Do I need to get a Trainer Kite?
When getting into kiteboarding, there are a lot of different things to consider. These range from choosing an appropriately sized kite, selecting the right board, deciding between a seat or waist harness, oh -- and putting it all together. As kitesurfing does require a sizable initial investment, it will occur to people to try to reduce the cost by skipping lessons or forgoing a trainer kite. However, kiteboarding not only has a steep learning curve, but can quickly become very dangerous to not only you, but an entire beach, if you aren't properly trained. Furthermore, you can easily ruin your gear, and investment, by skimping on the learning process. I ruefully admit that I self-taught myself, and in the process managed to shred a kite bladder, get uncontrollably dragged down the beach by a looping kite, and struggle much longer than I would have if I had just taken a darn lesson!
One of the first things I recommend for people considering trying the sport of kite surfing is to invest in a trainer kite. They range in price from $80 for a basic model to $300 for more specialized kites, and in turn end up saving you time, money, and from damaged equipment. First, a trainer kite allows you to get a brief glimpse at kitesurfing before taking the costly plunge. When you first start, kiteboarding is going to be roughly 70 to 80 percent dependent on your ability to control the kite. Board skills do factor in, but they tend to make more of a difference when it comes to progressing versus learning. Next, that same trainer kite is going to give you a humongous advantage when it comes to lessons. If you do not have any kite experience going into lessons, you are going to spend those first few hours of lessons gaining familiarity with a trainer kite, something readily done on your own. Rather, if you go into lessons with that knowledge, the premium paid is going to be far better put to use, allowing you to focus on more technical skills. A checklist of skills that I recommend practicing with a trainer prior to a lesson include:
- Figuring out where to leave the kite parked in the sky to reduce power
- Looping the kite
- Flying with one hand
- Flying with eyes closed
- Flying the kite while on your back, backwards
- Flying with the bar spun 180 degrees, inverting the kite controls
- Spinning the bar randomly in your hands to tangle the lines, maintaining control of the kite, then getting the bar unspun
Another advantage in owning a trainer kite is its accessibility for friends and family. Oftentimes, once you start improving in your kiteboarding ability, friends will want to give it a try as well. Rather than volunteering your own gear for their abuse, present them with your trainer kite. If they're willing to put in the requisite 10 to 20 hours and hone their kite skills, then you can talk. For smaller children, trainer kites also tend to work really well in snowy conditions, allowing them to be pulled on their skis or snowboard.
Besides all the above reasons, trainer kites also end up being a ton of fun. I've gone back to mine several times since becoming comfortable on the water, both on low wind days or days I want to work on a trick and need to focus on kite position. Even if you don't see yourself using a trainer kite later on, you can always resell it. Do yourself a favor though, and make the investment. From the skills and experience you will gain, it is one of the cheapest investments to really maximizing the sport.