You want to get a kitesurf board, but the choice is a bit overwhelming - follow our guide help you narrow down the choice and find your perfect board.
A twin tip board is the one most kiters buy first. This style of board goes in either direction & has footstraps to keep your feet attached. Twintips are probably the most popular type of board & unless you kite in a very wave oriented location, they will be the boards you see people using.
There are several factors that I might discuss with a customer in the shop, to help them distinguish which boards will work for them.
1/ Surface area. Twin tips don't have much buoyancy & although they float themselves, they won't float you! They work by planing over the water's surface. As a general rule, the larger the surface area of the base of your board, the easier it will plane. An average size board for a 75kg kiter is about 135x41cm. If you're heavier, you kite in lighter winds or you're getting started in kite surfing you might want to increase the size of the board.
2/ Rocker. Lay the board down on a flat surface & you'll see the tips are higher than the middle. This is the rocker line. The higher the tips are from the surface the more rocker it has. More rocker improves grip & comfort, but it's not as efficient, so it decreases speed & early planing. To compensate, boards like the Airush Livewire or Shinn ADHD with lots of rocker are generally ridden in slightly larger sizes.
3/ Flex. Hold the tip of the board & give it a push in the middle with your other hand. Some boards are very stiff and hardly flex, others are very soft. Now that wood cores are the predominant method of building kite boards, manufacturers can really optimize how & where they want their boards to flex. Softer boards flex under the pressure applied by the kiter when riding & the rocker line increases (see above). Heavier riders should look for stiffer boards to maintain a good level of performance.
4/ Concave. Put a straight edge across the middle of the board & you will see the base isn't flat, but slightly concave. The bottom shape varies hugely between boards & makes a real difference to the ride feel. More concave makes a board feel like its gliding over choppy water. It's also used to improve the efficiency of boards with higher rocker lines, as the concave effectively allows the rocker in the middle of the board to be reduced, whilst maintaining it on the rail for control.
5/ Outline. Look at the board from on top. Is it a smooth curved shape or square with straight sides? The more rounded the tips & the outline, the smoother your board will be & the better it will be for chop & carving. Square shapes offer better grip, drive & pop off the water, with a definite trade off in rider comfort!
6/ Footpads. These should be padded, grippy, fit your feet & go big enough to accommodate boots if you kite through the winter. If your board has pads you don't like then you can change - but be careful to get the right bolt spacing on pads from alternative brands.
7/ Boots. If you wake board and you want to use kitesurfing to get you on the water more often & for less money (wind is free, unlike diesel!) then you are going to want a board you can use with your boots. I'll write a more complete post on this subject soon. Suffice to say here, make sure the board you buy is designed with boots in mind. If it's not then you can damage the inserts on the board from the extra force you can put through it with boots & this probably wont be covered by warranty - you have been warned! Boards for boots include: Airush Livewire, Nobile 50fifty, Shinn ADHD, Slingshot Asylum. If you don't go overboard on the size of your wakestyle board they also work nicely with straps.
8/ Fins. If you are starting out bigger fins on a twintip are helpful. Fins on a kiteboard help to stop the board feeling skatey underfoot. Bigger fins, about 5cm deep, make the board travel in a straight line like it's on rails. This is more forgiving to new kiters who are still learning good edge control. The board feels locked in and doesn't want to slip out from under you. This is especially helpful when it's choppy.
The main thing when buying a board is to be honest with yourself about your ability & how fast you learn new sports, the conditions you ride in & your weight. Talk to kiters on the beach & talk to us at 24-7 Boardsports (02380 894000) about trying out some different boards - we're here to help you narrow down your choices & most importantly get you on the water having fun!