To an outsider, kitesurfing may look like an extreme sport that isn’t accessible to a normal person like you or I. But this is one of the biggest misconceptions around kitesurfing. Anyone with an average level of fitness can learn to kitesurf and there is no upper age limit. It’s becoming more and more common to see people in their 60’s or even 70’s taking up the sport.
Aside from the sheer exhilaration and associated endorphins from gliding across the water powered by the wind, there are some other great health benefits to kitesurfing.
Improving core strength
When kitesurfing you have a board on your feet and are connected to your kite by a harness which attaches to your waist. In order to transfer the power of the wind into forward motion, you need to resist being pulled forward and keep your body straight. In doing so you utilise core muscles around your pelvic region, back and spine. This in turn enables you to develop and improve your core body strength which helps with posture and an overall feeling of wellbeing.
Upper body strength
A broad belief is that in order to kitesurf you need good upper body strength. In fact this is not the case at all. Your arms are only used to steer the kite which is attached to your body using a harness. Some advanced and professional riders will do ‘unhooked’ tricks whereby they disconnect from the harness and use their arms to control the kite. This requires good upper body strength but is not required by the average rider. That said, the movement of your arms as you steer and control the kite will help to tone and improve your upper body strength. The extent of this depends on whether you simply want to ‘cruise around’ or whether you want to start learning tricks which may require a little more strength.
It’s up to you how long your kitesurfing session lasts for but in general the average kitesurfers will go out for 45 minutes to a few hours and may do a few sessions each day. Depending on the type of kitesurfing you are doing there will be various cardiovascular benefits. Even leisurely cruising requires some physical effort as you absorb the impact of the oncoming waves by flexing your leg muscles whilst at the same time steering your kite with your arms. It doesn’t have to be taxing but kitesurfing will increase your heart rate and deliver cardiovascular benefits.
There is strong evidence that connecting with nature offers considerable mental health and stress reducing benefits. Many kitesurfers report enjoying the feeling of being out on the water, powered only by the wind, with no electronic or social distractions. Such opportunities for real connection with the natural world can be rare in this day and age. The combination of adrenaline and endorphins deliver stress reducing benefits and can increase your happiness levels. Reducing stress is also said to help with boosting immunity.
Make social connections (social aspects)
Although when you’re out on the water you are relatively isolated, kitesurfing is a great way to meet new people and make new friends. It’s an inherently friendly sport with kiters often approaching each other before or after their session on the water to help with launching or landing their kites, or asking for tips on wind conditions and any hazards to look out for. Interacting with others boosts mental wellbeing and has been proven to reduce depression and improve mood. There are also many international kitesurfing destinations where you can connect with other kitesurfers and become part of a community with a shared love of the water.
About the author
Jon has been kitesurfing for 15 years and runs Kitesurf Shack, which specialises in t-shirts, hoodies and gifts for kitesurfers.