Image credit: eyesnbach.
So you want to rip through the waves with the wind in your hair going 30 miles per hour on a piece of wood. You’ve decided that your next vacation will be to a kiteboarding destination where you will finally take a lesson. How do you figure out which is the best kiteboarding school in the area? Read on.

If the spot is known for kitesurfing then there will be many many different schools operating in that area. I’ve written down a few precautions and actions you can take to decide on the best school for you.

Always Take The Weather Into Account

Remember the weather will always affect your lesson regardless of whatever your kiteboarding instructor says. So make sure the conditions are right before even deciding on taking a lesson. If its going to be blowing 35mph then its a good idea NOT to take a beginner kiteboarding lesson on that day. The higher the wind, the harder it is to control the kite. Also its easier to learn with larger kites because they move slower. In high winds, you’ll be forced to use a smaller much faster kite.

Remember, your instructor is motivated to make you take the lesson because he only gets paid if you take the lesson. Thus you really have to understand what the best conditions are for what your trying to learn.

Dont take beginner kiteboarding lessons if the wind is blowing more than 20mph. The wind should be sideshore (unless they have a chase boat for you) and there should be minimum chop.

Questions to Ask

This is a list of questions you need to answer about the school if your serious about getting the most bang for the buck from a kitesurfing school.

  • Do they have a chase boat or jetski available? This will maximize the teachers ability to come to your aid when in trouble? This will also maximize your time on the water which is what you want.
  • Do they have the most appropriate gear? Kites are specifically designed for a broad range of users from beginners to advanced riders who do tricks about 50 feet in the air. You want to make sure the gear that you use is made for beginners and not any other type. The gear should be the right kite size with the right line length. The longer the line length, the more forgiving a kite but also the more powerful its pull. Make sure they are using the newest SLE kites with large depower.To make sure they dont lie to you read up on kite types here.
  • Do they have the newest gear? Kitesurfing gear has been making tremendous leaps and bounds in the last few years. So much so that it might take you twice the number of lessons to learn on gear bought 3 years ago.  Good instructors and clubs dont always have the newest gear for you.  Also make sure the gear is new … ie less than a year old. The worst thing to happen is to waste your vacation on old antiquated gear. The newest model SLE Kites and big floaty boards are a MUST. C-kites and small boards are a big no-no.
  • Do they ask you to prepare ahead of your class? If the school really cares about you getting on that board, they should give you some material ahead of time to watch and get acquainted with kitesurfing. Some schools ask you to buy the progression beginner dvd and watch it before you come for your first lesson. This is a good idea.
  • Can the instructor communicate to you when your out on the water? This may seem stupid but the most important thing during a lesson is the ability of your instructor to communicate to you. Even if the kiter is a world PKRA champion, unless he can communicate to you then there is little or no use taking a lesson with him/her. Thus make sure you can understand what he is saying and that you have some mechanism to hear what he’s saying while your on the water. (Ie a wireless headset or something like that.)
  • Do they give you a money back guarantee if there is no wind? In case there is no wind some schools give you a free credit for future lessons. Some dont give you any at all. If your on vacation you probably want to be able to get your money back as your probably never going to come back to that particular place.
  • Do they teach you to kitesurf without a board leash? Board leashes are dangerous especially out on the ocean when there are waves and gusty wind. This is because if you get thrown from the board into the air, its likely you will land back on the board if you have a kite leash on. A school which teaches you how to kitesurf without a board leash is probably a better school than one that uses board leashes.
  • Do they provide a helmet, impact west and goggles? Most schools do. Do NOT take lessons with anyone who doesn’t provide you with good quality safety wear.
  • How is the time calculated? Most schools offer rates on a hourly basis. So make sure they start the clock when your at the beach at the water not while your chatting up the sales girl. If your using your own gear ask them where they will be launching from and if you can get there, make sure your rigged up before the instructor gets there. If he’s a good instructor he’ll make sure that you get about 30-45 minutes extra but still charge you for the regular 3 hours.
  • Can some part of your lesson be used to pay for gear that you buy from them later? Eg: if you take a lessons for $300 will they give you a discount ($100 or more) off any gear that you might want to buy after your lessons? Most schools will only be more than happy to apply some or all of your lesson cost to the purchase of gear from them.

And that’s about it. I’ve had a few bad experiences with kitesurfing schools where I’ve been taken out on days that I really shouldn’t have been on the water. Hopefully this article will save you from having the same experience!

Instructor: “Its upto you. Its good wind out there.”.

Me: “Hmmm ok … ”

Dont let this happen to you!

Happy Winds.