Last updated 4-08-2024

Is Kitesurfing Dangerous?

How to be a safe kiteboarder. 

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Is kitesurfing a safe sport?

How dangerous is kiteboarding? Is kitesurfing an extreme sport? Twenty-five years ago, kiteboarding was a dangerous extreme sport. Kites didn’t have safety systems, there was no way to take power out of kites, and the designs had a long way to go.

Eighteen years ago bow kites came onto the scene. Bridals were introduced and we gained the ability to sheet kites more effectively. Fifteen years ago, safety systems began to standardize. From 2010 onward kiteboarding got safer each passing year.

There was a time when the sport was for pioneers, risk-takers, and adrenaline junkies. Now some consider kitesurfing the new golf. That is part of the appeal to the sport. It’s only as dangerous as you want it to be. With modern equipment, a 70-year-old male or female can safely learn and cruise into the sunset. Yet, adrenaline seekers can still push their limits, from big air kiteboarders riding in 40 knots throwing kite loops, to park riders grinding rails, or freestyle kiteboarders throwing powered unhooked tricks.

The sport can still be dangerous. Unlike other sports, kiteboarding lessons are required. Practice common sense and be informed. A safe kiteboarder is self-aware, situationally aware, and doesn’t make dangerous decisions.

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Table Of Content

  • How dangerous is kiteboarding?
  • Is kiteboarding a safe sport?
  • What are the dangers of kiteboarding?
  • Help buying your first kiteboarding kite.
  • Why you should take lessons in Tampa Bay.

How dangerous is kiteboarding?

I like to make the analogy that kiteboarding is as dangerous as driving a minivan with airbags on the highway. We have modern safety features, yet you’re only as safe as the person driving, the weather, and the traffic around you. Kiteboarding is only dangerous if you are uninformed and make poor choices.

The fun of kiteboarding is kites can generate a lot of power. We need to know how to control that power and use it intelligently. It’s important to get lessons from a professional kiteboarding school. A good kiteboarding school will teach you how to fly the kite, safety procedures, and what to do in emergencies.

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Kiteboarding lessons will generally take place for three to nine hours. Three hours is the absolute minimum to get started. We recommend you take a few kiteboarding lessons and learn as much as possible from a good instructor. They will cover more than just flying the kite. You should learn about choosing the right kite size for your weight, the safe wind directions in relation to the shore, and safety procedures.

Most people want to learn how to get up and ride on a kiteboard. Yes, that is the goal for kiteboarding lessons but safety is the most important aspect of the lesson. Knowing how to control the kite, how to self-rescue, and developing a healthy respect for the kite and the weather are the keys to how safe the sport will be for you and those around you.

Be proactive! Continue your education long after your lesson. Watch videos on best practices and develop the self and situation awareness needed. We have a huge library of helpful videos for kiteboarders of all levels. Check out this video on kiteboarding etiquette

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Is kiteboarding a safe sport?

What does a dangerous kiteboarder look like?

A dangerous kiteboarder lacks self and situational awareness. If you see a storm on the radar or shelf clouds nearby do not go. Weather can be unpredictable and dangerous. Know the forecast and choose the right size kite. Self-awareness is not selecting a kite with too much power, situational awareness is knowing that storm winds can surge with more than you can control.

Another example of situational awareness is respect for people and objects downwind. Never jump upwind of anything solid. Stay several line lengths away from people or anything solid. It’s tempting to jump near the beach but that is a great way to put your kite into a tree or worse crash in shallow water.

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A deal that seems too good to be true always is. Sometimes, people will sell crispy, hardly used kites that are 15 years old. Even a good design after 15 years can have faulty seals and bladders. Old control bars can be dangerous too. You don’t want lines breaking when you're 25 feet up in the air! Be smart and use relatively modern kiteboarding gear in good condition.

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What does a safe kiteboarder look like?

A safe kiteboarder is an informed kiteboarder. They know what the weather is doing, they know what the hazards on the beach are. If they don’t know, they make a point to find out. You can always ask a local or call the local kiteboarding school or kiteboarding shop. A safe kiteboarder is humble. That means they are open to learning and happy to share the beach. Keep a safe distance from other riders and the beach. They choose the appropriate size kite for the conditions and they don’t ride when the wind is too strong for their ability.

They know not to sail out further than they are willing to swim back in and they avoid cold temperatures. A safe kiteboarder chooses safe equipment. Used gear is a popular option and smart if you are on a budget. Check with the local shop to find well-inspected used gear you can trust.

What are the dangers of kiteboarding?

The biggest dangers of kiteboarding are being uniformed and the weather. Cold can be very dangerous. Don’t go out in cold water without a good wetsuit. Situational awareness is knowing not to sail too far out on a cold day. If a line breaks and you have a long swim, hypothermia can set in quickly.

The informed kiteboarder is using a safe control bar and gear they can trust, wearing a good wetsuit, and not riding out too far. This is a perfect example of practicing self and situational awareness.

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Another danger of kiteboarding is pushing your limits too fast. Big air and strong winds are a huge draw for the sport. As the wind gets stronger, the gusts get exponentially stronger too. A gust from 40 knots to 45 knots is going to be exponentially stronger than a gust from 20 to 25 knots. A calm sail in 20 knots is relaxing and fun. Maybe you are trying some fun new freeride tricks and your first kiteboarding jumps.

This scenario is quite safe and a good example of the average kiteboarder's experience. Big winds are for experienced kiteboarders who are willing to risk it. Once you start going out in strong winds, you are essentially practicing a different sport. Be situationally aware, and be smart.

When things do go wrong in kiteboarding, they tend to happen in strong wind. Making good choices, and practicing self-awareness go a long way. A competent kiteboarder can generally handle themselves in big winds. That said, things still can happen that are out of anyone's control.

Is kiteboarding an extreme sport?

Kiteboarding is only as extreme as you want it to be. That means it is as safe or dangerous as you make it. Big air kiteboarding is crossing over into extreme sport territory, Big kite loops are fun but should be approached with respect. Stronger winds can be more dangerous.

Freestyle kiteboarding and parkstyle kiteboarding are examples of the extreme side of the sport. Kiteboarders unhook from the kite and perform physically demanding tricks with high consequences.

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Kiteboarding can be a relaxing sport like golf for some or an extreme sport depending on the wind conditions and the way you ride. Cruising back and forth at 17 knots is relaxing and fun. You could hydrofoil in a light wind at 8 knots just carving around. This is a far cry from an extreme sport. On the other hand, you could kiteboard at 30 knots and jump as high as possible.

This is starting to cross over into extreme sports territory. Once you add powered kite loops or freestyle tricks, you are practicing an extreme sport. It all comes down to the risk factor of the situation.

 Why learn kiteboarding in Tampa Bay.

We have one of the best beginner kiteboarding locations in the United States for learning to kiteboard. We have shallow flat waters that allow kiteboarding students to stand up when they fall. There is no shore break or deep waters to hinder progress.

We get consistent smooth wind that works in every direction. Our St Petersburg-based kitesurfing school offers jet ski support and custom kiteboarding lesson packages. Come join us and see what the fun is all about.

Need help buying your first kiteboarding kite? 

The expert team at Elite Watersports is here to serve. If you have any kiteboarding related questions call us. We can build custom kiteboarding packages, book kiteboarding lessons or simply offer helpful advice. We're your one stop shop for kiteboarding knowledge.

If you need help deciding on your first kiteboarding kite give Elite Watersports a call. We're happy to set you up with your first kiteboarding kite.



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Ryan "Rygo" Goloversic



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