Not to be biased, but we think kitesurfing might be one of the best sports today. It’s a pretty straightforward beginner-friendly water activity — you don’t need ocean swells or fancy towboats to create wakes to surf on. The only thing you’ll need? Your gear, a massive body of water such as a lake, and the wind (which is totally free).
As kitesurfing on lakes grows in popularity, many enthusiasts discover new scenic locations to kitesurf and measure how you can enjoy this watersport safely. In this article, we’ll talk about all the things you need to know about kitesurfing and more!
Table of Contents
What is kitesurfing?
In 1970, Gijsbertus Panhuise patented a watersport wherein a rider uses a flat board or a surfboard and holds on to a parachute-type of kite that’s strapped into his harness; and the pull of the wind then enables the rider to move across the water surface. Although the term ‘kitesurfing’ wasn’t commercialized yet during that time, Panhuise was the originator of this concept.
Kitesurfing is the combination of the techniques of different water sports such as surfing, water skiing, paragliding, and skateboarding. Unlike surfing, however, this sport prefers calmer waves and smoother water conditions; hence, why lakes are ideal to kitesurf on.
Kitesurfing on a Lake
Bodies of water such as lakes are the most enjoyable for beginner kitesurfers, as they may find choppy waters a little bit more challenging to launch, ride, and land on. Inland kiting is a mid-risk sport, too, as long as there are no interferences like other surfers, banks, buildings, tall trees, or small patches of land where you’ll be kitesurfing.
What You’ll Need
There are five main things you’ll need to start kitesurfing — your kite, twin tips board/directional board, the control bar, a harness, and your safety gear.
Surfing kites are easy to transport as they easily fold when not in use, and they only require a small investment as well. The most common kites are made from inflatable tubes, as they hold and retain their shape and they also float in water. They’re also compatible with any wind range. The one you’ll need, however, will depend on your ability level and feature preferences.
If you’re a beginner or an intermediate kitesurfer, we suggest choosing the SLE, C-Kite, Delta, or Bow-type kites. These are known as all-around kites that generate a sufficient amount of power and lift, and they’re also easy to launch and control even with stronger winds.
On the other hand, the non-inflatable or foil kites are for more advanced riders and racers. These types of compact kites are less stable and harder to maneuver in strong winds, although they produce higher speed and quick turning in lighter gusts. They also don’t require a second person when launching.
As a rule of thumb when choosing your kite — the stronger the wind, the smaller your kite should be.
Can you use regular surfboards for kitesurfing? Definitely! As long as it’s able to glide in the water, then you can use any kind of board to kitesurf; however, take note that less durable surfboards may not hold up to the strain and pressure of kitesurfing. If you want to purchase a board that’s specifically used for kitesurfing, you should look for twin tips and directional boards.
Twintip kiteboards are the most common ones used in kitesurfing because of the foot straps they come with. This kind allows you to smoothly go in two different directions without switching feet and having to turn 180 degrees. Because of this, hardcore kitesurfers find it easier to perform tricks.
Another kitesurfing board is directional, which is kind of similar to surfboards. Directional boards are for riding waves, and as they don’t have foot straps, your feet are more relaxed because you’re not pushing the board, and it also gives you more freedom when it comes to foot positioning.
For beginners, it’s recommended to use larger boards because of their wider surface area. The ideal size of kitesurf boards is those that are 125-150 cm in length and 38-45 cm in width.
Control bar/Flying line
Now that we’ve discussed the board and kite, what you’ll need next are the flying lines that will connect you to the kite, and the handlebar that will allow you to control your direction. The following are five types of flying lines that are connected to the different parts of the handlebar and the kite.
- Backline- used for steering the kite
- Centerline- keeps your kite up high
- Connector line- connects the bar to the kite
- Bridle- balances the kite
- 5th line- for stability and safety
The control bar or handle must be 30-60 cm in length, although this one is more of a user’s preference than a requirement. More or less, there will be four to five lines attached to the bar that will give you leverage and enable you to steer your kite.
Next is the body harness that connects your torso to the control bar. A harness puts less tension in your arms, and they also keep your posture upright while kitesurfing. There are two kinds of harnesses — waist and seat.
Whatever your level of experience in kitesurfing, you should always wear safety equipment to keep you safe and prevent you from drowning in case of any unfortunate events. Make sure to wear a life jacket and helmet for head protection if in case you mistakenly land on rocky areas.
If you have everything that you’ll need, it’s time to briefly learn about inland kiting.
First, since lakes have weaker gusts of wind compared to the beach or ocean, you have to check the wind’s speed before launching. Ideally, a lake must have a sustained wind of at least 15 mph or 13.03 knots so your kite will be able to launch in the air. To check, you will need a wind speed measuring tool called an anemometer. It’s similar to a wind vane, but it’s portable and it provides more accurate results.
After that, scout the area where you can launch your kite, and when you’re ready, position yourself against the wind, turn the kite in the direction you want to go, and then prepare for a smooth water start.
Watch the video below for a step-by-step process.
Alternatively, you can also attend kitesurfing schools and lessons that are widely available in touristy lake areas as a safer option to learn about inland kiting.
Guidelines for Kitesurfing on a Lake
While you may already have everything you need for a good kitesurfing experience, it’s still useful to learn some tips and general guidelines about kitesurfing on lakes. Here are some of them:
Check the local regulations. Unless you see other kitesurfers in the lake, you should always check with the authorities or the tourism office first before you kitesurf in a certain area. Some lakes prohibit kitesurfing for reasons such as it may pose a danger to other people, there are obstructions in the area, or the size of the lake isn’t suitable for it.
Be aware of the distance between you and the lakeshore. Offshore winds from inland kiting are dangerously strong and may take you too far from the shore, so make sure to avoid these kinds of spots.
Avoid busy days. If you’re a beginner, you may still find it difficult to control your kite’s direction and speed. That being said, it’s advisable to avoid kitesurfing when there’s a busy crowd to prevent crashing with other kitesurfers and causing accidents.
Most Beautiful Lakes for Kitesurfing
The best thing about kitesurfing on lakes is you get to see scenic views while enjoying the thrill of this watersport. Around the globe, there are countless beautiful natural and man-made lakes to kitesurf, so we’ve compiled the best ones we could find for reference and inspiration.
Lake Como, Italy
One of the most popular kitesurfing and sailing destinations is Lake Como, the third-largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe. This lake is surrounded by beautiful landscapes of mountains and hills, combined with good food and diverse culture. The best time to go here is during the warm season when it’s the windiest.
Lake Ontario, Canada
If you’re still on the learning curve of kitesurfing, you may want to call a rain check on this next lake destination — the Great Lakes of Ontario. These lakes are deep and consist of rough winds that may be unsafe for entry-level kitesurfers.
Arenal Lake, Costa Rica
Arenal Lake is the largest lake in Costa Rica. It’s among the favorites of windsurfers and kitesurfers because of its consistent wind conditions of around 20 knots, especially during winter or the months from November to April.
Lake Silvaplana, Switzerland
This list of the world’s most beautiful lakes for kitesurfing wouldn’t be complete without the breathtaking Lake Silvaplana in Switzerland. It’s where kitesurfing was invented, and thousands of international kitesurfers visit this location every year. Lake Silvaplana is a stunning place that can be enjoyed by other sports enthusiasts like bikers and hikers for the beautiful trails and mountains surrounding it.
Lake Garda, Italy
In the northern part of Italy, you’ll find Lake Garda, also known as the ‘Mecca of Kitesurfing’. Different world kitesurfing events were held at this location, such as the Formula Kite World Championships in 2019. This lake features different kinds of winds — the morning wind ‘Vento’, and the afternoon wind ‘Ora’.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is kitesurfing on a lake safe?
As long as the size of the lake covers a massive distance, and there are minimal interferences like trees and mountains, it should be safe to kitesurf in a lake. That said, you should still be cautious as such interferences from inland lakes produce varying wind results which may be dangerous if you get too far from the lake’s shore.
Q: Which are the best lakes for kitesurfing?
In the US, Lake Michigan is one of the famous kitesurfing spots because of its consistent gale of winds and massive distance covered. Other lake destinations include Lake Como and Lake Garda in Italy, Lake Silvaplana in Switzerland, Lac de Naussac in France, and Lago Calima in Colombia.
G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at many of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which also rubbed off on my two young sons! I am also lucky to spend a lot of ocean-time in my favorite second home, Indonesia. In addition to SurfHungry I have founded several other websites in my areas of passion, namely coffee and rock climbing, and am also a regular rowing content contributor.