The Wakeboarding vs Kitesurfing debate has been going on for years, and while these two water sports that may seem similar at first glance, they have several differences between them. If you’re thinking of getting into a board sport, you might find it hard to pick one over the other.
With that said, if you do your research, you’ll find that there are some differences between the two when it comes to the learning curve, riding experience, and many other aspects.
Well, if you’re taking the time to read this article, then it probably means that you’re taking the time to do the necessary research. Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place, after you’re done with this article, you won’t need to go to any other place as we’ll be going over the differences one by one so you can pick the sport that goes best with your style and preferences.
We’ll be going over the differences in the riding experience, the boards themselves, the physical requirements, the cost, and accessibility as well as whether or not you can translate techniques and knowledge from one sport to the other. And now, without further ado, let us take a look at the differences
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Wakeboarding vs Kitesurfing – The Riding Experience
If you’re unfamiliar with the sport of wakeboarding, here’s what you need to keep in mind. Wakeboarding is a combination of water skiing and surfboarding. It involves getting pulled by a cable or a water vehicle while you ride a board like you would ride a snowboard. Here are the main differences between kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) and wakeboarding
Horizontal or Vertical Traction
The most fundamental difference between wakeboarding and kiteboarding is how you gain speed. In kiteboarding, you mainly gain speed from the vertical traction from the kite with minor differences depending on the angle of the lines and the position of the kite. When it comes to wakeboarding, speed mostly comes from the horizontal traction in the cable or the rope that’s coming from the water vehicle.
Upper Body vs Core Focus
Aside from traction, another big difference is where the force from the pull is going. In kiteboarding, the majority of the force goes into your core and hips. In wakeboarding, the force that’s coming from the pull goes into your arms and upper body through the handle.
Wakeboarding Vs Kitesurfing: Speed
Another major difference between kiteboarding and wakeboarding is the speed. On the one hand, kitesurfers are able to reach speeds that range between 15 and 20 mph (24 to 32 km/h) in regular conditions. On the other hand, wakeboarders can reach speeds ranging from 20 to 30 mph (32 to 48 km/h) depending on the water vehicle, rope length, and the skill of the rider.
All in all, since the speed in wakeboarding mainly comes from the vehicle that’s pulling the rider, it doesn’t really vary too much from the average. However, when it comes to kiteboarding, the speed can vary wildly depending on the wind and general weather conditions, which can be good or bad.
The bottom line is, if you want to be able to constantly reach high speeds without having to worry about wind speed and other arbitrary conditions, then wakeboarding might seem like a more compelling option.
Wind vs Flatwater Conditions
As mentioned earlier, the key difference in speed between the two sports lies in the fact that one relies more on wind conditions over the other. The optimal conditions for wakeboarding are the least ideal for kitesurfing.
This is due to the fact that wakeboarding favors flatwater over windy conditions, whereas kitesurfing usually requires the wind to be blowing at 10+ knots (18+ km/h).
Riding Stance and Board Angle
The last big difference between the two sports lies in the riding stance and board angle. When you’re kiteboarding, you always need to edge and ride on the rail in order to maintain tension and power. If you’re riding flat, you’ll notice that you won’t gain speed, and the kite might even drop out of the sky.
However, wakeboarding is another story. You’ll usually need to ensure an even weight distribution between your legs. Fortunately, maintaining this stance shouldn’t be too difficult since you’re being horizontally pulled at a constant speed. The only cases you might find yourself edging in would be when you’re performing tricks or when you’re riding on the side of the boat.
Wakeboarding vs Kitesurfing – Kiteboards vs Wakeboards
At first glance, you won’t be able to tell wakeboards and kiteboards apart. This is mainly due to the fact that both boards share a lot of characteristics, such as the rectangular and symmetrical shape. There’s also the fact that they’re both sized similarly.
This has led to a lot of people to compare wakeboarding to kiteboarding. In some cases, some would confuse the two sports and think they’re one and the same. However, there are some key differences that will help you discern both boards from each other.
The first thing that pops out is the fact that wakeboards feature more rocker than kiteboards. They are usually two inches longer than the kiteboards’ one-inch rocker. This stems from the fact that wakeboards need to gain speed at a constant pull. Since wakeboarding favors flatwater, it’s more optimal to have more rocker since it makes riding flat smoother and faster.
With that said, kiteboards need less rocker since they need a larger contact surface with water. To give some reference, wakeboards only have a third, or sometimes half, the board in contact with water.
Although both boards are made out of the same materials and technology, there are some differences to be noted. First of all, kiteboards tend to be lighter than wakeboards weighing in about 4-6 pounds as opposed to the latter’s 7-8 pounds.
Secondly, kiteboards tend to be more flexible. This makes them better at absorbing chop. They also need to be lighter, so they gain speed more easily. Since wakeboards are being pulled by motorized water vehicles, weight doesn’t really pose any issues, whereas it matters a lot for kiteboards.
Since wakeboarding favors flat waters, wakeboards have to be stiff in order to ride flat water at high speeds efficiently. There’s also the fact that wakeboards don’t need to make sudden and tight turns since the rider’s stance doesn’t allow him to turn to the opposite side.
With that said, you could find wake style kiteboards if you want. They are more similar to wakeboards in terms of stiffness, and they allow for more pop as well as a more direct response while in the air.
Foot Bindings and Fins
When it comes to kiteboards, they usually come with foot strap systems, with the exception of the aforementioned wake style kiteboards. This is due to the unpredictable and volatile nature of the sport. Kitesurfers usually need to be able to take their feet out quickly. There’s also the fact that kitesurfers are constantly edging and adjusting their feet position within the foot straps. As for wakeboards, they usually come with snowboard-like bindings since the rider will mostly stay in the same stance.
It’s also worth noting that wakeboards feature smaller fins than kiteboards. This is also due to the fact that wakeboarding isn’t focused around edging. Some wakeboarders even remove the fins completely so they can practice obstacle tricks such as sliders and kickers, whereas kitesurfers use them even when they’re doing freestyle tricks.
Can Wakeboarding Skills be Translated into Kitesurfing?
This is a very valid question to ask. Since the two sports share so many similarities, it would be logical to assume that wakeboarding techniques can be translated to kitesurfing and vice versa; it is, in fact, the case here. As long as you can understand the core concepts of one sport, you can learn the other one faster and more efficiently.
For example, learning the water start in kitesurfing is very similar to wakeboarding. However, you’ll need to keep in mind that in the case of wakeboarding, the pull in the arms is not the same as in kitesurfing. There’s also the fact that in wakeboarding, it’s all about horizontal traction.
With that said, familiarizing yourself with each sport can be very helpful. Some kitesurfers even practice by wakeboarding if the weather is not favorable for kitesurfing. Since each sport favors different weather, you can practice both at the same time no matter the weather.
If you want to practice kitesurfing while wakeboarding, the best way would be to go ride at a cable park. That should give you the closest experience to kitesurfing. You can think of it as a kite session with the optimal wind conditions. You can ride on a kiteboard with normal kite foot straps. In order to get the most out of your practice session, you need to focus on edging rather than flat riding.
Wakeboarding vs Kitesurfing – The Physical Requirements
When it comes to wakeboarding, you’ll need to have strong arms and upper body in order to maintain a good grip on the handle. This is due to the fact that the pull mostly goes to your arms and upper body. As for kitesurfing, the pull is mostly going through the core muscles. This means that it is easier to have long kitesurfing sessions without feeling strain, whereas wakeboarding will quickly wear your arms off.
If you’re not used to going wakeboarding, then your first session will probably be short since you’ll feel exhausted rather quickly. With that said, your stance greatly affects how much force is being exerted on your arms. In fact, it’s one of the key factors that will help you have longer wakeboarding sessions.
All in all, wakeboarding is a lot more physically demanding than kitesurfing. Unless you’re a seasoned wakeboarder, you’ll find yourself taking breaks every 15 minutes. As for kitesurfing, you shouldn’t really encounter any problems since the pull is mostly going to your core muscles. Kitesurfers are usually able to ride for 2 to 4 hours without feeling body strain.
Wakeboarding vs Kitesurfing – Cost and Accessibility
Wakeboarding tends to be much more expensive than kitesurfing. This is due to the fact that you need a ski boat in order to practice the sport. You can either rent or buy one. The latter option will run you about $50K at the very least.
You’ll also need to take into account maintenance and fuel. The first option is more manageable since you can usually rent a boat for about $70 per hour which is not a bad deal, especially if you don’t go wakeboarding every day. There’s also a cheaper alternative, which is going to a cable park in which you can get 2-hour passes for $35. You can also get all-day passes, which usually cost around $55.
When it comes to wakeboarding equipment, you can get a wakeboard, bindings as well as boots for $300 or $900 depending on the brand and quality. You can also pay more for extra options such as a buoyancy jacket, helmet, wetsuit, as well as numerous other pieces of equipment.
As for kitesurfing equipment, you can get all the equipment you need as well as a kite for $1500 at least. With that said, each kite covers a certain wind range. You’ll also be getting a control bar, board, harness, and a pump. Once you have this equipment, you’re all set to go kiting. You won’t need to buy or rent a boat. You won’t even need to buy any kind of pass to go kiting.
Another factor that should be taken into account is how many riding opportunities there are. If you can’t buy or rent a boat, and if there are no cable parks near your place, then you might be better off investing in kitesurfing equipment instead. However, if you live in an area where the weather is not suited for kiting, then you might be better off investing in wakeboarding. With that said, you can find a spot with good wind conditions if you’re willing to look. It will generally depend on how patient you are.
Related Questions to Wakeboarding Vs Kitesurfing
- How difficult is kitesurfing? Kitesurfing is easier to learn than most water/wind sports, though it has a steeper learning curve than that of wakeboarding as it’s more technical.
- Can you kitesurf with a wakeboard? The short answer is yes; you can use a wakeboard for kitesurfing, though you’ll have to deal with some limitations.
- My own knowledge and experience!