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Kiteboarders cut an impressive figure on the open water, and this increasingly popular watersport can be seen along ocean coastlines around the world as well as larger lakes and rivers.
Though you may not live in the most exotic – or windy! – location, we’re here to tell you that you don’t need galeforce winds to kiteboard. You simply need the right gear.
In this article, we’ll explore what differentiates the best lightwind kiteboard from one that excels as a wake style board or freerider.
We’ll also highlight products designed to work well in lower wind speed ranges, which are a must for every kiteboarder’s quiver.
How much wind is enough wind?
For kiteboarding, the answer to that question has evolved. As more people try and fall in love with kiteboarding, the market expands to encompass boards designed for riders of different sizes ,shapes, and skill levels.
This expansion also factors in variable wind conditions found around the world, which means kiteboarders have more options now than ever for riding in all kinds of wind and surf conditions.
In the kiteboarding community, the magic number for launching a kiteboarding kite is 12 knots.
This wind speed works well for average-sized riders riding standard kiteboards.
At 12 knots, an average rider should be able to launch their kite and start riding, and this speed is even sufficient for a water relaunch if necessary.
Board design can add to your gear’s wind range
Light wind kiteboards are an essential tool for maximising your wind range.
These boards are designed specifically for riding in light wind conditions, with key design characteristics that perform well even with winds are less than blustry.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of a light wind kiteboard is buoyancy. These boards are built for easy floatation.
They achieve this characteristic by combining exceptional length with a wider design.
For newer kiteboarders, these boards can be more forgiving and easier to learn to ride on due to the added floatation.
The profile of this type of kiteboard is meant to minimize drag and create more lift.
In fact, kiteboards for light winds are defined by their width rather than their length.
This board style typically starts out around 144 cm in width.
These boards are often built according to a nearly perfect rectangular template.
The extra width creates maximum area between the feet, but it also allows the kiteboard to plane at lower board speed.
Planing at a lower board speed means the board will plane at a lower wind speed.
Board constructions that enhance wind range
Kiteboards come in a variety of shapes and are made from a variety of materials.
This variety is the reason kiteboard enthusiasts amass a quiver of boards – because each is designed to work best in a specific range of wind and water conditions.
Having a well-rounded quiver is a surefire way to ensure you get out on the water no matter the wave or wind conditions.
For light wind conditions, the material your board is made of can really impact the ideal wind range of your kiteboarding kite.
A kiteboard comprised of standard materials that is shaped and sized for light wind conditions will make a 2m difference in terms of your kite size.
The length and width alone that distinguish a kiteboard as a “light wind kiteboard” will make your 10m kite behave more like a 12 meter kite, adding 3 to 4 knots to the bottom end of your getup’s ideal wind range.
Put simply, when you pair your kite with a lightwind kiteboard, the kite that works best at 14 knots with a traditional kiteboard will now start working at 12 knots.
Most of these boards will be non-carbon constructions.
Carbon fiber construction adds even more edge for low wind days.
In general, a kiteboard made of carbon fiber will add 3m to your kite, or an additional 3 to 4 knots of wind speed to the bottom end of the kite’s range.
If you’re riding a carbon board, your 10m kite will start working at 14 knots rather than the 18 knots you’d expect for a standard kiteboard built for more robust winds.
Other important design elements to look for
Width isn’t the only difference you’ll notice in a light wind kiteboard. There are actually several features that come into play to maximize the wind range you can ride.
Riding in light wind conditions means you aren’t likely to face a great deal of chop.
Because light wind conditions usually follow calmer water conditions, you’ll find that most boards designed for light wind riding feature very little rocker.
In fact, some have no rocker at all.
Rocker describes the way a board curves from one tip to the other, so a kiteboard similar to a light wind kiteboard will be fairly flat.
The simplicity of the board’s rocker is mirrored beneath the board in the absence of channels.
Depending on the target wind range, boards for lighter winds may have no channeling at all or feature very small channels.
Channels are grooves along the side edges or on the tips of a kiteboard, and these elements give a kiteboard extra grip and hold.
With the calmer waters you’re likely to ride on low wind days, these channels aren’t necessary and may actually create friction enough to slow your ride and reduce your optimal wind range.
Boards best left for blustery days
Lightwind kiteboarding requires its own gear, boards and kites specifically engineered to move with less wind.
This combination of design characteristics and surf conditions doesn’t lend itself to every style of riding.
As such, there are some types of kiteboards that won’t work as well for those light wind days.
If winds are really slow, you’ll want to steer clear of wake style kiteboards. These boards feature large, well-defined channels and a lot of rocker.
This style of riding usually entails a lot of unhooked tricks that only work with a board designed to create a lot of vertical pop. You aren’t likely to see a lot of wake style kiteboarders when winds dip below 18 knots.
Freeride boards may seem like a good option, but these are best left for more blustery days, too.
Though a freeride board features a shallow rocker similar to a light wind board, these are designed to allow a rider to get a lot of air time – which doesn’t happen if the air isn’t moving at a good clip.
In low winds, freeride boards can feel a little clunky and can subtract a few knots from your bottom wind range.
Best Lightwind Kiteboard
There are a number of lightwind kiteboard options that may work well for you. Always consult an industry professional for guidance and before use of any new product.
Cabrinha 2019 Stylus Board Only
The Cabrinha Stylus is a hybrid kiteboard, designed to excel in lightwind conditions as well as for freeriding.
In fact, this board is registered with IKA for Formula Kite Racing and can be used for the Youth Olympic Games.
This board is great for people interested in Formula kite racing or for beginners who need a forgiving board with a lot of lift.
This board is designed not only for light wind, but to deliver a performance ride for larger riders.
The design features a low rocker, optimized for light wind planing.
There are small channels on the rails to enhance grip.
Offset binding positioning enhances edging and maintains edge control even when you get air with this board.
This board is available in two sizes. Both the 150 cm and 160 cm boards are great for light wind days, but the larger board will support larger riders with greater stability.
View at Amazon to learn more about how this board could work for you.
- Hybrid bard excels in lightwind conditions or as a freeride board
- Registered for Formula Kite Racing as well as the Youth Olympic Games
- Low rocker and offset binding optimize wind range and light wind planing
- This board achieves greatest speeds when paired with a performance light wind kite, which is the sort of combination you’ll see this board part of on the racing circuit.
Slingshot Sports 2019 Slingshot Glide Kiteboard
Slingshot’s 2019 Glide Kiteboard is a light wind board designed for cruising in fan-winds.
This board offers a light wind range comparable to a surfboard, but features design elements that deliver a performance more like that of a twin tip board.
This board is shaped for versatility.
Its long, slender outline makes the Glide a great option for freestyle riders, while tapering at the tips allows this board to deliver a more dynamic performance.
The design elements that increase this board’s lift and minimize drag also make this option great for larger riders.
On a day with average winds, this board will support larger riders.
This board comes in two sizes, 149 cm and 159 cm. The large board will work for riders weighing 200 pounds or ore.
The extra space and buoyancy also make this a good option for beginners still learning the technique of controlling board and kite simultaneously.
View at Amazon for more information on how this board might work for you.
- Dedicated light wind cruiser
- Deliver feel and control of a twin tip
- Works for freestyle kiteboarding
- This board is long and slender, lacking a littler of the width you might expect if you try the smaller size. The larger size is not only better for larger rider, but it offers the board area that enhancing planing at lower wind speeds.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com @pierivb