If you live close to an ocean, you have probably seen the latest trend in water sports - Kitesurfing or Kiteboarding, a sport, which harnesses the power of both, the wind and water, providing a thrill few other sports can match.
Kitesurfers, use the power of the wind to sail across the water on a surfboard. A giant kite, which is controlled by a handle bar, is attached around the kitesurfer's waist with a harness. The surfers use the kite to propel themselves and their boards across the waves. Being able to take advantage of the wind and the ocean, kiteboarders can alternate between "flying" in the air and surfing big waves.
The origins of this sport can be traced all the way back to the 13th century when the Chinese used giant kites for transportation. Over the years, the kites have evolved tremendously and been used for different purposes and sports. However, it was not until the 1980's when a kite that could be deployed (take off) from the water was invented, giving kitesurfing its first boost.
In 1996, a demonstration off the coast of Maui, Hawaii, by amazing surfer Laird Hamilton, helped ignite further interest and Kitesurfing started to become more popular. The invention of a kite by the Legaignoux brothers in 1997 that made re-launching (after a fall in the water) much easier was the final catalyst to get this sport really going.
Since then the sport has become extremely popular. It is estimated that are currently between 150,000 to 200,000 kitesurfers worldwide, most of them residing in Europe and the East Coast of North America.
Over the years, the sport has evolved tremendously and kitesurfers now specialize and compete in different styles, which include:
- Freestyle - As the name suggests, kitesurfers are free to do whatever they like - jump, twist or spin. This is the most popular choice for both participants and competitions.
- Big Air - In this style, the kitesurfer tries to stay up in the air as much as possible. The current record is 13 seconds.
- WaveRiding - Very similar to surfing.
- Kickers and Sliders - This is for really advanced Kitesurfers, where the participants slid up pre-built ramps and perform stunts, much like skateboarders and snowboarders.
- Speed - this is all about going as fast as one can in a straight line - the current record is 40 knots
Though innovations in kite design and safety release systems have made kitesurfing a lot safer than it used to be, it is still a sport that needs to be learnt from a professional. Fortunately, now there are many schools set up all over the world, which allow surfers to learn the basics.
Enjoy this amazing kitesurfing video, featuring four-time world champion Aaron Hadlow, who has been kitesurfing since he was 13.
Source: Wikipedia.org, Telegraph.co.uk