Kitesurfing (also known as Kiteboarding) is a new, up-and-coming sport that is enjoyable both to practice and to watch. As a kitesurfer, you can skim quickly over the water on a board, and do complicated tricks and jumps to tame the waves, using a kite shaped like a parachute for propulsion (known as a parapent).
In Greece we are lucky in that we are never far from the beach. We should make good use of that opportunity, and instead of watching those around us through a periscope, disengaged – we should take action. Kitesurfing is popular with men and women. It is an effective exercise for the whole body, it brings us in contact with nature and the sea, it improves our mood, it reduces stress, and it makes us feel carefree.
Kitesurfing is an individual sport, but nevertheless there are whole communities of kitesurfers who share an interest in their favorite sport. Kitesurfers are welcoming to newcomers, especially since there is no rival with whom to compete. If you do kitesurfing you’ve already won in a sense.
In this sport, you will learn to find a balance between the elements and laws of nature – like wind, the sea, waves, and gravity. You can’t conquer these elements but you can make use of them, and by doing so you will discover an excellent source of diversion and recreation.
The adrenaline rush is intense when you reach high speeds, or when it takes great strength to pull through a trick. Nevertheless, kitesurfing provides a great return in terms of balance and harmony of motion. This harmony of motion in fact serves to counterbalance any lack of physical strength.
Kitesurfing gives you a full-body workout, particularly when you are first learning the sport.
For that reason, it’s important to do a fair amount of swimming and walking and to improve your general cardiovascular fitness through aerobic exercise, in order to be prepared; if you are trying to lose fat, you can burn around 500 calories per hour doing kitesurfing.
History of the Sport
The sport began at the same time in both the USA and France at the end of the 1980’s, when various entrepreneurs, but especially windsurfers, wanted to challenge themselves with something new which would allow them more freedom of expression. For reasons related to technical difficulties, particularly with equipment, kitesurfing evolved slowly. In the mid 1990’s, it became commercially successful and anyone interested could find equipment locally available. Around 2000, kitesurfing came to Greece. The evolution of kitesurfing around the world has been enormous and there is already a world-wide competition which is organized all over the world. Luckily, due to excellent natural features, this takes places in Greece, at the beach of Pounda Antiparou on the island of Paros.
The equipment needed for kitesurfing is:
- The kite, by the strength of which we are able to skim over the water or to jump. It is a simply-made parachute cloth specially designed for the sea. The kite is measured in square meters. The less wind there is, the larger kite we need, and the more wind there is, the smaller kite we want. They start from very small (2-3 sq. meters), which are good for when you are first learning, 8-10 sq.m., for more wind, and 12-26 sq.m. for less wind. The size of the kite is determined as well by one’s weight, experience, and the wind conditions we hope to use. Kites are also categorized as belonging either to High aspect or Low aspect classes. The former are long and narrow: it takes greater strength to use them, and they are quick to respond. The latter are short, wide, stable, and forgiving to the beginner.
- The board, which allows us to skim over the water. There are many different designs. The most popular type resembles a wakeboard. These allow you greater control as well as more power for jumps but because of their low volume, they are harder to balance and do not forgive mistakes. There is another design, known as twintip, which look like small windsurfing boards and are ideal for amateurs, being more substantial than the other type, which makes it easier to surf in less wind, and they are not so exacting.
- The most recent development in kitesurfing is to use surfboards, with a leash or without, for surfing high waves. When you get to this level, you will know exactly how to use this kind of board. The lengths of kiteboards start at 1.20m for experienced surfers and reach 1.85m for beginners. The larger boards make surfing possible in less wind, because they have greater lift, which keeps us above water.
- The harness, a belt that attaches to the waist and allows us to remain connected to the kite without using the strength in our hands. This is a very beneficial development because without the harness, kitesurfing would only be possible for people with very strong muscles, and for short periods of time.
- The helmet, considered vital in a sport which involves high speeds; since it’s a new sport, it’s a good idea to take all safety precautions.
- Neoprene shoes are necessary, especially in the beginning. The kite flies very high and since when we’re learning we are constantly watching the kite, we don’t watch where we’re walking. In addition, if the kite carries us too far and the terrain changes, as long as we’re wearing shoes, we’ll be fine.
- A life jacket. This is very important because it gives us lift and buoyancy when we are waiting for the wind to blow, if we want to begin surfing in the water (a waterstart), we can start out immediately on the surface and we don’t end up choking on the water after a fall; the life jacket can also protect our sides, it can protect us against scrapes if we fall on the sand, against the sun since we’ll be in the water for hours, and in the deep water, it helps us keep our body temperature steady and it dramatically improves survival rates. Never do this sport without a life jacket.
Styles of Kitesurfing
Kitesurfing is not a regimented sport, but rather one that is open to individual interpretation. The figures, “tricks” as they are called in the language of kitesurfing, are taken from – and even more than that, evolved from – many other board sports, like windsurfing, wakeboarding, skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing. The sport satisfies a wide range of tastes because of this freedom of choice. The simplest form of kitesurfing is to travel simply from one point to another. The length is up to the individual, and there is a lot of freedom even within each gust of wind, with the exception of a small region of 90 degrees which runs against us.
The most popular style in kitesurfing now is “freestyle.” The athlete uses the air, pulling off tricks either on the sea or in the air. This includes twisting the body and the board in order to bring about many variations. The most recent evolution in kitesurfing is wave-riding. This sport is very attractive to watch, because it combines all elements together, and the most experienced kitesurfers can push the limits of their sport. High waves push adrenaline to the max, and test the strength and physical and psychological endurance of the athlete. The word “balance” takes on a whole new meaning and everything is done according to very exacting specifications. If you can pull it off, the reward is great – if you have lived through it you know that it is worth it.
Kitesurfing Beaches in Greece
There are many beaches where you can practice kitesurfing in Greece, where you can watch, ask questions, find someone to teach you, and figure out how to use the equipment. For example:
In Attica, at Loutsa (northern wind), Halkoutsi (eastern wind), Schoinia (southern wind), and Flisvos (western wind). Other areas in other parts of Greece include: on the island of Lefkada at Mylous or Ai Yanni, in Arta at Koronisia, on the island of Paros at Pounta Antiparou, in Rhodes at Prasonisi, in Corinth, in Patra at Drepano, at Xylokastro, in Akrata, and elsewhere.
BEWARE! Advice for beginners
- Start out with a teacher.
- Ask around and make sure that you are entrusting your safety to an experienced teacher.
- If you are trying to teach yourself, be aware that you can hurt yourself and those around you.
- Always wear a life jacket and helmet.
- Always have at least one person with you, who knows how to swim well.