Also known as kiteboarding

On a recent beach trip on vacation, I was hiking a hilly dune when I saw an enormous green kite soaring across the sky. As I made my descent toward the beach, I saw that this was no ordinary kite.

The operator was also not ordinary. He was standing on a board, directing the kite and skimming across the ocean water. This was my first experience with kitesurfing.

Kitesurfing is a combination of wakeboarding and windsurfing. Also known as kiteboarding, kitesurfing  uses the wind to power a rider across the water on a board. Similar to a wakeboard, the kiteboard can also be with or without bindings and there are different styles dependent on the type of kitesurfing the boarder is performing, such as just gliding along the water or trying to execute tricks over waves.

Much like the different types of boards for the different styles of kitesurfing, there are also several types of kites, such as bow kites, framed single skin kites and ram air foil kites. Bow kites inflate with air and are the most commonly-used kite for kitesurfing, while the originial kitesurfing kite was a version of the framed single skin kites that shaped like a 'C'.

Kitesurfers are propelled by the kite across the water, but execute turns via their hands and their place on the board. This allows them also to surf despite low winds or into a headwind.

Although attempts for kite-propelled transportation are documented back two centuries, the invention of kitesurfing is credited to the father-son duo of Bill and Corey Roesler. Originally dubbed "KiteSki" and developed by Corey Roesler with a pair of water skis, the system was later improved with the wakeboard-style mount.

The number of kitesurfers worldwide has ballooned to more than 200,000 participants. The appeal to those who take part in extreme sports like wakeboarding, paragliding or water skiing is understandable. Aside from tricks and wave jumping, unofficial speed records exceed 25 miles per hour.

The sport of kitesurfing is enjoyed throughout the world with active locales through Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. In the United States, famed areas such as Cape Cod, Chesapeake Bay, Maui, Miami and South Padre Island serve as surfing waters for kitesurfers. 

As the kite soared overhead with quick turns orchestrated by the surfer, I couldn't help but think of the number of dangers to kitesurfing. Usually, a kitesurfer has someone with them to aid in landing the kite and keeping an eye on the surfer. Between shifts and sheers with the wind and rocks, sandbars and other inanimate objects, there are potential hazards everywhere. 

Kiteboarding appears to still be in infancy as a sport. There is no legislative or organizational body for kiteboarders nor are there an organized competitions.

Getting started in kitesurfing can cost around $2,000 with the kite and board serving as the most expensive purchases. Kitesurfing schools are also popping up across the country.

Taking in a kiteboarder taking to the waves, propelled by the air, can be one of those vacation memories that you just stumble upon. If you come across a kitesurfer carving the shore, pause and watch as the sport is something to behold.

Kitesurfing adventure

Kitesurfing adventure
Credit: tibchris

Take to the waves on a kite