Can Kiteboarding Catch Up To Surfing?

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.

Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • I would love to try kiteboarding. I’ve been surfing and I am pretty useless – though I love messing around with a boogie board. Does it matter if it isn’t quite in the same league?

    • Ha ha, if you’re having fun then that’s all that matters, we can’t wait to surf in aus!

  • This is a great argument! I have not tried either but kiteboarding looks really fun! I should give it a whirl one of these days!

  • Anete Ilmete

    I like both of these sports. I think that kiteboarding is becoming more and more popular as it really is more accessible comapred to surfing. However I have always had an impression that kiteboarding is expensive and that’s probably a thing that holds many others back from trying it. Oh and surf culture..that’s really something that keeps the sport so admirable to everyone. I couldn’t choose between them if I had to.

    • Yeah true, for us surfing is something we are more into as it relates more to us growing up skateboarding and has more of a shared culture, but kiteboarding allows such a different interaction with the water too.

  • Good argument and points here, I haven’t tried Kiteboarding but I do want to check it out. I like your point that it is more satisfying than surfing! Thanks for this post.

  • Annie Wicker

    Have you ever heard of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic? It’s a major kite surfing destination and you’re definitely a cool kid if you do that, over surfing. Agreed about pop culture though and it’s definitely expensive!