Welcome to seattlekitesurfing.org! We are your premier destination for kiteboarding equipment and kitesurfing equipment. Many people mistakenly think that the two terms refer to the same sport, and the water version is often colloquially referred to as kiteboarding, but that is actually a mischaracterization of the terms. They are related sports, and they are both part of the family of sports that started with surfing. So to understand where windsurfing and snow surfing diverge from both surfing and each other, it is useful to first look at a surfboard to get our bearings.
A surfboard is a buoyant board that can be made of foam or, less commonly today, wood. It has an oblong shape that tapers in the front to present the water with a better cutting edge. It has a contoured bottom that channels water towards the fins, which are located in the back of the board. Fin setups can be changed for different performance types. There is a leash plug in the board, where the tether can be attached that keeps your board from disappearing in a wipeout.
So how is kitesurfing equipment different from standard surfing equipment? For one instead of a simple leash attaching yourself to your board, you use a binding setup that more securely attaches your feet to the board. There is also an entire harness that forms a much more secure attachment to the kite itself. The fin setup on the bottom of the board takes on more of the keel like purpose that a ship needs, because a kiteboard can cut tangentially to or even against the water current, whereas by and large a surfboard is bound by the motion of the waves in how it can maneuver.
Lastly, but also most obviously, a kiteboard also uses a kite in conjunction with the board itself. The kites used for kite boarding are smaller versions of a hang-gliding arced kite. The idea is to have enough lift and pull to be able to counteract the water currents, while not providing enough lift to become completely airborne. This delicate balance is at the heart of the sport, and experienced kite boarders have several kites that they can choose from depending on the wind conditions. In higher wind, you select a smaller kite to ensure you don’t get blown away. In lower wind, you use bigger kites to harness more of the wind’s energy.
Turning to the winter variant of kiteboarding, we will see that there are many similarities between it and its warm weather cousin. The primary distinction between the two is that instead of using a modified surfboard with bindings on it. Winter (or alpine) kiteboarding uses a snowboard and is done on snow, rather than water. Snowboards do not have the fins underneath that surfboards do, and they already have bindings. Other than that distinction, the same kites and harnesses that are used on water can be used on land, although many boarders find that wind conditions on land are significantly lower than they are on the water, which calls for lager kites in general.