Windsurfers and kitesurfers tend to use the same location. And since the two sports are similar in that you are surfing on a board, there’s been comparisons between the two sports over the years. As you may suspect, the lovers of windsurfing can’t convince those that love kitesurfing that windsurfing is the best. And vice versa.
I’m a big believer in the saying, “to each their own” which means people are free to like different things. So in this article, I won’t be jumping on the seemingly endless debate of windsurfing vs kitesurfing. Instead, I’ll be explaining what the two sports are highlighting differences between them as regards ease of learning and safety. I’ll also recommend situations where you may be more inclined towards one of them than the other.
In the end, the aim is to provide beginners and lovers of either sport with important information. They can then decide which one they like better or are willing to try out. So here we go.
What is Kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing is a vibrant water sport that uses a large kite, which is somewhat similar to a parachute, attached to your body with a harness. Also, a surfboard is attached to your feet.
For a kitesurfer to move across the water, all that is needed is wind and water. You use a large parachute-like kite to harness the power of the wind to propel yourself on a small kiteboard. So the sport can be carried out on flat or choppy waters, seas, and big waves.
The force of the wind can be strong enough to lift the surfer out of the water. Sometimes, surfers get lifted several feet into the air and this is one of the reasons kitesurfing is classified as an extreme sport. However, there are several ways a kitesurfer can depower should they get into trouble.
Who Should Go Kitesurfing?
- People that don’t like bulky gear as kitesurfing gear is portable and easily transferable.
- People with a budget of around $2000.
- People staying in areas with steady and moderate wind. Remember you need wind to power your kite.
- Healthy people that are not very athletic or super fit. Kitesurfing isn’t very physically demanding.
- Limited storage space at home or have a small car.
- People with access to a large sandy beach.
- People with other kitesurfing enthusiasts they can participate the sport.
What is Windsurfing?
Windsurfing, also referred to as boardsailing or sailboarding, is an extreme water sport that involves using a surfboard that has a sail attached to it. The surfer uses the sail to harness the power of the wind and glide across the surface of ways. The board is controlled by using the arms and body weight to control the sail.
Who Should Go Windsurfing?
- Impatient learners! It’s easy to master the basics of windsurfing.
- Very athletic and fit people.
- People with a minimum budget of $2500 to $3000.
- People with ample storage space (shed, barn, e.t.c) and a big car
- People living in areas where the winds are very light, very gusty, very strong, or people willing to travel to such areas.
- If you love hanging out with jocks!
Kitesurfing vs. Windsurfing – Key Differences Explained
Here, you’ll learn more about the differences between kitesurfing and windsurfing to figure out which one is best for you.
Ease of Learning
Windsurfing is far easier to learn compared to kitesurfing mainly because the equipment is user-friendly and requires fewer instructions. A couple of hours on the waves and a beginner is ready to start sailing back and forth on their own. Also, beginners will enjoy the thrill of windsurfing on their very first day! As long as a beginner is fit, they will master the basics of the sport in no time.
Kitesurfing is another matter altogether. First, you need to learn how to fly and safely handle a trainer kite on land before getting into the water. Then you hit the water and learn how to drag yourself in the water. You’ll also need to learn how to depower and bail the kite should there be any issue. All these are going to take several hours. Overall, you can expect to spend at least 20 hours learning the basics of kitesurfing.
Summary: Windsurfing is easier to learn than kitesurfing.
Once you get a handle of the basics of kitesurfing, that’s it. You are going to use the same technique throughout the years which means you’ll keep getting better and better after each kitesurfing session. After the slow learning phase, your progress in kitesurfing will be rapid. The only thing that can take some time is when you are learning freestyle tricks or wave riding skills.
While you may be able to sail back and forth after your first windsurfing lesson, you still have a long way to go. You have to learn planing at speed, how to use a harness to unload arms, how to change directions, and use foot straps. So a windsurfer has many tough skills to master after understanding the basics and this makes development slower as a lot of practice and time is needed to become a proficient windsurfer.
Summary: After the learning stage, development in kitesurfing is faster while development is more gradual for windsurfing.
Kitesurfing shines here as the entire gear, the board and the kite can be packed in a large backpack and carried or slung on your shoulders. This makes transportation easier as you can bring it on a bus, train, or car.
Windsurfing gear by comparison is more cumbersome and requires you to have a sizable car, truck, or van to transport it. If you have any of this, then this won’t be a problem. Also, windsurfing gear requires you to have some storage space in your house.
Summary: Windsurfing gear is bulkier and not as easy to transport as kitesurfing gear.
Windsurfing is more physically challenging than kitesurfing. Activities in windsurfing like raising and lowering the sail, sheeting in, and so on require considerable strength.
Kitesurfing, on the other hand, doesn’t have any complex rotations or movements and almost all the power goes through a waist harness. So before you go windsurfing, you might hit the gym or carry out some workouts to build your strength and endurance.
Summary: Windsurfing is more physically challenging than kitesurfing.
The price of windsurfing and kitesurfing gear appears similar although windsurfing tends to cost a bit more due to the more equipment used. However, the most significant difference between the gear used for the two sports lies in the lifespan. Generally, windsurfing gear will last longer than kitesurfing gear. You’ll need to replace your kitesurfing kite after a few years (say three years). Windsurfing gear is more durable and you won’t need to replace anything until at least five years after purchase.
Of course, how long your gear lasts, be it windsurfing or kitesurfing, depends on how well you maintain them. And it’s advisable you buy new gear if you have the budget. But it’s not uncommon for people to buy used gear to cut costs. Buying used windsurfing gear is still acceptable as you can easily evaluate the condition of a sail and a board. The same cannot be easily done for kites.
Summary: Windsurfing gear costs a bit more than kitesurfing gear.
It’s recommended you have an experienced person assist with the launching and landing of your kite. Yes, you can launch and land on your own but having someone assist improves safety. And since kitesurfing is an extreme sport, it’s in your best interest to take every safety precaution.
When it comes to kitesurfing, you can go completely solo. You’ll only need an experienced windsurfer at the beginning to show you the ropes and as you gain confidence and experience, you’ll be riding the waves on your own.
Summary: Windsurfing offers more independence than kitesurfing.
As both kitesurfing and windsurfing are extreme sports, it’s important that participants know what they are doing. That’s why you should have an experienced person teach you. Out of windsurfing and kitesurfing, kitesurfing takes the crown of the riskier sport. This is because there is a greater potential for things to go wrong when kitesurfing and accidents tend to be severe. Kitesurfing accidents can affect anyone who is within the 200—meter range and downwind of them.
Windsurfing isn’t as risky as kitesurfing and it’s easy to depower the sail should anything go wrong. However, should a windsurfing accident occur, help may not quickly come since the accident will happen on the water and people may not be nearby. For your safety, always go windsurfing with an emergency whistle to alert people near you in the case of an emergency.
Summary: Kitesurfing is more dangerous than windsurfing.
The recent development of ultra-light foil kites and super efficient boards means kitesurfing and windsurfing now require similar conditions. Now, you can go kitesurfing in winds as low as 8 knots which wasn’t possible in the past. You’ll also need a similar wind speed to go windsurfing.
Summary: Windsurfing and kitesurfing require similar conditions.
Both kitesurfing and windsurfing enthusiasts love their sports. The crowd you’ll find in kitesurfing includes men and women of all ages and physical conditions. Windsurfing communities tend to have more athletic males due to the physical requirements of the sports and windsurfers have a strong commitment to the windsurfing lifestyle. There also seems to be more rapport and a close-knit relationship between windsurfers, somewhat similar to surfers.
Summary: Since kitesurfing is less physically demanding and progress is fast, it has a more diverse community compared to windsurfing.
Which one is Better?
This is a matter of preference. Kitesurfing is gaining more popularity by the way as the sport is less physically demanding, participants can advance fast, lightweight gear, and the feeling of freedom.
But the windsurfing community is still going strong due to the commitment to the windsurfing lifestyle. Windsurfers love the hands-on experience the sports offer and enjoy the fast and direct response of their equipment. The physical workout windsurfing provides is also relished by the participants.
Now, you have all the information to make an informed decision about which one to choose. You can also decide to try both out although you’ll have to spend a lot on gear.