Between sky and water: how to master kitesurfing in 5 steps

On a windy day in ear­ly sum­mer, I stood on a sand­bank in the Gulf of Fin­land and pilot­ed a kite soar­ing above me. A sud­den gust of wind pulled it, I pan­icked and pulled the bar towards me. A moment lat­er I found myself in cold water that hit my nose, and the kite con­tin­ued to pull me for­ward. This was my first kitesurf­ing expe­ri­ence and I real­ized that learn­ing how to kite would not be easy.

The best thing to do when you lose con­trol of the kite is to let go of the bar, although your first instinct, of course, would be to grab onto it tighter. After a few sec­onds of being towed through the water, I final­ly released my grip. The lines weak­ened and the kite sank to the sur­face of the bay. I got out of the water, but after a while I decid­ed to get back on the board.

Where did kitesurfing come from?

Kitesurf­ing, also known as kite­board­ing, is a form of action sport that uses wind by man­u­al­ly con­trol­ling a wing, or kite in more tech­ni­cal terms, to glide through the water. Kiters can stand on the water on dif­fer­ent boards: a surf­board, a kite­board, a wake­board or a hydro­foil (a board with a hydro­foil that lifts it above the water as it moves).

Step 1: Learn to Read the Wind

In the world of kitesurf­ing, wind is a key con­cept.

“Under­stand­ing the wind and its char­ac­ter­is­tics is an indis­pens­able con­di­tion for kitesurf­ing,” notes Max­im. “This is the source of our ener­gy.”

Loca­tions such as the coast of the Gulf of Fin­land and the Baltic Sea are known for favor­able con­di­tions for kitesurf­ing. But they are not the only ones. Any beach where you can start mov­ing, an area of ​​open water and a steadi­ly blow­ing wind are suit­able for start­ing. Before you start mov­ing, Max rec­om­mends con­sid­er­ing four aspects of the wind: direc­tion, angle, speed and qual­i­ty.

Direction of the wind

The wind is named accord­ing to the direc­tion from which it blows. This will help you under­stand what angle the wind will be rel­a­tive to the shore from which you plan to launch.

Wind angle

Dur­ing kitesurf­ing, the ath­lete moves per­pen­dic­u­lar to the direc­tion of the wind. The ide­al angle is con­sid­ered to be a cross­wind when its direc­tion is par­al­lel to the coast­line. A wind angle of about 45 degrees rel­a­tive to the shore is also suit­able. With this wind angle it is easy to return to the beach and start mov­ing again.

How­ev­er, it is not rec­om­mend­ed to go out on the water if the wind is blow­ing direct­ly onto the shore — this may drag you onto the beach. When the wind is in the oppo­site direc­tion, from the shore direct­ly into the sea, only pro kiters are allowed to go out on the water; oth­ers are pro­hib­it­ed from doing so by inter­na­tion­al kite surf­ing rules, as you can be car­ried far out into the open water.


Kitesurf­ing with­out wind is like swim­ming with­out water. The opti­mal wind speed for this sport is from 5 to 7 meters per sec­ond. “Remem­ber a sim­ple life hack: if white­caps appear on the water, it’s time to start kit­ing,” advis­es Max.

Wind quality

Any­thing in the line of the wind in your kitesurf­ing area, be it trees, hills or build­ings, can cre­ate tur­bu­lence. In tur­bu­lent con­di­tions, kitesurf­ing will be more dif­fi­cult. Ide­al­ly, there is a smooth, con­stant wind that reach­es you with­out unnec­es­sary inter­fer­ence.

Other points

The wind is a fick­le com­pan­ion, so both begin­ner and expert should keep a safe dis­tance from var­i­ous obsta­cles, be it crowd­ed beach­es, cliffs, reefs or sand­banks. You also need to remem­ber that your kite should nev­er come close to tall trees or pow­er lines. Experts rec­om­mend keep­ing a dis­tance of at least 100 meters from these objects.

And final­ly, don’t ride in storms. The risks are too high. Strong, change­able winds and thun­der­storms can turn kitesurf­ing into an unpre­dictable adven­ture with an unknown end­ing.

Step 2: Sign up for a trial lesson

To take the first step towards mas­ter­ing kitesurf­ing and under­stand whether this sport is right for you, Max­im rec­om­mends sign­ing up for a les­son at a local school. With an expe­ri­enced instruc­tor you will learn all the nec­es­sary bases. At the same time, you don’t have to live on the seashore to immerse your­self in the world of kitesurf­ing – schools of wind sports can be found in almost any city.

The first lessons will most like­ly take place on land. You will be told in detail about wind, water, equip­ment and oth­er basics of the sport. You will also begin to prac­tice launch­ing the kite from the ground. Train­ing kites usu­al­ly have an area of ​​about two square meters and have two lines attached to the bar. Full-size kites can have four, rarely five lines for more pre­cise con­trol, and the wing area can reach 21 square meters. As the size of the kite increas­es, so does its abil­i­ty to har­ness the pow­er of the wind, which also makes it more dif­fi­cult to con­trol. Max advis­es start­ing with small­er kites and focus­ing on mas­ter­ing key han­dling move­ments before mov­ing on to larg­er mod­els.

Step 3: Learn to control the kite and board

The basic maneu­vers of a kite surfer include steer­ing the kite, main­tain­ing line ten­sion bal­ance, and re-rais­ing the kite after a fall.

Kite control

First, you should relax and bend your elbows slight­ly while hold­ing the bar. Once the kite takes off into the sky, you will feel a mod­er­ate ten­sion on the lines, just enough to keep the kite from los­ing alti­tude, but not so much that it jerks you. Gen­tly move the bar for­ward to reduce the ten­sion, or pull it towards you to increase it.

To con­trol the kite, gen­tly pull one side of the bar towards you and push the oth­er slight­ly away from you. If you need to turn left, pull the bar on the left side. To change direc­tion to the right, pull the bar on the right. This move­ment is trans­mit­ted through the lines and allows you to change the course of the kite as you wish.

Strong ten­sion speeds up the move­ment of the kite, so at the begin­ning of prac­tice it is best to use smooth and mod­er­ate move­ments to avoid los­ing con­trol of the kite and not drop­ping it. How­ev­er, don’t be afraid of mak­ing mis­takes — it’s part of the learn­ing process. With expe­ri­ence, you will devel­op intu­ition and learn to per­form maneu­vers auto­mat­i­cal­ly.

Once you have mas­tered fly­ing a train­ing kite on land, you will be able to han­dle a reg­u­lar four- or five-line kite on the water. When surf­ing, you’ll be mov­ing back and forth along the shore­line, so it’s impor­tant to learn how to make smooth turns.

Board management

Only after you have mas­tered the con­trol of the kite can you move on to the board. Begin­ners are advised to start with a clas­sic kite­board before try­ing any­thing else.

In terms of surf­ing skills, work on your bal­ance while being pushed by the wind. You need to learn to stay upright in the waves and alter­nate the posi­tion of your feet on the board to main­tain bal­ance. By com­bin­ing your kite and board con­trol skills, you will expe­ri­ence true free­dom of move­ment.

Relaunching the kite

If you fall but decide to con­tin­ue rid­ing, you will need to relaunch the kite. If you find your­self close to shore, you can ask anoth­er kite surfer to help lift your kite while you board your board to dry land. This is con­sid­ered good form in the kitesurf­ing world.

Launch­ing your­self again on the water will require more expe­ri­ence and will depend on the type of kite you are using. In this case, you pull the lines on one side of the wing to catch the wind, and then sta­bi­lize it as it lifts com­plete­ly out of the water.

All this is eas­i­er said than done. You will absolute­ly make mis­takes, grab a cucum­ber and fill your nose with water. But despite the dif­fi­cul­ty of the learn­ing process, the kitesurf­ing com­mu­ni­ty accepts and wel­comes begin­ners.

“It is an indi­vid­ual sport, but also a col­lec­tive one, because the learn­ing process is com­plex and every­one has gone through this stage at some point,” says Max. “Every­one here sup­ports each oth­er.”

Step 4: Stay Safe on the Water

Swim­ming abil­i­ty is impor­tant in kitesurf­ing, espe­cial­ly when you are just learn­ing and mak­ing your first attempts. There­fore, as addi­tion­al pro­tec­tion, it is rec­om­mend­ed to wear a life jack­et and hel­met every time you go out on the water. Even expe­ri­enced kite surfers use these devices to ensure safe­ty.

On the water, try to keep your dis­tance from oth­er ath­letes to avoid bump­ing into some­one else or crash­ing into some­one else’s kite. On some beach­es, spe­cial areas are allo­cat­ed for lessons and for prac­tic­ing begin­ners so as not to dis­turb more expe­ri­enced rid­ers.

In ide­al wind con­di­tions there can be quite a lot of peo­ple on the water. Avoid col­li­sions with oth­er kitesurfers by con­stant­ly scan­ning your sur­round­ings and main­tain­ing a safe dis­tance. Try to give oth­ers and your­self as much space as pos­si­ble. When oth­er ath­letes come into view, adjust your course and maneu­vers.

Also check out the rules of the road in the world of kitesurf­ing. The Kite Surf Cen­ter guide and the Inter­na­tion­al Kite­board­ing Orga­ni­za­tion guide are excel­lent sources for research. Here are a few key points:

  • Give way to ath­letes enter­ing and exit­ing the water, as they have lim­it­ed room to maneu­ver.
  • When pass­ing anoth­er surfer, hold the kite high if you are upwind of his posi­tion.
  • Give way to oth­er objects, such as ships, jet skis and boats.

Step 5: Continue training

Like any oth­er sport, kitesurf­ing requires reg­u­lar train­ing. If you have expe­ri­ence in oth­er surf­ing sports, it will be eas­i­er for you to coor­di­nate the move­ments of the board with the kite, as mus­cle mem­o­ry will kick in.

One of the com­mon mis­con­cep­tions in kitesurf­ing is the idea that you need a strong upper body to ride. How­ev­er, as ath­letes note, core strength is key. The kite lines attach to a hook on the trape­zoid that wraps around your tor­so, so a strong core will help you con­trol the kite’s flight. Any exer­cis­es to strength­en your core mus­cles will help you han­dle the kite eas­i­er and get even more plea­sure from kitesurf­ing.