The Australian Geographic Adventure guide to kiteboarding

By Lachlan Ennion 10 September 2009
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High as a kite takes on a new meaning when you have a board strapped to your feet.

Kiteboarding involves harnessing the power of wind to pull you across the water’s surface on a kiteboard. Once you’ve got the basics mastered one of the biggest drawcards of the sport is controlled flying through the air.

Lachlan Ennion is one of the team at the ESS Kiteboarding School, part of Mark Chandler’s ESS empire, the one stop stores for all things boarding, skiing, streetwear and travel. Guru Mark Chandler was pulling on the kiteboarding strings on NSW waterways well before it was cool. That actually makes him very cool. They’ve thrown this guide to kiteboarding together for us. Here’s how you can be as cool as them.

Top tips

• Lessons are essential. Kiteboarding today is a very safe sport accessible to everyone, however there are certain aspects of the sport which should be learnt through professional instruction. You wouldn’t teach yourself to drive a car on a busy highway would you?

• Get the right gear. Kiteboarding equipment has come a long way from its humble beginnings in regards to safety and ease of use. The size of a kite is determined by three factors; the weight of the student, their level of skill or control and the conditions of the day. The style of the kite varies from beginner to advanced, flat water to surf, and should be used accordingly. The use of training kites is also a valuable exercise in the learning process.

• Find safe accessible locations. Large areas of shallow water receiving cross or onshore winds that will deliver you to safety downwind are ideal for learning. Use of a rescue boat or jet ski is also a big advantage. Open water such as beaches are generally more difficult to learn the basics of kiteboarding as you must deal with deep water, currents, rips and waves while learning to fly the kite.

• Don’t underestimate the power of wind. It’s easy to get overpowered by a strong gust. Learn to fly your kite on land first and get the hang of how fast it can power you along. And particularly as a beginner be sure to avoid offshore winds; you don’t want to end up out at sea.


Body Dragging
To begin with, and to get used to flying your kite in the water, use it to pull you along ‘body surf’ style without your board. It’s also good knowledge for anytime you fall off your board and need to control your kite as you are dragged through the water.

Water Starts
Start by lying on your back in the water with your feet strapped into your board and the board in front of you. Your kite should be hovering high above you and as you steer it into the ‘power zone’ you will be lifted out of the water and pulled forwards.

Riding Upwind
This can be a tricky skill to master but is essential to learn (particularly if you want to get back to where you started!) A good instructor will teach you this skill.

Glossary of Terms

Apparent Wind: The kite’s speed relative to the surrounding air, as felt by the boarder.
De-power: To reduce the kite’s pull by adjusting the angle of the kite.
Jibe: Changing direction.
Luff: What the kite does when the air flow stalls and it may begin to fall.
Nuking: Wind blowing at dangerous speeds (30-40 knots).
Tack: The direction being sailed, either starboard (right) tack or port (left) tack.

Hot Spots

1. River Mouth, Noosa, QLD
The pick of Aussie kiteboarding locations, head to this summer holiday spot for some great consistent
beginner winds, warm waist-deep waters and a great number of instructors to choose from.
Where: 160 km north of Brisbane

2. Kite Beach, Brighton, VIC
A great spot for beginners with plenty of locals usually happy to help you launch. You’ll find an off-bay wave which can be small, but fun, for your first venture off flat water.
Where: 10 km south of Melbourne

3. Safety Bay, WA
For beginners on the west side you can’t go past this aptly named bay for learning to body drag and to get on your kiteboard. A gently sloping sand spit even separates you from windsurfers.
Where: 53 km south of Perth

Equipment Checklist

Kite (with bar and lines, pump, safety leash and bag)
Wetsuit, boardies, rash vest
Waterproof sunglasses with straps


Guide to summer sports: Canyoning
Guide to summer sports: Surfing