Kiteboarding - The Sport
Strapped to a high-performance kite that resembles more a wing of an airplane than a kite, a kiteboarder can surf across the ocean and jump “big air” while throwing amazing maneuvers. Unlike wake boarders who depend on an often-expensive boat and a driver to tow the ride, kiteboarders need only a kite specially made for kiteboarding, a line set (to connect to and control the kite), a board, some safety gear, and wind. The accessibility of kiteboarding has brought more people to the activity and, consequently, has created another thrilling and competitive water sport.
Kiteboarders compete by displaying surface and aerial tricks, very similar to wakeboarders. By being strapped to a kite, however, the hang time for kiteboarding “big air” is often longer, thus allowing competitors to perform aerial tricks with more expressive style, grace and complexity. This advantage does not mean that the kiteboarder can neglect the kind of physical fitness needed for optimal performance. Watch some of the top competitors, and you’ll see how committed and dedicated these athletes are to every powerful tricks and maneuvers they display. They don’t get by on just luck, and if some of them do, eventually, as the sport grows to include newer, younger, more talented surfers, performance levels will inevitably be pushed further. It is thus important to get to, and stay, on the edge with the best physical conditioning. If you want to win first place, there is no other place to be but on the edge!
Kiteboarding - The Demand
The dynamic environment of water, current, wind, and big air and tricks demands awesome physical fitness of the kiteboarder. The countless body positions the surfer gets into require strength, power and suppleness. The legs must be strong to extend straight (almost a perfectly “timed” jump) to pop off the water, and supple enough to absorb a landing impact. The kiteboarder must have power endurance to perform jumps after jumps, rounds after rounds of elimination, as well as strength-endurance to withstand repeated and extended control of the kite the body. The torso must have strength, power and flexibility to perform highly technical air tricks. The shoulders must possess not just strength but also flexibility-strength to ride blind-sided (facing away from the kite), to perform surface and aerial handle-passes, where the rope handle is passed quickly from one hand the other behind the back (while being towed!). The arms and upper back must have tremendous strength and endurance to hold the handle and maneuver the kite, as well as adequate power to tug, pull and maneuver the handle for certain aerial and surface tricks. Because no great surfer can avoid losing control and wrecking, the entire body must be strong structurally. No one can predict how a fall will happen, at what speed, at what angle, and onto what body part, so it is wise for all surfers to prepare the body for this inevitable occurrence by strengthening the entire body for structural strength.
Kiteboarding - Injuries
A relatively new extreme sport, kiteboarding hasn’t received the kind of scientific scrutiny found with other more traditional sports. Currently, the pattern and rate of kiteboarding injuries are largely unclear, but according to a 6-month study that included 235 kiteboarders, this new water activity can be considered a high-risk sport (Nickel, 2004). The distribution of injuries are most common in the foot and ankle, followed by the skull, then the chest, and finally the knee (Nickel, 2004). The most common cause of injury is a lost of control of the kite due to technical mistakes, oversized kites, or overpowering wind condition, causing a direct trauma against things such as stones, boats, and windsurfers on the water or beach (Petersen, 2002). There was also a tendency for athletes using a quick-release system to sustain fewer injuries than athletes without such a release system (Nickel, 2004).
The Kiteboarding Workout
The kiteboarding workout program focuses on whole-body strength and conditioning, addressing qualities of strength, power and endurance. The program is designed with appropriate periodization and progression of exercise types, intensity and volume to accommodate tour and competition seasons. This strategy maximizes development of strength, power and endurance, while minimizing potential for overtraining, so that the kiteboarder can spend more of time in the water to develop sport-specific skills. Because part of the injury mechanism lies in the loss of control due to technical mistakes, we strongly believe that maximizing strength, power and endurance can delay mental and physical fatigue and reduce the potential for these technical mistakes, thus reducing the overall risk of injuries.
Time in the water is critical to gaining sport-specific skills, but it alone won’t optimize the elite performance witnessed in today’s progressive display of talent, nor will it minimize the risk of injury. To meet the demands of kiteboarding, you must participate in a strength and conditioning program that delivers the physical fitness you need to perform at your best and with the lowest risk of injury. Be on the edge!