Riding a wheeled board with a land kite providing the traction is a similar sport to kite surfing. All it really takes to get into kite boarding over land is some open space, a traction kite and a landboard of just about any kind. Oh, and some basic power kite flying skills of course! The idea is to get the kite overhead first. Then, when you are on your board and ready to roll, the kite is brought down to generate some sideways pull like a sail. With the kite moving in the same direction as the board, you are on your way.
Here's some reasons why newcomers to kite sports might prefer boarding with a land kite over kite surfing out on the ocean waves. . .
- it's a lot easier to learn
- most people get the hang of it in under 2 hours
- the equipment is cheaper
- you don't have to get wet!
- if necessary, power kiting skills can be picked up while you learn
Landboarding has been around since the 90s, and like snowkiting is making use of all the latest traction kite technology. A close relation to the land board is the buggy. It's just a bit bigger and encloses the driver, but the techniques are similar. It's still 4 wheels and a kite. Here some of the names that are used to refer to either one of these variations on the sport:
- kite landboarding
- land kiteboarding
- fly boarding
- kite buggying
- land surfing
- kite sailing
There are a lot of similarities here with snowkiting. The requirements are so similar. You want a steerable kite with decent pull, crash-proof in case it contacts the ground hard, and packable into a small space for traveling convenience. Also desirable is the ability to re-launch off the ground without having to walk over to it, and the ability to ‘depower’ the kite during strong gusts of wind.
All that adds up to one particular kind of kite. The parafoil, often abbreviated to just ‘foil’. Foils are flexible, with an upper and lower surface when inflated. Openings at the front edge allow air in which pressurizes the kite and makes it behave like an aircraft wing. Most depowerable designs have 4 lines, which allow steering and also the ‘angle of attack’ to the wind which controls power. Like many modern kites of all types, rip-stop nylon is the most commonly used material for the sail.
Pulling one end of the bar at a time steers the kite. Pulling both ends in towards your body increases the pull of the kite, while letting the bar out decreases the pull of the kite. For emergencies, some land kites have a quick-release mechanism to let you get rid of the kite in a hurry. The people who sell the kites can advise on how to get into the sport with the right gear.
Many kite boarders use ‘mountain boards’ which are basically over-sized skateboards. The wheels are pump-up rather than hard as on traditional roller skates or skate-boards. Since so many people are into these sports, there are many manufacturers all trying to get a piece of the action. That means more different kite board designs than you can poke a stick at!
Even so, it's possible to make some very general statements about all these boards. Here's a few reasons to consider the most expensive boards, if you can afford them. . .
- these boards are easier to use since they allow turning while traveling at lower speeds
- most of them have ‘active suspension', which is handy for doing jumps or going over rough ground
- composite construction is more expensive, but results in much lighter boards - important for kiting
Other Kite Boarding Gear
Did I say all you need is a land kite and a board or buggy? That's not quite true if you want a painless experience! Here's all the other bits of gear that complete the picture.
- a ground-stake to keep the kite tethered when you're not actually using it
- a wind meter so you know exactly what wind strength you are dealing with
- spare parts and repair tape
- safety equipment such as helmet, kneepads and elbow pads
Conclusion - Where To Do Kite Boarding
The best place to do land kite boarding is any large flat area with constant wind and no obstructions. However, with some care, any open space can be used. You just don't want yourself or the kite to crash into anything. In particular, things to avoid include power cables, buildings and other people.
Here's a summary of the types of areas kite boarders can be seen at.
- sports fields
- farmers’ fields
- large outdoor parking lots
- hard-packed sandy beaches
- school grounds
- dry lake beds
Here in Australia you could probably add clay pans and salt lakes as well!
Tim Parish and his family have rediscovered the joys of kiting. They blog their kite flying fun on their my-best-kite.com website, and also research the kiting world. This site will introduce you to many kinds of kites and kite flying activities, including land kite boarding , of course!