Surfing is pretty straightforward for beginners: grab a long board, attach a leash to your ankle and paddle out. Checking and catching the waves is important, but you don’t need to know that to begin.
Now kiteboarding has a few more steps: pump up a kite, layout lines for the bar, attach lines to the kite, put the harness on, attach the bar to harness, move in into a better position for a launch, strap your feet into a board and take off. What could go wrong with your feet strapped onto a board and body harnessed to a kite?
A lot. When kiting goes wrong we call those “kitemares” like a nightmare but in real life. Which is why you can’t learn to kite without an instructor.
The difference in gear, beginning the sport and prices probably contribute to the large gap in this graph. Most people who want to learn how to kite have to seek out instructors before beginning which can be pricey.
Using Google Trend data I compared surfing and kitesurfing in the United States. This “popularity” is based upon search hits for the sport through Google and Youtube.
How kiting can catch up
San Luis Obispo has the laid back style of any town near the ocean. In Pismo Beach, just a few exits south, are many surf shops and the one kite shop. To be specific, it’s the only kite shop from San Luis Obispo to San Fransisco. California Kiteboarding is the shop’s name and it’s been open for about 8 years.
The owner, Jason Lee, has watched the kite surfing scene change over the years. “In the beginning when it started, every year it was getting more and more popular,” Lee said. Locally, however, “it has plateaued out a little bit.”
Despite the plateau, what Lee likes the most about kiteboarding might be the reason why it will catch up with surfing.”You go out there and you’re just kinda on your own with the ultimate freedom, you can jump, you can ride waves, you can go on the hydrofoil, you can surf, you can do big air jumps,” Lee said. “I think it’s the versatility of it and it’s pretty easily accessible too.”
Lee and other kiters launch at Pismo Beach. Here’s a short video showing a kitesurfer from Cal Poly, and what it’s like there:
Surfing made it to the 2020 Olympics and kiteboarding did not. But there still might be a chance.
The International Kiteboarding Association put out a statement saying, “kiteboarding’s campaigning for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, either with an 11th medal or as a showcase event, and then subsequently for full inclusion in 2024.”
This decision will not be made until June 2017. Maybe after the Olympics, the rise of kiteboarding will go beyond Obama’s latest try.
If kiting takes off in the 2020 Olympics then there will be more publicity for the sport. On top of that, new gear comes out so often it makes older gear cheaper to buy. Instructors will always be involved with learning how to kite but that should not discourage people.