How Fast Can You Go Kiteboarding?

How fast can you go kiteboarding

In the crowded field of water sports, kiting sets itself apart.  If you enjoy water sports and thrill rides with the love of the outdoors, this post is for you.

So, how fast can you go kiteboarding? The world kiteboard speed record is 57.97 knots or 66.71 MPH and an average kite rider travels at approximately 17.38 knots or 20 MPH.

We will review the major components of kiting gear and what factors involved in going fast.

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kiteboarding kite

Which Is The Right Wing Size?

We rate kites by their sail area in square meters. So, this is the sail area, not the wingspan.

When the wind hits the kite, it creates lift and propels the rider forward.  The size of the wing directly determines how fast the rider sails and the ease of capturing the wind at low speeds.

Simply put, the smaller the wing, the faster the speed, but the harder it is to catch the wind.

Kites For Different Wind Speeds:

  • Large kite for lighter winds (14-18m )- 8-15 mph.
  • Medium kite for medium winds (11-13m) – 15-20 mph.
  • Small kite for higher winds (5-9m) – 20-25 mph.

What Are The Basic Wing Types?

There are two major types of kites.  Foil kites and inflatables.

Inflatables, also called Supported Leading Edge (SLE) kites, have bridles attached to the leading edge.  So, you will need to pump this kite to give it its support.

The foil kite is bladderless made of open cells that allow airflow that inflates the kite. Therefore, the downside to this design is the ability to relaunch from the water with the open-cell structures.

In addition, kite manufacturers also offer closed cell foil kites. You can inflate these and they offer launch ability.  Even though you will need to inflate this one, the cells can be pre-inflated an external source like a leaf blower.

What Are The Basic Wing Shapes?

There are three major shapes of kites that I found.

C kites have a convex trailing edge, no bridle, and a C-shaped arc with square corners. Therefore, they turn along their pivot across the axis, turning in sharper loops.

Bow kites have a concave trailing edge, swept-back tips, with a bridle.  So, it flies with a more flat surface.  This tends to give more power to the rider.

Hybrid is a combination of C-shape and bow type.  It also has a convex trailing edge and swept-back wingtips, with a bridle.  Important to note, most modern-day kites are hybrids with strong C kite or Bow kite tendencies.

kite boarding

Different Kiteboard Types For Different Purposes

Flat Boards are designed for jump and speed performance.  As a result, the downside is that you feel all the chop and has harder landings on your body while kiteboarding.

Rocker Boards have more curvature and are bowed somewhat.  For that reason, they are not as performance-oriented, but handle water choppiness and can be more for a playful ride.  The high rocker is smoother in choppy water, the medium rocker is and the low rocker is better for freestyling.

Wooden and fiberglass boards are smoother riding and easier to get going. They are more flexible, but heavier.   Therefore, it is very durable and is hard to break in half or when you use boots.

Carbon boards are lighter and stiffer and have less dampening to it. This results in more feel, lighter and aggressive but not as durable as a wooden board.

Kiteboards Are Designed For:

  • Function – speed or freestyle
  • Effectiveness – rider weight distribution
  • Efficiency – harnessing wind speed

When choosing a board, consider your weight, height, skill level and how you will use it.

How To Choose Kiteboard By Size

Large boards (150cm-165cm) are frequently used for larger (200+ lbs) or inexperienced riders.  So, it provides more planeability due to greater surface area. They require less power from the kite to get up and ride and generate more speed.

Medium boards (145cm-160cm) are for skilled or moderate riders (150 lbs – 200 lbs).

Small boards (136cm-148cm) are for highly skilled or smaller riders (under 150 lbs).   It depends on the power of the kite and more maneuverable the rider to exit and return onto the board while doing tricks and stunts.

Kiteboarding measurements are generally in metric units.  I have converted some of the measurements to U.S. equivalents where it makes sense.

Metric to U.S. Conversions 
gram (kg) = 2.20462 pounds (lbs)
pound = 0.453592 kg
centimeter (cm) = 0.393701 inches (in)
in = 2.54 cm
meter (m) = 3.28084 feet (ft)
ft = 0.3048 m
kilometer per hour (km/hr) = 0.621371 miles per hour (mph)
knot (kn) = 1.15078 mph
mph = 0.858976 kn
kiteboarding

The Effect Of Wind Speed On Riding Speed

The most beneficial winds speeds for racing exceed 35 knots with consistent wind gusts. These conditions are strictly for professional racers with years of training and experience.

Beginners and trick riders benefit more from the moderate breeze.

How Wind Conditions Affect Kiteboard Speed:

  • 0 to 10 knots: Light breeze.  Smooth water with small waves.  The largest of kites will be hard to handle and tend to stall.  Beginner riders can use their large 14 m – 18 m kites when over 7 knots.
  • 11 to 16 knots: Moderate breeze.  Small waves, becoming longer.  Large kite for lighter winds.  Perfect for intermediate and trick riders hoisting 11m – 13m kites.
  • 17 to 21 knots: Fresh breeze.  Moderate waves, taking a more pronounced long form.  The wing and thrust will be more difficult to manage.  A skilled rider can push their 10m – 12m kite in this weather.
  • 22 to 27 knots:  Strong breeze.  Large waves, many white caps, and spray. These conditions require considerable sailing experience.   Highly skilled riders will need to look for flatwater with less chop
  • 28 to 47 knots: Gale conditions. High waves with white caps and foam.  Requires controlled surfaces and elite racers to navigate these gusts.
  • 48 to 55 knots:  Storm.  Exceptionally high waves and overhanging crests.  Extremely dangerous in the open sea.  Only narrow, controlled courses with low water levels and flat surfaces allow elite world-class racers to compete.

Wind Direction Basics

Wind direction can be just as important as velocity.  This is most apparent when kiting benefits from cross-shore and cross-onshore winds.

Winds directly onshore have the possibility of forcing the rider towards the beach or being stuck in the shallow waters.

Offshore winds will drive the rider out to sea.  Because of this fact, this can be a dangerous scenario and could require a boat rescue.

Read more about kite riding and wind theory in this post: Wind Orientation For Kite Boarding And Kite Surfing

Factors For Kite Riding With Speed

Kite riding racers, also referred to as ‘sailors’, spend months training for competitions to achieve their max speed. Max speed is the average speed between two points on a course.  Maximum velocity is the highest velocity at any one point of the run.

Fast kite riding is dependent on five factors:

  • Kite or wing size dimensions
  • Kiteboard size and shape
  •  Rider weight
  • Sustained wind gusts
  • A smooth body of water

Turn Radius

Longer lines increase the slow the turn radius and make the kite turn slower.  So, shorter lines decrease the turn radius and make the kite turn faster.

The larger the kite, the slower the turn also.

Kite Generated Power 

The flatter the design generates more power to the wing.  A smaller size wing with a flatter surface will produce the same power as a larger kite with more curl.  So, a good comparison would be a 15m C-kite to a 12m foil kite.

Inflatable kites tend to handle wind gusts better, but foils with a larger aspect ratio can do almost as well.

Other Factors That Affect Kite Board Speed

Factors to consider for kiteboarding board are rider size and weight, average wind speed, riding style, and the overall shape.  

Stability is fast, so, in general, you want a smaller kite with a larger, flatter board for speed.  This allows for more kite power and board stability. Wood boards tend to be stronger and might handle speed better.

Speedier boarding requires smaller kites mostly matched with flatter boards.

The weight of the kite rider is a major variable and will impact other factors. Sailors are generally around 75 kilograms or 165 pounds.

Wind Conditions determine what kind of a day a rider will have.   The minimum wind speed is approximately 12 knots, depending on the above factors.  But, racing requires much faster conditions.

Flatwater surface allows faster performance.  Liquid ice or very shallow water are the best situations.  Trenches are built for speed racing and can be engineered with the optimal wind velocity and aspect ratio.

How Fast Can You Go Kiteboarding?  Check Out The Speed Record

The fastest man on water, kiteboarder Rob Douglas set a new outright world speed record in 2010 in Luderitz, Namibia. On 28 October Douglas was one of five kiteboarders to break the previous record, held by the trimaran L’Hydroptère. Douglas did so by the biggest margin, more than four knots, setting a new record of 55.65 knots or 103.1 kilometers per hour.

World’s Fastest Sailor Rob Douglas on Kiteboard Racing and Speed Sailing

Get blown away!  Watch Rob Douglas’s historic run on ByAdrienFreville’s “Rob Douglas 55.65 knots”.

Conclusion

In how fast can a kiteboard go we discussed:

  • Factors for kiteboard speed
  • How kite wing shape and size affect rider speed
  • Kiteboard speed record run along with video footage

What are some of the key Kiteriding competitions?  The International Kiteboarding Association sponsors the Formula Kite, Kitefoil World Series, Slalom, Expression, Youth Olympics, and Olympic and Regional Games.

Related Questions

What Age Do People Start Kiteriding?  Usually 9-10 years old, but what is really important is that their weight needs to be at least 95 pounds or more.

Tracy Villarreal

I'm the owner of Active At The Beach. I grew up in a beach town in which I was fortunate enough to spend tons of time around the sea and the beach.

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