Buying Your First Kitesurfing Set Up

We’re going to run through all these things one at a time and will try to be as helpful as possible!

Buying your first kite surfing set up on Guernsey is a very exciting prospect… By now you should have been to an appropriately qualified instructor and learned the basics of all the different safety measures you need to keep yourself, and the people around you, out of harm’s way. Now you’re ready to own your first kite…

What will you need?

Of course it isn’t just a kite you’ll need… Here’s your basic starter kit.

  • Kite
  • Bar & Lines
  • Pump
  • Harness
  • Board
  • Wetsuit
  • Helmet (Not really optional)
  • Flotation/Impact vest (Optional)

We’re going to run through all these things one at a time and will try to be as helpful as possible!

Your First Kite

This is a biggy. There are two pieces of solid advice when considering purchasing your first kite.

Image Credit: Adam

Image Credit: Adam (via www.facebook.com)

Don’t buy a new kite… OK – I mean unless you are wealthy and able to rush out an buy another one should anything untoward happen. A new kite is always going to be safer than a second hand one but at some point during the learning process you are almost 100% bound to destroy it. New kites retail at well over £700 in the main. Whether it gets tomohawked into the sea, washed under a wave, or falls foul of an unnoticed fin-gash, you can be sure something is going to happen to it before you are starting to skim along the surface of the sea like a dolphin, and learning soar like an eagle!

Don’t buy an old kite either… I know – this seems dumb to say after expressing point 1, but when kiting was young, kites were dangerous – in fact exponentially more dangerous than they are nowadays. Old school, 2 line c-kites should be consigned to the depths of the garden shed and allow to return to the earth. To be a bit clearer, almost all beginners are going to want a bow or hybrid kite with a bridle system. The bridle was a massive leap forward in safety and usability which happened around 2008. A bridle offers even support all the way across the leading edge of your kite (that’s the big rib that gets pumped up) which translates to the ability to drain a huge percentage of the power, without having it fall out of the sky, by simply pushing the bar away from yourself.

But don’t just go on eBay and look for any kite from 2008 either – kiting is a pretty intensive sport, and anything that has been in the world for 5 years plus is very likely to have some serious wear and tear.

In fact – if eBay is the place you decide you must buy a kite, the biggest favour you can do yourself is to speak to someone with some experience BEFORE YOU BID. Come see us on Facebook, or say ‘hi’ on the beach, you’ll save yourself a ton of wasted time and money that way.

Once you have spoken to someone, you will hopefully find yourself looking at a bridled kite, no older than 3 years, with no obvious signs of wear. Also be aware that kite companies release kites early and in the main a 2010 kite (for example) was first on the market during 2009.

Again – once the kite arrives – come and see someone with experience to help the first time you set it up… Something as small as a worn pulley line can be extremely dangerous and easily missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help – a moment of discomfort is better than a lifetime of regret!

What size to buy?

This is a massive question… Again – you absolutely must speak to someone locally to get the right answer for yourself but… A 12 stone kiter, in Guernsey, hoping to get out in the largest range of non-threatening days (15mph to 22 mph) is probably going to want to start out with a 10m or 12m kite. Most local kiters will rock a 12m, 9m, and then a 7m or 6m for the really stormy days. This combo will give you access the 90% of what Guernsey has to offer from 14 knots up to 35.

Your First Bar & Lines

If you can buy the bar and lines from the exact same year, and by the exact same manufacturer, as your kite, you’ll be making your life a lot easier… Ideally try and seek out a kite package that comes with the right bar and lines (often referred to as “Ready To Fly”).

Many kite brands have wised up recently, and there are a number of companies whose equipment is interchangeable – this is fantastic – but it cannot be relied upon. Never fly any kite on a non-standard bar unless you 100% sure they work. The consequences could be a powerless kite – or something really horrible like a massively overpowered kite, that doesn’t steer at all. Don’t risk it – this is not something to “Suck & See”.

Lines come in various different lengths, in general longer lines will slow the kite down, but also increase the power it is possible to generate. What length you get comes down to personal preference, but don’t worry too much about it.

Your First Pump…

… the stalk should go up and down, and air should come out of it. There are some companies with funny nozzle attachments, but in the main – any pump is going to be fine!

Your First Harness

Harnesses can be waist or seat – with the seat harness coming up under your thighs. Most people agree that waist harnesses are cool, and gather together to mock those in seat harnesses, but you should do your own thing – try ‘em out, and have the self-confidence to ride what works for you. If you’re buying second hand – look out for any obvious signs of fraying in any of the webbing, cracks in the plastic buckles, or rust in any of the metal parts.

NB Many modern harnesses offer a sliding ring which runs around your back to attach your kite leash to – unless you are specifically looking to learn handle pass tricks, it’s probably best to attach the leash elsewhere. Ideally on a fixed point on either side of the front spreader bar. Tethering a kite to your back runs the risk of a long, backwards, underwater drag if you lose control of your kite and it goes into a loop – with the added fun of having to try and reach around behind you to operate the final jettison release. In short – you might die.

Your First Board

This part of your kit is less likely to kill you*… Pick a nice colour! Go nuts… You’ll most likely be starting out by buying a “Twin Tip” which are the ones that are the same both ends (as opposed to pointy at one end – those are surfboards).

Seriously though – look out for obvious signs of wear. Do research into what people ride locally – ask questions of real people. Generally look out for something nice and wide when you’re starting out… No more than 3 years old again.

A large supply of lovely warming urine to extend those sessions by a few extra minutes

Make sure your feet fit snugly, but not tightly, in the bindings (these should be easy to adjust) and *NEVER EVER (EVER!) attach yourself to your board with any sort of leash.

Wetsuit

No need for anything kite specific – a 3/2 will see you through from May to November, then a 5/4, and in the deep dark months of winter, you’ll need to full works. Winter suit, Hood, Gloves, Boots and a large supply of lovely warming urine to extend those sessions by a few extra minutes… Tasty.

Helmet

Because it is significantly easier to avoid drowning if you remain conscious. Second hand is not really a problem as long as you don’t mind cooties. Do the usual checks on all helmets to ensure a close fit when strapped on, and avoid anything with signs of fraying or wear on buckles and straps.

Flotation Vest

Will mitigate the impact of hitting the water – and further help you to stay afloat if the worst does happen – although a good wetsuit does a pretty good job of that too.

Hopefully a recurrent theme has established itself in this rant… You can go about the process of buying your gear in a bubble – and when pushed many of us would admit we have done the same. I personally bought dangerous kites, and got into trouble because of it, simply because I didn’t have the bottle to approach the guys I was seeing on the beach and ask simple questions. This decision ended up costing me money, and causing me pain, you have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and get yourself some relatively affordable kit, that is not going to hurt you or anyone else… All you have to do is ask.

Written by: Adam