You have plenty of options when it comes to kiteboards: big boards for light wind days, small boards for high wind conditions, race boards for flat-out screaming across the water, surfboards for the waves and hydrofoil boards for light wind and a totally new sensation of riding.
Beginners will want to start with bigger kiteboards. These help you to get up and riding easier and also make it easier to stay upwind. Once you become a confident, proficient rider you can move on to smaller boards, surfboards, etc. and keep the big board for light wind days.
And once you’re ready for different boards you can use a smaller kite with surfboards, race boards and hydrofoil boards because these boards move faster than bigger boards.
The typical big and small kiteboards are also called twin tips (or sometimes bi-directional) because both ends are designed the same way, making them easy to learn on and change directions.
You’ll also hear numbers thrown around when discussing kiteboards: “I was on my 150” or “she was on a 146”. That number refers to the width of the board in centimeters. I weigh 155 pounds and my big board is 150 cm x 42 cm. My small board is 134 cm x 40 cm.
A comparison of two different-sized kiteboards (twin tips): my big board (150 cm x 42 cm) is on top and my small board (134 cm x 40 cm) is on the bottom.
You’ll also notice the overall shape of these two kiteboards is different. The squared shape of the bigger board provides better edging and makes it easier to go upwind. The tapered shape of the smaller board makes it easier to carve and provides a better, smoother ride in choppy water making it easier on your knees and body.
Once you start jumping you might want to look for a kiteboard with a lot of rocker. This design aspect is how much curve the bottom of the board has from one end to the other. Boards with more rocker give you a better pop when jumping and smoother landings. Boards with this design also have a smaller, overall feel to them. Flatter boards, in contrast, make it easier to go upwind and hold an edge.
Most twin tip kiteboards are usually made out of composite materials sandwiched around a wood core. Some higher end boards are made out of carbon fiber and other super-light materials and while they’re stiff and light they will cost more.
Kiteboard surfboards are a blast and while they’re designed for the waves and are great for carving you can certainly have plenty of fun on one in flat water too. Some are designed to be ridden with foot straps or without them. They’re trickier to turn than twin tips so you’ll have to learn how to move your feet on one to ride in both directions.
A kiteboard surfboard
The fins on the bottom of a surfboard
Race boards are designed for speed, race competitions and screaming across the water. They’re also great in light wind conditions.
A race board
As you can see, the fins on a race board are very long
If you really want to feel like you’re flying across the water get a hydrofoil board (also called foils or foil boards). These are also great in light wind since there’s very little resistance against the water. The bottom of a hydrofoil board has a keel (an extension also called a mast or foil shaft). A fuselage is attached to the bottom of the keel and a front wing and rear wing are connected to the fuselage. Once you get up and riding the entire board is lifted out of the water.
A hydrofoil kiteboard
Make sure to write your name, phone number and email address on the bottom of your kiteboard with a magic marker in case you lose it while on the water (there’s a good chance this will happen once or twice when you’re a beginner). I once lost a board and got a call two weeks later when a fisherman found it. The board had washed up on an island downwind of where I lost it.
You should also periodically check all the screws (for the fins and handle) and make sure they’re tight. They will get loose and you don’t want to find out after one or two have fallen off.
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