Equipment needed: It’s shopping time!
Most affected persons would describe the progression of a kite addiction quite similarly: Shortly before the acute phase switches over into the chronic condition, usually following symptoms appear: One has done his first meters with a kiteboard on the water and got totally hooked. Due to the boundless motivation of the new kite addict finally these questions come up: Where can I get my very own kitegear? And which equipment fits my personal needs?
Furthermore: What do I actually need for kitesurfing on my own – and where can I get all this stuff from? Here’s a list of the kite basics (you can find some articles for each subject, see the links):
There’s some things to invest in – unfortunately kitesurfing is not a cheap hobby. One more symptom of the chronic kite addiction is that kite equipment multiplies rapidly. If you are not a big income earner your bank account might get pretty strained. So to save money or generally be able to get proper beginner material there’s the possibility of secondhand equipment – which of course is available at lower prices than new kite gear.
Buy new or used kite equipment?
In my opinion it’s totally ok to choose secondhand equipment, especially in the beginning of your kite career. There’s just one big exeption: The wetsuit. Get yourself a new one. Why? Well, there’s special wetsuit cleaning agents called “Piss off”, for example. Do I have to say more? Yes, people pee in their wetsuits. Maybe not all of them, but some do. It’s part of the game, don’t think about it too much.
So to play safe, invest in a new, fresh neoprene suit. The shape and thickness of the wetsuit will depend on your mainly visited kitespot.
In the caribbean you may probably need no wetsuit at all. But in the colder areas you won’t have long sessions without a proper wetsuit. 5/4/3 (torso/legs/arms) is a good reference for a cozy warm suit. Personally, I prefer a wetsuit which is warmer than actually needed – but lets me stay on the water and have fun for a longer time.
My tipp: Don’t forget to try on a wetsuit before buying! It’s important that you’re a) able to get in and out easily and that you b) feel good while wearing it – it should not be uncomfortable at all. Once I had a wetsuit which had been very expensive cause it was made out of superelastic hightech neoprene. Each time putting it on or of took me about 20 minutes. Afterwards I was always close to tears and totally exhausted (no, I am not exaggerating!). So just some special hightech whatever features should not be the reason to buy a wetsuit 😉
Neoprene gloves and shoes/socks or a hat with neoprene inlay can be very useful for cold conditions or – what is very often the case for beginners – if you have to bodydrag cause you lost your board (exception: you kite in the carribean or so or on a spot with shallow water).
If you plan to go kiting during winter, there’s the possibility to wear a thin short neoprene suit under your normal wetsuit or to buy a drysuit. As the name suggests a drysuit keeps the water off your body. Only head, hands and feed can get wet. If it’s super cold you can also wear skiing underwear underneath this suits. Drysuits are quite expensive, so you might buy it secondhand. But then it’s important to watch out for cracks and holes in the rubber seals. Cause if it’s not 100 percent leakproof a drysuit is for nothing. If water gets inside, your kite day is over 😉
For warmer conditions there are wetsuits made of thinner neoprene and short legs (calf- or knee-length or shorter). But even for a shorty I would recommend long sleeves, cause at the arms you cool down quite quickly in the wind. However, if short or long wetsuit – buying a new one is the safest way. Or alternatively get one from a friend you can trust 😉
Which harness suits whom best is discussed in detail in the article “Seat or waist harness?”. I think it’s no problem to buy a used harness for the beginning. My first harness was second hand and this choice was ok in every way. But also for harnesses I advise to try them on before cause a good fit is essential for your learning process and performance on the water.
If the harness doesn’t fit and e. g. slides up all the time (what can happen very easily when you practice cause your kite will be often on 12) this is distracting. Apart from that it can be super painful too. When buying a used harness you should also check if the locking system works or if it’s sluggish (e. g. from saltwater) and if the straps are not too stiff, so they can still be adjusted. Otherwise putting the harness on and off will be a drama each time, especially with clammy fingers! You don’t want that.
Those who made a kite course will know it: In the beginning you get a huge board, because it makes waterstart and going upwind easier. A lof of kite students get a “door” for practicing (or “toilet door”, like some say). Personally I would not recommend to buy a door for further practicing after the kite course is done. It may be easier at the beginning, but with this huge thing you won’t learn how to go upwind properly and play with the edge of the board. In Vol. 5 of this series I will discuss the board topic in detail.
Usually the first board to buy is a twintip, which naturally can be bought second hand. Like always you should check some details before you go for it. Just google the model (name and year) of the board and you will find a description, for example on the producer’s page. As a beginner you should look out for freeride boards with good upwind abilities. Unfortunately there are a lot of jokers who sell their equipment by providing false information – and I’m not talking of some scratches on the board surface, which don’t affect the function. I am talking of substantial characteristics of a board – e. g. when a wakestyle banana with huge rocker is touted as a perfect beginner board – and the buyer will become desperate cause he’s not able to go upwind with his new aquired material. Poor guy – if he’d known it before, it would have saved him much trouble! So again, if you are still learning don’t go for a board with high rocker, a pro-freestyle or wakestyle model.
Also it should have normal sized fins (not small wakestyle fins or no fins at all). And please, if you are not very experienced, stay away from boots! Yes, they may look super cool – but image is not everything. Even if you may think that it could be useful cause with boots you won’t loose your board so often – let it be. Crashing with boots can be super harmful, especially for unexperienced kiters. So the best is to start with straps and also leave the handle where it is (even if a lot of riders put it off cause it looks cooler or whatever ;)). Believe me, for practicing a handle is priceless.
By the way: If you want to know what Prorider Malin Amle thinks about switching over to boots, check out this interview with her!
Im already talking of the plural here cause exceedingly few get along with only one kite in the long term. Most kitesurfers choose a three-kite-strategy (e. g. 6 + 8 + 10 or 7 + 9 + 12 square meters). This depends from the spots where you mainly go for kiting – is it rather a strong wind or a light wind location? For finding the right kite size it’s quite helpful to check the producer’s recommendings for each kite model. (Just FYI: In this article I just talk about tubekites, not about foilkites).
Besides the size also the type of the kite is decisive. What’s makes the real difference between four and five line kites, is described here more in detail. The shape of the kite is also a crucial factor.
Delta- or hybrid-shapes are well suited as beginner kites (but of course they are also good for advanced riders). What you should not choose as a beginner is a pure C-shaped kite cause you need more experience to handle it. Be careful: Usually there’s no warranty for used gear. And also with kites it’s not rare that people offer them under false details. So one may read (real example): “Slingshot Fuel, perfect beginner kite with auto relaunch and amazing upwind abilities”. Funny for those who know what it’s about – but if you are new in the sport, how should you know that this kite is exactly the opposite? I ask myself: Does the seller do this on purpose or doesn’t he know it better? And which case of this two would be worse?
However – also or especially for second hand kites I would say: Confidence is good, control is better. Use google, check out the sites of the kite brands or ask kite experienced friends for advice.
My advice: Those who are looking for kite gear in forums or Facebook-groups should describe what they are looking for as detailed as possible. It’s good to mention your kite level and for which conditions you will need the equipment. Also instance what’s not desired, e. g. no C-kites, five line kites, wakestyle boards or directionals (surfboards).
An important criterion when buying a second hand kite is the age of the kite. It shouldn’t be older than five years. Why? Safety systems are continually changing – and the new ones are better developed and yes, safer. Also in this case it’s clever to use the possibilities of the internet and to inform yourself about the safety system of the kite you might buy. One more reason for not choosing an older kite is that over time the kite gets strained by wind, sand and UV-radiance, so that the material gets thinner and more fragile. Also you can never know how the former owner treated his kite – if he used to “park” it always in the bright sunlight or packed it although it was wet (what can lead to mould stains or mildew.)
A lot of kiteschools use to resell their kites after a season for favourable prices. I would advise you to be careful – not cause the schools want to sell something bad, not at all!
But if you attended a kite course, you may understand what I mean. It’s normal for kite students to smash the kite with the fronttube on the water – this just happens, doesn’t it?
However, even if this didn’t happen to you as a student – it happens very often. The fronttube af a school kite gets properly strained within time. Even if the signs of wear and tear are not obvious at first sight – they are there.
So if you want to buy a used kite also check the valves, the tube and the struts for leaks. Patches or ripped parts that have been properly sewn are not a problem and should not affect the performance of the kite (as long as they are not too big). If possible, don’t rely on photos but rather check the kite on site, so you can touch the material and maybe also pump it. If you are not experienced with buying equipment it’s even better to have someone with you who is familiar with kite material – so that the seller can’t exploit the situation and fool you. (No, I don’t want to claim that everyone who sells used stuff would do something like this – but unfortunately sometimes it happens).
So, what about brands? Well, it’s mainly a matter of taste which brand you choose. In the last years nearly all of the well known producers evolved kites for different applications and kite skills. I’m quite sure that in the last years there have been no kites that don’t work. As a primary decision-making factors I would take the age of the kite (not older than five years), the safety system (read more about it here), the shape and of course also the apperance.
On the homepages of the brands you find all the information about each kite model, e. g. for which conditions and skill levels it is made or works best. In case of older kites google will tell you more about. Personal reviews in forums, equipment tests in magazines or descriptions from surf- and kiteshops also can help a lot.
It’s never possible to completely exclude the risk of buying something wrong or inappropiate, but you can reduce the risk to a minimum. So you should not rely on the first review you read, but go on and look for different opinions and tests in magazines or ask people who have experiences with the certain brand. Also try to find out the current market value of the kite to compare it with the offer for the used one.
Bar & safety leash
Concerning this topic I recommend: If you are not an absolute expert for kite material, you should buy the bar which belongs to the kite (from the same brand). As a different bar may cause flight or safety defects, I would not embark on such experiments. The safety system has to fit to the kite and vice versa, otherwise it would not work out well or in the worst case not work at all. If the length of the lines does not fit to the kite’s shape it can happen that it doesn’t fly properly, the steering is vague or whatever.
Furthermore there should not be knots or abrased spots in the lines. Also the quickrelease must work out well, what means it should not stuck and it should be easy to put it together again after releasing. Before you use the bar with the kite for the first time, check if the back- and front lines each have the same length. By the way: For beginners the standard line length of 24, 25 meters is the best. About 15 meter lines one can think later on.
One more factor is the size of the bar. Basically, for a big kite you take a big bar – and for a small kite you take a small bar. A seven sqm kite with a huge bar (e. g. 56 cm) could be super challenging for a non experienced kiter. A mini bar (e. g. 40 cm) with a twelve sqm might be frustrating. About 50 cm length is a happy medium.
Well, I should not forget to mention that your bar should have a chickendick if you don’t want to ride unhooked all the time 😉 Special wakestyle bars have no chickendick – but you need experience for riding with such equipment. So for practicing a wakestyle bar may not be the best choice.
Some second hand bars already come with a safety leash. If not or if the added leash is very old, nearly ripped or the release doesn’t work properly – buy a new one in a kite- or surfshop. If you are not already in the level to do handlepasses (I suppose you will not do them in your first kite season;)), the standard length is enough. Leashes for those special kind of tricks are longer, what could be annoying in the beginning cause it might be in your way all the time.
Apropos leash: Don’t go for a Boardleash (my personal opinion)! Yes, it’s a tempting idea not to loose the board anymore after crashing. Just pick it and go on, thanks to my boardleash!
But this supposed comfort could be extremely harmful. Cause if you crash it can happen that due to the leash the board shoots forward with a slam. I dont have to say that if it hits your head you can get severely injured. So you have to wear a helmet if you go with a boardleash!
And also I’m preaching it again and again: Every kitesurfer should know how to do an upwind bodydrag to get to his board again in case he has lost it. Cause most kiters don’t want to wear a helmet all the time.
Pump it up!
Every kite owner should also have his own pump. Of course it’s possible to borrow one. But this mostly means waiting for one to pump his kite – which is not so comfortable for example in cold conditions. And, to be honest … it can be annoying if every two minutes someone asks for your pump! If everyone of us would rely on the others to have a pump on the beach, what then? Even if you are with a group of kiters only one pump for the whole group is a risk – cause it can break or not fit to all the different kite valves. And what if you want to go kiting alone? No question – you need a pump.
But should it be a new one or is used also ok? Of course you can buy a second hand pump for a bargain price. It’s just important to know that modern pumps make it easier and faster to pump a kite. However, if old or new – a quality pump should have an aluminium shaft. Pumps with a plastic shaft usually break easily.
If there’s also a manometer on the pump this makes it super easy to check the right PSI, which means the pressure you put into the tube. (You can find the recommended PSI number in the manual of the kite).
Whats also important: The pipe must fit to the valves of your kite. Some years ago kites used to have different valves than they have now. Check this before your first session to prevent unwelcome surprises 😉
So much for the theory about buying kite equipment. I hope that with this article I could offer you a proper overview. As I am not from an english speaking country I would ask you to tell me some good sites for used kite equipment or kite forums cause I would like to make a list of proper links. I’m curious about your feedback!
If you have further questions about equipment, you can always ask 🙂 I would be happy to answer them as good and detailed as I can.
P. S. Do you already know the other articles of the FAQ-series?
Vol. 1: Four or five line kite?
Vol. 2: Four or five line kite?
Vol. 3: The kite etiquette. How to behave as a kitesurfer.