When we think of watersports, surfing is often the first one that comes to mind. It’s a thrilling activity that’s been around for many years, and in some cases it’s just as fun to watch as it is to actually do. There’s a culture around surfing that people seem to be able to understand and admire even if they’ve never touched a board themselves. But that’s just the thing. A lot of people haven’t ever touched a board, and that can make surfing seem inaccessible to a lot of people, even if it remains popular overall.
So what’s the alternative? What if you admire surfing culture but you don’t know how to ride, or you don’t live anywhere near good conditions? One of the most natural alternatives would seem to be kiteboarding (also called kitesurfing). But can it ever catch up to surfing? Let’s look at some of the factors at play.
The Conditions Are Easier
Surfing is possible at tons of beaches around the world, but conditions are still demanding. Lots of waves just won’t cut it, and some of the more consistent surfing hot spots are pretty remote. Kiteboarding is a little more accessible in this regard. That’s not to say there aren’t special places to go for particularly excellent conditions. From Baja, to Brazil, to Egypt, there are plenty destinations for serious kite boarders. A kiteboarder can also get up and moving at a more ordinary beach, provided there’s enough wind. Even lakes are an option! Both sports require specific weather, but kiteboarders are able to be a little more loose and versatile with their selections.
The Pop Culture Isn’t There
Surfing has a major place in pop culture that no other water sport is likely to catch up to. There are movies about surfing, there are televised competitions, and there’s also a culture around the sport. This inspires clothing, music, and even attitude. There are also games about surfing, and beyond games, we’ve seen an “everyone’s going surfing” special run by an online casino game developer. The promotion plays on the various beach themed slots that evoke certain images and feelings for players of fun in the sun and carefree surfers making the most of the summer. Surfing is everywhere. Other water sports just aren’t going to reach this same level of exposure, and this might be the main reason that kiteboarding probably can’t catch up.
Equipment Is Expensive
A good surfboard can cost a few hundred dollars while a really good one can get up over a thousand. A full set of kiteboarding equipment—including the kite, the board, a harness, a leash, and a pump—can often easily top $1,000. Even getting this equipment used, a full set can easily exceed $500. Both sports are expensive if you’re going to commit to buying good equipment, let alone travel to ideal locations. But kiteboarding is the pricier of the two activities, which could also help to keep its popularity down below that of surfing.
Popularity Is Debatable
If you pay attention to online search trends, it looks as if kiteboarding’s popularity has declined in the last 10 years or so. That may surprise some regular beachgoers given that to the naked eye it almost seems as if kiting has become more of a phenomenon in just the last few years. On the other hand, exposure seems to be up. At the turn of the century, someone may not have even known what kiteboarding was. Now, it looks like it’s more regularly discussed, and equipment is widely available. A few years ago there was a write-up explaining how the sport is as extreme as you want it to be. Add it all up and it’s tough to say which way the sport is trending.
The Thrill Is Longer & Easier
What kiteboarding does have going for it is that it’s easier and, in some ways, more satisfying. There’s no way to objectively say which sport takes the least time to learn, or which is more fun. But even if it’s just because it’s the right conditions are more common, kiteboarding can often be easier to learn. It’s not debatable that once you’re up and running you can ride the wind for a lot longer than you can ride a wave. It might sound blasphemous to surfers, but for these reasons kiting might simply have more to offer for those willing to give it a try.
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