A VERY YOUNG SPORT
Kitesurfing, kite surfing, kiteboarding or flysurfing (if you speak French), started with a hand full 'kiters' in around 1998, there were probably only a couple dozens kitesurfers in the world. The population of kitesurfers has been growing rapidly since then and is now widely known but perhaps not widely understood.. The idea behind kitesurfing is very simple. A kitesurfer stands on a board with foot straps or bindings and use the power of a large controllable kite to propel him and the board across the water. This simplicity also makes kitesurfing challenging. Your body is the only connection between the kite and the board and you have to control them both at the same time: piloting the kite on the sky and steering the board on the water.
How does it work and how did it all start?
Kites originated in China thousands of years ago (two kite masters Kungshu P'an and Mo Zi flew kites as early as 478 BC) and have managed to remain unchanged until the modern time, when multiple line controllable kites were introduced by George Pocock in 1826. For the first time in history, instead of letting the wind fly the kite, a multiple line controllable kite flyer can actually pilot the kite on the sky.
When flying across the sky, a kite generates lift like an airplane wing. Since lift is proportional to the size of a kite, some kite flyers realized that if you make a kite big enough it would generate enough power to propel a vehicle on land, snow, ice or water. This type of kite is called traction kite. Certain forms of traction kite has been used by many pioneers such as George Pocock in the past, but it only became popular in the early 1990's and its popularity has made traction kite flying more a sport than just a recreational activity. While a windsurfing sail is dependent on the wind to generate power, a kite is only dependent on the wind to fly. When a kite is flying across the sky, it creates its own wind (apparent wind) which is faster and therefore produces much more power than the actual wind can provide. Since lift is proportional to the square of the wind velocity, if the apparent wind of the kite is twice that of the actual wind you will get four times as much power from the kite. This simple fact is not easy to appreciate until you actually fly a traction kite. Numerous first-time traction kite flyers have been injured in the past for misjudging such power.
As soon as traction kite was introduced, a number of kite flyers started thinking of using kites to replace conventional sails in water sports such as windsurfing. After years of research, a number of water relauncheable kites were introduced: Wipika inflatable kite (introduced by the Legaignoux brothers in the 80's), Kite Ski frame kite (introduced by Bill & Cory Roeseler in the 80's) and in late 1990's FOne closed cell foil kite (Raphael Salles), Concept Air closed cell foil kite (Michel Montmigny and Benoit Tremblay), Arc (Peter Lynn). While the fundamental technologies are different and the degrees of relauncheability vary, these kites share the same characteristic that allows a kite flyer to launch them from the water after a fall. There are also a number of other pioneer kitesurfers with their passion and devotion has helped to make the sport feasible and spread rapidly in the early days: Laird Hamilton, Manu Bertin, Laurent Ness (Axelair), Robby Naish (Naish Kites), Don Montague (Kiteboat.com), Flash (Marcus) Austin, Dave Culps (Kiteship.com), Stefano Rosso (Yahoo Kitesurf group), Hung Vu (KitesurfingSchool.org) and more. Thanks to all those pioneers, a new sport named kitesurfing was christened and destined to be the most exciting sport for the new millenium.