One of the "up and coming" sports people are enjoying has its roots in the simple joys of sailing a kite.
Toss in a skateboard and turn on the virtual blender and you have kiteboarding, an extreme sport that's taking off, throughout Texas but especially in cities such as Houston, Dallas and Austin.
Some might think it takes a great deal of strength to master the sport, but that's not always the case. A properly equipped harness system lets even a smaller person (in stature and weight) master the sport and have loads of fun.
While there may be concerns over safety, those knowledgeable about the sport make the point that almost every activity has risk -- even driving a car to the grocery store. Still, kiteboarding has inherent safety issues for those who haven't been properly trained to operate the equipment. The answer? Get trained.
Experts will also recommend kiteboarding in pairs (something scuba divers have known for years). There are a number of "don'ts" associated with the sport--especially the one about not kiting in storms or other times when the wind isn't steady and reliable.
Bottom line: get a lesson.
Someone who is an accomplished wakeboarder, for example, may think they can easily transfer the skills to kiteboarding, but it's not necessarily so. The difference is the kiteboarder must also learn how to fly the kite as well as how to set up the kite, relaunch, and perform a self-rescue. Experts are more likely to compare the sport of kiteboarding to scuba diving rather than to wakeboarding, skiing or surfing. Lessons, in short, are required.
Each year kiteboarding gear is getting better, which is helping the learning curve for those who take up the sport. Even so, it will likely take some time for a novice to get to the point where they're considered proficient. Some people, typically those who are naturally athletic and pick up on other sports quickly, might become proficient more quickly than others, but those are a rarity.
Part of the training process is using a trainer kite, which experts say is one of the smartest things a newcomer to the sport of kiteboarding can do. Someone who starts on a trainer kite will feel much more comfortable handling the real thing and combined with lessons, the process will go much smoother. Certainly one option is to learn mandatory kite flying skills the hard way (with a powerful kite), but an easier way is to use the trainer kite.
What about the cost?
A complete kiteboard set up, that includes kite, bar and lines, harness, and board, will likely run between $1,500 - $2,000. While that might sound expensive, those who advocate the sport will point out that a boat is no longer necessary, not to mention the fuel it would require.
For those who snow ski, much of the same equipment used in kiteboarding can be used for snowkiting (the same kit and harness plus the addition of skis or snowboard). Kiteboarding is also a sport that can be done on any large body of water, the ideal being one where there's a sandy shoreline and a clean, steady wind.
Regarding equipment, a word of caution: wakeboarding equipment is not the same as kiteboarding, a key difference being in the binding. Wakeboard bindings are boot-like and are hard to get into, compared to the easy-entry, sandal-like binding of a kiteboard.
Those who are in the water with the kite will want to have the binding as easy as possible to put the board on their feet while flying the kite. Kiteboards allow enthusiasts to cut right through the chop of rough water, giving the enthusiast a nice ride and opening up a host of possibilities.
Regarding acquiring the equipment, experts will advise those interested in the sport to head to a reputable kiteboarding store for specific advice. The fact that the sport is relatively new means there are still great advances being made in equipment.
Sports like kiteboarding are attracting a new generation of people interested in not only something new but something exciting. Those same people will want to approach good health with the same enthusiasm.
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com