Unlike snow kiting where any standard snowboard will work, kiteboards are specialized pieces of equipment that can't always be used for other similar sports. Kiteboards may look like a wakeboard at first glance, but that is where the similarities end. Kiteboards are designed specifically for the demands of kiteboarding and offer many technical advantages that make kiteboarding both easier and more fun. In your search for a board, you'll come across variations of these four basic types of boards, described below.
The most universal of kiteboards, the twin-tip can be used for all riding styles. Symmetrical at both ends, the twin-tip is very similar in appearance to a wakeboard and is best suited for freeride and wake-style riding. By far the most commonly ridden board, Twin-tips are ridden with foot pads and straps. If you are looking for a board that's ideal for big air and/or wake-style tricks, the twin-tip is a good match.
If a surfing-like experience is what you are after and you plan to stick to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, then a surf-style board is what you need. While twin-tips can be used in the surf, they do not compare to a wave board. Fashioned in the basic shape and fin configuration as surfboards, wave boards come with integrated traction pads and foot straps. For a more "genuine" surf-like experience, take the foot straps off. Because of their high buoyancy, wave boards are also great in light winds and can make getting your first rides that much easier.
Very similar to the twin-tip, the wake-style board differs in how one's feet connect to the board. Instead of the foot pad and strap setup of a twin-tip, a wake-style board utilizes bindings, also known as "boots." Offering enhanced support, security and cushion, bindings often restrict flexibility and are reserved for riders who love doing tricks. Not optimal for beginners, these boards are best suited for advanced wake-style riding.
Light-Wind Twin-Tip Board
When the wind is too light, it's handy to have a light-wind twin-tip board. Typically a bit longer than your average twin-tip, light-wind twintips tend to be much wider. Because of the board's unusual shape, they allow you to ride in very light winds, though light winds are typically uncommon off the coast of North Carolina.
Once you have identified the type of board that would be the best match for your style of kiteboarding, you'll also have to take your skill level into account.
Many retailers, like Kitty Hawk Kites, go through great pains to select certain kiteboards out of hundreds to recommend for different skill levels and conditions. Remember, when in doubt, it's always best to turn to a professional for help when selecting a board. The same companies that offer lessons and camps also have experts on hand that can guide you in the right direction for purchasing equipment.
According to Kitty Hawk Kites, beginners should get a larger kiteboard and a smaller kite. For most average-sized individuals, this is around a 160-cm board. Larger boards may be necessary for low wind riding and smaller boards for higher wind riding, but the best all around size for a beginner is the 160-cm size. Many boards come ready to ride with the footpads, foot straps, fins, and a center handle for your convenience.
For beginners, consider the Wake n' Style kiteboards by Lite Wave Designs in the larger sizes and the Cabrinha Double Agent and new Prodigy kiteboards. They are the best for planning early and staying on top of the water, even when making big mistakes with the kite placement.
Intermediate riders might want to check out the selection of Hana Crew kiteboards, the smaller Wake n' Style boards by Lite Wave Designs, the Hammersurf kiteboards, or the Cabrinha Lab Rat and Icon.
The other piece of equipment you will need to research and purchase to suit your taste, abilities, and location is the kite. Before you launch into the water, you will need to know how to control your kite well, and if you have never tried kiteboarding before, a lesson will most likely be required before you can effectively guide yourself across Sound waters or the Atlantic Ocean.
The newest generation of power kites are being specifically engineered for the sport of kiteboarding. With the popularity of the sport growing, kite technology is rapidly advancing, making it easier for beginners to jump into the sport and professionals to perfect it.
Kitty Hawk Kites reports that power kites born out of this era have innovative features never before seen on kites including safety release systems, zippers and variable aspect ratio concepts. De-powering systems and emergency release systems have gotten more elaborate, making it easier and safer to control the power generated by these gigantic kites.
The amount of power needed for kiteboarding far exceeds the amount of power one would use with land kites. Each kite size is designed for use within a particular wind range. Kite size is determined by your local wind conditions, expertise, the rider's body weight and the board size and type.
Kiteboarding centers like Kitty Hawk Kites, REAL Watersports or Blowing in the Wind are the best resources for selecting the perfect kite that fits all these specific requirements. Like the selection of boards, these centers have experts on hand to effectively guide you through the process.