Sport

May 1, 2016

FLYING OVER THE WATER

Kitesurfing, like any sport that is taken to the extreme, may become dangerous. Considered to be a combination of many sports, kitesurfing has turned into a new kind of extreme sport. Let us examine what equipment exists for the safe practice of this sport.

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A water surface sport which joins aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and even gymnastic, kitesurfing is a style of kiteboarding that deals with sea wave riding, using standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for the purpose.

In the 1800s, George Pocock used kites to propel carts on land and small ships on the water, by using a four-line control system - the same system in common use today. Both carts and boats were able to turn and sail upwind. The kites could be flown for sustained periods with the intention of establishing "kitepower" (the possibility of a kite to transform wind into kinetic energy) as an alternative to horsepower (energy generated by engines).

The two brothers Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux, from the Atlantic coast of France, developed kites for kitesurfing in the late 1970's and early 1980's, and patented an inflatable kite design in 1984, a design that has been used by several companies to develop their own products since then.

Fundamental Equipment for Kitesurf

The kites are available in two forms: leading edge inflatables and foil kites. Leading edge inflatable kites are typically made from polyester with an inflatable plastic bladder which spans the front edge of the kite with separate smaller bladders, perpendicular to the main bladder to form the chord or foil of the kite. The inflated bladders give the kite its shape and also keep it floating, in case it is dropped in the water. The foil kites, on the other hand, are mostly made of nylon with air pockets that provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, which is similar to a paraglider. Foil kites have the advantage of not needing manually inflated bladders (the process can take more than 10 minutes).

Surfing kites come in sizes that can range from 0.7 to 21 square meters. The larger the surface area is, the more power the kite has, and this aspect is directly linked to speed. For example, any seasoned kite surfer will probably have three or more different kite sizes, which are needed to accommodate various wind levels. The smaller kites are used by light riders, or in strong wind conditions; and the larger kites are used by heavier riders or in light wind conditions.

As for the flying lines, these are made of a very strong material, frequently ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, in order to handle the dynamic load in unpredictable wind while maintaining a small cross-sectional profile to minimize drag.

The control bar is a solid metal or composite bar which attaches the blades to the kite via the lines. The rider holds on to this bar and controls the kite by pulling at its ends, causing the kite to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise like a bicycle.

The kite harness comes in seat (with leg loops), waist or vest types. The harness together with a spreader bar attaches the rider to the control bar. By hooking in, the harness takes most of the strain of the kite's pull off of the rider's arms, and spreads it across his body.

Among the indispensable elements for the practice of this type of sport, we find the wetsuit (diving wear) often worn by kite surfers, except in warmer conditions with light winds. While kitesurfing in strong winds, if the surfer is wearing a wetsuit, the body heat loss will be reduced. A safety hook knife, a helmet to protect the head from injuries, a personal flotation device, to be used if the surfer rides from on-board or with auxiliary staff, or even while surfing in deep waters, are considered required equipment for kitesurfing.

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