I got butterflies in my stomach recently as I watched a YouTube video of a guy dropping into huge waves at Jaws on a foilboard powered with a kite. This sport is the next level of kiteboarding, and to find out more I talked with Jared Carlson of Kiting.com. He’s mastered quite a few kiteboarding tricks and shares them at his kite school.
“We have a kiting operation on the North Shore,” says Carlson. “We give kiting instructions for beginners to advanced students. We also have foilboarding lessons for our students. We’re the only kite operation on Maui that offers tandem kiteboarding. Tandem is basically taking somebody out in the water that has never kited before and actually having them with a pilot and go ride around. It’s similar to a skydiving lesson where you generally go tandem. Same thing for paragliding. Going tandem can give you a basic idea of what the end result is of kiting. It’s a great way to see it.”
Going tandem is the perfect way to test out the sport to see if you really like it, before you invest in equipment.
“It’s good for a number of reasons,” says Carlson. “One the teaching aspect. You can actually take them out there and teach them, not just theory, but the practical aspect. You get a number of people who are not sure if they want to get into the sport because there is a good amount of time involved on being able to learn to kite. There’s a lot of money associated with it. So going tandem is a good gateway to see you like it. I would say 99 percent of the students we take out tandem pick up kiting right after.”
Surprisingly, no experience is necessary to take lessons.
“Getting into kiting is quite a bit easier than say windsurfing,” says Carlson. “Generally we like to have about 10 years old and up. The number one thing with our students is making sure they are comfortable in the water and they can swim well. That’s essential for getting out there. Students don’t need any wind knowledge or any other requirements. Most of our lessons are geared toward adults. Everyone is going to pick up the sport differently. Some people can pick it up in the course of one lesson, but generally students will need three to six lessons to be proficient with it. So a lot of our students go for our nine-hour kiting lesson. It’s a three-day course, three hours per day.”
Then there’s kite foilboarding, which has certainly evolved the sport. In fact, as Carlson points out, it’s “sort of exploded” on Maui. Carlson’s school is the first to offer lessons.
“Basically foilboarding feels like you are snowboarding in five feet of powder,” says Carlson. “You have no real strain on your knees, it’s really smooth riding. It’s really about balance when you are up. It’s like an airplane underwater–it needs a certain takeoff speed before you can pull back on the board to bring it up. You need to get going about eight to 10 knots before you apply a bit of back pressure and when you do that, the board will start to elevate out of the water. Once you’re up, the resistance of the board reduces by 12 to 15 percent. To put that in kiting terms, let’s say you’re riding a 10-meter kite on a wakeboard–you can drop the kite size down in half to a five-meter kite and use a foil board. With the foil you need less pull to get up and going. We have a threshold of about 15 miles an hour of wind–below that kiting gets really difficult. Now with foiling it’s common to see guys on the water in nine-miles-an-hour of wind, which before wasn’t possible.”
Of course, I asked Carlson about that YouTube video of the guy kite foilboarding at Jawz. He certainly knows the video.
“That was me!” says Carlson. “It was about 40 feet. Basically after I did that, people saw me as more of a guru for kite foilboarding. If you can do it at that extreme, then teaching the sport is relatively easy. Teaching has evolved too in the past couple years–the equipment I learned on was way harder! We’re able to teach people safer and easier on the new technology. We’re getting people upwind on their first lesson. It’s pretty neat.”
For a tandem kiteboarding experience and lessons contact Carlson at Kiting.com.
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