As a novice to kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, I know there are many out there like me who think it's a really cool extreme sport. Most of the people I know who are already into extreme sports are nervous to try kitesurfing because everyone remembers the YouTube video of the guy slamming into a building. Scary stuff right? For those of you who don't know what this sport is, let me explain. Kitesurfing is the higher adrenaline, faster version of surfing. You don't have to wait for a wave to come that looks right, you're in full control of where you go, how fast you go, and what wave to catch. By using a kite, you use the wind to propel you and your board through the water. I would say it's a close cousin to wake boarding, but you don't need the boat. If you fall, you don't have to wait for the board to turn around and come get you. The difficulties presented by using the wind to control your speed and movement are probably pretty obvious: you have to rely on the wind. The wind has to be a good speed, direction, blowing at a consistent rate, and you have to have the right size kite for the wind. You also need to know how to control it. If you let the wind carry you, you could go 60 feet in the air, freak out, and come crashing down. So it's important to know what you're getting into, and it's important to learn the basics so that you're safe and so you can have the most fun. I'll go over some of those basics here and hopefully peak the interest of those of you who think it's too insane of a sport for you to try.
From the beginning, you need to learn how to use your kite to pull you through the water. The first thing most people practice is called body dragging. Body dragging is when you let the kite pull you through the water, without using your board. This helps you gain an understanding of the wind, but more importantly, it will help you have a good experience when you do go out with your board. Just like wakeboarding, or surfing, you're going to fall of your board sometimes. So if that happens, you need to know how to get over to your board in the easiest way possible. To get to your board, you use the kite to drag your body through the water. You don't want to drop your kite, swim to your board, and then try to get back to your kite. Your board is going to survive even if it washes ashore. You want to make sure to take care of your kite. It's your most important piece of gear. If you know how to use your kite correctly, you can lose your board a million times, get right over to it, and hop back on for a good ride.
Another technique you want to learn from the beginning, is how to control your speed no matter how fast the wind is blowing. Most of the time, you're not going to just let the wind decide how fast you go and where you go. You can control your speed by paying attention to the sweet spot. This spot is where your kite is fully caught by the wind and where you'll get the most power. The areas right outside this sweet spot will still catch the wind, but it'll be off at a different angle and allow you to keep moving, but slow down as well. It's important to use a mixture of all of these areas. A good kitesurfer will rotate between the sweet spot and the two areas around it, one just above, one just below. You can achieve this very easily by rotating your arms in an "S" like shape. This will allow you to gain power, and control it, gain power, and control it, by always moving through the sweet spot and then out of it again. This is how you keep yourself from sailing through the air uncontrolled and bending to the whim of the wind. You definitely want to control your kite and your speed.
Once you gain control of your speed and learn how to properly manage the wind that's been given to you, then you can start to play around. This is where you can use the wind to pop you up into the air, do a flip, and land safely back down on the water. Of course there are many other things you must learn, and for that you should go to a school. My husband and I chose Honolulu Kite School-- of which, I strongly recommend if you make it to Hawaii. I recommend kitesurfing in Hawaii in general because of Kailua Bay. A lot of people go here because the winds are strong and extremely consistent in direction and speed. It's hard to learn at that bay, so definitely go with an instructor to a sand bar or something else.
Honolulu Kite School had a boat that went along next to us, which was perfect! If you're an experienced rider, a lesson for technique isn't a bad idea, but you could also just head straight out to the bay and enjoy some of the best kitesurfing in the world.