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Go Fly A Kite: Surfing The Air On The Emerald Coast

You can find just about any water sport known to man on the Emerald Coast, from relaxing sunset snorkeling to fast-and-fun jet skiing to exhilarating parasailing. One saltwater sport that is trending for all the right reasons is kitesurfing. Kitesurfing encompasses all those adjectives in one hobby, making it an ideal new water sport to try. If you’re interested in the innovative way kite-flying and surfing merge to create a thrilling beach sport, read on to learn more about an experience you may want to try during your next vacation.

A Windy History

First, a little history to impress your friends during your next game night or barbeque. Kitesurfing originated as far back as two centuries ago, but the idea was further refined and engineered in the early 20th century by a pioneer who successfully kitesurfed the English Channel. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, kitesurfing equipment progressed, leading to kitesurfing becoming an official sport in 1998.

If you’re trying to picture what kitesurfing looks like, think of a mix of surfing, windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding — all at once — to ride waves effortlessly with the power of the wind. Cue the ultimate feeling of freedom as you glide through the ocean with the wind by your side.

Getting Off The Ground

Are you ready to spend every free minute kitesurfing yet? Here are some tips to get you off the ground and onto a kiteboard.

First, research is always a great place to start. Watch videos and read a few articles – like this one – to get familiarized with the overall feel of the sport. You’ll find many enthusiasts share helpful resources, tips and personal experiences online.

Next, consider a physical “tip” that will help in the long run: Condition your body. You can do this through other sports that mimic the movements of kitesurfing, like skateboarding or snowboarding. Learn the feel of a board under your feet to build fundamental skills you’ll use as you kite surf. You’ll find it just might be beneficial and help you acclimate to your new hobby sooner rather than later.

Now, it’s time to schedule a lesson with a pro. If you have the opportunity to use a trainer kite beforehand, you can practice on land at home or on the beach before you even take your first lesson. But, you can also go into your first lesson with no practice at all. The Emerald Coast offers several experts with decades of experience who are ready to give you a lesson or three to help you get comfortable as a rider on a kiteboard.

Once you get your sea legs (AKA a feel for the board), it’s time to get your gear so you can feel the wind as you kite surf to your heart’s content. Your instructor can recommend quality, affordable gear as your hobby officially takes flight.

Grab Some Gear

Speaking of gear, to get started, you’ll need a board and a kite along with a helmet, flotation device, wetsuit for colder water temperatures and a safety hook knife to cut lines if they get tangled.

To accompany that gear, you need lines and a harness. You can opt to rent gear or purchase your own. There are several choices of kiteboards, from materials to sizes to whether it’s a twin-tip or bidirectional, directional or hybrid board. Bidirectional boards are known to be the easiest for beginners as they are larger and easier to maneuver. As you progress and gain experience, you may want to consider a directional board, which is smaller so you’re free to test and perfect a few trick moves as you get more comfortable.

Next is a kite, of course! The larger the kite, the easier to control. There is a wide range of sizes to consider. Smaller kites go faster in heavier wind conditions, but larger kites help you ride faster in slower wind. Several kite types are out there as well, including C-kites, hybrid kites and bow kites, which are easiest to launch in the water and handle better in varying wind conditions.

Another necessary accessory is a harness to help remove the strain from the rider’s arms. Waist harnesses are the most popular. Other options include a vest or seat with leg loops. 

Lines to fly your kite are a must and come in material options and lengths. Last, you need a bar to steer that includes a safety release.

Rest assured, you can find plenty of places to rent gear (many also offer lessons) so you don’t have to spend a fortune on gear before you decide if kitesurfing is destined to become your next hobby.

Kitesurfing The Coast

If you’re an adrenaline junkie or are just up for trying new experiences, there are plenty of ways to dip your toe in the proverbial water of kitesurfing. 

XL Kites, located in Fort Walton Beach, offers lessons and gear for kite surfers of all experience levels. Connect with them at xlkites.com.

Emerald Coast Kitesurfing Lessons lets you book a lesson online at emeraldcoastkitesurfinglessons.com. They’ll teach at your specific pace with the most water time possible.

KiteSkool is another option, offering opportunities to surf the wind from Navarre to 30A. Visit their website at kiteskool.com.

However you choose to experience kitesurfing, you’re guaranteed to feel the exhilaration as you glide across emerald waters, making memories that will stay with you long after the sun sets. Dive into a world of aquatic adventure and let the Emerald Coast be your playground.

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