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What’s the Difference Between Windsurfing and Kitesurfing?

windsurfing with starboard

Someone who doesn’t understand many water sports might think windsurfing and kitesurfing are one and the same. This is far from the truth—both are unique and provide distinct experiences. Learn the differences between windsurfing and kitesurfing, so you can determine which one you want to try.

What Is Windsurfing?

Windsurfing involves a large board with a sail attached to the base. The surfer will plant their feet on the board and use the sail and the direction of the wind to glide across the water.

What Is Kitesurfing?

Kitesurfing involves a smaller board, much like a snowboard. The individual will attach their feet to straps on the board and hold onto a kite to pull them through the water. Both water sports use the wind to propel the surfer through the water, but the mechanisms that achieve this are vastly different.

Learning These Water Sports

How you approach learning these water sports differs in technique. Windsurfing is much easier to pick up, and you can head straight for the water once you have a few instructions on how to stand, balance, and steer the board. Kitesurfing, however, takes a lot longer to learn because it’s more challenging to keep a grip on the kite’s handle and the kite in the air. Additionally, you need to know how to pull yourself up the board as your body moves through the water below the kite.

The Physicality of These Water Sports

Looking through a fitness lens, windsurfing requires you to use many more muscles to stay upright on the board than kitesurfing. This is because you’re engaging your legs, glutes, arms, and core muscles. Kitesurfing requires you to use your legs and core to control the direction and speed of the board, but it’s not as demanding as windsurfing.

Transporting the Gear

As mentioned before, a windsurfing board is much larger and heavier to transport than a kitesurfing board. You may need a roof rack on your car to travel safely with the gear. You could also purchase an inflatable windsurf board that’s more compact and can fit inside the car. Kitesurfing gear is easy to fold and store in a bag or the trunk of your vehicle.

Safety & Dangers

The last key difference between windsurfing and kitesurfing is the safety and dangers around each sport. It is no secret that you take more risks and put yourself in potentially dangerous situations with kitesurfing than with other water sports. The kite can physically pull you out of the water, making you airborne. This can affect the safety of other people in the water within 100-200 yards if you lose control of your body or the kite.

Windsurfing will only affect the safety of people within 15 yards of you. You might be thrown from the board due to a large gust of wind or waves, but you’re less likely to seriously injure yourself.

Whatever water sport you pick depends on your lifestyle and preference. Both are extremely fun and adrenaline-pumping. Which one will you try out first?

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.