You have seen those exciting kiters out in the bay or on the snowy play fields and you want to give it a try. Follow these steps to get a sound, safe start into your new addiction, but remember, the safety of others (and their dogs) on the beach is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.
- Get a lesson or befriend a kiter
This is sometimes easier said than done in Alaska. If you are unable to get a lesson from a qualified professional instructor (see our Instruction page for some Alaska resources). If you can't get a lesson, you need to befried a kiter who is willing to take you under their wing. There is no substitute for someone showing you a few key pointers and saving you from a serious drubbing if you try it alone. Another very good idea is to get hold of some DVDs, such as the Progression series. These don't replace lessons or personal attention but are huge in helping you figure out some of the finer points.
- Buy or borrow a trainer kite
A good trainer kite is essential. The price tag is reasonable and the benefits are unmeasurable. We have several recommendations on our Gear page. Once you have the trainer in hand, get out there and fly it as often as possible. You'll ideally be able to move it around the wind window blindfolded. Every minute spent flying the trainer will pay off big-time once you are attached to a kite that has some real pull.
- Research your first kite purchase (and gather other gear)
Spend some time chatting with other kiters, reading reviews, and flying as many different kites as you can lay your hands on. Figure out if you'll be primarily on snow or on water (or both) and focus your search. Keep in mind that a water kite (with an inflatable bladder system or a sealed chamber foil kite) can be used on the snow, but a snow kite is not safe on water because you will not be able to relaunch if you crash a snow kite into water. There are several crossover kites on the market, too. Other basic gear you will need is a harness, a board, wind meter, and helmet.
- Practice your board skills
Wakeboarding, Surfing, Snowboarding, and Skateboarding are all great ways to develop "board" skills. Put away the snow Skis and start using a Snowboard if your goal is to ride on the water or hop on a Skateboard or Mountainboard. A mountain board combined with a trainer kite is a great way to practice.
- Hook up with other kiters for your first time out
Don't take your big kite out onto the snow or water without help. There is a lot of power in a larger kite and you don't want your new-found stoke to be squished by an unfortunate accident. Also, if in doubt, back out. If the wind feels too strong, it probably is and you should listen to your gut. A little apprehension is usual, but listen to those nagging doubts and stay safe.