Kiteboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and it is now a common sight along our beaches. We caught up with Stu from Kitemuddies to find out more about the sport.
What is kiteboarding?
Kiteboarders use a kite with 22 m lines and a wakeboard to propel themselves along the surface of the water utilising the power of the wind. Using similar dynamics to windsurfing or sailing, a kiteboarder has a third dimension where he/she can create lift from the kite and perform some exciting and high aerial manoeuvres.
> What brought you to sunny Old Bar?
I first moved to Old Bar at Xmas 2004 after purchasing Badger’s Beach House, now known as Namaste Beach House. It has evolved into a great family reunion destination midway between Sydney and Brisbane that can sleep up to 30 guests or up to 7 families. The area appealed to me because of the great surfing spots, relaxed surfers and the friendly, small country town feel. Since then, many kiteboarders use the accommodation when visiting the area.
> When did you become involved in kite- boarding?
Having surfed since I could walk and having a love of snowboarding and wakeboarding, kiteboarding caught my attention immediately. It wasn’t until I moved to Old Bar that the opportunity arose to get involved in the sport, and it became apparent what a unique location we have here.
I made friends with the local riders and got set up with equipment immediately. Even though kiteboarding is an individual sport, there are a lot of social aspects, and the crew in Old Bar are super friendly and always up for a laugh.
> Where did the sport evolve from?
Some say the origin of kitesurfing began in the 13th century, where they were used to help boats go faster. In 1985 Bruno Legainoux and his brother were plagued with the question; “How do we get a kite that can be re-launched when in the water?”
After a year of development, they showcased their kite at the 1985 Brest International Speed Week and applied for a patent. Unfortunately, no windsurfing companies were interested in the idea.
Legainoux and his brother never lost hope – believing that their concept was going to create a new way of harnessing the wind for adrenaline junkies everywhere. In 1993, after 10 years, they finally started a company in France.
Between 1995 and 1998 a company called Wipika emerged and started to sell kites. Not long after, Naish windsurfing got involved in kiteboarding, after purchasing a licence from Legainoux.
1999 saw the creation of the Kitepro world tour, which gave kiteboarding a whole new realm of exposure. Around the same time, the Prokite Riders Association was created as well. The two organisations are responsible for bringing kiteboarding to the masses, by creating contests all over the world.
A few years later, organisations such as the IKO (International Kite Organisation) were created to help ensure the safety of new riders by creating a teaching curriculum that was safe for people new to the sport. Since then, a number of organisations and schools worldwide have opened to teach the world to kiteboard.
At this point in the evolution of kiteboarding, it was all about hang time. How high could you go, and how long could you stay up? But with all this new exposure, riders were crossing over from windsurfing, surfing, wakeboarding, landboarding, as well as snowboarding.
These athletes are the real people responsible for the evolution of the sport, by always pushing the limits of the equipment that was available. The sport was changing and new events were created to help the world to see how virtually limitless the sport of kiteboarding really is.
Kites are now spotted all over the world, and not just on the water. Athletes have been attempting arctic traverses, cliff jumping on Nordic mountains, traversing Australia on a landboard, as well as oceanic traverses from Florida to Cuba. Kiteboarding now has many different styles and applications.
The sport of kiteboarding has evolved in many different ways, and so has the equipment. The first kites were mostly Ram-Air kites, which were then followed by the traditional C-kite.
The next kites to come out were Bow Style kites, which have a greater range of uses because of their enormous de-powering capabilities and light wind applications. Available today are also Hybrid kites that are neither Bow nor C-kite, but a mix of what is thought to be the best points of both styles of kite.
As more and more people get turned on to the world of kiteboarding, new and creative ways to use a kite will be found. Designers and riders are constantly pushing the limits of what can be done and as more and more new faces emerge in this sport, the stoke of kiteboarding is the only thing that will stay the same.
> What training did you have to undertake to become an instructor?
Kiteboarding is governed by a single international organisation known as The IKO (International Kiteboarding Organisation http://ikointl.com/). Through the development of a professional network of affiliated kiteboarding centres and trained instructors and examiners, IKO provides a high quality level of teaching, with standards that are recognised and applied worldwide.
Its mission is to develop and promote the safe practice of kiteboarding, in relationship with national organisations and the industry.
Having been a snowboard patroller, a white-water rafting guide and surf coach in previous jobs, this led me to instructing kiteboarding. Specific skills and abilities must be demonstrated before you can sit the Level 1 IKO instructor’s course, which I undertook in 2007.
Since then I have taught in excess of 300 hours and obtained my level 2 certificate. Of course, safety is the number one priority when instructing kiteboarding, and this is demonstrated in the equipment we use and in the structure of the lessons. Being a weather related sport means that a meteorological understanding is needed to know when and where to conduct lessons.
> Where do the classes take place?
Very few people are aware that Old Bar has one of the best locations for kiteboarding on the East Coast of NSW. Local riders know this and although protective of their area, are well aware that students who undergo qualified lessons are much less likely to injure themselves and others. Students are not only taught the skills required for kiteboarding, but the etiquettes as well.
The lagoon where lessons take place is free from most obstacles such as boats, channel markers and buildings which plague more populated riding locations, and it is quite shallow in places, to allow students to get used to flying the kite.
> Are the courses suitable for everyone?
Anyone who has the interest to try kiteboarding is capable. The minimum age for lessons is 12, with the oldest local rider in his sixties. Most students require at least 3 x 2 hours lessons to be comfortable and become independent in their learning.
Some people like the company of an instructor beyond these 3 lessons to get to a level where they are a little less tentative on their own. It is a surprising fact that the majority of students are up and riding after their 3rd lesson and although guys are more likely to have a background in a similar sport such as surfing or windsurfing, it’s the girls who are the quickest learners.
The boys are more gung-ho and think they know more than they do, whereas the girls tend to listen to all the instructions and gain the flying skills a bit quicker.
> Is this the best way to become involved in the sport?
Taking lessons is definitely the best way to get into this sport. Anyone who has tried teaching a friend or learning on their own will testify that the way an IKO lesson is structured is invaluable and a lot less frustrating.
We use Headzone helmets, which are a local group from Forster who have designed an internationally acclaimed helmet that allows the instructor to communicate with the student from anywhere on the beach. In a sport like kiteboarding, simple mistakes can be very frustrating and even dangerous and with an instructor giving immediate instructions, students advance so much faster.
Anyone interested in trying this sport is advised to take at least one lesson; this will give you the information you need to confidently decide whether you wish to continue the sport and the type of equipment suited to you and your environment.
Kiteboarding is a seasonal sport for most, as the winter winds become too unpredictable on the East Coast. As such, lessons are run between October and May and are subject to conditions.
If you are interested in getting involved in the sport, check out the website at www.kitemuddies.com.au or
> Thank you Stu.