail. Twintips have so many available features these days. Whether you’re looking for soft or hard flex, big rocker or a flat plank, there’s a board for you.
This guide describes what effects some of these features will have on your ride, but again the best way to tell if a board is the right one for you is to stop by our tent at Belmont Shore and demo as many boards as you can. Even our experienced instructors and shop riders have thought that a particular board would be perfect for them until they actually tried it and realized it didn’t jive with their riding style for one reason or another.
Flex is a measure of the stiffness of the board. Hard flex means that the board is very stiff. This is good for load and pop tricks because all of the energy that you put into edging and loading up the board can go into your spring off the water rather than being absorbed by bending the board. However, all boards have at least a little bit of flex so that they can absorb some of the choppy water out there and not punish your knees.
If you ride primarily in really choppy water or just want a cushier ride because you’re not trying to compete in the next PKRA circuit, you’ll want to consider a twintip with softer flex. This is especially true if you want to take your twintip out in the surf.
Our best selling boards among aspiring freestylers fall into the medium flex category. Medium flex boards offer a great compromise between high performance and a smooth ride.
Hard Flex Twintips
North Team Series
Medium Flex Twintips
Liquid Force Influence
North Jaime Pro
Soft Flex Twintips
Liquid Force LFX
Ocean Rodeo Mako
Rocker is a measure of the curve of the board’s bottom surface from nose to tail. A board with big rocker is more banana-shaped than a flatter rocker board. Having some rocker helps with chop so that the nose of your board won’t hit every little ripple and stop your momentum. Rocker also makes it a lot easier to pop off the water.
This comes at the cost of increasing drag and a slower ride. If you want to ride a high rocker board, you’re going to want to be fairly well powered. Light wind riders may want to look at medium rocker or low rocker boards. Many of the best freestyle riders use pretty low rocker boards for max speed, but you must have really good technique to get the most out of them.
High Rocker Twintips
Liquid Force DLX
Medium Rocker Twintips
North Jaime Pro
Flat Rocker Twintips
Liquid Force Kaos
Bottom Shaping and Fins
Modern boards come with every kind of ridge, concave, and channel that you can imagine on the bottom surface. Generally speaking, the more complex and pronounced the bottom shaping is, the more your board will grab the water and increase grip. Likewise, the bigger the fins, the more your board will bite into the water.
Some riders prefer a super grippy board with big fins and pronounced bottom shaping. This will allow your board to track in a straight line very well and makes it easier to really edge against the lines and create a bunch of tension before releasing and popping off the water.
Boards that are looser (or “skatey”) will feel like you can slide them around any way you want. This makes landings easier because even if you don’t land with your board pointing exactly right, the board can slide into position whereas a grippy board might catch and send you flailing.
Picking the Right Size
The most common board sizes are in the 132 – 138 cm range in length and 39 – 42 cm range in width. This size range is good for a 170 lb rider riding in the usual 15 – 20 knots that most kiteboarders ride in. If you’re heavier, you’ll want to be at the upper end of this range or higher, and vice versa if you’re lighter.
Board size also makes a big difference for riding in both light winds and nuking winds. Many riders use a very large board in light winds – generally > 145 cm in length and > 45 cm in width because more surface area increases float so that the kite won’t have to generate as much power to get you up and planing. Some people will even take two or more boards to the beach. That way when they’re out with their smaller freestyle board, if the wind drops they can just come in, grab their light wind board and keep riding rather than having to rig up a bigger kite.
Some riders also prefer to use a bigger board so that they can use a smaller kite in the same wind speed. Some riders prefer the opposite. If you don’t know which kind of rider you are, we recommend sticking with a board in the middle of the size range for your weight.
Light Wind Specialty Boards
There are some twintips that are designed specifically to get you riding on those days where all your friends are stuck on the beach. Pair a light wind board with a big bow kite, and you can be riding in 10 knots. These boards are big and have very little rocker to minimize any potential drag.
Light Wind Boards
Wakeskating can be a fun way to mix up your riding. Wakeskates look like a big skateboard deck and are designed to be ridden with shoes, just like a skateboard. They’re smaller than most twintips so you’ll need to be well-powered. They don’t have straps so you can do kickflips and other skateboard tricks. If you’re looking for something new to try in good wind, stop by the tent and check one out.
Straps vs. Bindings (aka Boots)
Most riders are using straps because they’re lighter, cheaper, and easy to get in and out of. With straps, you also have the option to kick the board off your feet mid-air if something goes wrong. And although most people don’t like body dragging back to their board, it actually is good that your feet come out of the straps in certain kinds of falls so that your body can go freely skimming across. If your feet are locked into bindings, the board will rarely come off your feet no matter how hard you crash, so the abrupt falls with bindings tend to hurt more.
The benefit of bindings is that they allow a more solid connection to your board. You will edge harder and thus can hold more power in your kite. Riders really only benefit from this when throwing unhooked wakestyle tricks where bindings allow you to generate more pop. The feeling of bindings is not for everybody, so we recommend demoing before you buy.
If you do think you’re ready to go for bindings, we recommend going up at least one board size. Bindings will make you edge harder than you would in straps whether you want to or not. This, combined with the fact that wakestyle boards generally have heaps of rocker, will make your board feel much smaller than it is.
Boards Made for Bindings
Liquid Force DLX
Boards Compatible with Either Straps or Bindings
Liquid Force LFX
North Team Series
Boards Made for Straps
Pretty much everything else
Directionals get their name because of the fact that they can only be ridden in one direction. One end of the board is the nose, and the other is the tail, like a surfboard. This means that when you jibe (or change directions) while kiting, you either have to ride toeside in one direction or switch the position of your feet – a whole skill in itself.
The two types of kite-specific directionals are surfboards and raceboards. Pretty much all of the big kite companies are offering a variety of surfboards for your wave slashing needs. Kite surfboards are much more durable than regular surfboards. Yes, you can ride your regular surfboard with a kite, but it’s not made for the power and speed of kiting. It’s pretty common to see a regular surfboard dented and dinged up from kiting abuse.
Racing is also a growing aspect of the sport, and while there isn’t a huge selection of raceboards yet, there are some very good options for those aspiring speed demons among you.
Harness Selection Guide
There are three types of harnesses available: waist, seat, and boardshorts. Waist harnesses are the most popular and sit around your abs and lower back. You’ll want to be very careful when picking the correct size as a waist harness that is too big will have a tendency to crawl up and press on your ribcage (which isn’t very comfortable). The pros of a waist harness are that they give you better leg flexibility and are easier to unhook with.
Some riders find that seat or boardshort harnesses are more comfortable for them, especially if they have any kind of back problem. These harnesses sit lower around your butt and have straps for support around your upper thighs. These harnesses cause the kite to pull you from a lower point on your body than a waist harness, making it a little harder to unhook with. However, waist harnesses offer better balance since the tow point is closer to your body’s center of gravity and do not ride up into your ribs. For these reasons, we recommend seat harnesses for the vast majority of beginners.
Harness selection is a very personal decision – what suits one person’s body may not feel right for the next. Come by one of our shops where you can try on different brands and hang from our bar setup to see which harness feels the most comfortable for you.
Cabrinha Deluxe Waist Harness
Mystic Force Shield
Cabrinha Deluxe Seat Harness
See What Our Shop Riders Are Riding
Kite: F-One Bandit
Board: Slingshot Darko
Harness: Mystic Warrior