We asked Chiara, our kitesurfer (thanks Chiara), the ABC of kitesurfing!
A sort of faq for all those who are attracted to the kite but still do not practice it!
Post your question at the end of this article if there is something you would want to know that is not listed below.
What is Kitesurfing?
Seeing as how they explain it really well, I will quote directly from Wikipedia!
Kitesurfing (or Kitesurf or Kiteboarding) is a water sport, recently invented (1999), born as a variation of Windsurfing: it consists of being pulled along by a kite which uses the wind as a driver and which is manouevered via a control bar connected by thin cords (lines) (4 or 5) of Dyneema or Spectra which are about 22 to 30m long. Kitesurfing also uses a board under the feet on which the rider planes over the water. In light winds you use a bigger kite than you would use in stronger winds. In ideal conditions it is possible to go Kitesurfing safely, simple planing (freeriding) or doing tricks and different manouevers (freestyle). It is possible to go Kitesurfing on waves (wavestyle) and on flat water (wakestyle) depending where you are and the 'available' wind. the different styles need different types of board: to ride big waves, you use a board similar to a surf board with a monodirectional nose. To do acrobatics and aerials you use a bidirectional board which can be used to best effect when the water is flat or almost flat. A fact that has helped with the rapid expansion of this sport in recent years, apart from the easy portability of the kit, is the speed with which you can learn to plane and do jumps and aerial manouevres.
How old do you need to be to learn?
There are various views on this and it mainly depends upon where you are learning, the wind conditions there, the physical fitness of the student and their weight. Generally, kite surfing isn't taught to people of less than 10 years old.
Do you need to be particularly fit to follow a kitesurfing course?
Absolutely not. It is a very easy sport to learn and, at a basic level, you don't need to be very sporty.
Is it dangerous?
Like all sports, it requires attention for, understanding of and respect for weather conditions, other water users and the rules of the sport. All this and knowing how to use the safety system for self-help which will be explained during a course which it is always better to do. Learning to kitesurf on a course run by trained instructors, reduces the time it takes to learn and the eventual dangers, and is undertaken under strict safety rules.
What about if I want to try kitesurfing by myself or learn from someone who isn't a trained instructor?
On Lake Garda, the season runs from April/May to September/October, and there is usually some enthusiast who will be out there in the cold of winter!
How do I get started?
You start by following a specific course. Each school offers various courses which go from a one day trial to understand if it is a sport for you, to beginners courses and improvers/freestyle courses.
Is it suitable for men as well as women?
Of course! There are no particular limitations of age or physical fitness and certainly not for gender. The number of women who kitesurf has risen rapidly in the last few years thanks to special courses and offers from some schools.
What kit do you need and how much does it cost?
At the start, all the kit (from kite to wetsuit) is provided by the school and usually the school you go to will be happy to advise you what you should/might like to buy.
To go kitesurfing, the necessary kit is: kite, bar, board, harness, buoyancy aid (obligatory on Lake Garda), helmet (at least to start with and certainly if doing advanced freestyle and racing), wetsuit (normally on Lake Garda, you should have 2 - one for the colder season and one for the summer season).
Prices vary greatly if you buy new or used kit: for a kite and board if you buy a top of the range wetsuit and harness - we are talking about €1,500 for all new and under €1000 for second hand. the best idea is to get some kit from a school at the end of the season, ideally if you have got to know the kit, how to use it and its maintenance. If you want to buy new, you should go to a trusted shop, possibly one recommended by the school where you have done your course.
How many lessons do you need to be able to kitesurf alone?
Being a sport, this depends very much how quickly you 'take to' kitesurfing. Normally 5 or 6 lessons and a bit of practical assistance is enough.
What are the normal mistakes when learning?
If you are talking about really getting good at the sport, learning alone can lead you into dangerous practices. Other errors are buying kit on the internet for very low prices (e.g. €200 for a sail) without knowing what you have to look for. Going out on the sea or lake with little knowledge or experience and no understanding of the place and it's winds is also a major mistake.
You should always get information on the conditions and particular dangers of the area you want to Kitesurf in. Many of these errors, or lack of common sense, can be minimalised thanks to the fact that in most places now a basic level licence (independent kiter) is asked for. This licence is usually given at the end of a successfully completed course.
What do I need to bring with me for a kitesurfing lesson?
Just a swimsuit, towel, sun cream and the intention to have a good time!
Where can I go kitesurfing on Lake Garda?
On Lake Garda, there are two places where you can safely go out, by yourself and where people will look out for you. Apart from these two places, it is completely forbidden to kitesurf from any other beaches for reasons of safety, space and danger to other beach users. One place is Navene on Veneto coast between the borders of Trentino and Malcesine, at the Malcesine Kiteclub.
The other place is on the Lombardia coast at Campione del Garda, through the Campione Kiteclub. both of these sites are officially known and recognised places, run by the local kiteclubs with whom you should register showing your Independent Kiter Certificate. In Trentino particular restrictions are applied to Kitesurfing: from 15th October until 28th February you can kitesurf there from dawn until dusk. for other periods, you can only kitesurf there after 6pm and going out with a "lift". Kitesurfing is completely banned in Trentino during any regattas being held there. Over the rest of the Lake, there are various kite schools who use rubber boats to give kitesurfers a "lift" out or to teach from and can even be employed take you to areas of best wind.
What is the lift service?
The Lift Service is defined as a return journey on a boat to a place on the lake for good wind. the Lift Service is offered by all kite schools and is aimed at independent kitesurfers who want to get to the best wind, without having to wait their turn to leave the beach. It is a service used also by those who are more advanced in level to practise their techniques and manouevres. the Lift Service is a good one because it not only takes you to the best place for kitesurfing but offers you safety cover and a lift home if something unpredicted happens. If you don't have friends or acquaintances who kitesurf, you should go to the school where you learnt.
Three tips before starting…
- When you know where you want to go, research and evaluate the schools for the one that seems the most trustworthy.
- If you live near a kitesurfing spot, there will certainly be a shop nearby who could advise you as to the best school.
- Do a course! Have fun and let yourself get good at this amazing sport which, watch out, will change your life and the planning of your holidays!