How to Choose a Kiteboarding Kite | The Definitive Guide
There are several factors to keep in mind when choosing a kiteboarding kite that is right for you. Slingshot has been building kite gear for over 2 decades and we believe that educating new riders (and having epic customer service) is the best way to onboard lifetime loyal Slingy’s!
What type of rider are you?
What are the main kite shapes?
What kite shape matches your riding style?
What type of kiteboard rider are you? Find the right kite match.
The great part of Kiteboarding as a sport is the multiple persona’s it attracts. You can sit on any kite beach and see all genders, body forms & ages sharing an undeniable passion for water. We don’t believe in labels but here are a few rider types that perhaps you can relate to and will better help you pick your perfect kite!
When it comes to helping people choose the right kite, we like to divide beginners into three categories.
Beginner: So you’re a newbie, no shame in that. Just learn the basic kite skills, safety protocol and and etiquette from someone who knows what they’re doing (preferably an instructor or school) and you’ll be on your way to carving across the water in no time.
Slow and steady: You’re cautious, perhaps a little intimidated, and are happy to take it slow and mellow. Once you do progress past the beginner state, you have little interest in being extreme. You just want to get out on the water and play safely.
Fast and furious: You’re strong, athletic and on the fast-track learning method. Jumping, tricks, freestyle, waves and epic days are in your future.
Casual/Mellow: You’re a proficient kiter but not extreme, and you’re happy to keep it that way. For you, kiting is about freedom on the water, not about pushing your limits and you value safe, user-friendly gear you can feel comfortable with no matter what the wind does.Slingshot Z
Freeride: You’re an intermediate to advanced rider who likes to do a bit of everything and wants a kite that can keep in all conditions and styles of riding. You value high-performance versatility out of your gear. Slingshot Rally
Freestyle: You’re into tricks and progression, unhooking, boosting, looping and challenging your buddies to jump-offs and trick-for-trick contests. You’re not shy when it comes to crashing hard, relaunching in sketchy wind, dragging long distances to get back to your board or the occasional self-rescue to make it back to shore. Slingshot FUEL , Slingshot RPM
Wakestyle: You’re a specialized rider focused on wake and cable inspired tricks, handle passes, kickers, sliders, ramps, flatwater freestyle, inverted aerials and high-performance unhooked riding. You prefer a high-rocker board with boots, usually without fins. Slingshot FUEL , Slingshot RPM
Surf: Your focus is in the waves; surfing, slashing, rallying down the line and carving back up to catch another set. You need a kite designed for downwind drift and built to take a beating if it gets tumbled in the surf. Slingshot SST
Light wind: You live in a light wind location where the breeze is steady but just strong enough to get out and play if you have a big kite with plenty of power. Performance is still important, but above all else you just want enough juice to cruise. Slingshot Turbine
Foiler: You may still have a twin tip in your garage, but nine times out of ten, you foil. You used to only foil on light wind days, but as you get better and better, you’re comfortable foiling in pretty much any conditions you would ride on a kiteboard. Slingshot SST
What are the main kite shapes in kiteboarding?
- Details: No bridle, classic C shape, wide squared-off wingtips, the most influential kite shape from which all modern shapes evolved.
- Benefits: Unrivaled unhooked performance, aggressive pop and power delivery, insane yank-your-shorts-off looping and boosting, direct feel and instant feedback
- Drawbacks: Not as user-friendly or versatile as other shapes, smaller wind range, harder to relaunch, not a good beginner kite, less upwind drive
- Details: A sport-changing shape that made kiteboarding approachable to the masses; a medium to high aspect ratio, tapered wingtips and a fully-supported leading edge bridle.
- Benefits: User-friendly, great wind range, depower and upwind ability, easy relaunch, lofty airs
- Drawbacks: Wingtips can get tangled in bridles if the kite gets tumbled, slower steering then other shapes, not as good unhooked or for looping, less direct feel and reaction due to bridle and pulleys
- Details: A modified C-kite shape with a more open canopy, slightly swept wingtips and a leading edge bridle.
- Benefits: The best of both worlds- combines the unhooked performance, power, pop, looping abilities of a C-kite with the range, depower, upwind drive, downwind drift and versatility of a bow kite.
- Drawbacks: Airs aren’t as floaty as bow kite, less direct feel than C-kite
- Details: The evolution of a traditional bow kite, less narrow wingtips and aspect ratio, simplified bridle, designed for more versatile, all-around performance
- Benefits: Difficult to go wrong with this shape, versatile, friendly for beginners, plenty of boost and drive, easy relaunch, great depower and wind range
- Drawbacks: Not a specialized kite for a specific style or condition
- Details: Stubby, low aspect shape with fat, rounded over wingtips and a small bridle supporting the leading edge
- Benefits: User friendly, safe, well behaved and extremely easy to relaunch, fast turning and looping, very playful
- Drawbacks: Not as aggressive in performance, less upwind drive than higher-aspect shapes
What kite shape matches your riding style?
Undecided, confused or unsure what kite type will best fit your riding style? We can help. While this is by no means the definitive source, we live and breathe kiteboarding and kite gear, so it’s safe to say these suggestions should at least point you in the right direction.
- Slow and steady: A Delta or Hybrid-bow shape will be your best bet. These shapes favor user-friendly flying, easy relaunch and plenty of range and depower. In the Slingshot lineup, the longtime fan-favorite Rally is our hybrid-bow shape. Releasing in July will be our new hybrid-Delta Rally GT. The Rally will has great top-end performance while the upcoming Rally GT, although quite playful and fun for experienced riders, is geared more toward entry-level kiters who value friendly, well-behaved flying above all else.
- Fast and furious: If this is you, get a kite you can grow into, not one you’ll outgrow after your first season. The Open-C shape Slingshot kite is the RPM– it is your best bet if you think you’ll progress into a freeride/freestyle rider who wants a kite with plenty of high-performance capabilities. If that’s not you, look at the Rally, which fits into the hybrid-bow category. The Rally is just as high performance as the RPM, it’s just geared more toward all-around versatility rather than freestyle and wakestyle.
- Casual/Mellow: Hybrid-bow. For Slingshot, that’s the Rally. You’ll love the range, relaunch and all-conditions reliability this shape offers. Unless you’re focused on a specific discipline of the sport, it’s hard to go wrong with the Rally.
FREESTYLE: Hybrid-C- the RPM. There’s a reason the RPM is the kite of choice for world class (and world champion) freestyle riders like Youri Zoon, Carlos Mario and Sam Light. The load and pop, unhooked performance, smooth loops and high-wind predictability are second to none.
WAKESTYLE: Traditional C or Hybrid-C. Don’t let the hype of other kite shapes deter you- if you’re a dedicated wakestyle rider, you can’t beat the direct feel and power delivery, the pop, the unhooked performance or looping potential of a C-kite like the FUEL If you’re willing to sacrifice some of the straight C-kite power and performance for versatility, go with a Hybrid-C shape like the RPM.
FREERIDE: This is the category that encompasses the majority of kiteboarders, so the answer will depend on personal preferences, environmental factors and what type of crossover performance you want. Here are a few general guidelines to help you narrow down the options:
- Hybrid-Bow (Rally): You want versatility, maximum range out of each kite, smooth lofty airs and less reactive or “twitchy” steering; not really interested in unhooking or looping.
- Hybrid-C (RPM): You like a faster, more reactive kite that you can whip aggressively, loop, unhook with and load and pop for tricks.
- Hybrid-C (SST): You want a versatile kite you can do anything with, but your style is favored more toward slashing swell, cruising downwind, using a surfboard or foiling- all of which are best served by a wave-oriented kite with exceptional downwind drift.
SURF: Hybrid-C (SST). This one is easy. If you’re into riding waves, you want the fast-turning, tight looping performance of a modified C shape, with the exceptional downwind drift created by a fine-tuned bridle configuration and the instant relaunch of swept, Delta-like wingtips. For Slingshot, all those features are found in the SST.
LIGHT WIND: Bow. For Slingshot, that’s the Turbine. The high aspect shape and long, slender wingtips of a bow kite will give you the most bang for your buck in light wind. These kites steer quite a bit slower- both because of their shape and because big kites of any shape are slower by nature- but what you sacrifice in handling, you gain in grunt, low-end power and apparent wind once you get up to speed and cruising.
FOILER: Hybrid-C (SST): We’ll assume we are talking about freeride foiling here, not racing. If you’re into foiling, you want a kite that floats like a feather in the air, drifts downwind without falling out of the sky, maintains reactive steering without full tension on the lines, relaunches well in light wind and whips quickly through the window. The SST is all of that and more. Its Hybrid C-shape has the fast-turning, tight looping performance of a modified-C, with exceptional downwind drift created by a fine-tuned bridle configuration and the easy relaunch of swept, Delta-like wingtips.
Here is what our Pro Rider Karolina Winkowska says about picking your perfect kite:
Read more about:
Building Your Perfect Kite Quiver HERE
Tips for Buying NEW Kite Gear HERE