July 13, 2006 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Kiteboarding is an argument for the existence of God. And even if, like me, you don’t buy that particular argument, it’s still insanely cool. Armed with a kite, a harness and a board, you can show up your local skate rats (soundtrack includes language that is Not, strictly speaking, Safe For Work), fly over snow, ride waves and even indulge yourself over plain-vanilla dry land. Be careful, though. If angered, the wind could easily take you into orbit.
posted by jason's_planet (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of my only regrets in life is I'm too old to start this. And I'm not really too old (38) but I am too old to enjoy what appears to be the steepest most painful learning curve of any sport. My attempts at learning wakeboarding have been exersizes in pain and punishment, add the whole kite thing and, uhhh, no thanks.

Looks insanely fun though.

And here in Vancouver, the locations you can do it are becoming more and more restricted. I don't know if it's like how snowboarders were unjustly banned from many mountains when the sport was new, or if it really is a safety risk to have someone going thity MPH in front of a swimming beach.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:19 AM on July 13, 2006

Kiteboarding (and variants) is just about the only boardsport I haven't tried. Since I may be moving to the Portland area in the next few months, I may just get the chance. It looks like all kinds of fun.

However, I have grabbed hold of an 8 foot rigid-delta dual line stunt kite and carved up some parking lots on a skateboard. Holy crap that was dangerous. I was just asking to be road pizza.

However, having an understanding of the mechanics and board sports in general, I still put plain old surfing at the top of the list for grace, aesthetics, vibe and flow. Followed by concrete park vert skateboarding, with freeride powder snowboarding next.

Kiteboarding just looks, I don't know, spasmodic and graceless. Too much power and shred, not enough flow and soulride.

But I'll still give it a shot. Can't be all that much more dangerous or painful than skimboarding in 8-10 foot shorebreak.
posted by loquacious at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2006

A few years ago on the Outer Banks (Avon) my Dad and I went out for a swim on a particularly rough day. No rain but massive, stinging wind. We were the only ones on the beach for as far as I could see. But we like it rough, the whole fear of death thing really sharpens your senses.

Suddenly, about 100 yards offshore, we see a kiteboarder coming at us, doing these amazing jumps and twists and launching 30 - 40 feet in the air off the face of these huge waves. Neither of us had ever seen one before (except maybe on tv) It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. He looked like a god out there. We were humbled.

I asked around at some local surf shops and found out it was supposedly the best kiteboarder on the east coast, training for the olympics or something. He would put in off the end of a pier and ride down 20 or so miles to the end of the island and have his friends pick him up.
posted by vronsky at 11:40 AM on July 13, 2006

As a windsurfer, I know the attraction of getting a ride from the wind.

Problem with the kites is:
- with the long lines, a kiter is a potential hazard for like a 200 foot diameter circle
- if you fall off your windsurfer, it (almost always) stays put and you can swim a few strokes back to it. You lose your kiteboard and can't get your kite depowered, you're doing a body drag all the way downwind, unless you get rescued.
- you can die while kitesurfing. because of the way you have to hook in, an unexpected gust can blow you up and ashore, into trees or powerlines. It's happened.
- in general, it just seems fussier and riskier than windsurfing.

There's a fair amount of tension between windsurfing and kiting, since they compete for the same sorts of areas, sometimes resulting in banning of one or both: example
posted by Artful Codger at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2006

There's an idiot here in Jacksonville Beach, Florida who kiteboards in the ocean along the more crowded areas of our beaches. He was out on the 4th of July while the beaches were packed for the fireworks display that evening. Darting in between surfers and families swimming, his kite dived towards the ground several times over the heads of people in the water, and at one point crashed into the surf about twenty yards from a group of girls playing in the breakers.

It looks like a lot of fun, but please be considerate of pedestrians. It's jackasses like this guy who give certain sports a bad rap.
posted by NationalKato at 12:02 PM on July 13, 2006

I wrote an article about explorers doing this on skiis a while back.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2006

One thing I have never understood - how do you relaunch after your kite goes in the water?
posted by vronsky at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2006

Please identify snuff films (take you into orbit) appropriately in your post.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2006

Yeah, the last link couldn't have had a happy ending.
posted by craniac at 12:30 PM on July 13, 2006

(When you do the [more] link on the final YouTube, it says he didn't break anything. Whew.)
posted by dhartung at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2006

Yeah, the last link couldn't have had a happy ending.

Added June 07, 2006
From nico1972

A kitesurfer gets a fantastic lift above A kitesurfer gets a fantastic lift above the land : +50 meters high with a kitesurf - He didn't break anything...

(Actually, according to the YouTube poster, it did. But in those circumstances, anything that didn't involve death or life in a wheelchair could probably be characterized as a happy ending.)
posted by jason's_planet at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2006

This just in: the guy in that last link didn't even break anything, but was "pretty sore for a while."

The Art of Air with Eric Eck

Metafilter: Not really a snuff portal.
posted by craniac at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2006

First saw a couple of guys kitesurfing in Hawaii (oahu: kailua bay) in '00 and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Went back to the same beach this year and there were dozens of people doing it and probably 20 or more on the beach prepping to go out. Also used to see a guy doing it in the SF Bay. I really want to try it, but haven't found the time to devote. Someday, I suppose.
posted by shoepal at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2006

One thing I have never understood - how do you relaunch after your kite goes in the water?

Most kites these days have a system that basically make one side of the kite less rigid than the other, this will roll the kite back up to it's side, that and a small gust of wind and the kite will relaunch itself. (these things almost want to be in the air).

A little work but not that hard.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:20 PM on July 13, 2006

Vronsky: most of the new ones are inflatable. You pump them up with a hand pump so one side maintains the shape and the whole thing stays on the water's surface.

Good find Craniac!
posted by verisimilitude at 1:33 PM on July 13, 2006

There is a guy who was doing this last year at Garry Point Park in Richmond BC, just south of Vancouver.

It looked fun, but he was a complete dick, hogging the whole damned park because of his lack of control and pushing us regular kiters to the edges. When I moved a little into a better location he got pissed and admonished me to "share the park".

IOW, have fun with it, but realize that just because your activity takes up 90% of the park doesn't mean you have the right to shove the rest of the people into 10%.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2006

At the start of this summer i went to Ft. Lauderdale and happened to be there in time for the annual air and sea show. I was out on the beach with a group that included two kite boarders, one of whom went out almost immediately following what we thought was the final fly by of the Blue Angels.

So he goes out in the ocean and has been kitting for maybe 45 seconds when they did another fly by. They had to pull about 35% to miss him by a mere 15 ft. His kite flew into the water.

I still think it should be a mastercard commercial.

"Cooler of beer: 40$, board: 275, kite:900$, Playing chicken with blue angels and winning, ......"
posted by sourbrew at 1:47 PM on July 13, 2006

I was in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, this April, at a place just PACKED with them. This seemed like the best place to learn if one were so inclined (I also feel a bit old to start a new obsession), not least because there's a school there devoted entirely to the sport. Based on what I observed, the first 2 days (at least ) involves being dragged downwind through the water until you're picked up by a guy on a ski-doo and deposited back up the beach to do it again.

As far as being "fussier" than windsurfing; I thought that too, until I saw the kiters pack the entire rig into a backpack, put the little wakeboard under their arm and hitchhike home. Windsurfers, think about that for a moment - no rack, no mast, no boom, little board. It's even more compact than regular surfing.
posted by ubi at 1:49 PM on July 13, 2006

There is a guy who was doing this last year at Garry Point Park in Richmond BC, just south of Vancouver.

Hey - I've seen that guy too, on his big beefy skateboard, looks like he's never more than three seconds away from ending his life? Not to be confused with the paragliders that Garry Point has been attracting recently that think getting dragged around in the sand constitutes fun.

Garry Point is cool, but there seems to be a moron homing beacon buried in the sand out there.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:55 PM on July 13, 2006

is it me, or are the board sports where you are not attached to the board SO much more impressive ? why is skateboarding not an olympic event?
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 4:22 PM on July 13, 2006

You know, if you think you're too old for this, Richard whatshisface of Virgin Rekkids is supposedly a pretty serious boarder. OK, he does have his own private island for practice. But he isn't exactly what you'd call a young man.

loquacious: Metafilter: too much power and shred, not enough flow and soulride.

(Sorry. Couldn't resist that one.)

craniac: that was a good find. Thanks!

And a big thank you to everyone else who posted!
posted by jason's_planet at 7:00 PM on July 13, 2006

Here's the relatively safe version for us cautious geezers:

The mast serves as a roll cage if you flip it.

posted by mecran01 at 9:39 PM on July 13, 2006

Please identify snuff films (take you into orbit) appropriately in your post.

Please leave your baggage at the door / this ain't your front porch, jake
posted by Satapher at 11:54 PM on July 13, 2006

A kite surfer tried to jump the pier in the Cayman Islands and broke both his legs. Not the only time I have heard this story.
posted by asok at 4:03 AM on July 14, 2006

A friend of mine is a kiteboarder. He's been known to get into trouble doing what he loves, and I would prefer it myself if he didn't have hobbies that were so risky, because next time may be the time he does actually become a crispy power line snack. But then again, we don't see eye to eye on a lot of things... ;)
posted by Jubey at 5:39 AM on July 14, 2006

And this is the link that was supposed to appear. *Sigh*.
posted by Jubey at 5:41 AM on July 14, 2006

posted by verisimilitude at 6:58 AM on July 15, 2006

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