There are several steps you'll want to follow in choosing your first board and kite. Doing so will help dispel the confusion and likely save you much time, money, and pain.
STEP 1: SAFETY FIRST
Know that regardless of your background, you're a student and safety should be your foremost concern. Ignore glitter and glamour while evaluating your training and gear choices. This means safety systems must be easy to use and work perfectly in worst-case scenarios. Consider how durable gear is, how fast parts wear out and what options you have for tuning the kite for varying conditions.
STEP 2: FACTOR THE 5
Your gear can make or break you. Kites and boards are engineered for specific uses which is why it's crucial to really dig deep and understand your needs before buying new equipment. Know your skill level (which is likely very little if you're reading this beginner's guide). Then understand your learning aptitude and local riding conditions. Knowing these classifications will help you choose the right gear:
This is where EVERYONE starts, and many stick with entirely. Things are comfortable, not extreme. You prefer easy cruising blended with carving. Simply launching and getting your fins wet is pure satisfaction. Soft and easy, low, floaty jumps provide enough thrill to last till your next session.
BIG AIR FAST AND HIGH!
You're about boosting huge and floating through the air with perfect control at higher speeds in all situations. Once up there, you're working on those smooth organic flowing tricks that wow the commoner.
You're into everything and will go to extremes. Perfecting those fully powered technical moves with drastic kite loops will intensify your sessions.
You're a new-age surfer fusing wave with wind energy. Whether you tackle monster outer-reef breaks or play in the beach swell at home, you're in love with spray from cutbacks and bottom turns.
Like a race track, you love supersonic speed with intense tight transitions. Setting new 'lap times' are your only goals once on the water.
STEP 3: FIND GEAR THAT MATCHES YOUR STYLE
While your dreams may be filled with boosting over bridges, it's important you think of your goals realistically and in the near term (six to 12 months). For most, this means just managing a kite enough to stay on a board. You'll want easy to use, comfortable and forgiving equipment. But, even though you're just learning, this doesn't mean you'll need 'starter' gear that you'll outgrow six months from now.
Kite gear has gone through incredible evolutions. In fact, it's rare to find anything labelled strictly as 'beginner' any more. Most Freeride gear will get you going and help you explore other riding styles as you grow. Here are a few guidelines for choosing your first kite and board:
Look For: Comfortable rockers (the shape of the board looking side on at the board tip-to-tip ? you want a rocker that's not too flat and not too curved) and forgiving flex points that smooth the ride in a variety of conditions. Narrower boards with larger fins and a concave (very subtle indentations in the bottom of the board) will give you the best traction. These shapes also tend to do well in choppy waters as they have bite, stable tracking, and slice. Handles are super important as they make board management easy. (See chart for sizing suggestions.)
Avoid: Wakeboards. They are designed to be thrusted off the tail, ridden behind a power source at high speeds over flat water. They are heavy, acting as a counter weight aiding rotation speed in the quick jumps off boat wake. They're rough when riding in ocean conditions and don't like going upwind. Also avoid stiffer shapes such as freestyle and racing boards as most offer little forgiveness.
Look for: Super-stable kites with easy-to-use safety systems, smooth and efficient depower and effortless relaunch. Simplicity is key as your kite should just be easy to fly. In most wind zones, Supported Leading Edge (SLE) designs are key for learning. Also known as bridled, hybrid or flat-5 (5th line) kites, they offer the most safety and versatility. Most freeride kites will offer multiple tuning options. This allows you to start out slow and increase performance as your skills improve. (See chart for sizing suggestions.)
Avoid: SLE and straight 5-line kites designed for other riding styles. Especially those developed for freestyle and big air. They require precise control and are meant to power up fast and take you with them. Response and lift is something you'll grow into after some time. Also be careful as no two kites offer the same power. Two 12 metre kites might seem the same, but one could be twice as powerful. Know the kite's power generation before choosing size.
WHY YOUR FIRST KITE SHOULD BE NEW!
Be wary of that 'insane deal'. Gear must meet the safety, performance, style and comfort traits you want. Gear priced below market value typically equals risk. Sure, you'll save huge, but chances are you're increasing safety hazards. We've seen many kiteboarders spend more money repairing their gear (and themselves) after buying cheap gear. They could have avoided the risks and money frustrations by just getting a well-designed new kite.
Overall, expect to pay £700 - £1100 / $1,500 - $1,900 (based on the average 12m size) for a well designed and crafted kite and £350 - £500 / To save money, look for package deals. Many shops offer discounts of 10 - 20% when kites are paired with other gear and lessons.
While more budget-friendly gear is available, your skills may plateau early since you'll likely miss out on better safety, performance and construction. Spend a little more now and you'll have lasting gear that'll stay exciting, instead of needing more gear a few months later.
Also, avoid gear from unknown sources. Doing research at a shop ensures that you'll have knowledgeable riders helping match a kite with your goals. With an in-depth interview and discussion, you'll know exactly what you're getting. Doing anything else could be a costly mistake.
Find Adam at: www.catchsomeair.us
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