Expert kitesurfer Andy Gratwick explains why we should make the most of those blustery coastal winds with the fastest, most exhilarating non-motorised sport on water…
Take to the waves in Porthcawl, Wales| Visit Wales Image Centre
It’s a relatively young sport, is kiteboarding. People dabbled with it in the eighties and nineties, but it wasn’t until improved technology saw kites becoming easier to both develop and use that the sport saw a massive boom around the millennium.
It draws in fans on water, land and snow. But our vast (and often windy) coastline means that it’s kitesurfing on water which has really taken off in the UK. And quite rightly too: it’s fast, versatile and quick to learn. Need any more convincing? Let Andy Gratwick talk you through his much-loved sport.
WHY SHOULD I HARNESS THE POWER OF THE WIND?
It’s a completely free sport, and once you’ve learnt the basics you can progress at your own pace and focus on your preferred discipline, be it freestyle, ferrying, waves or racing.
You’re independent, but you can be as sociable as you like and there’s plenty of opportunities to kite with like-minded enthusiasts.
Plus it’s fun, exhilarating and exciting whether you’re a complete newbie or elite athlete, and you can do it on open water, snow or grass.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT KITEBOARDING?
Jumping high and riding waves! Kitesurfing in particular allows you to ride faster and jump higher than any other watersport, and it feels awesome!
Fast, exhilarating and a steep learning curve | Fotolia.com
CAN ANYONE TRY KITEBOARDING?
Yes! It’s simple to learn, safe and accessible for everyone between eight and 80 years old.
You don’t need to know any other watersports, and it’s suitable for all fitness levels. The only thing you do need is an open mind and motivation to learn.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
It is mega-important to get a proper lesson at a recognised school (in the UK there are British Kitesport schools nationwide, see britishkitesports.org). Expect to take about 3-5 days to learn the basics.
The primary skill to learn is flying the kite, the rest follows quite naturally. In the beginning, the learning curve is very steep and you can get to a competent level very quickly compared to other sailing sports.
WHERE SHOULD I GO?
As you progress, explore the Cornish and Welsh coasts |Visit Wales Image Centre
The south and west coast of the UK are fantastic for kiteboarding – look at places like Poole Harbour, Dorset and Hayling Island, Hampshire to start off with. As you progress look further west: Cornwall is brimming with open beaches making it an intermediate’s paradise, as is the Welsh coast.
HOW DO I BECOME THE NEXT ANDY GRATWICK?
Kiteboard as much as you possibly can, and don’t be scared of the chilly UK seas, even in winter!
MEET THE PRO
Dorset-based Andy Gratwick has been kiteboarding since 1998, and won the racing nationals in 2009.
He’s also responsible for introducing the sport to Iceland and Saudi Arabia, and has written teaching syllabus for the UK, Turkey, Australia and the International Sailing Federation.
His practical guide to the sport, The Kiteboarding Manual, is out now