HIGH AS A KITE
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
Go fly a kite!” is taking on a whole new meaning.
Kiteboarding, a sport that is a combination of windsurfing and wakeboarding, is catching on in the U.S.
In the next year, there are expected to be 200,000 kiteboarders worldwide — twice as many as the current number, according to Peter Cabrinha, a former world champion windsurfer who helped get kitesurfing off the ground in the U.S. He runs Cabrinha Kites, a Maui-based company.
Kitesurfers use boards that are about the size of wakeboards, outfitted with rigging bars and kite-sized sails. They are designed to be used on ponds, lakes or in the ocean, since they only require 8 to 12 knots of wind. Board, binding, sail and rigging cost $1,200. Unlike windsurfers, kiteboarders wear boots or straps that attach them to their boards, which enable them to jump waves.
“This sport lends itself to jumping — not speeding. It’s not how fast you can go, it’s how high you can go,” Cabrinha said.
While jumps of 25 to 30 feet are common, strong winds in places like Maui and Wadell, Calif., can take kiteboarders up to 50 feet in height and twice that in length, Cabrinha said.
Teenagers are drawn to the sport for its finesse and accessibility. Two or three kite sails fit in a backpack and kiteboards are easier to carry than surfboards, Cabrinha said.
“The beauty of this sport is you don’t have to put gas in it. The wind is free,” Cabrinha said. “All you have to do is get yourself down to the beach.”
There’s also a fashion element that is noticeably different than what surfers wear. Kiteboarders favor wetsuits worn with board shorts over them. “It’s a whole new culture made up of [former] wakeboarders and windsurfers. It’s something I’m definitely stoked to be part of,” Cabrinha said.