How young can you start kitesurfing?
How young can you start kitesurfing?
Watching kitesurfers glide on the water and soar over the ocean is enticing for everyone, kids included. For some, it will always remain a dream, but for others, it turns into a real goal. Many parents come to us wondering how old their children need to be to take on the sport. Like many other questions, there is no straight answer for that, but here are few points to help you assess if your child is ready for kitesurfing.
“ We consider that 12 is a good age to start, but it is possible to push it as early as 9 years old, if maturity and commitment are both present”
Weight How young can you start kitesurfing?
A few years ago, weight was an important factor to consider when your child wanted to learn kitesurfing. Lightweight riders need smaller kites, and in light wind condition, they often ended up with a kite too small and too heavy to stay up in the air. This often forced the light rider to take an overpowered kite in order to be able to ride, which can be quite dangerous. Hence, there was a minimum weight needed in order to take up the sport. However, nowadays, with single strut kites such as the Airush One Progression and the Airush Ultra, the kite is so light that it can fly in marginal conditions, allowing the rider to pick a smaller sized kite suited for its weight without jeopardizing his or her safety. Kitesurfing for kids have never been so safe!
Equipment size How young can you start kitesurfing?
Similarly, when the sport began, equipment was entirely designed for adults. Harnesses were too big and bars were out of reach. The grommets becoming more numerous, some brands have released equipment especially designed for children, such as the Prolimit Rookie Harnesses, available in both seat and waist, all the way to the XXS kids size! As for the bar reach, short throw bars such as the Airush Access Bar were first designed for women, but quickly found adepts in the young riders crowd, that also had problems reaching the depower trim strap, or even worse, the bar! The combination of the small chicken loop and short throw is usually sufficient, but the seat harness with a lower hook may also help bringing everything into the reach of short-armed kitesurfers.
Learning independence How young can you start kitesurfing?
In the tuition of your offspring, consider independence and safety as the number one priority. Your child won’t always ride in shallow water, with an instructor bringing the board back for him or her and constantly giving instructions. Kitesurfing is considered an extreme sport and things can go wrong extremely quickly. Not only your offspring needs to know how to get out of trouble (how and when to react in problematic situations), but he or she also needs to know how to prevent getting in trouble in the first place. This is a matter of life and death. Remember that it can be impossible to get to the rider quick enough to save his or her life, hence the rider needs to be able to do so alone. For this reason, you need to pick your kitesurfing school – and instructor – very wisely, as some will unfortunately focus entirely on the fun experience instead of emphasizing on safety and independence. Instructors in the rush of putting your child on the board don’t go in enough depth to create a safe and independent rider. Consider reading the blog article How good were your lessons to assess if the tuition you are paying for is worthy or not.
At KiteBud, we had kids as young as 11 years old who were able to demonstrate perfect deep self-rescues without any assistance.
Maturity How young can you start kitesurfing?
This brings us to the topic of maturity. Safety procedures, board recovery and other kitesurfing skills need to be mastered before the student can safely learn to ride, and this applies for adults and children equally. Unfortunately, these important skills are not the most easy or exciting ones to learn, and children may get bored and lose interest. For this reason, the student needs enough maturity to understand how important they are, and even though they’re not fun, they need to be mastered before moving on to the next – more exciting – steps. Going to a more forgiving location – such as shallow water – is not a gift you are giving to your child, as he or she will not learn to be independent and self-sufficient, always relying on having the ability to stand up in shallow water to get out of trouble. This level of maturity does not come at a precise age. I have seen some 15-year-old unable to pass the board-recovery challenge and get bored before even trying to put the board on. By contrast, I have seen some 10-year-old children ride better than I can. What’s the difference between both? Maturity and commitment.
Commitment balances the need for maturity. If the grommet is so devoted to learn to kitesurf, he or she will overcome the hard and boring exercises with enthusiasm. However, if the young student is taking kitesurfing lessons because a parent is pushing him or her to do so, he or she will probably not persevere in difficult exercises. Sharing a sport with your offspring, making it a parent-and-child activity is a wonderful idea, but kitesurfing may not be the most suited hobby for that. If the motivation doesn’t come from the child, there are little chances that you will see him or her ride independently. Taking a “teaser” lesson can be a good option to see if he or she is interested. If after a first 2 hours experience with the kite, he or she is only “meh”, then my experience as an instructor says that you are wasting your money. Don’t push it.
Teaching your own child How young can you start kitesurfing?
‘’Over the years we have witnessed countless accidents, near-misses and dangerously overpowered kids being taught to kitesurf by their own parents’’
If you are a kitesurfer yourself, it can be very tempting to teach your own child. If this is your intention, we suggest that you take a Kitesurfing instructor course (Kiteboarding Australia ITC if you are in Australia, or IKO ITC for anywhere in the World) to make sure that your teaching skills are up to a minimum standard. You may not be aware of it, but instructors are constantly discussing the best and safest ways to teach, and standards evolve. What you learned in your lessons (if you ever took lessons) may have been the best-known techniques back in the days, but may not be recommended now. If you are not willing to get an instructor certification, consider paying for 1 or 2 lessons, to ensure that your child learns the safety procedures properly while learning to fly the kite in a controlled environment. This is also a good way to give your child a kite experience without committing to buy gear adapted for children. Your child’s life depends on his or her ability to perform safety procedures, hence make sure a professional instructor – you or someone else – handles at least this part of the tuition. We understand that when choosing to teach your own child you are having the very best intentions, however, over the years we have witnessed countless accidents, near-misses and dangerously overpowered kids being taught to kitesurf by their own parents.
Starting them as young as possible How young can you start kitesurfing?
“Contemplate the idea of spreading the learning process over a few years’”
Kitesurfing marketing often revolves around pro-riders, their world-class performances and stunts, selling us the dream of fame and celebrity. You know you’re too old for that, but what about your children? If you start them young enough, they could reach this level of riding. The competition about whose child will ride the youngest is extremely unhealthy. When too young, children lack the decision-making skills needed to save their life in an emergency, especially when split second decisions are necessary. A 3 years old child kitesurfing is cute, but it is also very scary to watch, considering how dangerous the sport can be. We consider that 12 is a good age to start, but it is possible to push it as early as 9 years old, if maturity and commitment are both present.
Watch the progression of one of our youngest students (13 years old) over the course of 3 x 2H Lessons. Notice how the student is trained to be self-sufficient and able to perform a self-rescue and board recoveries in deep water without any assistance from the instructor.
Another thing to consider is the enjoyment of the sport. There’s no point in pushing your athlete agenda on your offspring. Mental health is very important, and children of this age should keep things more fun and less competitive. Pushing the athletic skills is also a good way to disgust them of the sport forever.
Contemplate the idea of spreading the learning process over a few years, in order to keep things light and fun, while progressively building the physical and mental skills needed for the sport. The younger they are, the more important this is. As soon as they are comfortable in the water, bring them riding on your back or standing on your board, between your legs. Tandem riding is a very good way to get them interested, and a much safer option for a 3-year-old. If they are already too big for that, another option would be body dragging, holding on your harness. Even adults who never kited enjoy the experience.
Another great idea would be flying a very small (1 or 2 meters) 2- or 3-lines foil trainer kite. Kite-flying is a hobby on its own and is an enjoyable activity for children and adults alike. You can keep your child on the trainer for a few years before moving on to the 4 lines kites and harness. At this stage, make sure your child is drilled for safety procedures and consider paying for professional lessons. Keep your child underpowered when flying the kite on the beach and use short lines to reduce hazards. Once again, you can spend a few years just practicing flying the 4 lines kite and body dragging before attempting to ride.
Be ready to spend extra money on lessons How young can you start kitesurfing?
As explained in our blog article How many lessons do you need to learn kitesurfing?, there is no way to guess if your child is going to learn slowly or quickly. Our experience as instructors have shown that most teenagers adapt and learn rather quickly. As an instructor witnessing this, I get jealous to see how easy they get it, as I didn’t have it that easy myself! Children and pre-teens however will need to spend extra time. If you are a kitesurfer yourself, then you may be able to help your child practice between lessons, saving on precious lesson money. However, don’t cheap out on safety lessons. If the student cannot perform a safe self-rescue, for example, make sure he or she has all the lesson time needed to be competent. Learning quickly (and saving money) is not as important as learning properly and safely. This may save his or her life later on.
Remember that you are responsible for the decisions you are making for your child. Kids can be fearless and overestimate their ability level. They may choose conditions (too wavy, too gusty, too stormy, too strong) or locations (on shore, offshore, too many obstacles) that are not suited for them, or attempt dangerous tricks. In order to guide them properly in this sport, one parent should be a kitesurfer and accompany the grommet during their sessions, deciding if the conditions and locations are safe. If this is not the case and your child has his heart set on this sport badly, then you should consider learning it yourself. Maybe you’ll discover a new passion that you haven’t expected! If you cannot join the sport for some reason, make sure to learn about location and condition analysis, as well as kite setup, and launching and landing procedures. All these techniques are explained in details in our video tutorials. The beauty of Kitebud’s lessons is that you can learn all about it in our video tutorials that comes for free with our lessons package deals. You can also shadow your child’s lessons and ask your child’s instructor to show you how to be an assistant for launching and landing a kite. We also suggest to befriend local kiters so they can keep an eye on your child whilst on the water and help you assess the conditions and location. It will also be good for your child to have a mentor and a role model in the sport to look up to. Many local riders will take pride in seeing the local grommet walking in their footsteps and will gladly accept this role.
Overall, it is clearly possible for kids to learn to kitesurf nowadays, and how early they can start depends on how mature and motivated they are. As a parent, you are responsible to give them proper instructions that will teach them safety and independence. You are also responsible for making sure that their everyday riding is suited for their level. Kitesurfing can be a great occasion for you to bond with your child, or replace screen time with physical activity.
How young can you start kitesurfing?