Kiting is a great sport to get into, it's a hell of a lot of fun and has you looking forward to the windy days every surfer hates.
There's a bit of a rite of passage into kitesurfing of being burned by the first gear you buy.
You're new, you're excited, and you probably don't know the difference between a C-Shape and a Bow Kite, or what a re-ride safety system is. You just want to get out kiting asap.
It happened to me with buying a 12-year-old Cabrinha switchblade.
"Yeah mate, she's a great kite, might have a slow leak but that shouldn't worry you too much."
- kite didn't last a month of usage before needing to get the bladder repaired, my mate tried to do it for me, ended up fully exploding the bladder and then I was faced with the choice of either finding and buying a new bladder for a 12-year kite (hard and costs about as much as I paid for the kite) or buying another kite. Wasn't exactly what I wanted to have to do when I just wanted to be kiting.
It can be an overwhelming amount of information in the beginning when you just want to get the gear and go riding so to help you not end up with someone's 2008 North Rhinos that they've been trying to ditch for the last decade I've put together this guide to buying your first kite setup.
But first, a word from our sponsor.
Us and Dave from Kite & Sup Warners Bay.
If you're looking at first hand we can hook you up with kites, bar & lines, board and harness for around $5000AUD which will save you a lot of trawling the internet. You'll get some top-of-the-line advice, and gear which is going to last you for years (just avoid the rocks.) Plus if anything goes wrong it comes with a warranty and repair guarantee to get you back on the water fast.
Buying Second Hand:
I'd been buying second-hand gear for a long time (before we decided to just bite the bullet and get fresh, new crispy kites, and our school partnered with Kite and Sup) and have put together the process I use to minimise my chances of getting anything dodgy.
Here's my process:
1. Arrive and immediately pump up the kite/s to their recommended PSI (generally 6/7, but there are new ones which go up higher, it will normally tell you the recommended PSI around the pump area on the kite.)
Seal all the struts and feel their pressure as well as the leading edge pressure. You do not want a leak or slow leak in the kite so this pressure must be maintained. This is probably the most important part as it can be the most technically difficult & expensive problem to fix and compromises the kite's performance the most.
Check the condition of the rubber seals on the inflate valve and the rubber tubes between the kite struts. Are they cracking?
Are the tubes slimy/sticky and sticking to themselves?
These are signs the tubes are wearing out. Not an enormous expense but indicative that components of the kite are failing.
Check the kite for any tears or holes along the canvas (stand underneath it and have a light or the sun shining above the canvas and you'll see the holes/tears way more easily.
How does the canvas feel? The canvas of kites tend to get soft and rubbery after a lot of time in the sun. Fresher kites have a crispy, crinkly feeling to them.
2. Unroll the lines, check them for fraying or knots along the line.
Knots create weak points where they will more likely snap and the same with fraying.
Pull the safety line back through the bar to check it for any hidden fraying or knots.
New lines will cost up to several hundred dollars to replace. Lines wear out over time but it's something you want to pre-empt fixing, rather have it snap on you mid-session in an offshore 30-knot session as it did to a friend of mine.
Check the line length. Lines can shorten over time which changes how the kite will fly. There are some easy fixes for this which I will cover in another post/video.
The easiest way to do this is to attach the bar to a pole or something heavy and stationary and then run the lines out.
Holding them loosely next to each other at full extension they should sag evenly. If one is sagging significantly more than another your kite will pull to the side with the less saggy line without you steering it which is quite annoying.
3. Check the safety system on the bar.
Is it a re-ride or 5-line safety? (the only two designs we are insured for as they are by far the safest. Do not buy a bar which is a mini-5th safety system, I've seen many people attempt to release their kite and this system not work, in our IKO instructor certification we are also taught not to buy or use these bars)
Does it work smoothly?
Does it reset easily?
Does it misfire?
Could you reset it while you are in the water?
4. Does the harness fit you?
For waist harness: Tight enough that you can breath, but it's a little bit hard.
For seat harness does it fit without being too painful or sliding down)
Is there any rust around stress points on the harness?
Have they got their knives? (each harness should come with an O-Ring knife to cut away lines if something goes really wrong.)
5. How does the safety leash work?
How easily does it release?
How easy is it to reset?
Does it misfire when you put pressure on it or bump it?
6. Check the pressure on the kite (ideally this has been about half an hour). If it has dropped it's going to cost you at least $200 to fix it and it's not really something you want to have to deal with.
7. If you can fly the kite, fly it. See if it pulls to either side and if you like the feel of it.
If you're looking at second hand do not buy any kites/bars older than 5/6 years, the safety systems aren't that great and the glue on the valves will be fatiguing and need to be replaced very soon which will cost about $200 per kite (depending on number of struts and how affordable your local repairer is.)
There are different kite shapes. Bow, Delta and C-Shape.
Bow/Hybrid Bow would be ideal for a beginner e.g. a Duotone Neo/Evo, Cabrinha Switchblade.
C shapes are designed for very advanced riders. I would not recommend them for a beginner.
For the size of the kite, it depends on your weight, board size, and the average wind speeds in your local area.
I am 183cms and 85 kilos and ride a high rocker, wakestyle board (tends to need a bit more power) and will ride a 13 and a 9 meter Duotone Evo the most in Australia's summer, where our wind is generally 15-25 knots, and a 9 and 7 meter through the winter when our wind is generally between 25 and 35 knots.
We have down to a 3.5 meter when it's above that or we have really light students, and I have a 15-meter Duotone D-Lab Juice for riding in down to 8 knots if I'm really keen to get out or running some lessons on low wind days.
Again this depends on your weight and height.
Generally as a beginner you're going to want a larger board (I was riding a 142cm board until I started doing more jumps then I switched to a 132)
As a beginner you are also going to want a board with not much rocker (the curve in the board from tip to tail.)
This will make it easier to get up and ride and to ride upwind, though they don't handle choppy water or waves as well as a board with more rocker, but flat water spots are much nicer to learn in, especially if you're still at the stage where getting your board on and getting up and riding is still a challenge for you.
Harnesses & Safety Leash:
For harnesses the design hasn't changed much since 2000.
Check for rust or stress fatigue on the buckles and the spreader bar.
Check the safety leash release system works and you can figure out how to reset it.
Check all the other metal components for rust and make sure there is a place you can attach your safety leash to the front of the harness where it is easy to access.
Check if the knife is rusted or good to go.
Bar & Lines:
There are a lottttt of different bar and line systems out there.
Some are atrocious death traps, whereas others are very safe and reliable.
The only two safety systems we have been taught by the International Kiteboarding Organisation to recommend due to being the only ones without enormous safety flaws are the Re-Ride system and the 5th line system.
All others have significant problems with how they are designed and have largely been phased out and this is not the area where you want to take chances.
You don't want your safety system actually putting you in more danger.
If you are to buy any gear new it should be your bar and safety leash (these generally come with the bar.)
Where to buy:
Kite and Sup Warners Bay has a large selection of second hand gear.
Seabreeze is an Australian water and wind sport specific sales, wind forecast and forum.
Facebook Marketplace & Gumtree are also useful.
Do not test out the gear by yourself and without someone who knows what they are doing. Kitesurfing is fun but definitely has the potential to hurt you if you do something wrong, especially when you're launching the kite.
Yann and I started our kiteboarding school because we want to help people get the knowledge and skills they need to become independent and exceptional kiteboarders.
If you're new to kiteboarding or interested in starting we highly recommend booking a lesson with us so you can get competent and educated in this amazing sport quickly and thoroughly.
Learning with us will also let you experiment with different types of gear so you can figure out what suits your style so you can make more informed buying decisions.
If you're interested in riding in exotic locations check out our next tour here: