Kitesurfing vs Wakeboarding: What is the Difference?

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You know that you love the water and you’re into extreme sports, but how do you decide which one is best?

One of the two biggest water sports out there are kitesurfing and wakeboarding, with people new to the arena often struggling to figure out which one they should dip their toes into first.

So, what is the difference between kitesurfing and wakeboarding?

Although both kitesurfing and wakeboarding are water activities rely on wind and traction, they differ in other ways.

The physical requirements of riders, the environment they’re best enjoyed in, and the speeds that riders travel in when they’re in the water are all huge factors to weigh up between the two sports when looking at how they differ.

If you’ve been considering trying either one of these water sports you’ve probably noticed that they look the same. Therefore, figuring out which one would be more suited to your interests and abilities can present a challenge.

We’re going to delve further into their similarities and differences to see what each of them offers, and help you to make the final decision for yourself.

What Is the Difference Between Kitesurfing and Wakeboarding?

main difference between wakeboarding and kitesurfing

To understand the difference between the two water sports, we need to understand what each of them entails.

Although there are similarities between the two and their use of water, wind, and traction, they are both unique. However, having the basic skills needed for one will ultimately help you to master the other.

Wakeboarding is similar to water skiing in that the participant is pulled along in the water with a cable by a boat but they’re riding on a board instead and implementing a stance commonly seen in snowboarding.

The boat is responsible for their speed but they must be able to maneuver the board to steer and stay in control.

Kitesurfing involves a board also, but attached to the board is a large, parachute-style kite. The participant rides the board in a standing position and uses the wind and traction from the parachute to bring them speed so they can move through the water.

Which Is Easiest: Kitesurfing vs Wakeboarding?

The physical aspects of each sport differ in terms of where your body strength must come from and how much of it you need.

Wakeboarding uses a lot of upper body strength and relies on the arms a lot. You’ll find yourself exhausted in a shorter amount of time due to the constant force you need to exert when wakeboarding.

In an average session of kitesurfing, you’ll also use your arms and upper body strength, but most of the pull will come through your core including your back and abs.

Therefore, you will last a lot longer without the exhaustion in the arms that happens with wakeboarding and find it easier to take breaks now and then without getting out of the water.

It’s generally accepted that wakeboarding is more physically grueling than kitesurfing because of this need for more upper body strength. To get a comparison of how much energy it exerts, a 30-minute upwind kite session is equivalent to a standard wakeboarding session.

The average wakeboarder performs 20-minute runs while kiters can stay on the water for sometimes up to four hours, so kiting is definitely easier physically.

Which Is Best for Beginners: Kitesurfing vs Wakeboarding?

wakeboarder behind the boat

Although it’s agreed upon that wakeboarding is more physically demanding than kitesurfing, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily harder to learn.

Those who have tried both agree that wakeboarding is a lot easier to learn and can even be a useful jumping-off point before you start to learn how to kitesurf.

What makes wakeboarding easy is that you’re only worrying about controlling the board and your body. With kitesurfing, you?re also having to maneuver the kite which means paying attention to the wind and understanding how it will either propel you forward or slow you down.

The best way to start with either of these is to head to a cable park which lets you experience what it feels like out on the ocean.

You’ll have unlimited wind so it’ll be just like a kite session and you’ll be able to go slowly to learn how to edge and turn the board before you take the next step and add a kite to the mix.

You’ll need extra lessons for kitesurfing because you’ll also have to learn how to fly a kite.

Experienced kiters recommend learning this on land before you even attempt to jump on a board.

Understanding how the wind works and how you can use it to your benefit is one of the most important parts of kitesurfing, but one that’s not required when learning how to wakeboard.

What Gear Do You Need for Each: Kitesurfing vs Wakeboarding?

kitesurfer in air

Most water sports and activities require a lot of gear, and the same is true for kitesurfing and wakeboard.

Here’s a list of what each of them needs for a basic session so you can compare which one is more detailed.


  • Kite: Surfing kites are measured in meters and the most common size for beginners is 12m.
  • Bar: A control bar is used to control your kite and steer you in the right direction.
  • Board: A large board designed specifically for kitesurfing.
  • Harness: A seat harness is recommended for beginners learning how to kite.
  • Safety leash: Used to connect the rider to the kite after the safety release has been deployed or let go of the bar.
  • Safety gear: Helmet, wetsuit, and other safety equipment you might feel more comfortable wearing.


  • Board: For beginners, a twin tip or double tip board is best. These have upturned lips at both ends that assist with jumping.
  • Binders and boots: Both connected, these keep the rider attached to their board.
  • Safety gear: Buoyancy vest, helmet, and any other equipment you feel necessary.

Looking at this beginner’s list, there’s more gear required for kitesurfing.

However, both require upgrades and both require maintenance, so these are costs that you can’t avoid no matter the sport you choose.

Which Sport Costs the Most: Kitesurfing vs Wakeboarding?

girl with kiteboarding equipment

When it comes to the cost of kitesurfing and wakeboarding, the two sports are almost tied.

While wakeboarding requires a boat to pull you through the water, it is possible to rent this, so you won’t need to factor it in. The gear for kitesurfing is more expensive and so the two even out a bit.

Both sports require safety equipment but it’s up to the rider to determine how much they want to wear.

Wakeboarding gear can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or up to a thousand, depending on your taste. There’s the wakeboard, binding, and boots, which aren’t too expensive to invest in if you want a quality brand.

For kitesurfing, you’ll need the aforementioned gear like a kite, board, and harness, which totals around $1,500 for a decent brand name product.

In addition to the gear, there are other costs to consider if you prefer to wakeboard and own your boat. There’s the fuel for the boat, maintenance, and insurance, as well as ongoing repairs.

Wakeboarding can cost extra money as well, as you may have to pay for access to a ski boat or cable park if there’s nowhere suitable to ride. Kitesurfing is free to do once you have the gear, as long as you find the right beach to do it from.

Which Sport is More Dangerous: Kitesurfing vs Wakeboarding?

kitesurfing freestyle

With all of your gear and know-how ready to go, you’ll still need to weigh up the risks involved with each sport.

Any water sport comes with added risks because of marine life, drowning, sunburn, and general abrasions but there are additional factors to consider with each of these activities.

With good quality equipment and a basic understanding of how to use it, wakeboarding is considered the least dangerous of the two.

The equipment is light and the likelihood of the bindings become unsecured is low, so it has a low danger rating in terms of personal risk. Provided you have someone trustworthy and competent driving the boat that’s pulling you, the risk of something bad happening is low.

Kitesurfing can be slightly more dangerous, even for skilled kiters. This is due to the uncontrollable nature of the wind and its ability to give you more power unexpectedly.

You’ll also be more vulnerable to body injuries like whiplash and strained muscles so extra caution should be taken.

The Final Say

freestyle kiteboarding

There’s no right or wrong answer when trying to decide whether kitesurfing or wakeboarding is best as they each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Both sports have a lot to offer in terms of thrills and presenting a physical challenge, but there are also less attractive factors to consider like your safety and the cost of equipping yourself with the basic gear.

Before you jump into either one of these sports, it’s best to give them a test run to see what you think. Most people find themselves drawn to either one or the other so consider getting introductory lessons and renting the equipment to see which you prefer.

Kitesurfing and wakeboarding can be both challenging and a lot of fun, making them an ideal hobby to cherish for life.

Related Questions

Before you dive into a new water sport like kitesurfing or wakeboarding, you should have a solid understanding of what each of them is about.

We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the popular extreme sports to give you all of the information you need.

What is the Difference Between a Kiteboard and a Wakeboard?

wakeboarder curve

The key difference between these boards is the shape of the rocker, with the wakeboard having a more pronounced curve of around three inches to prevent them from going too fast and crashing.

A kiteboard’s curve is only one or two inches which allows the rider to harness the full speed provided by the wind.

Does Wakeboarding or Kiteboarding Burn More Calories?

Kiteboard has the potential to burn up to 1,000 calories per hour and wakeboarding up to 500 per hour.

These numbers differ depending on the weight of the person and the intensity of the weather conditions, with choppier water burning more calories and exerting more energy.