You were at the beach and this kiteboarder came riding by, floating on the water like magic. Then--pow!--he was 20 feet in the air flying through the sky. The kiteboarding bug bit you. "I have to go learn how to kiteboard!" you say to yourself.
This article will focus on a new rider looking for the proper kiteboarding kite for their first couple of years of riding. After you are an established rider, you will understand what style you are looking for and be able to pick a kite designed for your riding style whether that is waves, wake, free ride or freestyle.
MACkiteboarding first started teaching kiteboarding in 2000. Our first kiteboarding instructor, James Otis, actually went to the Wipika school (you have to look that up in ancient history books). So we have seen the incredible progress of gear, giving almost anyone who wants to learn to kiteboard the proper equipment to do so. Our take on buying gear is to get you, the new rider, successfully riding in as short a period as possible.
The main thing to look for is a kite with good stability, moderate turning speed, excellent upwind drive and as large a wind range as possible. Don't get fooled by forum chats that talk about how great this kite or that kite is. You really don't want to start with a fast turning kite that will boost you to the moon. It is important to note that you can progress a long way with any kite you purchase; unless you are riding more than 100 days a year, you won't outgrow any kiteboarding kite on the market today within a couple of years. Some of the best kites currently matching this description are the Cabrinha Switchblade, Best Kahoona, North Rebel and Slingshot Rally. All of these kites are very user friendly, but will allow you to grow pretty much indefinitely.
This is a very critical question and will be based on 3 things -rider weight, average wind speed, and your board size. If you are only buying one kite, we recommend that you go for a kite that will cover 70% of the wind ranges at your local kiteboarding spot. On Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, our average wind speeds in the summer are 10-20 mph. As a 200lb rider I am looking for a larger kite with a bit larger board. My go-to size kite in the summer is a 14 meter with a board in the 138-140 range. This allows me the most days in the water with one kite and one board. My quiver is actually a 14 and a 10 meter Switchblade and a 145 Best Breeze Light and the new Cabrinha Xcaliber 136. This quiver of 2 boards and 2 kites allows me a wind range of 12-35 mph as an experienced rider. One of the best tricks to picking the right kite is to call a reputable kiteboarding dealer and tell them where you ride (wind speed is critical) and how much you weigh. Most kite surfing shops can help you walk through the proper gear range. It is great to read reviews on the Internet, but talking to someone who rides lots of different gear, has worked with many new students, and really can put the complete package together will save you a ton of time and money in the long run.
Wow, this is a tough one. Since 2008, 75% of kites being produced are solid and deliver what they say they will. There have been a few new kiteboarding brands and specific kites from established brands that are not so hot, but all in all, most kite surfing kites are pretty solid. One big thing that does stand out is that you get what you pay for. We stock many brands, with Cabrinha Kites being our number one kite surfing brand. I will tell you that I love many different kites for their special setups and designs. But I can also tell you that the more established brands like Cabrinha, North Kites, Slingshot Kites and Best Kiteboarding have better quality control, improved safety systems, more refined bars and just an overall better construction than some of the off brands. You will pay a bit more, but you don't really save money by buying a Yugo.
A great way to save money is to get a kiteboarding trainer kite and practice up before spending the big bucks. Go crash and smash a $200 trainer kite and learn all your basic flying skills before buying your first kiteboarding kite. Kiteboarding trainer kites are a fantastic value as a training tool.
A kitesurfing lesson will also help you save money in the long run. It seems like a lot of money to shell out $550 for a weekend kiteboarding lesson, but learning all the basics of gear usage, crashing your kiteboarding school's kite and being safe will easily save you the $550 by the time you get your kitesurfing gear all set up.
See you on the water.