In the late 1990s, as extreme sports really began to gain in popularity, the idea of combining wakeboarding, surfing, and paragliding with a little bit of creative gymnastics led to the development of kitesurfing or kiteboarding. Popular throughout the world, the principal point is to use a large power kite and the wind to propel a kiteboarder across the water. However, individuals who are new to kitesurfing find choosing the right equipment, particularly the right power kite, difficult. Understanding the four main designs of kites for kiteboarding and the benefits they provide make this process much simpler.
C Kites for Kitesurfing
Also known as leading edge inflatable kites, or LEI kites, C kites are the closest thing to the 'original' kitesurfing kites on the market. Their main shape is rectangular, but when suspended by their four corners, they form a distinct 'C' shape which is more prominent than on other kite designs which are flatter. Usually reserved for more advanced, 'wakestyle' riders, C kites notably lack depower making them unstable for those who do not know how to handle them.
Bow Kites for Kitesurfing
First developed in 2005, bow kites or flat LEI kites are much more triangular in shape. They include a bridle with interlinked lines which run across the kite's leading edge before they reattach to the bridle. The wingtips of bow kits sweep back and the trailing edge is concave producing an immense potential for power, while at the same time maintaining nearly complete depower. Bow kites are more stable in the air, easier to relaunch, and generally safer than C kites. As a result, most kitesurfing schools teach almost exclusively on bow kites. Bow kites are also popular in low wind areas since the bow shape maximises wind power.
Hybrid Kites for Kitesurfing
Hybrid kitesurfing kites are exactly what their name suggests: a combination of C kites and bow kites. Each specific hybrid kite is different. Some are more like C kites, both in shape and behaviour, and others are more like bows. Regardless, the main purpose of hybrid kites is combining the 'feel' of C kites with the safety of bow kites. As a result, hybrid kites are incredibly versatile and an excellent choice for kite surfers who like to mix up their riding styles and tricks from day to day.
Delta Kites for Kitesurfing
Delta kites are really just a specific type of hybrid kite that are more 'bow like'. Specifically, delta stunt kites feature a far more swept back wing style reminiscent of F14 fighter jets. This more pronounced wing style makes Delta stunt kites much faster than bow kites, but also less stable. They are often shorter and fatter than many other options, making them easy to relaunch and control. For this reason, Delta kites are favourites amongst beginning kite surfers, though their performance in low wind especially makes them popular amongst all levels.