Kitesurfing relies on wind, because of this, kite manufacturers have produced various different kite sizes to accommodate any wind condition.
In summer I get called almost daily and asked the question, what kite size do I need?
The kite size you use depends on three factors, environment, wind speed and body weight. If the wind is very strong, you will use a smaller kite size (between 4m to 9m), if it is very light you will use a bigger kite size (between 10 to 18m).
With experience you will be able to tell which kite size you need just by feeling the strength of the wind on your skin.
But until you are comfortable doing that I have created a user friendly beginners guide to choosing the right kite size for the right conditions.
Oh, and it includes a kite size chart which you can take a screen shot of and use before your kitesurfing session.
To accompany this article, make sure to check out our wetsuit category where we answer frequently asked questions pertaining to wetsuits.
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What kite size do I need?
Environment is one of the less thought of factors when deciding on the right kite size to use. However it can play a major role in the type of wind conditions you’ll experience for the day.
For example, in Cape Town, South Africa we have well known dry south-easterly trade wind known as the Cape Doctor that blows throughout summer. The famous Table Mountain creates a venturi effect, amplifying the predicted wind speed quite considerably.
There are tell tale signs that the wind is about to increase in speed, such as a table cloth over the mountain.
Locals know which environmental signs to look out for.
For example, if they were flying a 10m kite and noticed the table cloth starting to form accompanied by some white caps in the far distance, they know it’s probably time to switch to a smaller kite size, before the heavy windsit hard.
Every kitesurfing spot is different, and the best way to learn is kite in the conditions and speak to regulars who kite the spot often.
Wind speed is obviously one of the biggest deciding factors that dictate what kite size you need.
When teaching, I use the bucket analogy quite often. Think of your kite like a bucket, now hold that bucket under a water fall, the bigger the bucket the more water its going to catch and the harder it will be to hold in one place.
Your kite has the similar effect with aerodynamics.
The bigger your kite, the more wind it can catch, this ultimately equates to more power being generated.
Alternatively, you can also use a wind gauge on the actual day to get the exact wind speed at the time. ( I recommend using the wind gauge in correlation with the predicted forecast, just so you know what to expect in terms of wind increase or decrease.)
Body weight is the next most important factor to consider when deciding on the best kite size for you.
Think of your body as an anchor, the heavier you are, the more resistance you have towards the kite. Basically, the kite either has to lug around a light weight or a heavier weight.
This is why at my kitesurfing school we ask for body weight when booking a lesson. We do this to make sure the weight gap is not significant enough to impact the lesson.
You don’t want a 220 pound adult flying the same kite as a 88 pound child.
But how do I match my weight with the right kite size?
Please use the kite size chart below to do so.
Kite Size Chart
What if my kite size is too big?
Kitesurfing with a kite that’s too big can be dangerous for beginners, but experienced riders can get away with it, and often do.
As beginner you are still getting used to the feeling of a kite, and any unnecessary power will make you feel quite uncomfortable.
For example, let’s say you weigh 170 pounds and you use a 8m kite in 28 knots of wind. You are jumping up 2 kite sizes and are bound to be constantly over powered.
If you stand with your kite at zenith, you won’t lift out of the air uncontrollably (unless you power and dive the kite incorrectly). However, you will feel as if you never have a “break” and as though the kite is man handling you.
As for riding with a kite that’s too big.
Again, as a beginner you are likely to pick up uncontrolled speed and crash quite hard. At this stage you are not able to angle your kite correctly and use your core and legs to resist the pull of the kite.
What if my kite size is too small?
Once again, experienced riders can get away with it, but only to a certain extent.
Riding with kite size that’s too small is probably one of the most annoying things to do as an experienced kiter. You feel as if you are right there, but whenever you need that power it’s just no where to be felt.
Think of it in the same way as when you want to over take a car, you move alongside it and pump the gas, but there’s just no power and in fact you start slowing down.
Riding a kite size too small can really take a toll on ones moral. You feel as if you are responsible for the kite constantly crashing or falling out of the sky.
Flying a kite in low wind with the wrong kite size is next to impossible for beginners. You need to trim the kite and perform perfect kite maneuvers through the wind window to keep it in the sky.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been kitesurfing for 10 years or 1 month, one mistake in these conditions may be enough for the kite to fall out the sky.
This is why it’s never good for beginners to learn in low winds with the wrong kite size, it makes keeping the kite in the sky 100x harder.
Just know, it is not your fault and given the right amount of wind and kite size, there’s no doubt you succeed.
Knowing which kite size is right for you is paramount to your progression in the sport. Use the kite size chart we provided to help you make the right decision before heading out and once at the beach, look at what other riders are using.
Wind speed and body weight are the two main factors to consider when deciding on the right kite size. However, things such as your environment can also have a major impact on the wind speed, and thus the kite size you will need.
I hope this article gave you the information you are looking for. Please, if you have any questions, feel more than free to pop them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to them as soon as possible.