Kitesurf vs Windsurf

We listen many times  that windsurfing is better than kitesurfing or the opposite. I think that both sports are a great way to have fun on the water. Working at a surf center many people asked the same question: Which is better, windsurfing or kitesurfing? I will provide many complete answers for those not knowing which of these to choose.

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Transport: For windsurf usually the board bag with one (or two) boards and 3 sails will weigh around 30 kg and has to be dragged around the airport and ends up being a big of a hassle when added to the standard luggage we are taking with us.

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Kiteboarders on the other side will have their one board under their arm and one kite over each shoulder or just a long bag the size of a large set of golf clubs. Kitesurfing turns out to be less of a hassle overall.

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Equipment cost: The gear for both windsurfing and kitesurfing both cost close the same. When the equipment is new the costs are within 2000€ to 2500€ range for a complete set. The used gear will be somewhere around the 1000€ to 1400€ for a complete set(one sail one board). The difference is in the life of each piece of kit. In general windsurf kit will last somewhat longer before it needs to be replaced. A kite (especially the lines) will need to be replaced after about 3 years(depends of the use) windsurf can easily last 5 to 6 years if maintained well (not leaving the rig laying out in the sun for longer than need be, etc.) Buying used equipment is a little bit more tricky in kitesurfing as the integrity of the lines must be checked carefully and the leading edge must be tested to ensure there are no slow leaks. For a windsurfer it is pretty easy to evaluate the condition of a board and sail. The gear for kitesurfing is more fragile than windsurfing gear. 


Learning: The two learning curve for each sport are pretty different. For kitesurfing you have to spend a couple of hours on the beach to learn how to handle the kite, then do a few sessions of body drag through the water and only then is it time to try to get on the board. This usually adds up to around 9 hours which is where you are at a point where you can continue to practice without supervision. For windsurfing this is different. Usually you will spend 15 to 20 minutes in what you will have to do on the water. After around 2-3 hours with flat water or chop conditions, usually you are at a point where you can sail back alone. Now comes the main difference. A kitesurfer after about 20 hours will be riding with a speed and technique similar to that which he will be sailing in 2 years. A windsurfer on the other hand will have a more gradual and constant improvement throughout that time.


Windsurf vs Kitesurf learning curves: Physical requirement in Kitesurfing is less challenging. There is no denying that. People who take on windsurfing will be challenged more and will see their stamina increase with each session as the body adapts to the new requirements. 


Independence: While it is technically possible to launch and land a kite at your own, you need a certain level of experience to be able to do that so as getting to this procedure wrong can be very bad indeed. Usually its “strongly recommended” to have a second person on the beach to launch or land your kite. For windsurfing this is not the case as you are quite independent in that sense. For general safety it is wise to go on the water with others around you who can lend a hand in case of injury, equipment malfunction or any other situations.

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Locations for sailing: There are two types of locations which are exclusive to one sport or the other. The first is shallow water. As a windsurfer you are in big trouble if you are cruising along at speed and the fin suddenly touches the ground. It can result in a very spectacular and possibly painful catapult indeed (and possibly some board repair). On a kiteboard you don’t have this problem since you are only skimming the water surface. On the other hand, if we are at a spot where the shoreline is lined with tall structures such as trees or lamp posts it is rather tricky and very dangerous to go in as a kiter since if the lines get caught in them, kitelooping along the ground and crashing into stuff ensues. Windsurfers have less trouble as all they have to deal with is the immediate surrounding.

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Safety: This is where the two sports have their greatest discrepancy. Since kitesurfing is easier/faster to learn than windsurfing, a lot of people the are not physically and psychologically ready to do an extreme sport. The thing is that as long as nothing goes wrong, it is a fun sport which gives the sensation of speed and planing pretty easily. The problem arises when something out of the ordinary occurs. In that case, circumstances can turn pretty fast to serious injuries. Since many kitesurfers have started to kitesurf at a level way beyond their experience, when things go wrong they don’t know how to react and are unable to reduce the consequences,.The trouble is that these consequences do not always affect only the kitesurfer but also anyone up to 200 metres downwind of them. Windsurfers on the other hand have only 5 metres to worry about, 20 if they are jumping.

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Conclusion: From an objective point of view, kitesurfing offers many more advantages over windsurfing except for when it comes to safety. This is also an aspect which I don’t see being eliminated from the sport. The long fragile (but very dangerous) lines combined with the immense power that can be generated by the large surface of the kite will always be a hazard, regardless of technological improvements. This is the reason this sport is an extreme sport. Combine this with the fact that it is easy to learn and that the minimal physical requirements for kitesurfing and you have a dangerous combination. People that are not suitable for doing extreme sports will start to do extreme sports. And the worst part is that they are not aware of the possible risk they are putting themselves in. I just think that it is not made clear enough to students how to go about learning it safely and practicing it responsibly. Most of the accidents that happen are due to bad decision making and irresponsible riding (like going onto the water in unreliable offshore winds or practicing or showing off tricks near the shore or in areas with a lot of people).


As for the sensation, kitesurfing is more fun from windsurf and you have too many things to discover in sorter time than windsurf!


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