Steven Crook Translated by Vicky Huang
is somewhat like windsurfing, but instead of
using a windsurf sail, the daring enthusiasts
who have embraced this fast-growing sport hook
themselves up to large kites which pull them
across the water at speeds often in excess of
40 kilometers per hour.
to some, two French brothers invented the sport
in the mid-1980s. Around the same time, an American
began waterskiing with a kite, rather than a
powerboat, pulling him across the water.
a board around 1.5 meters in length, the surfer
is harnessed to the kite by a line (typically
30 meters long) which he controls with a bar.
Some kitesurfers can jump more than 20 meters
above the surface of the water. However, the
sport can be dangerous. Not long ago, a man in
New Zealand was hospitalized after he lost control
of his kite, was pulled high into the air, then
crashed into his own house, 150 meters from the
is possible to travel considerable distances.
In 2002, a Welsh woman kitesurfed across the
Irish Sea--a distance of more than 100 kilometers--in
is not a cheap hobby. Joe Ruger, an American
kiteboard enthusiast who lives in Tainan City,
points out that a top-of-the-line kite, plus
a quality board, a wet suit and a steering bar,
can come to more than NT$50,000. Secondhand equipment
is typically half the price, but because of advances
in kiteboarding technology, items two years old
are "almost obsolete."
recommends beginners start with a 12-meter kite.
Those who really get into the sport often buy
two or more additional kites--smaller ones for
use when the wind is strong, larger ones for
is an ideal place to enjoy this sport. "All
of the West Coast, from Tainan to the Taipei
area, is suitable," says Alex Mowday, owner
of Liquid Sports (www.windsurf-penghu.com), a
Penghu-based supplier of kiteboarding equipment
and lessons. "The best winds are in Miaoli
and Hsinchu, in May, June and July."
beaches are wide, which is good for safety." But
he warns: "In some places you have to watch
out for illegal spikes which have been installed
to hold fishing nets."
a kiteboarder needs can be carried on a motorcycle,
or snowboarding experience is useful, but apart
from being able to swim, there are no essential
skills for beginners. According to Mowday, who
likens kiteboarding to "waterskiing without
a powerboat," a proper training course will
give those who have never windsurfed or even
flown a kite the knowledge they need to kiteboard. "Eighty
percent of the skill is flying the kite," he
instructional videos in English can be found
at www.realkiteboarding.com. According to safety
guidelines drawn up by the California Kiteboarding
Association (www.calkite.org), beginners should
have professional instruction from certified
instructors, or, at least direct supervision
from an experienced boarder. They should always
use a kite leash--runaway kites can be deadly--and
should yield to any pedestrian or swimmer. Grounded
kites must be secured (i.e. weighed down with
sand), and kiteboarders should not clutter the
beach with their gear.
variant of this sport, snow kiteboarding, is
catching on in North America, but for obvious
reasons it's unlikely to make an impact in Taiwan.