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Kite surfing

One kite surfs by using a power kite to pull a small surfboard (on water) or a wheeled board on land.

Generally, the first step of kite surfing is to fly one's power kite into neutral position, in which the kite is stright overhead, and therefore not pulling except against one's body weight.

One then lies down in the shallows, and straps one's board onto one's feet. Then, in a (hopefully) coordinated movement, the kite is flown toward the water, in the direction that the board points. If the board doesn't dig into the water or a wave, the kite pulls the surfer up into a powerful planing motion similar to water-skiing. In a brisk offshore wind, it's easy to traverse at fifty km/h (30 mi/h) or more.

A beginner can turn by going to the shallows or another stopping place, putting the kite up into neutral, and then turning the kite in the opposite direction. A quicker, more skillful turn moves the kite toward the wind, to swing the surfer's path in a half circle, centered on the kite. As the turn ends, the kite is flown over to be in front of the surfer again. Turns away from the wind steal lift.

An unskillful turn will fly the surfer, and is often followed by a tumble if the surfer can't put the board down at the right angle. After a tumble, untangling and reflying the kite can sometimes be difficult. Experienced kite surfers try to keep the kite in the air.

If the kite is only turned partially, or is not straightened at the right rate, a turning surfer can swing up and fly, then get hurt when he recontacts the surface. Even in water, flying a power kite can be a brutal contact sport. The kite is usually twenty meters (sixty feet) in the air, and a careless turn in high winds can easily swing one five meters (two stories) into the air and down to an uncontrolled contact.

Controlled flying is possible, but more difficult and potentially dangerous. Flying occurs when the momentum of the surfer pulls the kite. In controlled, straight flight, the kite is flown quickly (snapped) to an overhead position, usually just as the surfer goes over a wave. The kite must then be quickly turned to glide in the direction of motion, usually into the wind.

Some kite flyers claim to be able to catch a "rotor," a horizontally cyclonic ridge updraft, when flying above large waves or ridges in high wind. Of course, this is extremely difficult, and occurs only in dangerous surf and wind conditions, or above land (not recommended!).

To fly the maximum distance, a flyer should reduce aerodynamic drag. Some people recommend laying flat in the air as long as one can't reach the surface. Others claim that attempting this maneuver adds more danger to the already dangerous maneuver of flying.

Powerkites can be dangerous. Lightweight people can easily be carried off, and dashed against water, buildings, terrain and power lines!

Another, more subtle hazard is that at fifty km/h (a typical speed for a skillful kite surfer), one can easily get tired, and then get farther from shore than an easy swim. If there's an equipment failure or a tangle, one can drown.

For more information see surfing, and possibly power kite.\n