The thing about people who love speed is that they try to use their surroundings to harness that speed wherever they may be. This is as true with landboarding as it is with mountain kiteboarding and pretty much any other sport that requires rapid motion for that adrenaline rush to kick into play.
If you have ever flown a kite, you know that it is best to fly them in places with extreme wind. That’s where you get the most purchase on your kite as it rides the wind-driven waves to exhilarating heights.
Now, imagine combining the power of a kite with the speed of a mountain board or kiteboard charging down a steep slope…
What is Mountain Kiteboarding?
Mountain kiteboarding is a lot like kitesurfing, where you harness the power of the wind using a specially crafted kite and use it to drive you up or down the mountainside while you are on your kiteboard. It’s a lot like skiing, but with the added input of wind-surfing, which makes it faster and more exhilarating.
As you can imagine, this kind of sport has a steep learning curve. The sheer speeds you could go given the factors at play (wind and sleek snow) are nothing short of tremendous.
And like every sport that has a steep learning curve, mastering the art of mountain kiteboarding can be rather frustrating. However, with proper instructions, practice, and erring on the side of caution, you can quickly pick it up. With enough practice, you too could be flying down some mountain slopes come next winter.
A Beginners Guide to Mountain Kiteboarding
Some people are gifted in that they can pick up things quickly and teach themselves how to do them. While you can certainly learn a thing or two from instructional videos on YouTube, mountain kiteboarding isn’t quite like most other extreme sports. Here, DIY lessons aren’t always the best or the safest. Here are some tips you may need to become a pro at mountain kiteboarding.
Get Professional Lessons
There are no two ways about it: you need to hire a professional instructor for mountain kiteboarding. Not only will this instructor give you a thorough safety kitesurfing lesson in the sport, but they will also guide you towards the kind of gear you need based on your innate kiteboarding skills as well as body type and size.
Hiring a professional instructor is, by far, one of the most efficient ways to go about learning this sport. Your instructor will show you how to set up your kite, control it, and use it to get the most out of the wind. They will also show you some basic techniques on how to launch your kite, stop it, and how to use different terrains to your advantage. Finally, they will show you how to self-rescue should you find yourself in a jam.
Learn the Basics
At its very core, this sport is quite simple in terms of the equipment needed: a kite and a board. However, as you get more familiar with it, you will find that many factors come together to make it so exciting. For starters, you have to learn how to read wind direction and patterns as well as the mountain itself. Knowing where and when the wind is blowing makes it possible to harness it to your advantage.
In mountain kiteboarding, your primary propulsion power is the wind, closely followed by the slopes. However, without consistent wind, the entire sport turns into skiing.
As such, you need to be able to harness and control the wind. To begin with, you will try your hand on a trainer kite, which is much smaller than what you will typically use. This trainer kite and larger ones are much more difficult to control with lower winds. As time goes by, you will come to identify the ideal wind speed for your thrilling adventure. This often falls between 10 and 15 mph winds.
Get the Gear
Now, this is where the kiteboard meets the snow. For many beginners, the sticker shock that comes with seeing just how much the gear you need will cost is a turnoff towards what is otherwise an extremely enjoyable sport. A trainer kite retails for upwards of $200, and that’s not all you need. Initially, the overall gear cost might come to just shy of $2,000, and that is a big ask, especially when you aren’t entirely sure that you will like the sport.
The mistake most beginners make is trying to cut down on this cost by buying second-hand gear that is cheaper. While this can be helpful in terms of budgeting, it isn’t the most beneficial strategy.
Mountain kiteboarding, just like windsurfing, is a fairly new sport and the technology in that space is just now catching up with the enthusiasts and interest within it. That means that space is rapidly changing, and there are new inventions almost every other day. Buying used gear might lock you out of enjoying any advancements in technology that could prove beneficial to your kiteboarding experience.
It’s advisable to simply bite down and buy the gear you need from a pro shop. Here’s a list of what you will need to begin with:
- Kite: This comes fully kitted, including safety systems, lines, bars, and a carrying bag. Simply walking into a knowledgeable pro shop will make the process much easier, as the experts therein will help you find the right size kite based on your experience and weight.
- Kiteboard: As a beginner, you are better off getting a larger board and boots.
- Harness: If you must spend good money on any of these pieces of gear, make sure you spend top dollar on the harness. Not only is this a safety issue, but the harness is what binds the kite to your body. It’s going to be on you the entire time. You need to get one that has top-notch structural integrity as well as one that is quite comfortable to enhance your kiteboarding experience.
- Safety equipment: You will need things like gloves, pads, and a helmet.
One way to go about all this is to walk into a pro shop that allows you to rent the gear out to see if it works for you before committing to outright buying it.
As is the case with almost every other extreme sport, you need to practice as much as possible to get the hang of it. If you live near a mountain or hills, you can practice there as much as possible. However, if you have to travel to these locations, you might not have the luxury of practicing as often as you would like. That, however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t practice at all.
You can find places that can make do, such as the beach or an open field where the winds blow at the right speed. If you will be practicing on land without snow, you might need to replace your kiteboard with something almost similar, such as a mountain board. The experience won’t be the same, but the mechanics are quite similar. If you can control your kite and ride that mountainboard down the side of a hill, then the skills you get from that will help you ride your kiteboard down a ski slope almost as well.
Here’s a video of some enthusiasts practicing their kiteboarding skills on a beach using mountain boards:
Finally, you can shorten your learning curve by taking up similar sports. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at mountain kiteboarding, you have probably tried surfing, skateboarding, or wakeboarding. These sports all require agility, coordination, strength, and balance.
Many of the skills you need to perform are transferable to mountain kiteboarding. Practicing as much as you can in these other sports will help you shorten your learning curve and improve your mountain kiteboarding.