North Sails NEWS

Story Contributors: Ryan Levinson

FIVE WAYS KITEBOARDING CAN IMPROVE YOUR SAILING

Similar Concepts Teach The Best of Both Worlds

Story by Ryan Levinson

For those who don’t know, I have a genetic disease called FSHD that causes my muscles throughout my body to weaken continuously. When I was diagnosed, there was nothing available to read except depressing stuff like clinical descriptions of symptoms, so I’ve always strived to be a public example of one possible approach to living with the disease. Kiteboarding empowers me to move and express myself with a freedom far beyond anything else possible given the effects of my disease. I once described it as feeling “like a dance across water and through the air to the rhythm set by the waves!” It’s hard to explain how much that means to someone like me whose life has always been very physical and based around my relationship with the ocean. As my disease progressed, I lost the ability to paddle a surfboard, but with a kite, I can ride waves. It’s now getting hard to walk, but with a kite, I can fly! 

It is no coincidence that many of the best sailors in the world are kiteboarders. Both have a lot in common, but did you know that kiteboarding can also improve your sailing skills? Here are five ways kiteboarding can make you a better sailor:

It’s dinghy sailing without the dinghy

There is a wise saying, “To get better at sailing big boats, sail small boats!” Small boats offer a more direct feel for the forces involved with sailing. Kiteboarding takes this a step further by enabling you to literally experience sailing from the perspective of a boat’s mast. You develop an understanding of the interplay between the wind, water, and boat that usually takes much longer to gain through sailing alone. Kiteboarding is especially effective at helping you develop a comprehensive understanding of apparent wind, an essential skill for sailing well!

Fit is fast!

If you want to sail fast or far you will benefit from being fit. Kiteboarding provides a fun full-body workout to build the fitness you need to sail well. While kiting you wear a comfortable “harness” that allows you to control the pull of the kite with your entire body. This makes the kite’s pull easily manageable and provides the added benefit of strengthening key muscles used in sailing, especially your legs and “core.” Kiteboarding also builds aerobic endurance, flexibility, and coordination. It is a good idea to check with your doctor before engaging in any new form of exercise but don’t let age or physical ability serve as excuses for not getting started with kiteboarding. My 85 year old father in law took his first lesson this past winter and I’m in my 6th consecutive year of sailing full-time despite losing much of my strength due to a genetic muscle disorder. Kiteboarding plays a key role in helping me maintain the fitness I need to keep going on the water, imagine what it can do for you!

Kiteboarding is a crew factory

Do you need good crew for an upcoming regatta or passage? You have a great chance of finding them through kiteboarding. Even kiters who have never been on a sailboat can usually apply their understanding of wind, comfort in the water, and general level of athleticism to quickly become solid crew. Kiteboarder’s and sailor’s shared passion for harnessing the wind to move through water is a connection that often forms the foundation for lasting friendships on and off the water.

Sailing more makes you a better sailor

The more time you spend sailing the better you will be at it. But even the smallest dinghy can be a hassle to get rigged and ready, not to mention the challenge of just getting it to the water in the first place. Big boats are orders of magnitude more complex (and expensive) than dinghies! Kiteboarding gear is lightweight, portable, and a cost effective way to get your sailing fix. You can easily fit a complete set of kiteboarding gear in the trunk of your car (or cabinet on your boat) and get on the water quickly with little effort. Kiteboarding makes it possible for you to sail just about anywhere there is wind and water, even if it’s frozen (snow kiting is incredibly fun). Kiteboarding will greatly increase the time you spend zipping across the water developing skills and fitness that benefit your sailing.

The catch

Unfortunately there is a downside… Kiteboarding is an easily accessible way to feed your wind addiction which enables you to get a quick fix anytime the wind is up and you want to get on the water. The fitness, knowledge, and skills you will gain directly benefits your sailing thus making it even more fun and rewarding. It’s a viscous cycle of fun and progress that will keep you smiling on and off the water but if you’re not careful you could end up kiting between races or spending years of your life exploring the oceans on a boat full of kiteboarding gear, in search of steady wind, perfect waves, and endless sailing adventures…

How to start

The best way to learn how to kiteboard is to take a lesson from a qualified instructor. The learning curve is usually surprisingly quick and safe with good instruction but it is definitely dangerous (and expensive) without. Looking to get into kiting with North? Find your nearest instructor here.

Want to know more about Ryan? Read more in the Q +A with North Sails.