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How Kitesurfing Works

The Kite
Experienced kitesurfers can soar through the air.
Experienced kitesurfers can soar through the air.
Darryl Leniuk/Getty Images

To kitesurf, you'll need a traction or power kite, a large controllable kite that can generate pull when flying. When selecting a kite, you should take into consideration the following factors:

  • Relaunchability -- How easily will the kite re-launch from the water?
  • Performance capability -- How well will you be able to jump and sail upwind?
  • Power control -- A wide wind range allows you to control the power of the kite.

Kitesurfing kites are divided into two types: leading edge inflatable kites and foil kites. Leading edge inflatable kites, also known as LEIs or C-kites, are great for beginner kitesurfers because they're stable and easy to fly. LEI kites are made from ripstop nylon and have inflatable plastic chambers that run across the front of the kite. Smaller chambers running perpendicular to the main chamber give the kite its crescent moon shape and allow it to float in the water. LEI kites can be relaunched from the water, and you can easily slow down the kite when needed. Inflatable kites use either two or four lines so that you can increase and decrease the wind power while surfing. Two-line kites are easier to use and provide more stability, while four-line kites increase your performance ability. LEI kites are the most popular type of kite for kitesurfing.

A foil kite is made of ripstop nylon and has air pockets that give it lift and provide it with its arc shape. Foil kites come in open- or closed-cell forms. Open-cell foils require constant airflow to stay inflated, and you can't relaunch them if they hit the water. Closed-cell foils are just like open-cell foils except that they have an inner valve to hold air, which keeps the kite inflated even when it's in the water. Thus, closed-cell foils are a little easier to launch in the water.

You're all geared up and ready to go. But what principles of physics allow that kite to propel you through the air? Read on to learn about the physics of kitesurfing.