As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. This means that if a reader clicks on a link or an image of the product, we may receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you — it helps pay for hosting and server costs. And it does not affect the quality of the content, as we always recommend our readers the best sources.
Everybody is talking about a new water sport. They say it is like flying weightless over water and they are not mistaking one bit. I’ve been practicing with my kite foil board a lot the past five years or so, and have a ton to tell you about. Whether you like to hydrofoil kite, foil kitesurf, or both, you came to the right place to learn everything about kite-related sports. Welcome to the ultimate guide to kite foil; all you need to learn is right here.
Are you ready? Strap on because here we go!
The concept of kite foil
Let’s get started by explaining the concept behind kite foil with a little of its history. The first important item to mention is the two-line power kite that Ray Merry and Andrew Jones came up with at the beginning of the 1970s in England. They found a way to create kites so powerful that they could push vehicles around (later, it became kite buggy) and their invention received the name Flexifoil. The idea was to gather as much wind power as possible; to do that they designed the air cells
Step one: the air cells
This revolutionary design consists of a given number of cells that are made of a special fabric in the front part that allows air to go in and a different, closed fabric in the back. This retains the air gathered and creates an inflating effect that makes the kite much more powerful than everything known to that date.
The design of the kite, the number of cells, and the structure holding it together could change, but the concept of air cells is what makes a kite foil a kite foil. The first units were held by two ropes and are now known as two-line power kites. This design was very efficient on moving vehicles (like buggies) but for many of the people practicing it as a sport, it lacked the control needed to have more fun. This gap led to step number two.
Step two: four-line foil kite
Ted Dougherty was a crucial man in the kite foil world because it was he who designed the Quadrifoil, the first four-line power kite. The big difference between the two-line and the four-line foil kites is that the second is handled with two bars; one for power and another for braking.
By this time, the mid-1990s, people were already drawn-in to the foil kite revolution and an increasing amount of brands started manufacturing them to meet the demand. Also, brands started innovating with diverse fabrics and materials like Icarex allowed kites to fly even in low-wind conditions.
After the original idea went through several innovations, and the kites were light-weight and easier to maneuver, a wide array of sports began utilizing the kites as a means of propulsion.
This sport utilizes the foil kite to propel a board that is similar to a bodyboard or a surfboard but features a large fin attached to the bottom. The big fin attaches using a four-bolt method similar to a skateboarding track. This large fin is what allows the board to lift from the water and slide effortlessly even through the bumpiest waves. Also, it is a great way of speeding up.
People who practice hydrofoil kite usually wear a harness to attach the kite to their bodies and the four-line design for increased control. The speed and the power it generates allows those who practice it to perform stunts up in the air at a considerable height when the wind is strong.
This incarnation of the concept isn’t very different from the water-driven one; what changes is the vessel. While a hydrofoil kite is similar to a surfboard with a large fin underneath, this sport utilizes something close to an oversized skateboard with pneumatic wheels on each of the four extremes. Due to the kite propulsion and the pneumatic bounce, those who practice this sport can either perform stunts up in the air or go through amazing landscapes half flying, half riding.
While the previous incarnations of the foil kite sports are closer to any regular extreme sport using a board, in this case, the vessel is a sand buggy. These car look-a-likes usually feature three wheels and pedals to steer the direction. The driver is held by a harness to the kite and to the vessel. If you recall from the history above, this was the original idea from the seventies: to propel a vehicle forward, not a board.
In some countries like the UK, it is a very popular sport; drivers get to compete in championships, and races are not at all uncommon.
The Good & the Bad
Ok, now that you know what foil kite is all about, what are the sports you can practice with it and see with your own eyes just how much fun it can be to do it, it’s time to address the pros and cons.
Let´s start with the good news.
Let´s begin with the positive aspects of practicing this extreme sport.
Whether it is hydrofoil kite, kite buggy, or any other incarnation of this sport, you have to like adrenaline and speed to enjoy it. If that is the case, you are going to find plenty of excitement while pulling from the ropes of your kite. Currently, the world speed record on a hydrofoil kiteboard belongs to a French man, Alex Caizergues, who also managed to reach 66.66 miles per hour on board a kiteboard.
If speed is your thing, you’ll definitely love this extreme sport.
Lifting away from bumpy waves
A kite foil board detaches from the water underneath because of a physical phenomenon created by speed. Once the board is not in contact with water, you can enjoy a great, smooth ride regardless of the water conditions. Furthermore, the windier it gets, the more waves you have and the more difficult it is to ride smoothly on the water. Oppositely, with a kite foil board, you no longer have to worry about waves, because they won´t be able to reach your board (or you).
The feel of flying
If you watched the above video of Alex Caizergues, you might have heard him say that the feeling is to be “like flying”. If you are an extreme sports enthusiast and have ever practiced snowboard, then imagine sliding through the most magnificent powder snow downhill at full speed; that is close to what foil kitesurf feels like. Also, if you’ve checked the videos above, all incarnations of this sport, regardless of the vessel, allows those who practice it to fly up in the air. So, whether you are literally flying or not, the feeling you’ll get will be to be detached from the ground (or the water).
If your board is powered by a kite foil, you’ll very likely achieve a nice speed average. With that speed you can lift up in the air several feet and gain enough altitude to perform the most daring tricks you can imagine. Also, since you are propelled by a kite, the hang time can be quite astonishing reaching over 20 seconds on some occasions.
It’s a lot of fun
Finally, and this is an item all the people practicing this sport agree upon: it is a lot of fun to go kite surfing, kite buggying, or kite landboarding. The power that the cells in a foil kite generate is more than enough to have hours of fun. Indeed, the kite surfing industry is growing non-stop with 1.5 million kitesurfers in the world and 100,000 new kites being sold every year.
Not everything is beautiful good news in the kite foil world; the risks of most extreme sports are present here as well. Let’s take a look at some of the main cons.
Weight balance and the learning curve
Especially when riding a hydrofoil kite, the difficulty of getting on the board is quite high making the learning curve quite steep. Furthermore, once you are on the board and having fun, you need to learn how to balance the body to avoid crashing into the water. Reaching the balance between the push-pull forces of the kite and the weight of your own body to stay on top of the board and to direct it where you want to go will take some time (during which you’ll still be having a lot of fun).
You can check this video to experience this sensation in the first person.
Danger and speed
Foil kitesurf, just like any other extreme sport is dangerous to the person practicing it. Although it might be the edge of being so close to the danger that makes it appealing for so many people around the world, accidents can be deadly. Indeed, after 14 fatal accidents reported by Search and Rescue (SAR) between 2000 and 2003, new security measures were introduced, like easy-release technology of the kite. That being said, the casualties in kite surfing and foil kite surfing are five times lower than those practicing paragliding.
In the end, all of us who practice an extreme sport are aware of the risks we expose ourselves to be rewarded with that sweet adrenaline.
All kite-related sports, including kite foil board, depend on the wind to propel the kite forward. Indeed, the stronger the wind, the higher the speed, and the more fun it will be. If you happen to live in a place on Earth where strong winds and water are abundant, you´re in for a treat. On the other hand, if those are scarce to none in your region, you’ll have to travel to get to a destination where it is more fun to use your equipment.
Depending on the wind to have fun can destroy your schedule and plans (been there, done that.
Kite Foil FAQs
Can anyone learn Kite foil?
Learning to kite foil is just like learning any other water-related extreme sport; you should know how to swim fairly well. Also, it is paramount that you are strong enough to handle the push-pull forces of the kite and fit enough to do it for some time without stopping (once you´re attached to it with your harness, you can´t take a break). Other than that, it is not recommended for anyone under 16 years old.
What is the gear I need to learn hydrofoil kite surfing?
The gear you need is:
- The board
- The mast
- The fuselage
- Front wing
- The kite
- The harness
You´ll find a million different options on each of these items; here’s a video explaining the way each works.
What is the best place to foil kitesurf?
The best places on Earth to practice foil kitesurf are those featuring high-speed wind all year long. Furthermore, combining the high-speed wind with accessibility, and flat waters are what make some of these places the go-to option for most foil kite surfers in the world. Some of them are:
- Pointe d’Esny
- Golf de Roses
- West Portugal
Is practicing on a kite foil board dangerous?
Although the combination of the harness, the board, the water, the speed, and the wind can be quite a dangerous cocktail, statistics prove that it is less dangerous than other extreme watersports. That being said, always make sure you take proper lessons from a certified instructor before strapping on to the kite.
By now, I’m confident you know everything you needed to know about kite foil before hitting the beach in the search of an instructor. Furthermore, I hope that learning about how a 70s invention to propel sand cars took a whole different dimension thanks to enthusiasts and extreme-sports lovers will turn you into one of us.
Hydrofoil kite is a growing scene, and all the people going with their kite foil board and a smile to capture the wind everywhere in the world continue to make it bigger as we speak.
Strap on to this new sport, learn how to master the techniques, and have countless hours of foil kitesurf fun; the wind and the water are waiting for you.
Happy foil kite surfing!