Last updated 4-16-2024

Kiteboarding Vs Kitesurfing Explained.

What's the difference? 

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Kiteboarding Vs Kitesurfing

Kiteboarding or kitesurfing is a multi-faceted sport where you can use a power kite to ride a plethora of kiteboards. We use the words kiteboarding and kitesurfing interchangeably for the sport as a whole. In the United States, you’re more likely to hear us say kiteboarding.

Globally, particularly in Europe, kitesurfing is used more often. Kitesurfing is a small global community and you’ll notice lots of funny cultural blending with slang and terms.

With the popularity in the UK, you might hear American riders say “Cheers,” or someone from Portugal might use US surfer slang like “sick” to describe something good. We’re one group with a common interest, and the internet has connected us and our culture.

There is a specific use of each term. You can think of kiteboarding and kitesurfing as umbrella terms for kiting with any board. A twintip, a kitesurf board, a land board with wheels, or even something out of the box, like a skimboard or a wakeboard.

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Table Of Content

  • What is kitesurfing
  • What is kiteboarding
  • Types of kitesurf boards
  • Types of Kiteboards

What is kitesurfing

Kitesurfing can be used to describe all forms of kiting, but it best describes kiting with a kite surfboard in the ocean. You can use a kiteboarding kite to mimic the sport of surfing and ride waves! The benefits of adding a kite are limitless. Bad surfing conditions become fun with a kite. We can use the kite to catch more waves than possible with a regular surfboard. If there is too much wind to surf clean waves, you can take a kite and chase the best waves.

You can use the kite for extra power if the waves are mushy. If the waves are too big, you can use the kite to escape the hot zone. The east coast of Florida is known for having smaller waves in general; using a kitesurfing kite and kitesurf board allows riders to select the best waves without paddling.

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Sometimes, kiters use a kitesurf board for strapless freestyle in flat water. This could be called kiteboarding or kitesurfing. Reider Decker from Airush kiteboarding blends the two and does strapless freestyle in the waves—a perfect example of the versatility of kiteboarding.

We like to consider anything done in the waves with a kitesurf board kitesurfing. Any riding done in flat water is kiteboarding. If a rider uses a twintip kiteboard in the waves, that would be considered kiteboarding. As you can see, this is why we say kiteboarding and kitesurfing interchangeably.

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What is kiteboarding

We use the term kiteboarding when a rider uses a twintip kiteboard. A twintip kiteboard looks like a wakeboard with foot straps instead of boots. Some kiteboards will be rockered like a cable wakeboard and fitted with boots! The sport of kiteboarding can mimic any other sport involving a board. Kiteboarders are flatter than wakeboards and designed to sail and edge against a kite.

There are specific shapes and designs for all kinds of kiteboarding. Usually these are paired with a set of footstraps. This is a small strap that you can slip your feet in and out of easily.


Kiteboarding is a limitless sport and offers something for everyone. For some, it’s an extreme sport. Kiters who thirst for extreme might chase big winds and try to get as much air as possible.

For others, it’s about trying new tricks and pushing themselves. For most, it’s about having fun with a good community on the water. And that is the real magic of kiteboarding. Anyone and everyone can participate, and we are all one big family.

Types of kitesurfboards

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There are many styles of kitesurf boards. An epoxy surfboard is also possible for kitesurfing, but it is prone to denting or breaking when under the load of a kite. Kitesurfing boards, sometimes called directionals, are designed to handle heavy stress and be used with a kite in different wave conditions.

They are also smaller, more maneuverable, and shaped so you can sail upwind better. Depending on the design and volume of the board, people sometimes use these as their light wind kiteboards. Small to medium wave kitesurf boards can make excellent lightwind kiteboards and allow you to work on an entirely different low-impact riding style. Strapless tacks and gybes or even small strapless backrolls are a whole new way to entertain yourself in light wind.

Big Wave kitesurfboards

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There are many small details, and the kitesurf shapers all have their trade secrets. These big wave kitesurf boards tend to have more rocker to handle steep waves and sharp, fast turns. They will also sometimes have a narrower nose and tail. The rocker helps control speed when dropping in and a narrow nose and tail allows for precise turning for fast top and bottom turns.

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Freestyle and lightwind kitesurf boards.

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These tend to have a flat nose and flat rocker profile to help with speed and pop. They can also be used in small wave conditions. In small, mushy waves, you’ll never need the long nose of a traditional kitesurf board shape, and they have less swing weight for tricks.

The flat rocker makes them fast for a more efficient pop, but they also help make the most of small waves when you need a little extra speed. There are many other designs and styles, but these are the three fundamental shapes kitesurfing boards will be designed around.

Medium to small wave kitesurf boards.

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Again, there are many variables shapers will use, but generally, they will have a flatter rocker line for speed when you need it. They can have a rounder outline to aid with drive-on-the-turns. The Airush AMP is an excellent example of a kitesurf board designed for specific conditions. It has a single to a double concave to absorb the chop and a fuller nose to help with light performance.

Types of kiteboards

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Twin-tip kiteboards come in many sizes, styles, and shapes. Each is designed for a specific style of kiteboarding and sometimes even rider weight. They include, but are not limited to, big air kiteboards, lightwind kiteboards, wakestyle kiteboards, freestyle kiteboards, all-around kiteboards, beginner kiteboards, and more.

Big Air Kiteboards

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These can have flat or moderate rocker. A flat kiteboard will be faster, yet a kiteboard with more rocker will have softer landings. Kiteboard designers are always looking for the perfect balance of speed and comfort. These boards are stiff, and the edge will efficiently hold down lots of power. Sometimes, they will be stiff under the feet with a bit of flex on the tip and the tail to blend efficiency, a snap to the pop, and softer landings.

They might have channels or a spine down the middle of the board to distribute the water better under the board. Sometimes, they will incorporate carbon, but they can also have a wood core. With so many variables, you’ll have many options. If you are in big winds and powerful conditions, it’s best to choose a smaller size to hold down all the power. Choose a larger kiteboard for more efficacy if you have light wind conditions.

The Airush Livewire Air is an excellent example of a kiteboard that blends competition-level big air with comfort. The board has a fast outline for locked-in speed and channels for grip, and it incorporates basalt carbon for a more effective pop without breaking your knees on the landing. A board like this loves lots of power but provides the speed you need in lighter wind conditions. This style of board will be an excellent tool for big air kiteboarding

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Freestyle kiteboards

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These boards have some cross-overs with big air boards and can also make for incredible big air boards. They have flat rockers and tend to be stiff. The faster and the stiffer a kiteboard gets, the more potential there is for a powerful pop. A good designer will add different features to blend comfort and speed. There are too many concepts to list in this blog, but you can visit our kiteboards page to read about different board designs and what the designer is going for. Sometimes, they will have lots of rocker and a grind base.

They will also come in longer, narrower sizes. If the board takes on these traits, it crosses over into a wake-style kiteboard more than freestyle. They are enjoyable to use in choppy and wave conditions. They will be playful and versatile for the open ocean and blow your mind in flat water conditions. The pro of a flat freestyle board is how well it works in light wind conditions. The con of a board with a wake-style design is that it could be better for light wind. They work best in moderate to powered kiteboarding conditions. The aggressive rocker allows you to hold down more power and provides softer landings. This feature also makes them slower and less effective for light wind.

All around or freeride kiteboards

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Sometimes called freeride kiteboards, these are designed to do a bit of everything regarding twintip riding. They usually have medium to flat rocker with a medium flex. They tend to be forgiving yet fun and playful for new kiteboarders and freeriders.

All-around or freeride kiteboards can be used for big air, but the softer flex will lose some energy transfer in competition-level big air conditions. That doesn’t mean you can’t do big air with them. It just means they make a small trade-off at the highest level for a more forgiving feel. This style board is a good fit for 90% of kiteboarders and one that many riders never outgrow. You want a free ride board if you have knee or joint issues.

 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



Kiteboarding Vs Kitesurfing

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