How to choose a kite size
How to choose a kite size
Between your local kite shop sales pitch, your instructor’s recommendations, your friend’s advice and the advice you get on Online kite forums, you may have a hard time deciding which kite size to buy. To help you build your own idea of how to shop for your first kitesurfing kite, we’ve designed this simple guide. These recommendations are for riders who already had lessons and are ready to go on their own. We are also assuming that, during your lessons, your learned that kites come in various sizes and are universally measured in square meters, which represent the total surface area of your kite. If you are just starting out, you should start by watching our video tutorials and reading the following blog articles: Kitesurfing Trainer kite, Yay or Nay? How Many lessons do you need to learn Kitesurfing? How Good were your lessons? Also, if you consider buying used equipment, take a moment to read: 6 Things to Look at When Buying a Used Kitesurfing Kite.
There are 4 things to consider when selecting the size of kite that you need :
1) where are you are going to ride?
2) how much do you weigh?
3) what is your skill level?
4) how many kites do you want?
Let’s explore these criteria in details…
1- Where are you going to ride?
When a customer asks me what kite size they need, my first answer is: all of them! The truth is, any kite size could be needed, depending on the wind condition. This reminds me of a session I had in Augusta (Western Australia) when the wind was blowing between 40 and 45 knots. I was overpowered on 4m kite (I’m 60kg) and my partner was well powered on a 3m kite (He’s over 90kg). The smallest kite all other riders had that day was a 7m which was way too big.
Sometimes, you may need to have a kite as small as 3 meters!
‘’ consider what wind conditions you will most often be going out into’’
Instead of buying a kite for every wind condition, you should consider what wind conditions you will most often be going out into, and this is directly related to the geographical location. For example, Perth (Western Australia) has different wind conditions than Bali (Indonesia), Cape Town (South Africa) or Fuerteventura (Spain). When deciding to pick a kite size, the first thing to ask yourself is: where am I going to kite the most often? It doesn’t mean that you can’t travel with your equipment, but rather that you should start by picking equipment that will be suited for your local conditions. Once you picked a location, you need to do your homework and study the wind statistics for your particular location. Just like ski resorts, the vast majority of kitesurfing locations have on and off-seasons. This means that it’s very likely that your closest kitesurfing spot has a ‘’main season’’ that typically lasts at least 3 months and up to 6 to 7 months. During this ‘’main season’’ you will typically have more predictable wind patterns (winds blowing from similar directions and at similar speeds). You should also consider whether your preferred location is in shallow waters (in a lagoon or river for example) or in the open ocean. In open ocean you will typically have to deal with swell and currents which will require more power, therefore a slightly larger kite.
In this graph from Windfinder for Perth, Western Australia, we can clearly see that the main season for kitesurfing is between October and April.
Consider how accurate the data is, as some landscape may interfere with the wind-speed readings. Wind meters are sometimes located far away from the beach (at an Airport for example) and may not give you an accurate representation of what the wind is really doing at the beach. Take note of the temperature as well. Cold air has higher density than warm air, hence for the same wind speed, cold wind will deliver more power into your kite. 25 knots in the Bahamas does not have the same power as 25 knots in Alaska. Finally, acknowledge how many days the wind reaches this average wind speed. You could have an average wind speed of 20 knots, with 50 days a year reaching 25 knots and 50 days a year with 15 knots, and the wind never reaching 20 knots. Then buying a single kite size for 20 knot winds would be a mistake, and you would be better off with a 2-kite quiver: a kite for the 25 knots days and a kite for the 15 knots days. Consider the season and weather as well. For example, wind speeds can reach 30 knots very often in winter in Perth Western Australia, but the stormy and gusty winter conditions are not recommended for beginners, so you should not consider winters or ‘’off seasons’’ in your data. The safe and reliable sea breeze in Perth in the summer season averages between 20 and 25 knots.
The best way to find out about wind statistics in a particular location is to talk to local kitesurfers, local kite schools or shops who have been in the area for many years.
2- How much do you weigh?
‘’ Your body weight is crucial for guiding you towards an appropriate size of kite’’
It’s not a matter of judging you according to your weight, but simply to gauge how much power is needed to pull you on the water, so don’t be offended if your instructor or shopkeeper asks about your weight. The heavier you are, the bigger the kite you will need and vice-versa. There is no universal weight vs. wind speed vs. kite size chart, as every kite model is different, but kitesurfing manufacturers usually publish some graphs to help you estimate what you need. Keep in mind that those graphs (such as the one below) are not realistic for beginner kitesurfers. As a newbie, you will struggle to cover a wind range of more than 10 knots with a single size of kite.
‘’As a newbie, you will struggle to cover a wind range of more than 10 knots with a single size of kite’’
Be honest about your actual weight as a 10kg difference will have a direct influence on your choice of kite size. Your body weight is crucial for guiding you towards an appropriate size of kite, so if you haven’t weighted yourself for a long time, find an accurate scale and weigh yourself. Below is an example of a kite size guide from Airush for their most popular model, the Lithium.
Most kite size guides such as the one above are based on a rider between 75 and 80 KG (165-175 Pounds). Keep in mind that realistically, as a beginner kitesurfer, you won’t be able to cover such large wind ranges with a single kite size.
You should also know that not all kites generate the same amount of power for the same size.
For example, a 9m Airush Razor (freestyle kite – pictured above on the left) will generate less power than a 9m Airush Lithium (freeride kite – pictured above on the right) simply due to its shape.
how to choose a kite size
3- What is your skill level?
Light wind or underpowered kiting can be very tricky and requires a certain amount of experience. On the opposite, overpowered riding is easy, but quickly gets dangerous and scary if your kite is too big for the wind conditions. Remember that doubling the wind speed quadruples the power in your kite! This means that in 30 knots your kite will pull 4 times stronger compared to 15 knots! That also means that in 10 knots, your kite will generate 4 times less pull than in 20 knots!
‘’As a beginner, both underpowered and overpowered situations are not recommended’’
Even with a big kite and a big board, it can be hard to enjoy kitesurfing in less than 15 knots, especially if you are a heavier rider.
How to choose a kite size
As a beginner, both underpowered and overpowered situations are not recommended. As you gain experience, you will be able to safely extend the limits of your skills and comfort zone, hence the range of wind you can handle with a single kite size will gradually expand. This is one reason why you shouldn’t compare yourself to other riders on the beach. A same-weight rider may have the skill to hold down a very powerful kite. To add to the confusion, some discipline-specific riders will purposely choose a bigger or smaller kite size. As an example, wave riders will choose the smallest kite they can ride. Similarly, some discipline-specific kites will deliver different power. A kite designed for freestyle will be less powerful than one for big air jumps. Ultimately, the type of board you use (Twin tip, surfboard, hydrofoil, etc.) and its size can make a difference in the power needed for riding. All this to say that you should not always rely on comparing yourself to other riders to pick the kite size you will use.
4- How many kites do you want?
‘’ A 2-kites quiver will maximize the potential for the average summer conditions within a reasonable budget’’
To put it simply, the more kites you have, the more often you will be able to go out. A quiver will open up your wind range. Despite your motivation, your budget may however disagree. When I started kitesurfing, I bought 4 kites within my first year. The wind conditions at my local spot in inland-Canada required such a quiver to satisfy my thirst for kiting. Luckily, here in Perth Western Australia, wind is regular enough that someone can get away with a single kite and get to kite 80% of the windy days in summer. A 2-kite quiver will maximize the potential for the average summer conditions within a reasonable budget. Passed this point, it all depends on your motivation for catching either the lighter winds (sub 18 knots) or the occasional blasting conditions (more than 25 knots), keeping in mind that you may have to develop extra skills before you can ride in these wind speeds. If you consider buying multiple kite sizes, it is reasonable to keep 2 meters (on average) between each size, in order to avoid having equipment that has an overlapping wind range. For example, your 2-kite quiver could be a 7m and a 9m, or an 8m and a 10m. When going into smaller sizes, keep them 1m apart (5m, 6m), and roughly 3m in the big sizes (9m, 12m, or 14m and 17m). In the big sizes, most brands skip some sizes for this reason.
The kite size guide we give to our students in Perth, Western Australia
Below is the guide we provide to our local students in Perth to help them choose their first kite size(s).
|Single Kite 18-25 knots||Two Kites 15-25 knots||Three kites 10-35 knots||Board length|
|50||6 or 7m||6/7m + 4/5m||9m + 6/7m + 4/5m||125-132cm|
|60||7 or 8m||7/8m + 5/6m||12m + 7/8m + 5/6m||130-135cm|
|70||8 or 9m||8/9m + 6/7m||14m + 8/9m + 6/7m||135-140cm|
|80||9 or 10m||9/10m + 7/8m||14m + 9/10m + 7/8m||138-140cm|
|90||10m||10m + 7/8m||17m + 10m + 7m||138-145cm|
|100||12m||12m + 9m||17m + 12m + 9m||140-145cm|
|110+||12 or 14m||14m + 10m||17m + 12m + 9m||145-150cm+|
Need help deciding which kite size to buy? Contact-us for some free advice.
How to choose a kite size