How to surf waves with a kite

Do you like to surf? Your kite is the perfect method of riding waves similar to a tow-in by a jet ski. Destinations like the kite camp in Cape Town are great to explore this adrenaline rush of a twist to the sport. This guide will get you started kitesurfing waves.



If you are a regular surfer, kitesurfing will give you more days to enjoy the waves, as you can go out when it is too windy and choppy to surf. Start with a beginner kite course to learn how to manoeuvre the kite. If you already know how to kite, buy a surfboard, read this guide and get started!

In the beginning it is important to choose a spot with mellow, small waves. Have a look at magicseaweed.com to check the wave forecast. Get comfortable with your surfboard, and practice how to “jib” (turn).


You can use a regular surfboard, but these are fragile and can easily get damages when you stand on them. A surfboard for kiting is more solid to handle a greater pressure. This is a benefit when you are going through the white water and over big waves. The epoxy board is stiffer than polyester, which is better in choppy conditions.



Your weight decides the size of your board. If the volume of your board is too big, it will be hard to do fast and powerful turns. The volume depends on the length of the board, the thickness and the width. A board between 5’6 and 5’10 is a good option for girls, while guys normally ride with 5´10 – 6´2.


Straps or strapless
The kiteboards have inserts that give you the option to ride with or without straps. The straps make it easier to find balance on the board and more control so you don´t fall of or loose it. However, if you are looking for the “real” surf feeling, strapless is definitely what you want to ride. And if you have the patience to try and fail in the beginning, we recommend you to go strapless from the start.



Leash on the board?
Trust us, in the beginning you are going to loose the board. A lot. You will experience that the waves will bring the board all the way back to the beach, unless you are wearing a leash. However, a leash attached to your board can be dangerous if you wipe out and get the board thrown back towards your face, head or body. Wear a helmet if you are using a leash.


A regular waist harness is also used for riding waves. You can change to a more movable hook that goes to the side when you want to ride toeside. It allows you to turn into the wave without getting pulled to the opposite side by the kite.



You don’t need to buy a new kite to start kiting the waves. However, most of the kite producers have started to develop wave kites that have the characteristics that you are looking for when you are kitesurfing:
A responsive kite: You want the kite to react fast when you move the bar to turn the kite.
“A drifter”: This means that you can leave the kite in the air so it doesn’t pull you while surfing a wave. You don´t want the lines to become slack when you ride down the wave – as this can result that the kite falls into the water.
A constant drag in the kite, to be pulled gently throughout a turn.
An easy re-launch when you crash the kite. The wave might break your kite if you don’t get it up in time.


Technique: Whitewater
Here are a few tips to help you get through the whitewater:

  • – Edge the board as much as you can upwind so the board hits the wave at 90 degrees or more
    – Slow down the speed before you hit the whitewater.
    – Pop your knees up to the height of the white water you are about to cross. You don’t want the board to go under the wave.
    – You can put the kite high to get a drag upwards.


Technique: On the wave
Once you are on the wave you want to use the power of the wave to surf it, not the pull of the kite. It can be complicated to get enough slack in the lines to surf the wave, and still keep the kite in the air. Lots of people experience that the kite falls into the water when the lines are too slack. This depends on the direction of the wind. Onshore wind is the most difficult.

The optimal wind direction is sideshore. Keep your kite at 45 degrees to avoid getting lifted off your board. Use the board to control the drag in the lines by turning on the wave. You can also use the kite to turn more aggressive. If you use the kite, remember that it is the kite that pulls you through the turns; so don’t turn the board before you feel the pull of the kite.


Surviving a crash
Crashing on the inside of the waves can be uncomfortable and scary, especially if the waves are big. Here are some tips that will help you handle the crashes:
Always try to keep the kite in the air! You can use the kite to pull you up from the whitewash. Don´t let go of the bar when you fall.
Always steer the kite towards the sea and keep it at a 45-degree angle. The kite will pull you through the wave. When you see that the wave is approaching, pull the control bar to increase the speed through the wave. If you steer the kite towards the beach, you can risk that the waves will push you in direction of the kite. The kite will fall into the water when the lines are slack.
The board should never be lying between you and the waves! If so, make sure to body drag to one of the sides so the board won´t hit you when the waves break.
If crashing the kite in the water, relaunch as soon as possible. If the kite has been hit by a wave and it is not possible to get it back up, pull the safety release and use self-rescue to get to your kite and back to the beach.


By Helle Løvseth and Hanna Lima Braut