Extreme sports series
Kite surfing is an exciting extreme sport that harnesses the power of the wind to propel the surfers along the water and launch themselves into the air. Matt Hellicar, a leading local kite surfer describes it as, “ a combination of wakeboarding, snowboarding, skateboarding and parachuting.”
Surfers can reach speeds of up to 55 knots (63.4mph) and perform jumps of up to 30m above the waves, so if you’re an adrenaline junkie or just want to watch some spectacular stunts, Kitesurfing could be for you.
In this article I will be looking at how to take up the sport, equipment needed, stunts and tricks and where the best beaches are.
There are two main types of boards used in kite surfing, the freestyle twin tip and the directional board. The freestyle twin tip is similar to a wakeboard and is easier for the surfer to perform jumps as the board is lighter. This board can be ridden in both directions. One end looks like the other end hence the name Twintip. They can cost anywhere from £350-£600 and come in a range of styles and colours.
The directional board is basically a surfboard with straps. It is great for beginners as they float better and are easier to steer. A directional board can only be steered in one direction and they can cost anywhere upto £600.
Again there are two main kites on the market. The first is the Leading Edge Inflatable kite (LEI). LEI’s have an inflatable edge and inflatable struts that keeps the kite’s structure and keep it safe and easy to launch. This type of kite is best suited for beginners as they are more stable and easy to predict. The second type is called Ramair which is like a parachute which fills with air. This type of board is not recommended for beginners as it is unpredictable and hard to control.
The basic equipment includes a harness, wetsuit, control bar and lines.
Tricks and stunts
Basic tricks are made up of a series of grabs, spins and inverts. They include front and back loops which are basically front and back somersaults. More advanced moves are the triple S which is 3 spins in the air with 1 hand on the bar and the mega loop which is a 30m jump in the air followed by a spin.
Where can you Kite surf?
There are a number of designated kite surf beaches locally. East Beach Shoeburyness is the home of Essex Kite Surf Club where you can meet other surfers and have lessons. Uncle Toms rigging area and Chalkwell ‘The Ray’
Visit http://kitesurfinguk.org.uk/ for national kite surfing beaches.
Kite surfing is generally safe if the surfer is responsible; however as it is an extreme sport it has its dangers. As Matt explains, ‘Yeah I found a guy on the mud banks at Chalkwell who had had an accident. He Was out cold and I had to run to find a windsurfer who, luckily, had a radio. He called the coast guard at the pier. He turned up but could not move the guy due to head injuries. He in turn called the RAF Sea King helicopter from Ipswich. This took 45 minutes and the tide was coming in. He was fortunately saved in time but remained in a coma for 4 months, he had his 40th in a Coma.’