Kitesurfing Vs. Kiteboarding: What really is the difference?

You’ve seen them on the beach, those adrenaline junkies zipping across the water, pulled by a kite. But what’s the difference between kitesurfing and kiteboarding? It’s a question we often get asked, and one we’re going to answer for you today.

Kitesurfing and kiteboarding are two extreme sports that are often confused. They’re similar in many ways, but there are key differences that set them apart. Understanding these differences can help you decide which sport is right for you.

Main Differences between Kitesurfing and Kiteboarding

Kitesurfing and Kiteboarding mean two different things, depending where you’re from. It goes like this:

U.K. Definitions of Kiteboarding and Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing: Kitesurfing is a wind-powered watersport that uses a kite and a board to propel you across the water. It doesn’t matter what kind of board or kite you use, there are different kinds, but it’s all called Kitesurfing over here.

Kiteboarding: Kiteboarders use a skateboard/longboard with large wheels, providing them with the ability to glide across sandy beaches. They often use foil or ram kites instead of the leading inflatable edge kite used by kitesurfers. No water involved!

U.S.A/South Africa/Australia Definitions of Kiteboarding and Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing: Same as the UK definition, except it is specifically with a directional board (as per Redbull). This means the board has both a front end and back end, just like a surfboard.

Kiteboarding: Kiteboarders ride with twin-tips which is just a board which looks the same at both ends, similar to a snowboard or wakeboard. It is a little bit ‘easier’ than riding a directional board and allows for greater variation in tricks.

Here is this information compiled into a table for easy comparison:

AspectU.K. Definition of KitesurfingU.K. Definition of KiteboardingU.S.A. Definition of KitesurfingU.S.A. Definition of Kiteboarding
ActivityWind-powered watersport using a kite and a board.Uses a skateboard/longboard with large wheels on sandy beaches.Wind-powered watersport with a directional board.Riding with twin-tips, resembling snowboard or wakeboard.
EquipmentBoard and kite variations.Skateboard/longboard, foil or ram kites.Directional board with front and back ends.Twin-tip board, symmetrical at both ends.
Board TypeVaried types of boards used.Skateboard/longboard.Directional board similar to a surfboard.Twin-tip board resembling snowboard or wakeboard.
Kite TypeLeading inflatable edge kite.Foil or ram kites.Leading inflatable edge kite.Not specified, likely leading inflatable edge kite.

Why is it different depending on where you’re from?

As ever, things are done differently depending on where you’re from. The answer probably lies in the 2 governing bodies of Kitesurfing – The British Kitesports Association (BKSA) and the International Kiteboarding Organisation (IKO).

The main difference between the two is that the BKSA is a non-profit and IKO is not, which is reflected in how they operate. Membership with the BKSA comes with 3rd party insurance, while the IKO qualifications do not, for example. But it comes down to the IKO pushing the term “kiteboarding” while BKSA refers to it as “Kitesurfing”.

I hope this covers the differences, please feel free to reach out to us at Hunstanton Watersports if you have any questions!

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