This is one of those chicken/egg, ski/snowboard, pineapple on pizza yes/no debates that tend to get heated up very quickly as everyone arguments their point of view. Our stand on the kitesurfing vs windsurfing debate is pretty obvious – we chose kitesurfing every-damn-time! But for the sake of this blog, we’ll look objectively at both sports to help you determine which one is better for you.
What is kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing, or kiteboarding, is a water sport that involves the use of a surfboard attached to your feet and a kite attached to your waist harness. The kite works as a parachute and helps you glide across the water surface on your board. You control it with your bar.
What is windsurfing?
Windsurfing is a water sport where you use a board and sail attached to it to leverage the power of the wind. The windsurfer stands on the board and holds onto the sail to glide with the board across the water surface.
Which one is easier to learn – kitesurfing or windsurfing?
In the beginning, kitesurfing has a slower and steeper learning curve compared to windsurfing. In windsurfing, you can start riding after a couple of hours of instruction and you can even learn without an instructor. However, the learning curve for windsurfing quickly plateaus as advanced windsurfing skills are hard to master. With kitesurfing the beginnings are harder and it is advised you learn with a kite instructor, but as soon as you become an independent rider the real fun begins and mastering advanced techniques becomes easier.
Can you kitesurf and windsurf anywhere?
No, not really. For kitesurfing you need steady, ideally onshore or cross-shore winds and a lot of space on the water and enough space to launch and land on the beach. Areas with limited beach or overgrown and rocky zones are not well-suited for kiteboarding. Also, remember that the lines are about 25m long so electricity poles are not as far as they might initially seem.
In contrast, space isn’t really an issue for windsurfing as you need a lot less space to launch and land, but access might be trickier considering the size and weight of the gear. Windsurfers can go out in rougher conditions and offshore winds but are more affected by shallow tidal areas due to the fin size.
Which one is safer?
Kitesurfing and windsurfing are both classified as extreme sports and as such, they have their risks, however, when the adequate precautions are taken they’re both safe. OK, not as safe as chess but you get the point?!
It is important to be aware of your limitations, consider the conditions and familiarise yourself with the spot and any obstacles before entering the water. There are certain safety procedures that need to be taken if something goes wrong to minimise damage and you should always keep in mind other people on/in the water and respect the right of way rules.
Due to the high jumps and long lines kitesurfing is deemed to be more dangerous than windsurfing. If something goes wrong in kitesurfing, it can go very very bad – if you lose control while mid-air, you will wipe out anything or anyone downwind from you. With windsurfing the chances of injuring a third party are a lot lower and jumping is a lot harder and fewer people to it so windsurfing injuries are usually limited to cuts while
Which one is more physically demanding?
There is no doubt, windsurfing is more physically demanding than kitesurfing and you should be reasonably fit for it. When windsurfing you’re constantly in a half-squat position thus straining your legs and buttocks and you need to be strong enough to hold onto and adjust the sail. Kitesurfing is a lot less demanding since you can lean into your harness thus minimising strain onto your legs and arms. You will still need reasonable core strength and some leg muscles tho… it is a sport after all, and by sport, we don’t mean chess.
What about the gear?
Neither kitesurfing nor windsurfing gear are cheap, and new initial set up will amount to a very similar price. It is safer (and cheaper)to buy second hand windsurfing gear than it is to buy second hand kitesurfing gear if you don’t know much about it and are unsure of what to look for.
Windsurfing gear is big and bulky which can be tricky when it comes to storage, transport and travel. On the other hand, the kites can be packed down into small backpacks and the board is much smaller making storage and transport easy. You can even get a travel board that folds in half and fits into your suitcase which is great for travelling by plane.
So this is it from us, we tried being as objective as possible. They’re both really fun sports and what it all boils down to is which one gives you a bigger kick.